She had never really seriously thought about writing as she loved teaching. Then one day she bought a journal and the rest is history!!
Heather has written five novels and one novella. A sixth novel will be published next year. They have all been reviewed on this blog this week.
Heather Gudenkauf is my favorite author and I was very honored that she said yes to be interviewed. Thank you Heather for taking some time out of your very busy schedule to do this interview. You will never know how much it means to me.
JRR(Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.
Heather: I live in the beautiful state of Iowa and am married with three amazing children. In addition to my work as a novelist, I am a Middle School Reading and the Title I Reading Coordinator for our school district. I love spending time with my family, reading and hiking with my incredibly sweet German shorthair pointer named Lolo.
JRR: I love seeing the pictures of Lolo that you post on social media. I am such an animal lover! Now, did you always want to become an author?
Heather: I never seriously thought about writing until I was married with children and had been teaching for several years. While I love my education life I always wanted to try my hand at writing. After thinking about it for a long time, I bought myself a beautiful journal and started writing my first novel, The Weight of Silence, in longhand.
JRR: Wow! I hope you still have that journal. What inspires you to write?
Heather: It’s difficult to explain but, just like getting lost while reading a good book, the same thing happens to me while I write. I get so immersed in the characters and the stories that I create and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
JRR: Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up? Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?
Heather: Can I have more than one? As a young girl, The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder made me into a reader, My Antonia by Willa Cather made me want to be a writer, and Just Don’t Fall by Josh Sundquist helped teach me that humor and good can come from even the most difficult of circumstances. One of my favorites is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. The quote that resounds with me most is “As she read, at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl could be with a fine book and a little bowl of candy, and all alone in the house, the leaf shadows shifted and the afternoon passed.” While my upbringing was much different than protagonist Francie’s childhood, we had one thing in common – an undying, unwavering love for books.
JRR: I like that quote. Was your journey to becoming published a long and tough journey or did you “get lucky” with The Weight of Silence?
Heather: I wrote The Weight of Silence early in the morning and late into the night while my children slept and finished the first draft just before school started that fall. I set the manuscript aside for a few months and returned to my work as a third grade teacher.
A few months later, during my winter break from school, I pulled the manuscript out of the drawer, reread what I had written, took a deep breath, and sent off the first 50 pages to a literary agency that represented authors I respected. I tried not to think about my story out there in the world, being read by others to critique — or even worse — out there not being read at all. A few weeks into the new year came the request from the literary agent for the remainder of the manuscript. I sent off the rest of the story and waited with anticipation. Would she decide to take me on? Would she give my book, give me a chance? She did. After a year and a half of much collaboration and revision the novel was ready to send off to publishers. Eighteen months and several rejection letters later,my story found its way to Mira Books and, thankfully, found its home there.
JRR: All of your novels except your latest, Missing Pieces, have multiple points of view. What made you change your writing style for Missing Pieces? Will you return back to multiple points of view for future novels?
Heather: I love reading and writing novels written in multiple points of view. I liken it to a relay race where each character paces the baton to the next so that bit by bit more of the story is revealed from each unique perspective. I wrote Missing Pieces from Sarah’s perspective because it was her story to tell. She was married to a man whom she thought she knew inside and out and learned that in all actuality she knew very little about him. Missing Pieces is Sarah’s journey to the truth. If it’s right for the novel, I do think that one day I will write again in multiple points of view. It is so much fun trying to get into the minds and hearts of the different characters!
JRR: What does your writing process consist of? For example: research, handwriting vs typing, music or no music?
Heather: I always buy myself a beautiful journal and spend the first month or so writing the story in long-hand. I’ve found that in writing this way I’m able to write nearly anywhere and minimize distractions. Later I transfer what I’ve written to a computer and continue to add to the story. I cannot write if the house is completely quiet ~ I have to have music or the television going in the background. I really love developing the characters in my novels. I get out my trusty notebook and begin to jot down these thoughts and gradually the character appears upon the pages ~ physical descriptions, histories, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. I live with the characters for so long while I’m writing, and sometimes my hands hover over the keyboard and I have to decide which direction to take them, it’s not necessarily the outcome I envisioned, but it’s always an adventure.
JRR: Writing in long-hand! That is impressive in this ‘electronic age’ we all live in. What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors? I know the journey to become published can be difficult.
Heather: The best advice I have for beginning writers is to do just that ~ write. It is so important to set aside time each day to get your thoughts and ideas down on paper. It can be an hour or ten minutes. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the pages start to add up. I also think it is crucial for writers to be readers. Read far, wide and deep!
JRR: What are your passions? Are there any organizations you work with that you would like to mention?
Heather: I’ve had several loved ones battle cancer so I’m passionate about organizations that support those whose lives are touched by this awful disease. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an incredible organization whose goal is to grant a wish for every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. On average, Make-A-Wish grants a wish every thirty-five minutes – including my son’s wish! I’m also involved with a fabulous organization called Research for the Kids created by the family of former students of mine. Research for the Kids raises funds that directly benefit pediatric brain tumor and heart defects at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
JRR: Great organizations!
JRR: For my final question, is there anything you can tease us about with your next novel? The estimated release date, title, or a tidbit of it is about?
Heather: I am so excited about my upcoming novel ~ Not a Sound. It’s the story of Amelia Winn, a woman who is left profoundly deaf due to a tragic accident that sends her spiraling into a deep depression resulting in the loss of everything she loves. The story opens two years later and with the help of her service dog, Stitch (perhaps my favorite character that I’ve ever written) she is getting her life together again. But when Amelia and Stitch discover a body in the river where they live she finds herself in the fight for her life. Not a Sound should hit the shelves in the summer of 2017.
JRR: I can’t wait to read Not a Sound!!
***Thank you again for taking some time out of your busy schedule to do this interview Heather! It was great talking and getting to know you. I look forward to reading Not a Sound next year when it is released!!