17 November 2013

Author Interview: Heather Day Gilbert

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Heather Gilbert, whose latest novel, GOD'S DAUGHTER, is set during the Viking Age of exploration and conquest. The author will offer a free copy of God's Daughter to a lucky blog visitor; leave your email in the comments. Here's the blurb.

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.

**Interview with Heather Day Gilbert **

What drew you to the Viking people/time period?

I’ve always been interested in the Vikings, ever since I was a kid and my grandma told me we were related to Eirik the Red. I always felt proud to know the Vikings came to North America long before Columbus, and when I read the Icelandic Sagas, I realized women came on those trips—even had the first documented European baby born in North America. I wanted to travel with these women…if only through research and a fictional storyline.

Which of these Viking women is your historical novel, God’s Daughter, based around?

The first novel in my series (Vikings of the New World Saga) is based around Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir. According to the sagas, “Gudrid was a woman of striking appearance and wise as well, who knew how to behave among strangers.”

Gudrid was an early convert to Christianity, and I wanted to explore her struggle with paganism, which is also documented in the sagas. I tried to base most of the action sequences around the saga descriptions, but fictionalized Gudrid’s internal struggles with depression, abandonment, etc. I really love Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, and I wanted to bring an entire time period to life through the eyes of one woman, much like she did with that novel.

You pursued traditional publication with this novel. What made you decide to self-publish it?

God’s Daughter was out on submission with Christian publishers over a year. When the final, glowing review came back, it was the same response—strong writing, but we can’t market the Medieval time period. It was frustrating to see Vikings doing well in the world of TV and movies (Thor, the Vikings miniseries on the History Channel, etc.); not to mention all things Medieval were thriving (Game of Thrones, Diana Gabaldon).

I realized that if I wanted to strike while the Viking iron was flaming hot, I needed to get my book into the hands of readers—and not just Christian readers. Yes, the book has a Christian worldview, but I really wanted to get the truth out about Vikings—that they weren’t just harsh and cruel. They had families and dreams and many of the same struggles we do.

What marketing techniques did you use to get the word out on God’s Daughter?

During the year my book was out on submission, I worked on my author platform, almost like a job. I built up a twitter following, started a FB author page—the whole shebang. Once I determined to self-publish, I started contacting groups I belonged to, asking for early readers who would hopefully become influencers. I also vlogged about my decision here: My Viking Novel Announcement, so my blog and FB followers could get excited about this release months ahead of time. I also contacted book reviewers and blogs, like yours, to try and get the word out. I ran a series of pinnable quotes from my novel, to give readers early visuals and *hopefully* start some hype ( God's Daughter pinnable quotes series).

Basically, I determined to leave no stone unturned. I threw myself and my novel out there, ready to be a grand experiment in hybrid-authordom. My agent totally supported my self-pubbing this novel, even while my Contemporary Appalachian Mystery novel is out on submission. I was thrilled that many authors read and rallied around this novel.

What is the second book in the series going to be about?

The second novel, Forest Child, is based around Freydis Eiriksdottir, who was the (illegitimate) daughter of Eirik the Red. She’s also infamous in the sagas for her travels to the New World…but I can’t spill too much of her story. Let’s just say she’s a real wild child. Because I write in first-person point of view, she’s been one of the greatest joys and yet greatest challenges to write.

Thank you so much for having me here today! I hope I’ve piqued your interest in the Viking women who traveled across oceans and an "unusual" time period that deserves more exploration!

About the Author:
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.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as TwitterPinterestYouTube, and Goodreads. You can find God's Daughter here on Amazon.