I recently had the honour of being asked if I would like to read a review copy of Heather Gudenkauf's latest novel One Breath Away and also interview Heather for my blog. This is the first author interview request I have accepted because the book was already on my to read list.
One Breath Away is now on my favourites read in 2012 list. I can't recommend it highly enough. You can read my review here and without further ado please allow me to introduce you to Heather.
Hello, Heather, and welcome to my blog.
For anyone who has yet to discover you and your writing, please could you tell us a little bit about your background? (Bio approx 50-70 words.)
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden, and One Breath Away. Heather lives in Iowa with her family and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her fourth novel.
Could you summarise each of your books in just five words (per book)?
The Weight of Silence: missing girls, a desperate search
These Things Hidden: four woman, child, mysterious birth
One Breath Away: one school, one gunman, terror!
How did you come up with the idea for One Breath Away?
The idea for One Breath Away evolved over many years. When I was a senior at the University of Iowa, a disgruntled former student entered a classroom with a gun, killed five and gravely injured a sixth person before turning the gun on himself. At the time of the shooting I was with my roommate near the center of campus, well away from the danger, but close enough to hear the police and ambulance sirens. I often think of that terrible day and wonder what I would have done, how I would have reacted if I had been in that classroom.
Why did you decide to write from the perspectives of five different characters?
In the last few years I’ve been a silent, seven-year-old girl lost in the woods, a protective older brother, a deputy sheriff, a middle-aged male college professor, an adoptive mother, a teenage felon, a grandfather, a thirteen year old girl, and a sixty-five-year old third grade teacher. How many people get to say that? While I’ve never been lost in the woods (but did get hopelessly lost driving through Chicago once), have never been an adoptive mother, never was a teenage felon (much to the relief of my parents), nor have I been in a hostage situation, I am somehow compelled to explore these personas and the families of these characters. In choosing to write in this way, I also have had the chance to meet some fascinating people. I’ve interviewed a retired Sheriff’s deputy and police chief who taught me about police procedure, a criminal defense lawyer who taught me the ins and outs of state law and the criminal justice system, and two cattle farmers who taught me about reverence and respect for the earth and its animals. These conversations have helped me delve more deeply into the characters I write about. I have always loved reading books written in multiple perspectives and knew when I began writing my first novel, The Weight of Silence it was the only way it could be written. It's a lot of fun stepping into a different character's viewpoint each day, but at the end of the day, it’s a comfort knowing I can step right back into my blissfully, uneventful life!
Could you tell us why you wrote two of the characters in the third person and the other three in first person?
When writing from multiple perspectives, it is so important to create characters that are very different from one another with unique voices, hopes and dreams. Some character’s stories are told more poignantly in first person while others from third person.
How do you think you would react if your own child was in a situation as described in your book?
I would be terrified! We want so much to keep our children safe, but very quickly realize as parents that we can only do so much. We send our children out into the world with a great amount of faith that they will return to us safe and sound.
When you are writing a novel, do you plan it in advance or write what comes into your head at the time?
I always think I have a novel planned out, but in the end the characters within the novel always seem to have something else in mind!
What is your top tip for aspiring writers?
My advice to those who dream of being a writer – is to do just that – write! It is so important to set aside time each day to get one’s thoughts and ideas down on paper.
What's the best advice (about writing or publishing) anyone has ever given you?
Someone told me once to write the books that I, myself, would like to read, to follow my instincts, and to write every day. Great advice that I try to follow.
Could you give us a little summary of your next book?
I am always hesitant to talk about current projects – the story that I originally plan always seems to change (see question 7). I can say I'm working on a story about a loving, caring woman who finds herself responsible for a terrible event and her journey to redemption.
Thank you for joining me here on Ramblings of a Rusty Writer.
You can find Heather online in the following places: