This week we will be talking to Heather Day Gilbert. She is a fascinating woman I’m sure everyone will enjoy getting to know. She will be giving away a copy of her book Miranda Warning to the lucky person drawn from those who leave a comment.
Hi Heather! Welcome to the Mine. We are so happy to have you.
Thanks for having me today! Glad to visit.
Let us get acquainted. Could you tell us who you are, and what you hope to accomplish through your writing?
First of all, I'm a wife and mom (homeschooler). I think of myself as an author second, although it does take up a lot of my time at this stage! I'm a West Virginia gal who just moved back a couple years ago to my home state.
I feel my writing is one way of using my gifts and talents for God. I truly hope, above all, to bring stories to people that make them think, take them to a new locale (be it Greenland in AD 1000 or the back roads of West Virginia), and bring them characters they can relate to in some way.
Tell us a little about your genre and why you chose to write in that particular one.
I am actually writing in two genres now: Viking Historical (Vikings of the New World Saga) and Contemporary Appalachian Mystery (A Murder in the Mountains Series).
I chose Viking historical because the sagas are a rich source of information on a little-known period of history (I'm allegedly related to Eirik the Red, which fueled my interest), and in particular I wanted to highlight the Viking women who historically sailed to North America. Gudrid, the main character in my first novel, God's Daughter, was a Christian Viking. So I felt it was interesting to explore what it would be like to be a Christian in a very pagan society. Freydis, the main character in my second (upcoming) book, was Eirik the Red's daughter and was known as a warrior woman.
I also enjoy writing my contemporary mysteries (Miranda Warning is my first novel in that). My main sleuth, Tess Spencer, is a West Virginia "mountain mama," and I really enjoyed creating a strong family dynamic in this series. Actually, come to think of it, a strong family dynamic runs through both series.
I guess I will start off by asking how you come up with your characters. Do you imagine them and then create, or model them after someone you know or have seen, etc.?
For the Viking historicals, I had the rough outline of who these women were and what they did. I just had to fill in the blanks as to why they did things and what motivated them. Character depth is very important to me, especially since I write in first-person point of view. I have to be in the main characters' heads and try to understand them.
For the mysteries, I do draw from my surroundings to some degree, since I live in West Virginia and so does Tess.
I love searching Pinterest for pictures of people who resemble my characters and for locations/settings so I can have visuals. You can find my Pinterest boards here.
I think all our characters are truest to life when they resemble people we know/have known or ourselves. Even when we're writing someone totally unfamiliar or distasteful to us, we know they still have things driving them we can relate to, be it power, protectiveness, etc. I think the key, especially for writing in first person, is finding those points where we can relate and drawing those characters true to form, even if we don't think that way ourselves.
Could you tell us a little about how you felt when you first realized you would be published?
Being published was actually my decision, because I self-published. The decision to self-publish was not a light one (like most of the indie authors I know). I had three agents and had submitted three books via traditional publishing routes. God just showed me the time was right to self-publish. It was something I hadn't really wanted to do, because I knew I couldn't afford to outsource a lot (formatting, editing, cover art, marketing).
But God provided people in my life who were able to help me with those things and it was a learning process for me—one of those things where "teach a man to fish, feed him for life" held true. I learned hands-on how to publish my books and it's not something I'll forget. It's also not a solitary process. My brother is my cover artist; my critique partner edits and is my audiobook narrator, and the list goes on.
What is a day in the life of Heather Day Gilbert like?
This summer, I have spent much of my time marketing and doing a blog tour for my mystery. When school season rolls around, I hope to set hours for writing and let marketing take a back seat to some degree. But I think indie authors do spend a lot of time tweaking our marketing, because it's up to us to get the word out on our books.
I do garden a little, too, though I'm no expert! Every year it seems we learn more about how to get those veggies to grow!
Tell us a little about who has given you inspiration in your writing, and why. I believe readers want to know the author to a certain extent. It makes the reading experience more enjoyable.
As far as believing in me, my family has always been a strong supporter of my writing. My parents, siblings, in-laws, husband, and children have all prayed for me on this writing journey and have shared all the ups and downs that come with it. When the first book released, we were all rejoicing!
Author friends also encourage me to keep going when I hit roadbumps. We uniquely understand that sinking feeling that results from a publisher rejection or a bad review. I love the support system of author friends I have met along the way.
I see that you homeschool. Could you tell us some of the trials and tribulations of that endeavor and how it affects your writing?
I think any homeschooler will say that some days it's great; some days it's extremely hard and you want to quit. Kind of like being a writer, actually! But in the end, you do it because you know that's what's right for that child. My son is in Christian school—that was the best choice for him right now. I homeschool my two daughters.
All my children are more independent learners now. I don't think I could've written and homeschooled when all three were toddlers. I believe there are seasons in an author's life, just like in a mother's life!
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer such as myself about the whole ‘waiting’ process?
Waiting. That's like my Achilles' heel. I like to push and GO and not get hung up in the process. But sometimes we have to wait, to get to that next step. For me, it was years of waiting and submitting and thinking God didn't care about my dreams.
But at the end of all that disappointment, I saw God had a BIGGER and better dream than I could even conceive of. I love being an independent author and I see now how this is the best fit for me. I love having control over everything from my production schedule to my audiobook narrator.
I’ve written many different manuscripts, but there is that one that kind of defines who I am as a writer. What have you written that sticks out in your mind as ‘the’ one?
Oh, wow. That's really hard. God's Daughter, my Viking historical, was probably my most ambitious book. I had many sub-themes and a lot to share in that one. It was my "mission statement," if you will. :) But Miranda Warning, my mystery, is just as much a part of me, and I feel the contemporary Appalachian writing is more reflective of my writer "voice."
Every one of my books is really like a child. I wouldn't ever want to settle and write something just to be trendy or formulaic. I write my heart.
What message, if any, do you want a reader to take away from your work?
I don't like preachy messages in books. I want my books to reach readers, whether the readers are Christians or not. I want readers to remember my characters and the choices they made (good and bad). I do tend to focus on marriage in my books—both the highs and lows—and I do hope readers relate to that.
I know from my own experiences that when writing, sometimes a character begins to become a ‘part’ of us. Have you written a character like this? If so, could you describe the personality of the character and why you think he/she/it stays in your mind so vividly?
Again, I do feel that way with all my main characters, because I have to get into their heads to write first-person. I also feel my side characters are real...I have to, to write them properly. I will say I am very fond of Nikki Jo Spencer as a side character in my mystery series. She's Tess' mother-in-law and you can read an interview with her here.
But sometimes you have to strip away the parts of yourself you'd rather hide to get into your main characters' heads. I'm doing that while writing Freydis' story (my second/final Viking historical, Forest Child). It can be a scary process (trust me, Freydis is something else!), but I want to bring my readers an experience they will never forget. I personally love conflicted characters, like Scarlett O'hara or Anna Karenina. People who seem so real you can never forget them. That's the kind of characters I strive to write. Readers might like them or dislike them, but I'm hoping they will never forget them.
Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as eleven years spent homeschooling. 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 Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, is here on Amazon.