10 Fun Facts Emmy Laybourne Learned While Researching Ransacker

February 13, 2019 | 2:00 PM

10 Fun Facts Emmy Laybourne Learned While Researching Ransacker

By Emmy Laybourne
10 Fun Facts Emmy Laybourne Learned While Researching Ransacker

Was it fun writing a book set in the 1880s about kids with ancient Viking powers?

You bet it was. 

I learned so much about Norwegian immigrants and about life for homesteaders, not to mention fascinating facts about miners, cowboys, Pinkerton detectives, and Norse mythology. The great thing about writing a book that crosses genres is that it allows you to explore and play with multiple tropes (I’d call Ransacker a historical fantasy, featuring a new Norse mythology, with the heart of a Western.) So to celebrate the launch of Ransacker, here are ten of my favorite random bits of knowledge I picked up along the way:

1. Miners would often live in boardinghouses high up in the mountains, but they’d go down into town on Friday evening when they got paid. Livery stables would run a one-way mule taxi service. Miners would ride a mule home back up the mountain at the end of the evening, then they’d just loop the reins around the pommel and let the mule walk home to the stable all by itself.

2. In researching Ransacker, I read lots of letters written home to Norway from homesteaders in the States. My favorite one was from a teenage girl who was complaining about her wooden shoes. She said the children at school would make fun of her for her wooden shoes, making the clip-clop sound of a horse whenever she passed.

3. Norwegian brides wore a crown as a part of their outfit on the big day. In poorer towns, the crown would be borrowed from the church. 

4. Cowboys on cattle drives were expected to lick their plates clean after eating. Eww.

5. In traditional Norwegian dancing, the man had to impress the woman, performing all kinds of crazy kicks and leaps. Check out this awesome video:

6. A baker in 1880 might be expected to work between 70 and 100 hours a week and made $2–2.50 a day.

7. Vikings used to give kittens to brides as a wedding gift, because cats were thought to be an essential part of any household. The Vikings may be credited for spreading the love of domesticated cats throughout Europe.

8. The favored building material for homesteaders in the Great Plains was sod bricks, made from the thick-rooted layer of prairie grass. They would cut bricks of sod and then stack them to make the walls for their homes. The bricks provided good insulation in the winter but often let in bugs, mice, and snakes. I read one account of a woman who would let her chickens into her home every morning to eat all the bugs. 

9. The phrase “private eye” was inspired by the logo for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, a big watchful eye with the slogan “We never sleep.” 

10. A recent discovery found that an elaborate Viking-age grave of a warrior believed for many years to be a man’s was actually that of a woman. The grave included weapons (a sword, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, an ax, a spear, and two shields), the skeletons of two horses, and a gaming board with game pieces. Experts believe this means she was not only a warrior but a military strategist. (I like to pretend she was also a board-game geek like me!) 

As you can see, I had a great time researching Ransacker. Did I use all these tidbits when I sat down to write? Definitely NOT. I had too much romance and adventure to put in—I couldn’t take time to stop and fit in someone talking about the Pinkerton logo! But I did have a lot of fun learning all this stuff, and if it was fun for you to read this post, then I heartily encourage you to pick up a copy of Ransacker.

Ransacker by Emmy Laybourne

Sissel Hemstad and her siblings have been living peacefully in a small town in Montana, trying to blend-in and escape the violent events that haunt them, but they’ve all been tricked — James Peavy, the handsome young man courting Sissel is secretly a Pinkerton spy.

The Hemstads possess supernatural powers bestowed upon their family by the ancient Norse gods. Now Sissel, the youngest at 16, discovers her gift: she is a Ransacker. She can find gold and other precious metals and pull them to her. Hers is an awesome and dangerous gift.

If James discovers her secret, he will undoubtedly report back to his boss, the ruthless Baron Fjelstad who wants desperately to control the Hemstads. But James is not the only person interested in Sissel. She’s also caught the attention of a local mine owner, Isaiah McKray. He is convinced Sissel has a lucky touch when it comes to finding gold.

Sissel is torn between the two men, both determined to have her secrets. With betrayal lurking around every corner, Sissel must tread carefully. Harnessing her powers could summon great fortune… or doom them all.