It is with great pleasure I introduce Genevieve Gornichec to the blog. Genevieve has her highly anticipated debut, The Witch’s Heart scheduled for Feb 9th. Find out more about book and author below!
Hi Gen! Your debut novel, The Witch’s Heart, is getting a lot of attention. How does it feel to have people anticipating the release of your first book; exciting, daunting, surreal?
It’s a mix of all three, honestly! It’s both exciting and very, very scary to share something I’ve kept all to myself for so long—I wrote the first draft of this story nine years ago this month!
Despite the old saying, I think the cover art (which is stunning) is certainly one of the things that has helped draw interest. After all, before you know anything about a book, the first thing you see is the cover. Can you tell us a little bit about the artwork – were you involved at all in the design?
Adam Auerbach (@adam_auerbach_illustration on Instagram) at my publisher’s art department was responsible for the cover, but I was allowed some input too, which was amazing! Probably one of my geekiest moments was when I sent my editor pictures of a few pages from the Codex Regius and said, “Could we make the title font more like this?” So Adam ended up hand-lettering it. I am still completely blown away by the whole thing.
Now, artwork alone cannot generate all the interest. The synopsis of your book is so intriguing too, and it feels to me like it will appeal to a range of fantasy, Norse mythology and general fiction fans. Do you feel like your book has something for everyone?
Ah! Funny you should ask. I feel like many Norse and Norse-inspired novels are these amazing action-packed adventures, but The Witch’s Heart is more of a character study than anything else, so it’s maybe not for those looking for swordfights and Viking raids! Angrboda is a background character in the myths, so she’s mostly just told about the action by other characters when she doesn’t directly participate. It’s a little slow at times as it follows her everyday life and her relationship with Loki in the first half, and then follows her journey to reforge her identity in the second half.
What is it about Norse mythology that particularly appeals to you?
Gosh, I don’t even know where to begin! I have just always found mythology fascinating, but my interest in the Norse myths specifically became next-level when I took an Old Norse course at university with an amazing professor (who I will continue to thank endlessly and profusely for getting me hooked on this stuff). The first thing we translated in class was the Loki and Svadilfari story. The rest was history. But thematically, the fallibility of the gods—the fact that everyone dies at the end—is just super compelling to me, and says a lot about both the culture that believed in them and the culture that wrote down those stories hundreds of years after the fact.
Tell us a little about your protagonist, Angrboda. What type of character is she and what kind of journey can we expect to share with her?
I’ve seen Angrboda depicted as everything from a gross troll-looking creature to a fierce warrior woman, but the fact is that we know so little about her that it’s hard to go wrong; she’s mentioned once in each of the Eddas as the mother of Loki’s children, and that’s all we get. My Angrboda is tired, and she’s resolute, and she mostly just wants to be left alone, but unfortunately that’s not in the cards for her, because she has prophecy magic and Odin exists (see next question).
As for her journey, she goes through a lot just in the opening paragraphs. The first half of the book is more or less her everyday life—alone and then married and then with children—in the background of the myths. She loses her kids at the end of Part I (not a spoiler—it’s her only claim to fame, after all), so in the second half she has to completely rebuild her life and goals after losing everything.
Your book has been described as a subversive reimagining of Norse mythology; what would you say inspired you to bring a fresh take to the mythology and was it a challenge weighing up which existing aspects to go with and which parts to give more of your creative license to?
The Norse mythology class I took as an undergraduate was what got the wheels turning and got me really thinking critically about the myths. I ended up combining Angrboda with several other female figures, and since one of those figures is the Seeress (that is, the völva from Völuspá), she practices seid (or seiðr; I hope the astute Old Norse/Icelandic reader will forgive my deliberate anglicizations of all the names and places in the book).
So my line of thinking there was that, since it’s highly possible that Angrboda is the dead seeress Odin raises in the poem “Baldr’s Dreams,” can she also not be the Seeress? So I just sort of ran with that idea and found that she had some aspects in common with other ladies in the mythology. I even ended up with a really good term paper about it.
I tried to stay as true to the mythology as I could, but I absolutely took liberties. Probably one of the weirdest parts of this book for some readers will be that, since it follows the story of a giantess, the gods don’t necessarily come out smelling like roses. The Aesir always do things for their own reasons, especially Odin. But he’s just doing what he’s gotta do. I would say that he’s Angrboda’s main antagonist, though; she’s got something he wants, and she’s not giving it up, and things don’t go well for her because of it.
Is The Witch’s Heart a standalone or are there more books planned?
The Witch’s Heart is a standalone novel, but I do have something else heavily related to it in the works, which I sincerely hope I’ll one day be able to share.
And a few more relaxed questions to get to know the author a little better…
Where would you say you spent the most time writing your book?
Curled up in my undergraduate dorm room during my third year at university, in the wee hours of the morning over the course of three weeks (NaNoWriMo, am I right?), after all my classwork was done. Coffee was my best friend. I have zero regrets.
What will you do to celebrate on release day?
Probably cry a lot and get some bubble tea.
If you could write anywhere in the world, what would be the perfect location?
Some remote, cozy cabin in Iceland, Norway, or Sweden.
Who’s your favourite Norse god?
Skadi is technically a goddess, so I am one hundred percent going to say Skadi, who is canonically awesome and also has a habit of stealing scenes in The Witch’s Heart.
Can you tell us about a book you read that you loved?
The most recent book I read and loved is Hall of Smoke by Hannah M. Long, but everyone else will have to wait until January to read it! It’s a Viking-inspired fantasy and is the most unique thing I’ve read in a long time.
Thank you for the interview! It’s been a pleasure to have you on the blog, I wish you the very best of luck with your debut!
The Witch’s Heart will be published on 9th Feb, 2021. Available for preorder now – HERE! Read the synopsis below!
When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.