Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Infinity Ring: Divide and Conquer out today!

On Sale November 6th!
I have a book out today!!  Divide and Conquer is a middle grade novel and is the second in Scholastic’s new multi-author, multi-platform series, Infinity Ring (series website and game portal here).  What does that mean?  Well, if you’re familiar with 39 Clues, you get the drift.  Infinity Ring is a series of books interspersed with video games and it follows the story of three kids: history obsessed Dak, science geek Sera, and language prodigy Rik as they travel through time trying to fix history.  

The first book, A Mutiny in Time written by James Dashner, finds Dak, Sera, and Rik going back in time to the Santa Maria to stop a mutiny against Christopher Columbus.  The video game that follows takes place in Paris during the Revolutionary War and leads right into my book, Divide and Conquer which is about the Viking siege of Paris.  In fact, here’s the flap copy for my book:

Dak, Sera, and Riq might be in over their heads when they attempt to stop a Viking invasion!
Hundreds of ships carrying thousands of warriors are laying siege to medieval Paris. The Parisians are holding their own, but the stalemate can only last so long. And that's bad news -- especially since Dak has been captured, forced to work alongside the Vikings while Sera and Riq defend Paris from within. No matter which side wins, the kids lose!

And if you're interested in learning more or buying a copy, here are the links: Scholastic | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | Target | Walmart | Autographed Copy.  There are seven books total in the series -- the next is The Trap Door by Lisa McMann out February 5, 2013 to be followed by books written by Matt de la Pena, Jennifer Nielsen, and Matthew Kirby.

Why did I choose the Viking siege of Paris?  Back when I started pondering ideas for this book I asked my nephews, who are the target age for this series, what they’d most like to read about.  They said knights and Vikings.  It just so happens that a few days later my husband emailed me an article about some of the craziest sieges in history and one of them was the Viking siege of Paris.  

And this was indeed a crazy siege — an eye witness reported that 30,000 Vikings traveled up the Seine River in over 700 ships to attack Paris which was defended by a few hundred people and which at that time was mostly concentrated on the Isle de la Cite — the island in the middle of the Seine that now holds Notre Dame.  And get this — the Parisians won!  Mostly.

(It feels strange to put in a spoiler alert here when the book itself is based in history which means all this information is out there... but if you don't want to know anything about the underlying background of my book, don't read what comes next until after you've read Divide and Conquer!)

Basically, the Vikings had some pretty advanced boat technology that enabled them to travel up rivers so that they could attack pretty far inland.  Because of this, cities along the Seine were required to build low, fortified bridges that would block the ships.  So when the Vikings reached the bridges at Paris, they were stuck.  They attacked the city walls hard the first day and that night not only did Paris not surrender, they actually built an extra story on one of the defensive towers to show their strength.

The Vikings tried to fill in the shallows around the towers with debris to gain a better strategic advantage — that didn’t work.  They set fire to their own ships and sent them down the Seine hoping they’d strike the bridges and catch them on fire.  That didn’t work.  They tried to tunnel under the fortifications.  That didn’t work.  And eventually they settled in for a very long siege.  At the end of the day, massive rains came and all the debris and burned ships the Vikings had thrown in the Seine clogged against the bridges, eventually weakening one of them and taking it out.  Even then, the Vikings were basically paid to leave Paris alone and they ended up dragging their ships overland to bypass Paris as they went on their way to Burgundy.  

So on its own, I think that’s a pretty cool story with a lot of action and craziness.  Plus, it’s part of a time period I don’t think we spend a lot of time studying so I was excited to dig into the research and find a way to make learning more about the Vikings fun and entertaining.  

from Wikipedia: Rollo on the Six Dukes statue
in Falaise town square.
And in that research I found one other detail that pretty much locked in my fascination with this whole event.  It has to do with a Viking named Rollo who was one of the chieftains at the siege of Paris.  There really aren’t a lot of records from the Vikings (most everything we know comes from the people they defeated which, as you can imagine, is why Vikings get a pretty bad rap in history) and the records about Rollo vary a bit.  But the basic story is this:

Later in life, Rollo tried to siege Paris again and failed.  He ended up sieging Chartes instead and he was eventually defeated.  By this time, France had been pretty much continually under attack by the Vikings and the main access point for them was the River Seine.  So the King of France (King Charles the Simple) made a deal with Rollo: he would grant Rollo the land around the mouth of the Seine if, in return, Rollo would defend it against the Vikings and he would pledge feudal alliance to the king.  Rollo agreed.

That land he was given was therefore called Normandy —  the land settled by the Norman or North Men, i.e. the Norse.  This alone fascinated me… but there’s more!  Rollo is the great-great-great grandfather of William the Conqueror and thus Rollo is the ancestor of every current European monarch.

So you have this one guy — this one Viking — who has had an enormous impact on history (think of the role Normandy has played in history!  Think of the role of William the Conqueror!!) and yet I’d never heard of him before.  Once I learned all of this, I knew I had to write about it!

There are two other details that made writing about Rollo and the Viking siege of Paris really fun.  The first is that when Rollo pledged fealty to the King, he refused to bend his knee and kiss the king’s foot as required and for a moment it looked as though the treaty would fall through.  Eventually Rollo ordered someone else do it in his place but that Viking also refused to bend his knee so he simply raised the King’s foot all the way up to his mouth, topping the King over.  I have to admit, I found this pretty hilarious.

The final detail that made me fall in love with Rollo’s story… my husband is also one of his descendants.  It’s a small world after all!  


jonyangorg said...

Sounds like the funnest research ever!

Anonymous said...

i read the book its shit