First, a little about the lovely authoress herself:
Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.
And here's is the book itself (I told you it was a gorgeous cover, didn't I?):
One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.
In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a journey to North America.
But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself--and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.
Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God's Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir--daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.
Heather has joined us today for an interview. I hope you'll enjoy learning more about her and her work . . . and be sure to stick around for the giveaway at the end!
Welcome, Heather, to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?
Heather: Sure! So excited to be here! I'm a homeschooling mama and I have three kiddos. My girls, as you know, are CRAZY about your books.
Hobbies...I don't have many, since I'm a self-published author and I spend a lot of time marketing and working on schemes to take over the world (kidding)! I like to play video games to unwind, I liked Doctor Who before it was trendy, and I'm addicted to coffee. Personality...I'd say I'm a very transparent person and I don't usually read into things. I do have several "marshwiggle" tendencies, though...if you've read C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair, you know exactly what I mean.
What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? What was your first published novel?
Heather: I think I fell in love with words from the time I was small, since I learned to read pretty young (I remember loving phonics). I won my first essay competition in fifth grade, but didn't realize I was a "writer" until I was maybe twelve. I did take a lot of writing classes in college, but didn't pursue that as my major (I did, however, start college thinking I would become a police officer!). My first published novel released November 1, 2013. It was so thrilling to finally see my book in print!
Tell us a little about your debut novel! What led you to start writing God’s Daughter? Was this your first manuscript?
Heather: God's Daughter was not my first complete book. I actually participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and completed a paranormal novel—that was my first book. I did have an agent with that, and it went out on submission. But I decided to write a historical novel next, in hopes of getting into the Christian book industry more easily. Thus, I researched the Viking sagas I loved, and wrote God's Daughter.
God’s Daughter is such a gorgeous book! Would you mind telling us about your publishing process? What was the world of indie-publishing like for you? Any helpful hints you’d like to share?
Heather: Thank you so much! It has been such a whirlwind, from the day I decided to self-publish to now. Planning, editing, working on cover art with my brother, lining up early readers/endorsers, learning to format books, and finally, marketing. I have truly learned SO much, and it's wonderful, because I can take this knowledge with me as I publish my next book (a contemporary mystery—hopefully releasing this year!).
Primarily, I worked with two people on my book—my techie brother for the cover art and map, and my critique partner for the edits. The novel had been content edited by my agent, and somewhat line-edited, but really, the bulk of the load did fall on me (and my poor brother and crit partner!). But honestly, though the process was exhausting, I'm getting excited as I gear up to do it again.
As far as indie hints, my biggest one is do not publish until you're ready. Give yourself time to get everything in place (editing, knockout cover art, early readers, guest posts) and get the biggest bang possible when you launch your first novel.
Can you pick a favorite character from God’s Daughter?
Heather: Hm. This is hard. I love my main character, Gudrid, because she's so compassionate and has a healer's heart. But I also love her wild sister-in-law, Freydis, who would probably be a feminist if she lived in this day and age! They each have lessons to learn...and I'm glad my second Viking book, Forest Child, will follow Freydis as she sails back to North America.
I also love all my "dudes." They each have very different, and I hope very realistic personalities. I hope readers will feel they're similar to the men they know and love.
And my wolf. I love the wolf in the book. I won't say more on that...but yes. The wolf was definitely real in my mind, as real as my characters were.
What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?
Heather: For my historicals, I definitely return to the Icelandic sagas. It's like putting a puzzle together as I fit all the events together in my mind and interpret them through the eyes of my characters.
As far as my mystery and other writing, I can never tell where I'll get inspired. Since I live in West Virginia and often set stories there, sometimes it helps to just go outside. I also get inspired in church sermons—maybe my mind is more relaxed there and I'm totally unplugged—but I've scrawled many an idea on church bulletins.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
Heather: I love writing. Editing is hard, but not as frustrating as writing proposals. Synopsis-writing, in particular, kills me. But the lovely thing is that now I'm an indie author, I don't have to write synopses or proposals! All I have to write is back cover copy/book blurbs. In the past, my Facebook author page followers have happily given input on my blurbs, and it is such a tremendous help to me. I have a tendency to want to give the whole story away.
However, as an indie, I have to format. Formatting is NOT my cup of tea, and I wind up growling around in my office for days as I do it. My crit partner showed me how to format and worked with me on God's Daughter, but if there's anything I would want to hire out, it would be book formatting.
If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?
Heather: I'm a classics gal, so I'd have to say Thomas Hardy. Although he's pretty bleak, I find his characters always have very relatable emotions. I also recently discovered Sarah Jio, and enjoy her novels. I'd also have to say I love reading anything my critique partner, Becky Doughty, writes. Her novel, Elderberry Croft, recently released, and she's working on another release for 2014.
What are you actively writing right now?
Heather: I have started my second Viking novel, Forest Child, but it's been hard to focus. We've been working on cover art for my mystery, Miranda Warning, and I'll need to get final edits done on that, plus gear up for its release this year. Suffice it to say, I always have some writing project going!
Can you share a short snippet from God’s Daughter?
Heather: Sure, I'd love to. This prologue is from Gudrid's point of view when she is young. It's pretty gritty (younger readers may want to skip it—the book is intended for an adult audience), but I knew it was where Gudrid's story began. The rest of the novel is from Gudrid's point of view when she's married (to her third husband!). So this just gives you a glimpse of what's she's repressing throughout the novel:
The gods only accept what is valuable.
Gudrid repeated this to herself as they hoisted her mother into the tree. Her beautiful mother with the long shining hair, like her own.
Her cousin, Yngvild, touched her hand. Not a word was spoken, from anyone. No one could believe a young mother would die for the required nine-year sacrifice, along with the expected slaves and animals. But the chieftain had ordered it. And the chieftain was her father.
Gudrid's aunt hunched over, sobbing into her sleeves. Uncle Thorgeir did not even look at the tree. He seemed happy to gain more control of her mother’s family farm.
Gudrid clenched her fists on her shift, bunching it so tightly she felt she could rip it apart. She longed to fight the men who would drop the ladder, breaking her mother’s neck. But interrupting a sacrifice to Thor was punishable by death—the immediate death of hanging.
The sprawling, twisted tree loomed like a giant against the gray Icelandic sky, its limbs clutching at the dangling dead animals and people. Gudrid imagined the tree held them back from dropping straight into Helheim. Truly, Mother should go straight to Valhalla for being a willing sacrifice. But only the men who died bravely in battle got to go there, to drink endless mead for eternity.
Her father blew the ram’s horn, and a slave kicked the ladder out. For one second, Father’s eyes glazed over, as if he was far away. Even though he was devoted to Mother, he believed the only way to restore the bounty of the farm, failing since he had charge of it, was to give up the one thing he really cared about.
Mother’s face went slack and lost color. Gudrid was strangely thankful that she did not turn blue, with her eyes bulging, as some of the slaves had. It meant she died quickly, as a perfect sacrifice should.
Gudrid looked around, aware she needed a protector. Even at eleven years old, she understood this. Father had never wanted a girl. Her aunt was too grief-stricken—she would barely be able to care for her own children now, after watching her sister die.
Orm’s sad gaze met her own. He was a neighbor from a nearby farm, on a cliff overlooking the shoreline. His wife, Halldis, was a volva, a seeress who knew magic. Gudrid refused to look at her. She did not want to see the eyes of the woman who had told Father he needed such a significant sacrifice this year.
The last body was hanged, and another volva led a chant with the drum. Since many slaves had been killed, their families began to sing quietly in their own languages. As the words clashed, each group sang louder and louder. It was the only time they sang publicly.
Gudrid felt her insides burning, down to the core, like the volcanoes on this island. Anger and loneliness forced her from her seat. She hated Thor and anything to do with him. She groped for her knife before raising it to her throat. Then she charged straight for her father.
Wow! What an intense opening scene! And I'm sure the rest of the novel is equally gripping, heartbreaking, and beautiful.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Heather. It was lovely to get to know you better and to learn about your work.
What do you think, dear readers? Are you eager to read more about Gudrid? Well, be certain to grab a copy of Heather's book . . . and enter your name in the giveaway below for a chance to win a paperback copy!
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