I’m delighted to host Heather Day Gilbert today. She’s done what few (or maybe none?) have done…written historical Christian Viking fiction. And I know she has a terrific sense of humor because in a fit of mild dyslexia I called it Dog’s Daughter instead of God’s Daughter on Pinterest which was then tweeted…I know, I know.
God’s Daughter is an unconventional love story. It contains unrequited love, one-sided love, love denied, and the best kind–love discovered. And it’s all set in history with names and places you might recognize if you paid attention as a kid in American history. It’s also well researched with likable characters and a plot line that will keep you guessing as to where the story’s headed. And at the end, you will find yourself satisfied. I enjoyed it and I think you will too, so that’s why I’m giving away a copy to one lucky winner.
And now, without further ado, let’s welcome Heather!
As always, my first question to you is whether you consider yourself a Christian author or author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is?
Great question. Definitely a Christian author. I’ve spent many years trying to fit into the Christian fiction author “mold,” as it were, but I’ve always thought my books are just stories written from a Christian point of view. Yes, there are spiritual themes and overtones, but I think you can find that in all great books. But I do categorize my novel as “Christian Fiction” AND “Historical Fiction” on Amazon. That way ABA readers won’t be surprised at the mention of God and the thoughts of my main character (a Christian Viking).
I think when you smack on the “Christian fiction” title, you have to be careful not to be preachy or insert themes that aren’t organic to the characters’ stories. The stories that speak the loudest to me (usually classics!) are the ones that open our eyes to things naturally, through the characters’ choices and thoughts.
Where did your interest in Vikings come from?
My Grandma Day always talked about how we were related to Eirik the Red. Now, my Grandma wasn’t even on the side that was related! But she was proud of her husband’s history. My Grandpa’s parents came to America from Norway and changed their name from Thorvaldsen to Day. Ever since I was young, I remember being proud of the fact that Leif Eiriksson sailed to North America and that I was related to him.
What challenges did you face incorporating a Christian worldview into Viking historical fiction? And what made you want to attempt it?
For this novel, it wasn’t so hard, because the sagas gave us a solid idea that Gudrid was a Christian, and that she was able to take stands for her Christianity. Now, sometimes we also see she seemed to make mistakes, but I loved that multi-faceted view of her. I wanted to get deeper into her motivations on things.
I wanted to show that Christianity was alive and well in the Viking world at this time, which is something I think many don’t realize. And it’s not necessarily portrayed in a good light in most Viking fiction. But historically, Christianity was pivotal for changing Viking practices for the better. So I felt people needed the chance to see that time period in a new light.
One thing I liked about God’s Daughter is that I didn’t really know where it was headed. Did you have an outline when you started writing, or did the story just carry you along? Did following historical characters help you get to the end?
Following the sagas gave me a really rough outline. I knew certain events had to happen. The key was figuring out when to incorporate those events, since the two sagas I used had an overlapping and thoroughly confusing timeline.
I also had to construct the characters to be true to the actions I knew they took. In other words, Freydis had to be wild, based on recorded events. In one historical group I’m part of, a saga-lover described Freydis as “a real piece of work.” It was encouraging to realize that others have taken that impression away from the actual sagas—it’s not just me. And yes, my Freydis is definitely a real piece of work. The second Viking novel (Forest Child) is a bit daunting to me, since it’s from her point of view. I know I can get in her head, but, to be honest, her head scares me.
What are you working on now?
Forest Child is simmering in my thoughts right now. I’m going to cocoon myself in the sagas, probably after Christmas/New Year’s, and just get back in that Viking place in my head. However, I’m torn, since I have a contemporary mystery (Miranda Warning) that’s still out on submission. If it gets rejected by the final publishers, I’m seriously thinking of self-publishing it. I feel like it’s a bit more accessible to readers who are hesitant about Vikings.
And before you go, what is one thing you’d like your readers to know?
I’ll just say that I have such a supportive group of readers. The reviews they give me are just astonishing and often take my breath away (yours was so insightful and well-worded, Lisa!). This has been such a long journey to publication, and now that I finally have a book out, I couldn’t be more pleased with the response. I want to continue to produce books for my readers. I can’t guarantee what genre they’ll be—I’ve abandoned having a handy-dandy author tagline. Lately, I’ve even been kicking around YA fiction. What I love about self-publishing is that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself and my readers (and God!). So I try to hit that target, and let the rest fall away.
Thank you, Heather! How cool is it that you’re related to Leif Erikson!! And, readers, Heather left us with a gift. A sneak peek from God’s Daughter:
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.
Excerpt used by permission.
Want more? You can read the first three chapters on Heather’s website.
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.
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 here on Amazon and Smashwords.
And now for the giveaway…an e-copy to one lucky entrant? To qualify, you must be a follower of this blog or my Facebook author page (1 entry each). Add another entry if you leave a comment below.