Research Takes Historical Fiction Author J.A. Hunsinger to Viking Sites in UK

When authors write books, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, they know that for their book to be “believable,” they must have all their facts straight. For one such author, those facts ended up taking to him to every Viking site in the UK over a three week period. What sounds like an incredible amount of work ended up being quite a pleasurable experience for J.A. Hunsinger, author of the historical fiction novel, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, and our guest here today at The Writer's Life.

I’ll let him tell you the rest of the story:

“Beginning in 1982, I traveled to the UK to visit every Viking site I could reach over a three week period. I first traveled by train to York, where a unique opportunity had presented itself during the basement excavation for a new building in old downtown York. Archaeologists knew that Viking Age York existed just beneath the surface of the modern city, but it could not be reached until the track hoes excavated to the medieval level. The owner of the land gave archaeologists several years to open the site. I cannot tell you of the richness of the medieval artifacts exposed at this site. It was incredible. From York, I journeyed north up the North Sea coast to Holy Island, near the border of Scotland, to visit Lindesfarne, the site of a medieval abbey where the first recorded Viking raid in England occurred in 793. This event is recognized as the beginning of the Viking Age.

Almost every municipality in England and Scotland has a museum wherein are displayed Viking artifacts. Over the course of three separate trips to the UK, I visited many of them from 1982 until 1991.

In addition to England and Scotland, I also visited the Isle of Mann, and the Inner and Outer Hebrides. There are small museums there and all the inhabitants share a rich Norse heritage.

Northern Germany, the state of Schlieswig Holstein was visited in 2007. Stops were made at sites both in Germany and across the border in Denmark. I have seen the national museums in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. The Viking Ships Museums of both Denmark and Norway furnished a great deal of first hand information and the ancient sites of Gamla Uppsala and Gavle, Sweden as well as many sites and museums in between furnished me with a wealth of insight and knowledge. Sweden has the most rune stones in existence and I managed to take pictures of all I saw. The medieval trading towns of Birka and Gotland, Sweden are a treasure trove of Norse artifacts and museum displays. Ditto for Denmark and Norway. Their Viking ship museums were a religious experience.

In more than ten years of trips to Europe, I have barely scratched the surface, but every trip increased my knowledge and insight into the culture of these incredible people, the Vikings. And that is the reason I went, to increase my knowledge.

During all of July 2009, I will undertake a car trip through North and South Dakota, Minnesota, portions of Wisconsin and Michigan, and the Thunder Bay area of Ontario, Canada, to provide more time/place grist for my mill.

The summer of 2004 began the annual visits to museums and sites in North America with a flight to Newfoundland, Canada to see L‘Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Viking ruin on this continent. We spent three-weeks on Newfoundland, driving some 2800-miles, getting a feel for the island and its environment, and visiting all the museums that we found. Most of our time was spent at or near the L’Anse aux Meadows site. The summers of 2005 and 2006 included trips to Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward, Cape Breton, and Nova Scotia to research the time and place aspect of my Axe of Iron series of historical fiction books. The first two books take place entirely in the Canadian Province of Quebec. Books three and four take place in portions of the before mentioned Canadian provinces as well as Lake Superior and its environs.

Before I have completed my series with book #5 and perhaps Book #6, I will have explained one of the enduring mysteries of pre-history on this continent—what happened to the Norse Greenland settlers. I will not divulge my plans for the series, nor will I allude to all the sources of information that I use. Suffice to say, many nagging questions that conventional archaeology has left unanswered will have been addressed in a plausible and meaningful way, using the data available to the contemporary investigator.”

Watch his trailer!

J. A. Hunsinger lives in Colorado, USA, with his wife Phyllis. The first novel of his character-driven, historical fiction series, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, represents his first serious effort to craft the story of a lifelong interest in the Viking Age—especially as it pertains to Norse exploration west of Iceland—and extensive research and archaeological site visitations as an amateur historian. He has tied the discovery of many of the Norse artifacts found on this continent to places and events portrayed in his novels.

Much of his adult life has been associated with commercial aviation, both in and out of the cockpit. As an Engineering Technical Writer for Honeywell Commercial Flight Systems Group, Phoenix, AZ, he authored two comprehensive pilots’ manuals on aircraft computer guidance systems and several supplemental aircraft radar manuals. His manuals were published and distributed worldwide to airline operators by Honeywell Engineering, Phoenix, AZ. He also published an article, Flight Into Danger, in Flying Magazine, (August 2002).

Historical Novel Society, American Institute of Archaeology, Canadian Archaeology Association, and IBPA-Independent Book Publishers Association, are among the fraternal and trade organizations in which he holds membership.

You can visit his website at and his blog at


  1. Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jerry!

  2. Anonymous9:42 AM

    Good morning, Dorothy,
    I want to compliment you on having the richest site I have ever encountered, I wish mine were as good.
    Your treatment of the writings that I submitted is excellent. Let's hope that others agree with that contention by leaving their comments as the day progresses.
    Thanks for staying up until 0100, your site reflects your level of commitment.
    I'll be back and forth today, but I will answer every comment.

  3. Dorothy has a great site! I wish I could put something together like this too, but not quite there yet.

    Jerry, this book sounds so interesting. I would love to review it for you, but I probably couldn't promise a review until late April, early May. If that works, you can email me at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com.

    Best of luck with your tour.


  4. Anonymous11:20 AM

    Hi, Cheryl,
    I appreciate that you find this first book of the Axe of Iron series, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, interesting enough that you want to review it. Almost anything works for me insofar as reviews are concerned because the effort of promotion never stops. I will e-mail you, and copy Dorothy, so you two can set it up. I will also be with Dorothy for tours and reviews in April, but not May.
    Thanks for stopping by Cheryl.

  5. Oh guys I'm so late in getting back into here. I've just finished a promotional trailer...will be doing more of these as we go along and eventually feature everyone we've ever promoted here at Pump Up, but I want to thank you, Jerry, on the compliments to the site. The template is free at It's easy peasy to put up, then I just started adding things. I didn't want it to be too clunky, hope I didn't go overboard.

    Thank you, Cheryl, for offering to review this! I haven't been able to get into email yet, but I'm heading there as soon as I check on stops.

    Jerry, what a really interesting guest post. You did so much traveling! Which was your favorite place?

  6. Anonymous1:15 PM

    Hi, Dorothy,
    When you are raised in the U. S. military and spend more than half your adult life as a commercial pilot, travel is what you do. I do not even have a hometown, I tell people that I am from planet Earth. :-)

    My favorite place was the British Isles before I saw Germany and Scandinavia, but they were before I spent a delightful three weeks on Newfoundland. Its people are delightful and the countryside is breathtaking, so that is my current favorite. But then... Well, you get the picture.

  7. Anonymous5:25 PM


    Not much happening, so I guess I'll meander over under a tree and take a snooze.

    Back Later,

  8. Anonymous5:33 PM


    The 'Preview' button on the Comment deletes your comment and the security code word only works part of the time. I think together, these two things are killing comments.


  9. Hi Dorothy and Jerry!
    I am late popping in, but did manage an afternoon of outside bliss with my son. Tomorrow is suppose to be even warmer! YAY!! LOL, anyway, getting to the reason I am here - it just sounds as though you have had soooo much fun researching everything for your book/s. It really shows in your writing, also. Your knowledge really brings the reader into that time period and place. You've done an amazing job and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series!!


  10. Anonymous9:01 PM

    Hi April,

    Thank you so much for your candid comments on my writing. Axe of Iron: The Settlers and the entire Axe of Iron series is a labor of love for me. Payment-in-full results when a reader enjoys the experience, as you clearly have. I will see you again when the next book, Axe of Iron: Confrontation is published in June 2009. I will see that have a review copy.
    I appreciate that you took the time to stop by. Take care of that boy. Soon he will be eating you out of house and home. :-)
    All the best,


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