10 Questions with Author Steve Bivans (@stevebivans)
Steve Bivans is the author of Vikings, War, and the Fall of the Carolingians; Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth; The End of Fear Itself, and the Viking saga, Anno Draconis: Dawn of the Dragon. He is a trained historian of the Viking Age. He lives in St. Paul, MN where he smokes meat, drinks bourbon, and throws axes at things.
1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?
Short answer? I don’t remember, lol.
Long one? I suppose I’ve always been a decent storyteller (translation: accomplished liar). As far as actual writing, I spent years in college and graduate school writing hundreds of pages of academic stuff. I studied medieval history at the University of Minnesota until around 2011. My focus was Viking military history.
2.What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I love brainstorming ideas. This is true for both non-fiction, which is what I began writing/publishing, and for my historical fiction series: Anno Draconis.
I love writing the first draft, especially fiction. Once I get on a roll, it comes pouring out, or at least it does on most days. Some days just suck of course and I sit there banging away F-bombs and curses at the muses, or just line after line of “All work and no play…” lol
I hate those days. And I hate the first stages of editing, when there are huge holes to fill in the story and I have to switch between the creative side of my brain and my logical/editor side. Sucks ass. I really struggle with that part. I always get through it, somehow, but I never remember the damned recipe.
3.What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
When I write—and I should write 7 days a week, but don’t—I write every day for a minimum of one hour.
I’m a firm believer in writing very fast. This comes from several influences, not the least, Stephen King, who says he writes fast to outrun his Demons of Doubt. I set a timer for one hour, click ‘go’ and I’m off to the races.
My non-fiction was definitely outlined. But I learned during my first book, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, that one should never marry their outlines. It is strictly a one night stand kind of thing. Because they never work out until the end, when you don’t need them anymore. Then you divorce them and move on.
When I sat down to write my first novel, Anno Draconis, I struggled with this for some time. After failing to write anything by plotting, I brainstormed ideas about the Arc, the Characters, the Setting, and then I chose a Scene, sat down, and started writing, like mad.
I let the characters decide how to get to those very few points where I’d like for them to go. But they don’t always go there, or they choose an entirely different path than I thought they would.
And other characters emerge from the darkness and the woodwork to join the chorus. “Where the hell did THAT dude come from?” I’ve wondered aloud, more than once. It’s really quite magical. Not sure how it works. But it does, if I’m willing to trust the story and not be afraid to let go of the control. It’s kind of Zen and Dao, actually.
4.Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
When it comes to fiction, three of the greats: Tolkien for his imagination and for his Hobbits. I’m a hobbit at heart, if a Dwarf in temper. I love beer, food, and mostly just sitting around talking and hanging out, as opposed to going on adventures. But when I’m pissed off, my first instinct is to smash things with an axe, like Gimli. I’m also very good at throwing them and hitting what I aim for. Just a warning, lol.
I’ve always loved Mark Twain for his characters, dialogue, storytelling, and definitely for his wit. Sharpest wit in history I think. In one line, he could eviscerate large swaths of society.
Stephen King for all of it. Might be cliche, but the man can write a f**kin story. I’m a huge fan of what I call his “Flagg” stories: The Stand, The Dark Tower, Eye of the Dragon. My favorite evil character of all time: Randall Flagg/Man in Black.
5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Who f**kin’ cares? lol. That’s my editor’s job. Her name is Patience. Yeah, I know, how appropriate, right? But it’s true; that’s her name. I sleep with her. It’s convenient, and she makes amazing scrambled eggs, among other amazing things.
6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I’m a huge fan. I’m a huge fan of commas, in general, even when, they aren’t useful. My editor-partner-Patience is not. We argue about it every damned time. I win. Mostly. At least on that one point. I usually lose all other arguments with her.
7.What is your book Anno Draconis: Dawn of the Dragon about and how did it come to fruition?
As I mentioned, I studied Viking history in grad school. A couple years ago I decided to publish my master’s thesis, a translation of the Annals of St. Vaast, published by me, with my introduction, under the title of Vikings, War, and the Fall of the Carolingians. It’s an English translation of a Frankish Ninth Century text in Latin. Yeah, sounds boring as hell, and some people certainly agreed with that sentiment, hence the lower than average ranking on the book, but I did it anyway.
And it just kind of took off! Like I sold 300 copies in the first month! Then the next month, 1200! Then 700!
So I was surprised and flabbergasted and left wondering, “What the hell just happened?” and “How the hell do I replicate it?”
I had contemplated writing an historical fiction book on the Vikings for some time, so the time seemed right to do it. I sat down, brainstormed on the idea for a while, too long probably, then actually started writing. Anno Draconis (In the Year of the Dragon), came out of the fire of creativity.
Most of it was written in about two months.
The story of Anno Draconis follows the destructive path of a young viking warrior, Sigurd Hrolfsson, as he leads his men into Francia (now France) along with the Viking Great Army, who are intent upon sacking Paris, again. This is in 885 A.D., forty years after the semi-mythical Ragnar burned the place. Fans of the show on the History Channel will be familiar with the setting. The history in Draconis, however, is much better. The historical setting comes from my dissertation work on the Siege of Paris of 885.
The story combines real history with elements of magical realism, since the people of the time really believed in magic, demons, monsters. But I use it very subtly. It’s barely there, but just enough to add some mystery, I hope. Also, there is murder, and a mystery or two, though it’s not really a murder mystery. Mostly it’s about the quest for vengeance, the power of language to shape reality, and the destructiveness of war. It’s very bloody. I don’t pull punches on the violence. Pun intended.
As for the history part of it, I adhere to a strict philosophy. I like to say that I will not break the bones of history (the facts in other words), to write the flesh of fiction.
I might have my characters go around the facts, or an event, but I will not change them to suit my story. There’s simply too much space in-between all facts and events in history where we as authors can run rampant. And I do. But I don’t break the bones.
I might hack some bones to pieces, burn others, and leave the dead and dying in heaps. The bones of my characters. But not the bones of history.
8.What’s your current writing project?
I am in the early stages of editing part two of Anno Draconis, which is entitled Reign of Wolves. The story of Sigurd continues, and the plot thickens, to be cliche. I’m enjoying it so far. The story, not the editing. I’ll have it out sometime this summer. I also have a couple chapters written for part three: City of Light, Kingdom of Serpents.
9.What book(s) are you currently reading?
Not really reading anything right now. I don’t, as a rule, read a lot of fiction. I have in the past, and probably will again. I have a long list of things from fellow writers on Twitter, #writingcommunity. Not sure when I’ll read them all. Luckily the stack is in my Kindle and not on my floor. Editor-partner-Patience is very happy about that, too.
10.Who or what inspires your writing?
Who the hell knows? lol. I suppose I’m a bit of a philosopher? Overthinker, or Tick Tocker is what I call myself as it sounds less pretentious. I have brainspin a lot. I spend a lot of time asking really huge questions: “What IS real? Why are we here? Why does the world seem so f**ked up? What can one person do about it? What’s at the bottom of it?”
I told my editor-partner-Patience the other day that what I really am is a Thinker. I have things to say and writing is ONE way to say them. I say them other ways, too, but I like writing. You get to fix what you say before other people read it. Unlike when I speak. It just comes out, and then I have to apologize.
My first two books, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth, and The End of Fear Itself, were attempts to answer some of those burning questions in a non-fiction format.
Anno Draconis is a way to explore them in the flow of a story. I did not, however, have an agenda for it, nor do I. Those themes just seem to show up, I think, because they are universal questions that all humans have. Hell, maybe our dogs, cows, and chickens ask them too? I’m fairly confident they do. My cats, however, do not. They already know the answers. But they ain’t talkin’.
Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
You can find me pretty much everywhere, under my name. And yeah, it was arbitrarily assigned to me at birth. I haven’t bothered to change it.
I have a website under my name. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and probably some other places I signed up for and forgot. All of them under my name.
On Facebook I have discussion groups for all my books.
My ebooks, currently, are exclusively on Amazon. You can find me on there, here:
is my author page.
Anno Draconis: Dawn of the Dragon:
Be a Hobbit:
End of Fear Itself:
Vikings, War, and the Fall of the Carolingians:
Thanks, Steve. You're amassing an impressive body of work with stories backed by and infused with an equally-impressive knowledge of history.Be sure to visit with us again when Reign of Wolves is ready.
Please visit Steve's website to learn more, and grab a copy of Anno Draconis today!