Always an Ice Rooster ...
Beta reads are coming in for Like Fire, and surprise! Readers are reading the Helmanders correctly as similar to Vikings.
By the way, here's Astá by Kirbi ... Hull and Gisl are coming ... All characters in Like Fire are based on real people that I know and love; I'm sure it will be very difficult, and perhaps impossible for readers to determine the inspiration for fiery Meria/Redbird, although her hair isn't currently red, and for tall, slender Keile/Sparrow, who views Astá as her mother ...
Hull Krystofferson, the Helmander commander and engineer, is based on Christopher Hull. Before I knew Chris, I had not been close to anyone who was a genuine maker. I knew such people existed, of course, but maker culture was emerging when I was in college. Certainly there were makers at Harvey Mudd College when I was at Scripps, but their impulses were more directed toward chemistry projects (i.e. making LSD, MDMA, Ecstasy) or explosive technology (acetylene bombs). Chris really is a Viking, and this is why when I chose to put a character inspired by him in the book, he was a Viking-type guy. The origin of the name "Helmander" is the name of ancient Viking towns or "Hemland" - ("homeland").
One of the great gifts basing characters on real people had for me, in addition to making the story "come alive" as I wrote it, is to be able to understand the relationships of the story better. Just as in real life, Amy loves Chris and he is very dear to her, though - strange -, so too does Astá love Hull, the alien-seeming Helmander maker, in the book. When, at Meredith's suggestion (seriously ... came to that point in the book and she listened to at least 3-4 sentences of plot and said, "You should make him a quadriplegic, Mother") Hull prematurely launches the dragon flyer and crashes, Astá is willing to do anything to save him. Astá is gradually coming to see that Hull's ability to see the way things work, and to make things, could be the way out of the violent way they have all been living for so many generations. Magic is no solution for anyone's problems. It exists in the Wide World, but is greatly reduced from what it had been in prior generations, thanks to overuse, mis-use, and endless warring over its control.
In the Wide World, just as in the real world, Hull is a "new person." He sees things differently from others, shown most vividly in the book in the scene where Eyvard Eyriksson, his uncle, wishes him to commit suicide since he has lost the use of his legs. No good Helmander would wish to live crippled like that, but Hull sees no reason to do himself in, as he continues to have the use of his mind, arms and hands.
I wanted also to show a different kind of leader, as shown in the relationship between Hull and Markos, who is inspired by Joseph Lenti, who really does work for Chris in real life.
"I don't think there's been a character like the Ice Rooster in any fantasy novel I can think of," I have told people. And it's not "rocket science" - I'll leave that up to Spillikin Aerospace for the time being, except for the black powder rockets on the dragon flyer. Because in real life, there aren't too many other people like Chris. But there will be. And that's sort of one of the points of the book.