Q&A With Kate Heartfield
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Q&A With Kate Heartfield
I have the honor of doing my latest Q&A with Kate Heartfield! Kate is the author of The Embroidered Book, The Chatelaine, & her recent novel The Valkyrie.
Q: Kate, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I a little about your recent novel The Valkyrie? It sounds like a book about Norse mythology.
A: Happy to be here, thank you! The Valkyrie is a retelling of Norse and Germanic legends about the fall of a historical kingdom on the Rhine in what is now Germany, in the 5th century CE. These were the stories the Vikings told each other around the campfire, but they were already old by then. My queer, feminist version focuses on the characters of Brynhild, an exiled Valkyrie, and Gudrun, a princess of a kingdom in peril. Brynhild and Gudrun are often portrayed as bitter rivals, but my novel tells the story behind the story – my imagining of how things might really have unfolded between these two women. The book, like the legends that inspired it, mixes mythological figures such as Odin and Loki with historical figures such as Attila the Hun. These stories inspired J.R.R. Tolkien, so there are some elements that will ring a bell for many readers of modern fantasy.
Q: You write both fiction and non-fiction. What is it like writing both genres and which genre do you prefer writing more?
A: I used to be a newspaper journalist, and I write non-fiction as a consultant, but these days I focus on fiction in my own work. Story-telling is a powerful tool for understanding the world around us and the state of humanity, and I’ve always loved novels.
Q: When did you realize that writing was your calling and what advice would you give to those who want to be an author?
A: I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was a little kid – I can’t remember a time before I was a writer. But every writer is different, and it’s never too late to start! Advice is never one size fits all, but one lesson that has been useful for me is remembering to always come back to joy in the work itself. You can’t control what other people will think, or whether anyone even reads your work at all, but if you find some joy in the process of putting stories down on the page, no one can take that away from you. And then, as it happens, that joy will probably shine through and help you connect with others through your work. My other advice is more practical: When you get an idea as you’re falling asleep, and you think you’ll remember it in the morning… you won’t. Write it down.
Q: If you are currently writing your next book, is it a fiction or a non-fiction book?
A: I’m working on the final stages of a novel set during the Second World War, and I have a couple of other ideas in early stages. So people who enjoy my fiction will have more to read soon!
Q: Where do your ideas for your books come from?
A: This is a difficult question to answer, because every idea has its own way of arriving. I tend to notice little things: such as a legend that feels a bit unsatisfying, in the case of The Valkyrie. Or a small moment in a biography of a historical figure that made me wonder; my novel The Embroidered Book was inspired in part by a biography of Marie Antoinette that mentioned the fact that she got in trouble with her sister, Charlotte, when they were children. Sometimes it’s something as ordinary as a joke on social media or a mis-reading of an advertisement; anything that makes me say “huh – that feels like a story.” I write everything down, and the things that continue to haunt me, to get under my skin, are the ones that eventually evolve into books, as I add more thoughts or start asking myself questions. I frequently write in historical settings, especially in my novels, but in short fiction I bounce around a bit more.