Meet Guest Author Robynn Gabel…

It has been established that most writers desire to write from childhood on. I am no exception, but at the age of nineteen I knew my chances of becoming a best-selling author were slim, so I chose instead to fall in love, marry, have kids and go to work.

Being Attention Deficit guaranteed I would become the master of multi-tasking and have the joy of taking on new challenges. So, while raising five kids, I also tried out many jobs. I worked in the medical field, helped my husband run movie theaters, organized and put on conventions, took a regional directorship that included six states, stumped in Washington D.C. on various things vital to the movie theatre industry while enjoying my hobbies of racing Corvettes and riding horses. It was a busy life.

Then the kids started leaving home, and the husband decided to retire. It was at this point that Empty Nest syndrome darkened my door. While staring at the computer one night, I thought about what I had wanted to do before the grandkids started arriving. Suddenly I felt like a kid in a candy store! I remembered all those things. And all the times I had jotted down story scenes and ideas on any piece of paper at hand about the Viking characters who lived in my head for thirty years. Now they demanded release.

So, I took up an online two-year college course on writing. I joined chat sites and blogs (including Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog), that talked about the current happenings in the publishing world. I discovered I had just hit the golden age of authorship. It seemed that this strange company called Amazon was encouraging independent authors to promote and produce their own books. Kindle came onto the market and soon reading books became a digital hobby.

How could I have been so lucky? I decided to try my hand at my long-buried passion for writing. They tell you to write about what you know. So, I wrote a contemporary romance, set in a quaint little western town in Wyoming. I learned more about writing, editing, grammar, social media and the wild west of cyberspace. I wrangled re-writes and stubborn digital files. In the long run, I found it was much cheaper to hire someone to edit and format than buying wigs to replace the hair I pulled out. Hence, “Windswept Hearts” was born.

Next came “The Heart of Elvis”, a book with family stories I had amassed on the character of a horse named Elvis. It centered on a city girl being taught by a very wise, ornery Missouri Fox Trotter, how to be a horsewoman. During the publishing process, I learned about photo rights and how hard it is to get pictures produced in a book.

   

Meanwhile, I was still dreaming of fjords, dragon ships and a culture long shrouded in the fog of time. I had the luck to tour a Viking Exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of History. To see, touch and walk through an actual longhouse brought back a flood of memories of the story I really wanted to write.

I went home with a purpose. Now I was serious.

When I told my friends about my new project, they looked at me strangely. Why would a grandmother of seventeen grandchildren want to write about a bloodthirsty, raiding, warring culture like the Vikings? This was before the popular History Channel series “The Vikings.” Though everyone seems fascinated by this culture not a lot is known about it. They didn’t leave much behind because unlike the Egyptians who recorded everything in stone, they used hides and wood, which rotted. Yet they had a significant impact on the world in general.

What attracted me to the Vikings was their tenacity, loyalty, intellect, morals, government and the sheer will to survive. I could relate to them on many levels as I struggled to raise a blended family, run a business and pursue my own dreams. Always being a romantic, I found the challenge of writing a romance set in their culture interesting, but it didn’t come easy.

Though I had studied the Vikings through the years, it is entirely different to try and re-create a true-to-life story set in an age where even the experts don’t agree. For every hour I wrote, I spent three in research. After I wrote the prologue, I discovered that my two lovebirds had parents who had their own story to be told. Suddenly I found myself writing a series, backward. As if it wasn’t hard enough already!

I had just finished the story after two years of encouragement and support from the love of my life when real life interrupted. My husband had battled cancer twice in our thirty years together. This time, he had three different tumors appear all at the same time. Within months, despite the fight of our lives for his health, cancer won. Grief sidetracked me for a while.

Then one night, while walking the rooms of an empty house, I remembered how we had sword played out a scene, so I could write it better. I remember asking him to invent some Norse insults for me when I was stumped in the ways of men. How he had told me this book was great. In fact, so good, that he, who never read, sat down for three weeks to read it every morning so he could see the whole story, not just bits, and pieces.

So, I did what a Viking would do, I fought on. I hired a good editor, found a publishing company, hired a cover artist, and got a formatter. It’s been a long three years, but “Norse Hearts” is completed. I have started the second of five stories; the last book already being written.

Slowly I emerged from the dark valley of grief. I have Viking’d Up and have gone forth to find joy and passion again in writing.

I now realize that at nineteen I didn’t have the experiences of life that I needed to create realistic characters. I needed to live through relationships and the ups and downs of life. The hours of learning history and studying people gave me volumes of plot twists and ideas but not the heart of what makes a story. The good and bad times help me imbue my characters with complex personalities and real-life reactions.

And the best writing advice will always be, write every day and write about what you know.

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