Today I’m excited to welcome author Heather Day Gilbert as today’s guest blogger.
If you love historical fiction, you’ll love Heather’s original take on the genre. Here, she talks about writing a novel about Vikings!
Heather Day Gilbert is the author of the historical fiction Viking novel, God’s Daughter. Heather’s a Christian, homeschooling mom, and her books promote honoring and strengthening the marriage vows. She’s on twitter at @vikingwritergal and her blog is http://www.heatherdaygilbert.blogspot.com. She also has a FB page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Day-Gilbert/255797467834948, and she’d love to have you stop by and chat sometime!
Who Cares What’s Hot?
Since Julie’s blogging about suspense writing on my blog (I can’t wait to read it!), I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about writing historical fiction.
I’ve always loved Vikings, since I’m allegedly related to Eirik the Red. I bought and read much of the huge book called The Sagas of Icelanders. And there, tucked away in two of the sagas, was the story of this incredible Viking woman named Gudrid.
This woman was beautiful and wise! She was married three times! She sailed to upper North America with her trader husband, then gave birth to the first recorded European baby on these shores! (And it was a boy, not Virginia Dare!)
My question was, why had no one told her story yet? Why wasn’t her name in history books?
And, the icing on the cake: Gudrid was the ward of my beloved Eirik the Red. How could I not tell her story?
So I bought books about Gudrid. I watched info videos about the Vikings and haunted Viking websites, like http://www.vikinganswerlady.com. I pored over the sagas, extracting every last detail. The sagas, by the way, are more like puzzle pieces than the complete picture. The timelines are an overlapping mess, so the same person seems to be two places at once.
Still undaunted, I plunged ahead and made the pieces fit as best I could, filling in the gaps with my over-active imagination.
I also checked with the Old Norse dictionary frequently (frequently being an understatement), so I could keep with the flavor of that time period.
I wrote my novel from Gudrid’s point of view, in first person, present tense (Think Twilight series or The Hunger Games). I loved getting into Gudrid’s thoughts.
But once I started querying my book around, I got some negative feedback.
Turns out, early medieval isn’t hot. TUDOR ENGLAND is hot.
Turns out, unless it’s Tudor England, your historical had better be set in the USA, or it’s not hot. (Well, at least I was on the right continent for half of the book!)
Turns out, unless it’s THIRD PERSON, PAST TENSE, your historical novel might not be hot.
So, guess what I did? I decided to put my beloved Vikings aside, start over, and write a contemporary novel. I was several chapters into it, when lo and behold! Along came an agent who liked my historical fiction query! He wanted to read the rest! And when he did, he still liked it!
I suppose the moral of this story is that you need to write what you believe in, what you like, and what you think is important.
Write in the tense that works for your book. Write in the time period/locale that works for your book. Write with the point of view that works for your book.
Who cares what’s hot? It just might be your book, given half a chance.
And keep your eyes on bookshelves everywhere, because Vikings are about to be hot again!
Have you had trouble publishing a type of book that may not be hot? And tell us what you think of Viking fiction!