Words with Jeff Foltz, author of "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War"

The following is an interview with Jeff Foltz, author of "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War."  To learn more about Jeff, check out his web page at Birkebeinerthenovel.com.

From your web page I get the impression that "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War" is a piece of historical fiction. However, I still don't really know what to expect. Do you represent the "Birkebeiner" warriors Inga, Torstein, and Skjervald as characters in a drama? Or is this more a historical exploration of the events that inspired the Birkebeiner?

Inga is the main character. Research revealed that there are two versions of the event. One claims that Inga took a different route than Torstein and Skjervald and met with them later. The other says she accompanied the soldiers. That one makes more sense to me and, I think, a better story. I’ve used some literary license, but stayed true to the spirit of an heroic event. Back story reveals some of the history of the Birkebeiner, I hope without it sounding like a history lesson.

What effect did your trip to Norway have on the creation of this book?

The trip was invaluable. I was able to see the kind of terrain they would have faced, feel how cold a Norwegian winter can get, understand how bleak it might have been on a snowfield above the tree line. There’s no substitute for experiencing the place where a story unfolded.

Did you ski the Norwegian Birkebeiner?

The Norwegian Birkebeiner is on my bucket list.

What initially got you into Cross-Country Skiing?

My other sport is sculling. I rowed in high school and college and when I left climates where the water was liquid 10 months a year and moved to Maine, I needed a winter sport. I entered a ski race my first week in the sport. I only beat one person. Any sport that tough was bound to hook me.

I see you've done the Birkie 5 times. Do you have any good Birkie tales?

Yeah. I skied 5 kilometers of my second Birkie unconscious. At the 12k mark, on a downhill turn in heavy traffic, I went down. I was skiing well, and to this day have no idea what happened. I suspect somebody planted a pole just inside my tip, but the next thing I knew, a spectator was pulling me to my feet and asking if I was okay. I remember seeing the shattered shards of my dark glasses on the trail and then I remember nothing until I reached the fire tower at 17k, where I noticed others looking at me with concern on their faces and asking if I was okay. I touched the side of my face and my hand came away crimson. I felt okay, so I skied on and finished in 3:07, my second fastest Birkie time. At the finish line, the good volunteers patched me up. Still, I have no recollection of the missing 5k.

What was it like working with Main Authors Publishing?

Terrific. Very professional, talented and dedicated bunch. You’ve seen the physical book. I’d say it’s attractive and high quality in every way, wouldn’t you?

Yes, it looks great!  Is that Knud Larsen Bergslien's painting on the cover? How hard was it to secure the rights to that?

Shellie Milford at the American Birkebeiner helped me get permission from the Norwegian Birkebeiner to use their print version. I’m grateful to her and love the Birkie even more than I did before.

Are you skiing the Birkie this year?

I wish I could, but I’ve made arrangements with the New England Nordic Ski Association (another great group of XC Ski enthusiasts) to attend many of its events to promote the book. Perhaps next year.

Is there a sequel planned?

There could be a sequel. It depends on how people like the first and, while reaction is initially encouraging, it’s really too early to draw conclusions. I have finished the first draft of another novel that has nothing to do with the Birkebeiner.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Parents who have ever wondered what they would endure to protect their children will identify with Inga. I believe cross country skiers will like the book because it is integral to the history of a sport they love. But the story is primal… Motherhood and war. We can all relate to that.

Birkebeiner is available in print and in a Kindle edition.

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