The majority of epic novels feature strong heroes—warriors, princes, or kings—and the women who love them. But what happens when a young woman, the daughter of Danish king Harald Bluetooth, must lead her people amidst a Scandinavia at war after her father is killed in a battle against her usurper brother? Princess Thyra breaks through the patriarchal culture that subjugated women—even princesses—and denied them their autonomy, and reclaims her birthright as Queen of Denmark. Along the way, she falls in love with a man who was born a prince, lived as a slave, and became a king, a man with a sword of iron won in battle and an untamed heart of gold—Norway’s King Olaf Tryggvason. Or rather, Olaf falls in love with Thyra.
King’s Daughter brings to life the 10th century saga of the spirited Danish warrior princess Thyra Haraldsdatter and the man she loved and lost, Norway’s legendary maverick King Olaf Tryggvason—a story of love, war, betrayal, and redemption.
Author Julia Bobkoff, who trained as a filmmaker at NYU, began writing Olaf’s story as a script, but the story kept expanding. After over a decade of research, conducted while raising her three children, she completed three full-length scripts and began shopping them around Hollywood. She had started writing the scripts for her son, who was 12 at the time (now a college sophomore) and loved action adventure stories with teenage heroes. Screenwriter Hawk Ostby read and praised the first script, and he encouraged Bobkoff to transform it into a novel. As she worked on the book, she took a different approach, creating a young adult trilogy for her two daughters, who favored strong female characters that shaped their own destiny.
This fall, Bobkoff entered King’s Daughter in the Launch Pad Manuscript Contest, a Hollywood competition sponsored by The Tracking Board to uncover and promote new writing talent. After making four cuts—75, 50, 25, and 10—out of over a thousand contestants from countries around the world, King’s Daughter won Top Drama in the contest—one of three top prizes, gaining Bobkoff access to Hollywood agents, producers, and studio executives, as well as a paid trip to Los Angeles for in-person introductions. In addition to King’s Daughter, Bobkoff’s current projects all feature rebellious heroines, ranging from two prisoners who escaped Auschwitz to a brilliant addict who helped others defeat their demons before succumbing to her own.
Q: Why did you write King’s Daughter?
A: I wrote King’s Daughter to package a screenplay trilogy about Norwegian Viking King Olaf Tryggvason. I had already spent over ten years researching and writing the scripts and needed a fresh way to enter the material. Since I wrote the Viking movies for my son, with everything he requested from mighty sea battles, to famous swords and legendary fighters not much older than himself, I felt it was time to turn to the heroine and develop her further in my novel. Thyra Haraldsdatter was the daughter of Danish King Harald Bluetooth and is featured in the movie. I made her the central character of my novel and wrote it with my daughters in mind. I modeled the relationship between Thyra and her younger sister after my own girls. I especially enjoyed receiving feedback from my daughter’s friends as I wrote the manuscript.
Q: Do you always create strong female characters?
A: Yes. I always create strong female characters, because I don’t perceive women as weak. I see all girls and women as strong and full of purpose. The world might try to teach a girl to disown her own strength, but with proper mentorship even the most derailed girl/woman can re-claim her sense of her own power an dignity. I was raised by a father who trained me to play sports like baseball (not softball) and tennis, run track, and other competitive activities, with skill and dedication. He expected me to throw and catch with accuracy, and to hit the ball out of the park. Growing up I played on male teams (because in some sports there weren’t female teams in my town), and I became accepted for my skill and fearlessness—all instilled by my father. My mother grew up in the time when women’s lib was the big topic of the day, and she always encouraged me to be independent and pursue my dreams. I was allowed to dream as big as I wanted as a kid in my home. And I held onto those dreams as I went out in the world, no matter how many times my vision was ridiculed or shot down.
My heroines growing up were discovered often in books. I loved the stories of Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc, and Anne Frank. Female role models were all around me, and I loved and learned from them all. To mention a few: British and Russian grandmothers, the family maid, Lucille, who helped raise both my father and myself, teachers such as Mrs. Gochman in fourth grade who believed in my writing talent and kept all my writing even until she retired, and my art teacher Myril Adler, a noted and visionary printmaker and painter. All of these women and many more infiltrate my writing on some level. In books and film there are never enough strong heroines to set the bar for both young women and men. If a male audience does not see a heroine they can admire and respect who shapes the world with her intellect and spirit, then their vision is limited too. It is my responsibility to create heroines who resonate with the truth in everyone—girls and women who leave an indelible mark on the world.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be filmmaker?
A: I’ve wanted to make films since I was in elementary school and took my father’s Super 8 camera out to shoot footage. I remember taking a class in eighth grade where the teacher (a woman) handed around a box with cards labeled with career choices. I saw for the girls options such as: nurse, teacher, homemaker, but nothing that fit me. When I handed back the box and said it did not have my career choice in it—film director—she laughed and said that was not a realistic goal for a woman. This was the early 1980’s. I persisted in my career choice, and she became very frustrated with me, and the other girls laughed. I refused to take a card. I still refuse. I will be myself … no matter how long it takes to arrive in the industry. So I pursued this goal relentlessly, attending NYU’s graduate directing program, writing scripts in between raising three children and teaching the violin, and now I sense the doors opening. I’ve overcome many obstacles to this dream and will continue to pursue it. Now it is my turn to be a role model and mentor to the next generation of female dreamers!
Julia Bobkoff studied English at the University of Rochester, graduating with high distinction, and was awarded a tuition-free year to study violin and viola at the Eastman School of Music. She also received the Meredith Goodman Bernstein Prize for literature and the Academy of American Poets Prize. After music school she was awarded a merit-based scholarship to attend NYU’s graduate filmmaking program. Her post-collegiate screenwriting pursuits were strongly encouraged and mentored by producer Forrest Murray, producer/director Ziad Hamzeh, and producer David Kirkpatrick (former President of Paramount Pictures), who wrote: “The hallmarks of Julia’s creative work are dedication, intelligence, perseverance, attention to detail, vision, and a high level of craft, and excellence in storytelling. Julia has ‘it’—the same ineffable brilliance that I have observed in Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Coppola….Julia’s Viking saga should, one day, be nominated for an Academy Award. It is profound, dramatic, stirring, and unforgettable as she is.” Bobkoff is also a professional musician, and her original soundtrack, on which she performed violin and viola, was featured in the Emmy-nominated Holocaust trailer, “Lives Etched in Glass.” Her dream is to write and direct for both television and film.
Bobkoff’s novel, King’s Daughter is currently available for pre-order on Inkshares, a crowdfunded publishing platform that supports up-and-coming authors and integrates reader interest with the publication process. Simultaneously, Inkshares is running a contest, ending tomorrow, that guarantees traditional print-run publication (as opposed to on-demand) to the three authors with the highest number of pre-orders. At the time this article was published, King’s Daughter was #4, just a few orders behind #3. She encourages all supporters of strong women who aim for the sky and pursue their dreams to order a copy.
Photo courtesy of author