The Witch’s Heart is a heartfelt, gut-wrenching, and romantic retelling of the story of Angrboda and Ragnarok. It features new views on favorites from Norse mythology (my person faves being Hel, Fenrir, and Jormungadr) from the point of view of a figure usually cast as a villain. In this interview to celebrate her release day, author Genevieve Gornichec talks about the way she explored the trials and tribulations of Norse gods and gave them a modern sensibility all her own.
The Journey to the Nine Realms
What influenced your decision to tell Angrboda’s story through her eyes?
So, I got really interested in Angrboda in college when I was taking a course on Norse mythology. I poked my head into the fandom for like one entire second and was kind of bummed by how little attention she was getting, so I decided it might be really cool to write her story, especially since we know so little about her. I really could do anything I wanted, and there’s a million ways her story could’ve been written—this one is just mine!
What came to you first? The idea to retell Ragnarok? The romance? Or something else?
The romance was a big part of it (which is kind of funny considering how it all ended up) but I really liked the idea of having the story kind of fit into the background of all the myths as we knew them, and kind of give context to the things that the original sources and some of the retellings just kind of skip over. In a way, I wanted to answer some of my own burning questions about the mythology. A lot of them had to do with Loki and all the stuff we’re not told about his motivations for doing…like, everything he does. So that was kind of the angle I took!
What was your favorite scene or moment to write?
The very, very end. No spoilers, but Part III just makes me ridiculously happy. I wish I could have given the couple in question more screen time somehow, because I ship it hard.
During the drafting and revising process, are there elements that stayed the same? Were there any changes that delighted or surprised you?
Oh gosh. Uh, large swaths of Part I have remained unchanged since I first drafted them ten years ago. Part II was rewritten twice in the past two years, but honestly, I am really proud of the way it turned out. I am a totally different person than when I wrote the first half of the book, if I’m being honest. I think like, only three scenes from the original made the final cut, and they were heavily tweaked to fit the new flow of the story.
Do you have a playlist for the book?
Maybe…but it’s made up of weird songs I’ve collected over the past ten years so I don’t know if I’ll ever share it! But I basically listened to Florence + the Machine’s album “Ceremonials” while I wrote the first draft. It had just come out, so I just kept it repeated on loop in the background while I was drafting.
Is The Witch’s Heart your first book?
The Witch’s Heart is my first published novel, but I’ve written a handful of others that I’d queried for five years before TWH. Honestly, I’m glad that they never got picked up, because I cannot imagine things working out other than the way they did. Everything will happen on its own time, and the right agent is worth the wait!
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on a more lucrative project that I can’t say much about yet, and also a passion project that has lived rent-free in my head since I turned in The Witch’s Heart.
What are some books that you are looking forward to?
All my fellow 2021 debuts’ novels! I’ve read a bunch of their ARCs so far and I just think this year is going to be so amazing for books (but I may be biased). There are way too many of them to list.
Aside from that, Alecto the Ninth. I can already tell it’s gonna destroy me, and I can’t wait.
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.