I am very pleased to introduce to you Heather Day Gilbert. I discovered Heather’s books last year and now count her among my favorite authors. A very versatile author — she writes in the mystery and historical fiction genres — Heather is an author you don’t want to miss. Enjoy her thoughts on writing and books! (Click on the following titles for my reviews of her books: Miranda Warning, Trial by Twelve and God’s Daughter.)
By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?
Heather Day Gilbert — Great question! From the time I was about four, I loved words and reading. I won a writing contest in fifth grade . . . but I didn’t realize I was a writer until I was about twelve. We came back from an ocean trip and I sat on the porch and wrote a poem . . . and Boom! It hit me — I was a writer. I promptly shared this epiphany with my mom and my grandma, and they were duly impressed. LOL. That’s not to say I launched into an immediate writing career trajectory. Goodness knows I entertained plenty of other majors in college, though I wound up with a degree in Humanities that focused on literature and writing.
BTB — Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing?
Heather — My parents, brothers, and grandparents were always supportive. When I decided to pursue a career as an author, my husband and children were extremely supportive. But I waited until my children were ages six and up because I personally couldn’t have handled the extra pressure when they were all younger.
BTB — When did you decide to write Christian fiction? Do you have a particular motivation to write books that contain faith threads?
Heather — Honestly, I’m kind of a weird fit in the Christian fiction scene. I read some Janette Oke and Frank Peretti growing up, but I tended to read classics and ABA fiction. When I started writing books with faith threads (or Christian main characters), I realized I had to choose which way I’d go. So I started out with agents in the Christian publishing industry. Now I am much more well-versed in Christian fiction novels and authors. I try to write books that both Christians and non-Christians can enjoy, but to be honest, there are repercussions when you espouse a Christian worldview (even without being “preachy”). I had one review that even dropped the F-bomb because one of my characters was too conservative (read: the character believed that abortion is murder). But I can handle that because every one of my characters has to be believable, and guess what? Some people really do believe abortion is murder. 🙂
BTB — What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?
Heather — Oh boy! I am not the most scheduled person, especially when it comes to my waking/sleeping hours. I tend to work on and off all day, since as an indie author, I’m also marketing, getting review copies out, etc. But I like to write in chunks of time, like one to two hours straight.
BTB — Trial by Twelve is the second book in the Murder in The Mountains contemporary mystery series and you have also written a novel, Godʼs Daughter, which is an historical novel based on a 10th century Viking woman. Pretty different genres! What prompted writing in each genre and where do you go from here?
Heather — God’s Daughter was a book born out of my need to understand my Viking heritage and my subsequent fascination with the Icelandic Sagas. The more I researched, the more I recognized Gudrid’s story needed to be told. She was a documented Christian Viking who sailed to North America with her third husband. She had the first European child born on this continent. I felt it was a worthy endeavor to bring her story to life. The second novel in the Vikings of the New World Saga will document Freydis’ story—she was the daughter of Eirik the Red and she also sailed to North America. She’s trickier because she was not a Christian and she did some rather inexplicable things. But I love looking at the historical facts and then trying to get to the heart of what motivated these Viking women to act the way they did. Miranda Warning and Trial by Twelve are lighter novels, even though they’re mysteries with some deeper themes. I grew up reading Agatha Christie, and I wanted to do psychological mysteries along the line of Rebecca — where the key to the crime lies in understanding the various characters’ natures. Also, I love contemporary novels and I wanted to set this in my home state, West Virginia. This way I could try to bring a balanced view of what’s going on here — the good and the bad — to readers’ attention and just show them a part of the country they may know little about. With both my series, I love portraying married main characters. For me, life really got exciting when I got married. I feel the struggles are huge, the stakes are high, and the choices are heavy. It’s really a battleground and Satan would love to tear marriages apart. I like showing functional and growing — but not perfect — marriages in my books.
BTB — What types of research did you do in preparing to write Trial by Twelve and how was it similar and/or different from your research of Godʼs Daughter?
Heather — God’s Daughter took months of research. I had to get the facts straight and I also wanted to primarily use word choices that were used in the Old Norse. It wasn’t always possible, but it was limiting in many ways. I spend the most time on my A Murder in the Mountains series (Miranda Warning and Trial by Twelve) researching the area around Point Pleasant, where Tess Spencer lives. I also spend a lot of time checking and cross-checking my gun terminology because it’s important for me to get that right. I also check the legalese with my lawyer husband.
Heather — In a nutshell, I want them to feel like they’ve just made some new friends they can relate to. Although I’d be happy if they just feel they can’t forget those characters, even if they could not relate! I realize not everyone will like each of my main characters, but I hope those characters stick with them. I think of characters like Scarlett O’hara or Tess of the D’urbervilles or Anna Karenina. These characters weren’t always likeable or they didn’t always make great choices, but we will never forget them.
BTB — Readers are always curious as to what a writer is working on or just what is next to be published. Can you give us a glimpse of current works in progress?
Heather — Right now I’m working on a romantic suspense novel for a Love Inspired Suspense contest—and it’s set in West Virginia. But after that, I will probably try to get a third mystery out in A Murder in the Mountains series, then probably dedicate 2016 to working on my follow-up Viking historical, Forest Child. Readers are anxious for that to release, but I know that book is going to take a lot out of me emotionally and research-wise.
BTB — What would you like to share about your personal life?
Heather — I’m not sure what tidbits might interest people. I did do some real-life research for Trial by Twelve that involved duct tape and being shut in a car trunk. I enjoy shooting guns, although I don’t have a Glock like Tess Spencer’s. I’m a homeschooling mom . . . and I am thankful every day that God let me marry my husband.
Thanks, Heather, for sharing with my readers!
HEATHER DAY GILBERT enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, she believes that bittersweet, generational stories are in her blood. A graduate of Bob Jones University, Heather has been married for eighteen years and has three children. Heather’s Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, was an Amazon Norse Bestseller for an entire year. She is also the author of Miranda Warning, Book One in A Murder in the Mountains Series, and the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher.
Connect with Heather at the following sites:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/heatherdaygilbert