We’re pleased to announce that Heather Gudenkauf, the brilliant writer behind These Things Hidden, ONe Breath Away and The Weight of Silence, is one of our participants of The Summer Author Interview Series!
TWT: These Things Hidden, One Breath Away, and The Weight of Silence completely captured our readers. Where do you find your inspiration for your stories?
HG: I often get the ideas for my novels from newspapers or radio news programs. I have spent day after day with young children who have readily shared with me their experiences, worries, and dreams. Despite their candid honesty, I have come to realize over time that no one can truly know what happens in the privacy of the home. While the story and characters are completely fictional, the domestic drama found in many wealthy, middle class, or poverty-stricken homes, is not. My primary objective was to give a voice to the voiceless…families in difficult circumstances. But I also wanted to highlight the life-affirming determination and resiliency of families. I’ve been inspired by so many children who weather tough times with bravery and ingenuity.
TWT: Of all the genres, what is it that draws you to write literary suspense novels?
HG: I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child. But as is typical with most writers, I was and am, first and foremost an avid reader. As a child my favorite place in the world was our public library and I spent as much time as possible with my nose in a book. I loved mysteries and plowed my way through all the Encyclopedia Brown, Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew mysteries. As I got older, I continued to read mysteries but my interests expanded to a variety of genres. I’ve always admired the way writers could take me away to different places and times through the written word. I always knew I wanted to try my hand at writing but didn’t sit down and seriously begin until after I was married and had my children and when I did, I knew that I wanted to include a mysterious element to my books.
TWT: The characters in your novels are ones that are not easily forgotten, and we believe that your stories are the type that stay with readers long after the last page is turned. Of all the characters you’ve written, do you have a favorite?
HG: It is so hard to choose but I do love Mrs. Oliver! The third grade teacher in One Breath Away, personifies many of the characteristics I have come to admire in my fellow educators: dedication, high expectations, an authentic desire to see the children they work with become better students and better people. I love Mrs. Oliver’s feistiness and willingness to protect her students – the teachers I know would do the exact same thing.
TWT: As a mother and a teacher, did you ever have difficulty writing One Breath Away, given the serious and terrifying nature of the plot?
HG: It can be challenging to write about such difficult subject matters, especially as a mother and a teacher. As mothers our sole purpose is to keep our children safe and sound. My wish is that as readers close each of my books they are left with a feeling of hope.
TWT: Any words of wisdom for struggling and reluctant readers?
HG: There has never been a time in history when there have been so many choices for readers! But having so many options can be overwhelming, especially for reluctant and struggling readers. These readers need lots of support in choosing books that are just right for them. A few words of advice to parents and teachers who want to help:
- find the reluctant readers’ passion and inundate them with reading material on the topic and show the reader that books will open up a world of knowledge
- introduce them to series books
- don’t stop reading out loud – kids of all ages love this
- teach students to find books that are just right for them. The five finger rule is a good guide – if a child can’t read five words on any given page in a book it’s too hard, encourage them to try another one
TWT: Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers and teachers?
HG: I am so fortunate that I am able to do what I love – work in education and write. I always go back to the advice I received and then shared with my students every day and finally realized I needed to follow my own advice – dream big and never give up! The key is to find balance in your life – which is not always an easy feat!
TWT: Who was your greatest teacher?
HG: Everything good about being a spouse and parent I’ve learned from my mom and dad. My parents have been married for over 50 years and are the best of friends. I talk to them nearly every single day and really value their experience and advice.
I have had so many great teachers through the years it’s hard for me to pinpoint just one. I think all of my teachers had a collective impact on me. I had athletic coaches who taught me to be driven and t not give up despite injuries and losses. I had academic teachers who gave me the skills to put forth quality work even if something was difficult and did not come easily for me. I think that most importantly, all my teachers taught me that the key qualities one should have is to be a kind, caring person who is willing to help others.
We hop you go enjoy the movies of Heather Gudenkauf as much as we do!