Author Spotlight: Genevieve Gornichec (THE WITCH’S HEART)
Genevieve Gornichec earned her degree in history from The Ohio State University, but she got as close to majoring in Vikings as she possibly could, and her study of the Norse myths and Icelandic sagas became her writing inspiration. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio. The Witch’s Heart is her debut novel, and she tweets @gengornichec.
Welcome to the Hive, Genevieve!
Congratulations on your release of The Witch’s Heart! Can you tell us a little bit about it? What can readers expect?
Thank you so much! The Witch’s Heart is a novel that reimagines Norse mythology with a minor side character, the giantess Angrboda, at the center of it all. It’s not much of an action-packed adventure, but rather a quiet story — it’s a character study of this obscure figure and her place in the grand scheme of things.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I am a super linear writer, so I have to write everything in order; I’m also a discovery writer, which means I don’t know where I’m going with a story until I sit down and write it. Put those two together and it’s the perfect recipe for writer’s block, but I’ve never been able to do it any other way! Music definitely helps; I’m a big fan of ambient lo-fi when I’m drafting and revising.
Speaking of worlds, your book is inspired by Norse mythology, which happens to be a favourite of mine. Can you tell us a bit more about how you drew inspiration from these myths? Was there much research to delve into, or did you already have an extensive knowledge of the story you wanted to tell?
I got really into Norse mythology when I was an undergraduate, and I wrote the first draft of The Witch’s Heart while I was writing a term paper on Angrboda for a course on the Norse myths I was taking at the time! I just found her to be fascinating, because we know so little about her. But it’s been ten years since then, and I’ve also been researching as I go as well; I feel like I learn something new about Norse mythology every day.
Can you tell us a bit about how you use magic in your book?
Weird things happen in mythology, sometimes with no explanation. The magic system I built out the most in the book is seid (or seiðr in Old Norse). We’re not really given an explanation for exactly what it is in the source material, but it seems to be a magic related to prophecy, so I had to kind of build it out from there to make it work in the context of the story. Others might interpret seiðr differently; this was just my take!
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
The editing process was a little bit stressful for me because I am an absolute perfectionist. I rewrote the last third of the book three times, and I was editing it up until the last possible second. But in the end I had to kind of just let things go and accept that I’m never going to make it perfect – I can only do my best!
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
I had a ton of fun with Loki, especially his dialogue. I just love him as a character, because he’s so multidimensional and his motivations in the myths are unclear, so it was up to me to fill in the gaps in a way that would make narrative sense. He really kept me guessing. My favorite type of character to write is absolutely the reluctant protagonist, though. Angrboda literally just wants to be left alone and has to be forced into action, which made her a little frustrating to write (and probably to read), but she gets there in the end.
Can you tell us a little bit about the themes presented in The Witch’s Heart? Were these themes something you had wanted to explore right from the onset or did they emerge whilst writing?
I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of writer, so I didn’t exactly set out to write this book the way it came out. It was more like an exploration of Angrboda’s character – honestly, my only goal was to write a story that could conceivably fit into the background of the myths. Sacrifice ended up being a huge theme, as well as motherhood, family, identity, and legacy. A lot of those are apparent in the myths themselves and just kind of came up as I was writing!
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I feel like my writing style was influenced a lot by academic work, and the Norse myths and Icelandic sagas themselves. I tried really hard to give The Witch’s Heart a sort of folkloric feel, though it may be too modern to be called timeless. And this will probably come as no surprise, but there are countless authors out there that I’d be absolutely thrilled the work with – I don’t even know where to start!
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. Did you encounter any difficulties? How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I stumbled a bit with the last third of the book, which needed multiple rewrites. Having a prophecy as part of the plot – in this case, the prophecy of Ragnarok, the doom of the gods – is a struggle because it strips your characters of their agency, and I really had to work hard to give Angrboda something to work with. And honestly, when I’m not motivated to write, I just…don’t! I know that’s a bad answer, but it’s the truth, haha.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
I had no idea what I wanted to see on the cover for the US version, but there were several things I didn’t want, so when asked for my input I mentioned those. I was absolutely stunned at what Adam Auerbach came up with, and Julia Lloyd’s UK cover is just gorgeous as well. I got really lucky with both of my covers!
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Since reading is technically “work” now, and it used to be my favorite pastime, I get so few days where I just get to do…absolutely nothing. So that’s probably exactly what I would do!
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
A giant wolf, hands down. I just have a soft spot for them, especially after The Witch’s Heart.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I’ve got to say The Golden Wolf Saga by Linnea Hartsuyker, which is technically about Harald Fairhair, the legendary first king of Norway, but really centers around his friend Ragnvald and Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild. It takes a little saga from Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla and builds it out into an entire trilogy, and the more I work with Heimskringla for my own writing, the more I appreciate everything Linnea was able to do with it. I am absolutely the target audience for these books and I can’t say enough good things about them.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I wish I could, but I can’t really say right now! All I can really tell you at this point is that it’s Norse!
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
I actually don’t have a lot going on besides this awesome blog tour, but I hope to do some Instagram live Q&A sessions coming up here soon! I’m @gengornichec on Instagram.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope The Witch’s Heart gives you hope that no matter how impossible things may seem, there’s always a way to persevere. Even if you’ve lost everything, you can still recover, recreate or rediscovery your identity, and be the person you were always meant to be.
Thank you so much for joining us Genevieve!
Thank you very much! It was a pleasure!