Welcome to a newer dimension of my blog: interviews. I love to highlight author friends of mine who’ve written some fantastic books, books I can recommend to you and your friends. My guest today is Heather Day Gilbert, an author friend I’ve known for several years. Without further ado, join Heather and me as we sip our coffee and chat about Christian publishing.
Welcome, Heather. It’s great to feature another Bob Jones University graduate here. I remember when you were seeking a publisher for your first novel, God’s Daughter. Look at how God has opened doors for you!
Could you briefly describe how you got started in publishing novels and why you decided to be independently published?
Oh, wow! It’s a long and winding story. Suffice it to say that I tried the road to traditional publication—I had three agents and submitted three novels over the course of a few years. During this time, God began to show me that I should independently (indie) publish God’s Daughter. I knew the interest in Vikings was on the rise, and I wanted to get my novel, based so closely on the Icelandic saga accounts of a real Christian Viking woman, out into the world sooner rather than later. I was finally prepared to take marketing into my own hands, reaching the readers I knew would enjoy God’s Daughter. It took a lot of nonstop effort—years of marketing, really—but God has rewarded that step of obedience by placing my Viking novel where Christian publishers would not have been able to—such as in the Royal BC Museum in Canada for a Vikings exhibition.
What would be your initial advice to someone who wants to publish Christian novels?
Independent publishing demands a lot of an author (when it’s done right), and I explain the four key elements an indie author has to take into consideration in my book Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. But my best advice to anyone considering this path is, don’t rush into it. Do the research. Determine to produce a book you’re proud of, that can compete with (or excel) traditionally published titles. The world of indie publishing is vast and ever changing, and you need to have a willingness to learn. Those who are flexible move ahead faster.
Not to mention, I would now say that writing a series is the way to go for an indie author, having seen the effect of cross-sales when you run a sale or freebie. Although you can have staggering success with a single title, you can only compound that success with more books in a series.
Although I’ve gotten used to the occasional low-star review, it’s never fun to see those pop up on Amazon or Goodreads. However, it is easier once you have more than one book out. Nowadays, it’s almost like I’m reading someone else’s reviews when I read my low-stars—it’s like that reader didn’t get what I was writing, and I’m okay with that. My true readers will come back for more!
What is your personal view of “meaning” in Christian fiction? In other words, do you think Christian novels need to say something about our faith? Why or why not?
Great question. Personally, I veer toward books that aren’t preachy, so that is what I tend to write. The classics would not be considered Christian fiction, and yet they often portray people who struggle with their faith, even though things might not always work out with a happy ending—just like the stories we read in the Bible.
Speaking of those Bible stories, I enjoy reading about Christians wrestling with real-life issues: Christians making stupid mistakes and coming back from them, non-Christians finding Christ—or rejecting Him—and what happens then. Redemption. Forgiveness. Wrestling with the reality of the goodness of God. Deepening our faith. Those kinds of things. Sometimes it means portraying negative thoughts and actions. Sometimes it means showing that moment of triumph over a sin. This is what Christian fiction is to me—stories written from a Christian world view, where some of the characters may not even be Christians.
A lot of my readers are uncomfortable with the growing trend toward edgy content (crude language, mild swearing, or sensual/suggestive scenes) in some Christian fiction for the sake of realism. What can readers expect from your books?
No profanity. No graphic sex. Occasional “West-Virginia-isms” like “I swan” instead of “I swear”—that kind of thing. As for sensuality, because I have married main characters, I might indicate that they have (or are not having) married relations, but it is not described in any kind of detail. I might indicate there was an affair in someone’s past, but it’s not graphic. I would rate my books PG-13 due to some violent content—I write Viking historicals and mysteries :-)—and some topics such as infidelity and the paranormal/paganism. I feel like if the Bible addresses these issues, it makes sense that we should be able to portray them in books, because many Christians struggle with things just like these. I will say that my upcoming Viking historical will be more violent and graphic, simply because I wanted to portray this real-life woman in a way that lines up with how the Icelandic sagas portrayed her. At times it will be gritty, but then again, so are some of the battles in the Bible, when you think about them. Since my upcoming novel features a Viking warrior-woman, Jael springs to mind.
What are two facts about you that readers might find surprising?
Hm. That’s hard, because I’m pretty transparent on Facebook and my blog. They might find it surprising that I lived in Manhattan right after we were married or that Mr. Darcy is not my ideal hero, although he is for many women.
Where can readers find out more about you?
They can find me here:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/heatherdaygilbert
About the Author
Heather Day Gilbert writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. She was born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, and generational storytelling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University and is married to her college sweetheart. Having recently returned to her roots, she and her husband are raising their three children in the same home where Heather grew up. Heather is represented by Rebeca Seitz and Jonathan Clements of SON Studios in Florida.
Heather’s Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon Norse Best Seller. She is also author of the best-selling A Murder in the Mountains mystery series and the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher. Her mystery Trial by Twelve was recently declared a finalist in the 2015 Grace Awards.
About Trial by Twelve
Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of downtime with her one-year-old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s backyard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry.
As the investigation gets under way, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.
When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her.
With unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series. This novel is written from a Christian world view.
Want to Win an E-book Copy of Trial by Twelve?
What do you think about meaning in Christian fiction? Do you believe Christian fiction needs to say something about our faith? Why or why not? Want to win an e-book of Trial by Twelve? Simply enter the drawing by sharing your opinion and leaving a comment below with your e-mail address. I’ll choose a winner on March 30.
Note: This article contains some links to Amazon affiliates.
- Recognition Pricked Gillian’s Memory
- Tenth Plague Now Available for Preorder