Genevieve Gornichec: On Reinventing Mythology

Debut author Genevieve Gornichec dives into how her novel The Witch's Heart reinvents Norse mythology and how NaNoWriMo helped her meet her publication goals.
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Genevieve Gornichec earned her degree in history from 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.

Genevieve Gornichec

Genevieve Gornichec

In this post, Gornichec dives into how her novel The Witch's Heart reinvents Norse mythology, how NaNoWriMo helped her meet her publication goals, and more!

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Name: Genevieve Gornichec
Literary agent: Rhea Lyons
Title: The Witch’s Heart
Publisher: Ace/Berkley
Release date: February 9, 2021 (US); May 4, 2021 (UK)
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Elevator pitch for the book: The Witch’s Heart is Norse mythology reimagined with the giantess Angrboda, a peripheral character, taking center stage. Known only as the mother of three strange children by the trickster god Loki, this novel centers around her struggles as she tries to keep her family together against impossible odds.

The Witch's Heart

The Witch's Heart

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What prompted you to write this book?

I got really, really into studying the Viking Age when I was in college. During a class I was taking on Norse mythology, something my professor said sparked my interest in the associations shared by a lot of the somewhat creepy background women in the myths. I wrote my term paper on the subject, and by the end of that quarter, I’d also finished the first draft of The Witch’s Heart.

(The 5-Step Process for Reworking a Classic Story)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

Ten years! Ten entire years. I wrote The Witch’s Heart in 2011, but I had some other books in the works. I queried them and off for about five years, but I kept TWH close to my chest because it felt like such a huge part of me. When I finally took the plunge and started querying it in 2018, I signed with my agent less than a month later, and less than six months after that, I signed my name on a contract with the words Penguin Random House printed at the top. It was all very surreal, especially after trying so hard for so long.

During revisions, I rewrote the entire second half of the book twice under my editor’s guidance—it was a bit of a mess, and the original ending was really sad. Not “bittersweet” sad, just “depressing” sad, since Norse mythology pretty much ends with an apocalypse. My editor said that she knew I could do better, that I could craft an ending that was satisfying for the reader while still staying true to my source material. I’m really proud of how it turned out.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

The length of the process was probably my biggest surprise, but that’s not a bad thing! My book was announced in March 2019 for February 2021. It seemed so far away, but there was so much work to be done during that time. I didn’t realize how much work! But it’s really confusing if you don’t know what the process looks like; I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “Wait, it isn’t out yet?” from people in my life in the past two years. As they say: It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

(Modern Myth Maker)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? 

I wrote the first draft in three weeks for NaNoWriMo in 2011, and I’m still stunned by the way things just sort of came together (the reason the book has section breaks instead of chapters was that I just kept going). Granted, I had all of Norse mythology as the bones of the plot, and some things in the mythology are so weird and conflicting, but weaving it all into one cohesive story taking place in the background of it all just felt really natural. I hadn’t had that experience with any of my other books.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

That sometimes things may seem hopeless, but there’s always a way to make it through, one way or another. Also, probably don’t take anything Loki says at face value.

Gornichec_2:11

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Your story is important, and your voice deserves to be heard. Please, please don’t give up. 

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