G’day ICFW clan, Ian from Sydney here. Heather and I met earlier this year when Heather won a copy of Angelguard via a guest posting gig I did. We’ve continued to correspond on our publishing and writing journeys.
Heather is in the launch cycle of her recently released debut novel, God’s Daughter, an historical Viking romance.
Please welcome Heather to the ICFW global community.
Heather, firstly could you share a little about yourself.
Well, let's see. I'm a West Virginia gal, just recently moved back to my home state after many years living elsewhere. As far as writing, I'm passionate about having married main characters, something I don't see often in Christian fiction. I also like realistic characters who don't always know the right thing to do or say (like most of us!). I'm passionate about a variety of other topics, but I tend to work those into what I write.
Talk us through your writing journey. Why did you start & when? Where did the interest in Vikings come from?
I could go back to that first essay contest win in fifth grade...or my fascination with words from the time I was small. After dabbling around with poetry and short stories all my life, I finally completed a book for NaNoWriMo in 2009. After finishing a book, I guess you could say the writing bug bit me. The interest in Vikings actually sprang pretty organically from my interest in my heritage--I'm allegedly related to Eirik the Red on my dad's side. So I bought the Icelandic Sagas, started reading, and found this character, Gudrid, who was a Christian Viking and sailed with her husband to North America. I had to tell her story.
Amazing to think part of your family heritage is related to the Viking. You've chosen to self-publish God's Daughter. Can you share a little about this novel's gestation and why you chose the self-pub route?
Let's just say it's a long story! A story full of long waits, that is. This was the second novel I completed, and I thought it would be an easy fit in the Christian book industry, since it was a historical. Obviously I hadn't read enough CBA historicals to know that Medieval is not a popular time period, and married main characters do not qualify as romance. That was two strikes against me.
However, an agent signed with me who believed in the novel and we shopped it for over a year. The feedback was always positive about the writing, but publishers consistently felt they couldn't market it. During that time, I worked hard on my platform and met lots of wonderful Christian writers (like you, Ian!). So by the time that final rejection came in, full of glowing praise on the writing, God had changed my view of how it needed to get out to readers. I knew the interest in Vikings was there, and I finally became willing to take on the mammoth task of marketing/editing/preparing my novel for self-publication.
You've also got another manuscript doing the rounds with publishers. Is it another Viking adventure?
Ha! Nope--I learned my lesson during that extended wait on the Viking submission, so I wrote a contemporary Appalachian mystery in the interim. That's what's out on submission right now. I do have a married main character in that novel, as well--it's just something that seems to come most naturally for me. I feel like married Christian readers need heroines/heroes who are dealing with the same issues they are--children, in-laws, marital strife--you name it.
I love that you have a passion for writing stories about married couples. BTW, Heather is one of the 3 editors of Married with Fiction. Tell us about God's Daughter. What would you love readers to take away from it?
I would love for readers who don't care one whit about Vikings to read it and feel they've gotten a mental image of that time period in a very natural way. I don't like ladening my historicals with details, like Wikipedia or something. I prefer a historical like Girl with a Pearl Earring, where you're in this main character's head, just walking with her through her daily life in that world. I write first-person POV--and present tense--so I really think it brings that sense of immediacy to the story. I have lots of other layers and things I'd like readers to ponder--it's been great to see my early readers picking up on those underlying themes.
The ICFW is a community of writers. What's one key learning that you gained on your journey that may be of encouragement to fellow travelers?
I have just learned that if you know you're supposed to write, you can't give up. You have to keep thinking toward the future. There was a time when I was ready to stop writing my passion and write an Amish romance, just to get in the door--nothing against those, but it's not something I read or have interest in writing. There've been times along the way when I could've chopped up my stories, changed my MCs to singles, and possibly gotten picked up faster. I think you have to maintain that internal sense of the integrity of your stories. Along those lines, you need to find a critique partner who gets your voice and doesn't try to change it--who challenges you in areas where you're weak. I am so thankful God brought my crit partner into my life at just the right juncture in my career.
And I'm so thankful that in this day and age, we can self-publish our novels, without having to sacrifice what we're passionate about. Yes, you have to put in all kinds of hours if you want your book to look/seem competitive. You have to read up on marketing and be able to come up with innovative ways to get your book into readers' hands. But it's so satisfying to have that control over the finished product and get it out there faster.
Thanks so much for having me visit, Ian! All the best to this international community of writers!
Thanks Heather for sharing with us at ICFW and we wish you well in your writing endeavours. May the global reading community enthusiastically adopt God’s Daughter.
Introducing God’s Daughter:
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 voyage to North America.
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.
A little more about Heather:
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 is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.