Why is Mairenn Vestergaard an Archaeologist?

Was it necessary for Mairenn Vestergaard to even be an archaeologist? That’s a good question. As authors, we have the privilege of playing God with our characters, to make them live or die, to fall in love or to never find it, to succeed or fail. We create the broader landscape and populate it with people who have a story to tell. And while we type, we hope they tell it well.

I thought I’d share with you how I found Dr. Mairenn Vestergaard.

A couple of years ago, I read an article about a Native American site two hours south of where I live. An incoming business had been given permission to use the mound for fill dirt. There was public and academic outcry over the destruction and loss of such a valuable and irreplaceable site. The last update I saw was dated 2013.

And another story. Later, I read an article about Native American mounds that had graced the landscape near Bessemer, Alabama. They were 400 years older than the more famous mounds at Moundville. Over the years, treasure hunters had left their mark, and numerous excavations beginning in 1890 yielded many artifacts, but destroyed the mounds. A large portion of the Indian village has, in recent years, been developed over.

Then I learned that here in Alabama, when Native American sites are on private land, the landowner can pretty much do whatever he wants. However, the state hopes that the owner will seek advice from archaeology experts in order to preserve and protect the site for future generations.

I also watched a documentary about the Viking explorers, their travels in Europe and west to Canada, settling for a time at a place that has become known as L’Anse aux Meadows. What intrigued me was the mention of butternut tree seeds discovered there. The tree isn’t native to Canada and that suggests that the explorers sailed south, at least to the Gulf of St. Lawrence area.

So, all the information jelled and Mairenn Vestergaard was born–an idea with a few sentences. She was the right heroine for His Norse Star. I know–she’s not real, she’s just a fictional character, but I’ve known her all her life. She’s smart. Well-educated. Steeped in Norse culture. Loves Turkish style coffee and Bubble and Squeak. But she’s far from perfect, although she’s perfect for Tec Raines. She has insecurities, too. And fears. Just like all of us.

Her role in the story began with a what if? What if the land the Raines brothers inherited contained a previously unknown Native American site? What if artifacts had been stolen, including several that shouldn’t logically be there? What if those illogical items were tied to the Norse who settled L’Anse aux Meadows? And a final consideration – what if the Raines brothers were considering selling the land to developers?

Did the Norse explorers travel farther south than the area where they found the butternut tree seeds? I’ll leave that to the experts. Maybe they didn’t, but I like to think they did. Perhaps not as far south, perhaps not to Alabama, but somewhere.

Finally, to answer my first question – yes, Mairenn Vestergaard had to be an archaeologist. There was no other way for the story to go. She had to be the one to find the glass bead that started the ball rolling.

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