West Orange resident Judith Lindbergh set her 2006 novel The Thrall’s Tale in the Viking settlements of Greenland in the 10th century, after much careful research on Viking life. Because of her expertise, she now appears as an expert commentator in the six-segment documentary Mankind: The Story of All of Us, currently airing on the History Channel.
In the first episode on the advent of farming, which was broadcast on Tuesday night, Lindbergh spoke about the beginnings of agriculture. Parts of her interview will be woven into the remaining five installments of the 12-hour series which explores the history of the human race through the ages.
Episodes cover the Ice Age, the advent of farming, the sacking of Rome, the discovery of the New World, the fall of the Aztec empire, and the Industrial Revolution. The next two episodes, on Inventors and Iron Men will air, respectively, on Saturday, Nov. 17 and Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Producers first contacted Lindbergh last year around this time, because they wanted to include other voices besides traditional experts and academics. They sought out writers who could offer unique storytelling methods and interpretations to go along with the dramatic reconstructions of the most critical events in human history.
After a quick Google search to be sure the production company was legitimate, and an interview “audition” over Skype, Lindbergh was booked as an expert intepreter. She would offer the storyteller’s perspective, to “imagine what it might have been like, to give a vivid perspective and a human voice to early cultures.”
Her part was shot on a cold day in January at a mansion on Downing Street in Greenwich Village. She did multiple takes, answering producers’ questions without knowing precisely which portions of the video would be paired with her responses.
“I was a little anxious about that, but they gave me a brief overview of each segment,” Lindbergh explains. “The series is a very broad sweep and of course can’t get into the detail a diligent historical novelist can.”
Lindbergh, a former dancer, actress and HBO website developer, says her inclusion on the program was “a bucket list professional fantasy.” She began writing fiction while doing office temp work between musical theater jobs. “I’d sit at desks, bored, and started writing, and soon found I was having more fun writing than dancing or acting.”
Her Mankind appearance has given her something new to blast out on social media in connection with The Thrall’s Tale. “It’s given the book a nice little buzz again.”
At home on Tuesday night though, while she watched the first episode for the first time along with her husband, her two sons, ages 9 and 11, fell asleep before she appeared on screen. “I told them, it’s on DVR!”
Lindbergh is at work on her next novel, Pasture of Heaven, about nomad warriors in Central Asia in the 5th century BC. She is also the director of The Writers Circle, which offers writing classes in all genres in South Orange, Maplewood and Summit.