Today I have the privilege of interviewing Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter and Miranda Warning (releasing June 20, 2014). She’s got some interesting things to say about genre-switching, balancing writing with homeschooling, and even a bit about which one of her characters she’d choose as a friend in real-life 🙂
Be sure to scroll down after the interview and click on her social links so you can connect with Heather!
I know you are not only a mother but a homeschooler. What does a typical day look like for you? How do you find time to fit in writing?
I’m not an early-bird, since I often burn the midnight oil (I am answering this question at 12:43 am ;)). We usually get rolling on school around 9 or 9:30 am, doing all the reading and joint-subject things together. My kiddos are more independent at this stage, so I write their assignments down and they work on them throughout the day. I usually load up social media stuff sometime around lunch, unless I have a post or something I have to check in the morning.
I will say I haven’t been writing as much as editing and marketing for the past year and a half. I look forward to focusing on writing, once my mystery (Miranda Warning) releases June 20th. But realistically, I know I’ll probably spend the next six months post-release marketing that one.
How long have you been writing? Was becoming a writer a conscious decision, or did you grow into it gradually?
I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a child, and I started reading early. I think I had brief delusions of becoming the next Emily Dickinson during college. But I didn’t write my first novel until I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This was after my three children were no longer toddlers and I was able to devote my nights to writing like a fiend. Once I realized I could complete a novel if I pushed myself, I caught the book-writing bug, for sure. I pursued traditional publication for about six years (with three different novels). I had three agents, as well. Suffice it to say, I’m glad the waiting is over and I’m now an independent publisher.
Your first book, God’s Daughter, is a historical viking novel. But Miranda Warning is quite different, being a modern mystery. Was there anything in particular that made you switch gears? What genres do you see yourself exploring more in future?
I wrote Miranda Warning when God’s Daughter was out on submission (over a year and a half), because a wise author advised me to go ahead and write something else. My first novel had been a contemporary paranormal (Speculative Fiction) book, and my readers loved it (posted the first 13 chapters on my blog). I wanted to get back to my contemporary “roots,” as it were. I’ve always loved mysteries and the idea of setting one in my home state of West Virginia was just too tempting. Not to mention, using married main characters, like the Tommy and Tuppence characters in Agatha Christie’s books. I wrote Miranda Warning and it just flowed.
As for the future, I will be writing the second (and final in the series) novel in the Vikings of the New World Saga next–Forest Child. After that, I hope to pursue more of my mysteries. I have quite a few in mind for the A Murder in the Mountains series–the next one will be titled Trial by Twelve.
I love reading mysteries, and the first chapters I’ve read of Miranda Warning are so intriguing! Yet I’ve always felt it must be complicated to write a mystery. Did you find it difficult? Do you use a different method for writing mystery than for other types of books?
Yes! I needed more structure. I’m a half-plotter, if you will. I like to know how many chapters I have and outline things by chapter. But the characters take over and fill in the rest. When I started writing Miranda Warning, I went into it thinking I knew whodunit. But the more I got into my characters’ heads, the more things unfolded to me differently. I don’t like predictable books, so I wanted this one to be unpredictable…but also very psychological, like Rebecca, where it’s heavily character-based.
What is your favorite book, and how has it affected your own writing?
Oh wow–tough question. Classics have really influenced me. I love flawed, conflicted main characters, like Scarlett O’Hara or Becky Sharp or Jude the Obscure. They might not do what I want them to, but that makes them more human to me and I can never forget them. I like to reflect real life and heartbreak with my characters, but also that never-ending struggle to do the right thing. But as for fave books…The Mill on the Floss and Far from the Madding Crowd are high on my list.
Of all the characters in your own books, who do you think you’d get along with best if he/she was a real person?
Oh–great question! I tend to really love my male characters (I think all female authors do!), especially the ones who have traits like my husband (I won’t tell you which dudes are like him, so as to protect the innocent!). But as for a female friend, I really like Stena in God’s Daughter, as well as Charlotte in Miranda Warning. I think Freydis and I would probably wind up getting into a fistfight (she’s in God’s Daughter and will be the main character in Forest Child).
What’s the most off-the-wall thing that has ever inspired you to write a book or story?
Real-life ghost stories…harking back to my first paranormal novel. But I will say I also have dreams about my books/characters, sometimes when I’m at a writing impasse. I think God sends me prompts…either that or my characters just won’t shut up!
What is God’s role in your writing and publishing process? Is there any particular instance you’d like to share about where you needed His guidance more than usual?
Oh, wow. Yes. God has always been a part of this dream. He’s the steerboard. (that might be a Viking term? The ship steering-board). I’ve done some things that have raised eyebrows, from changing agents while a book was on submission, to short-circuiting the waiting process on a submitted book and proceeding to self-publish it. I figure some authors watch me and think I’m crazy. But when God nudges, I do it. The hardest part of this journey was the waiting. I’d rather get 100 bad reviews than spend one more year waiting to get published. But at every turn, when God nudged, even lightly, I followed. I’d rather jump and have no visible net than stay in the wrong place too long.
When I decided to self-publish, that was big. But it was just another step of faith on this path. And now, in retrospect, I think God was pushing me this way all along. He knows I am a very independent and very driven author, who doesn’t like to be held up, and I don’t like conforming to trends. Sometimes I wish I could see more of the big picture, but I think if we just take each step in obedience, no matter how hard or crazy it seems, we will reap a lasting harvest.
Thanks for having me visit, Ashlee, and all the best with all your books!
It was an honor to have you, Heather! Blessings upon all your future writing endeavors!
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, releases June 20th.