Monday, March 3, 2014

Interview Feature: Heather Day Gilbert

Today, dear imps, I have an exciting new author to introduce to all of you. I started seeing her book here and there across the blogging world, and the dynamic cover drew me in immediately. Then I read the premise . . . and wow! What a fantastic sounding story! I think all of you will be very intrigued to learn more about Heather Day Gilbert and her debut novel, God's Daughter.

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.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Smashwords.

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:

Hellisvellir, Iceland

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sarah Pennington said...

God's Daughter sounds like an interesting story. Thanks for doing the interview!

Question: What's your favorite strategy for when you get stuck?

Anna said...

Wow! This looks like a fascinating story!

So you said you have a husband and three children who you home school. How do you juggle writing with all your responsibilities as a wife and mother?

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Hi, Sarah! Great question. When I get stuck on my Viking historicals, I always go back to the Icelandic sagas, since much of the "action" in the books comes straight from there. It gives me a fuller view of my main characters! And for my WV mysteries...I tend to go outside or just turn on my "author radar"--I start noticing little things about people/nature and let my mind just mull for a while.

And Anna, yes. I actually have homeschooled all three, but right now my son is at a Christian school. Juggling writing is still hard, especially now that I've added marketing/formatting/editing to the list as a self-publisher. Thankfully, my girls are older and more independent learners now, but we do have lots of morning time together to read Science or History, go over Math, etc. I will admit I'm not always up-to-date on housework and sometimes supper time comes as a surprise to me, too! I figure many authors wish for a full-time cook and housekeeper!

Unknown said...

Sounds like you're very busy...I think these ladies have asked the main question I had. I have a toddler who takes up a lot of my time, and I'd like to homeschool him when he's older, but I worry about whether or not I'll be able to get ANYTHING done...We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Excited to read your book!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Jennifer, I hear ya. When my kids were toddlers (and they were all 3 toddlers at the same time, almost!), I just didn't have a chance to complete a novel. But when my youngest was about 5 or 6, I was able to participate in NaNoWriMo and write a novel in a month. That really helped me see that I COULD do it if I made time for it.

Times have changed and my writing takes up MUCH more of my life now, but I really believe we have seasons in life. It is a balance of pushing yourself and yet knowing when something is too much. For me, it was too much to write and have 3 young-uns in diapers. But I know some moms who do.

I just constantly re-evaluate responsibilities. At this point, I'm not active in homeschool co-op/church activities as I once was. I'm able to look at writing as a career. But it did take about 6 years to reach this point!

All the best to you as you mommy, possibly teach, and write!

Unknown said...

You'll be pleased to know that I'd already seen God's Daughter floating around on Goodreads and put it on my to-read shelf. : ) My question is... out of the Norse legends and Icelandic sagas, do you have a favorite, and why? It's good to see another Thomas Hardy fan; my favorite of his is Far From the Madding Crowd, because I feel like that's when his characters act most human. Thanks!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Allison, sounds like we'd be good friends! My fave Hardy novel is ALSO Far from the Madding Crowd--I agree--it seems the most hopeful ending of all the books (love Farmer Oak!). And thank you for putting God's Daughter on your To-Read list!

Oh, wow! The sagas...that's kind of tough because I've been SO immersed in the two about Eirik the Red's family (Eirik the Red's Saga and The Saga of the Greenlanders) that I haven't read back in a while. There was one about a witch who married a younger man, I vaguely remember, but I really need to re-read those stories and refresh my memory! Norse of my faves is the fairy tale East o'the Sun and West o'the Moon. I've always LOVED that tale and thought about rewriting it, only to realize someone already had (I believe the book is titled EAST). Great question! And thanks for chiming in!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the interview and giveaway! This book caught my eye a while ago and I've been waiting for a chance to read it!

As for East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon, I would LOVE to see your take on it. There have been plenty of retellings of it, but every author brings something new to the table, and I think you could do a fantastic spin on the tale! :D

As for my question:

I read somewhere that you have a Viking heritage (I have Viking blood, too), and I was wondering if that connection to the past has given you a more personal connection to the characters you've written about? Do you feel more connected to this story than others you've written?


Beth said...

Hi, Heather! :) Since I so loved Gudrid's story and CAN'T WAIT to read about Freydis, my question is, do you think you'll continue on in the Viking world and write more books set in that period?


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Anne Elisabeth, you have the BEST readers! I love their questions!

Beth, yes, I'm writing Freydis' story in the follow-up novel, Forest Child. It's going to be very intense! Thanks for reading God's Daughter!

And Rebeka, I do think that would be so fun to rewrite East o'the Sun and West o'the Moon. Another fairy tale I love is Snow White and Rose Red--the story of the sisters. I have kicked that around, for sure.

And YES, I do feel pretty connected to the characters. Really, the character I'm supposedly related to is one of the dead brothers--Thorvald--the one who was killed by a Native American arrow in North America. But I loved writing about his wife, Stena. Stena is actually a family name and because we're also part Sami (Lapland reindeer herder), I was able to "make" Stena one. She's one of the few totally fictional characters in my books, but I do feel pretty close to her, as well. And Eirik the Red...I just feel like I know him and his jolly sense of humor, yet his protective edge (even though he's dead when my novels are set, Gudrid does remember him a lot). I REALLY hope I can meet the real Gudrid in heaven someday, so I can know her whole story!

Unknown said...

That is so cool!! : )

Jill Stengl said...

Wow, I can't even imagine how intense that must be, researching Norse history and bringing it to life through fiction. I have trouble enough getting accurate sources for the 1790's, and your story is much further in the past than that! :-) Can you tell us how you went about researching for GOD'S DAUGHTER?
Thank you for the great interview and the sample scene! I look forward to reading your story.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Jill, thank you (and all the best with your upcoming release!). Yes, it was definitely tricky researching such a long-dead culture. I frequently asked The Viking Answer Lady (she has a website by that name) some of the cultural questions, and I had lots of resource books.

But I really focused on sticking close to the sagas, so that made it somewhat easier to get to know the characters...since I already knew historically what happened to them, especially in North America.

That said, I still got things wrong. My content editor for this book was also my agent at the time, and he pointed out that sweet potatoes were NOT found in the area my Vikings were, so I had to strike that from their root vegetable "meal plan." I discovered other little details like that--strawberries weren't available, etc. However, you'd be amazed at what WAS available, since the Vikings traded so far and wide (down the Volga river, into Arabic countries, etc).

But yes--lots of research. I've kind of gotten spoiled writing my latest novel, which is contemporary. For my second Viking novel, we'll have a lot of action on a ship, so I have to make sure I get those Viking ship details as close to true as possible.

Then again, I do cut myself some slack. Historical fiction needs to be rooted historically (esp. when it's biographical), and I don't want anything to jump out as anachronistic. But I know I'm not a historian by trade, so I don't expect I'll get every detail right. The histfic I love gives a sweeping overview of life in a certain time period, but it's always the characters I remember longest. I should add that a dearth of source material also helps the histfic author--what we don't know for sure, we can fill in (esp. in time periods that aren't heavily documented, like the Viking age). So in a way, it gave me more freedom to have fewer details accessible.

Woah, long answer, sorry! But that was a great question! All the best to you, Jill!

Jill Stengl said...

And thank you for your long and very interesting answer! :-) I do envy your being able to fill in the gaps. I get frustrated by contradictory accounts of the same event--but I guess that way I get to pick the one that suits me. Heh.

Blessings to you and your writings, Heather!