Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Q&A with New York Times and USA Today Best Selling author Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf 

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence.
Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father's students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.
Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and is currently a Literacy Coach, an educator who provides curricular and professional development support to teachers.
Heather lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband, three children, 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 third novel.


Q. What inspires your writing?

A. I’m a news junkie and oftentimes a snippet from a news story or an article will spark my interest. All it takes is one interesting idea and a story begins to form.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A.  My favorite part of being a writer has been that I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing people during my journey to publication. From my agent, to my editors, to my fellow authors, everyone has been so supportive and generous with their time and expertise.

Q. What is the toughest part of being an author?

A. The writing process can be all-encompassing. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. At times it can be challenging to find an equal balance between my writing and day-to-day life.

Q. If you could not be author, what would you do/be?

A. I’ve been an educator for the last twenty years and still work for my local school district as a Title I Reading Coordinator. I am so happy that I am able to continue with two of my passions – writing and education.

Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?

A.  Life is Good

Q. What is your favorite book of all time?

A. My favorite author of all time is Willa Cather. I think her writing is just beautiful. I love the way that she could describe the setting in a novel and it actually seems to become a character within the story. I reread My Ántonia and O Pioneers every year.

Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. I absolutely loved The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Just like Laura was so many years ago, I am a both a teacher and a writer. As a child, in order to find some peace and quiet away from my five brothers and sisters, I used to crawl into a toy box with a blanket, a flashlight and a Little House book and read for hours. I was just enthralled with the life that Laura led - travelling across the country in a covered wagon, living in a sod house, battling the elements. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder - except with television and my own room!

Q. What character from all of your book(s) are you most like?

A. I don’t know that I specifically recognize myself in any of my characters but I’d have to say that I relate most to Mrs. Oliver from One Breath Away since she is a teacher. I do feel a kinship to each of the women in my novels who are mothers. We all want what’s best for our children.

Q. Our book club, Tiaras, read THESE THINGS HIDDEN for our March pick and we would love to know what inspired that novel.

I came up for the idea for These Things Hidden after I heard a radio news story describing the Medieval Foundling Wheel — a rotating platform located in the walls of churches in Rome that allowed women to anonymously leave their newborns and how this idea has evolved into modern day Safe Haven laws. From this, I decided to write a story about an infant left at a Safe Haven site in Iowa and the four women who pass in and out of his life.

Q. I also would like to know what your take was on Brynn's mental health: Did you see her as a person who had underlying anxiety but could have been a functional adult if the night with the baby had never happened? It seemed like she had plenty of signs of distress beforehand (pulling out her eyebrows, etc), but it doesn't seem like she would have gone as far as she did if that trauma had not occurred. Thoughts?

A. The character of Brynn was so special and had so much potential! I think that her upbringing by two very cold parents, the circumstances of one terrible night and her fragile personality all contributed to her downward spiral.

Q. What is your favorite season?

A. My favorite season would have to be fall. Fall always reminds me of going back to school as both a student and as a teacher. I love seeing the leaves change colors and being able to pull out my favorite jeans and sweaters when a chill comes into the air.

Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book(s).

A.  At one book event the only people who showed up were members of my family, their friends, and a random couple that accidently meandered in. It was at once both mortifying and wonderful. I had a very supportive audience!

Q. Are you working on something new?

I always hesitate to talk about current projects ~ they always change. But 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.

Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A. I hope your readers enjoy reading my books as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Please come visit me at


In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits.
Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town’s children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother.
As tension mounts with passing each minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.

One Breath Away


Allison Glenn tried to hide what happened that night...and failed. The consequence? Five years in prison. Now she's free. But secrets have a way of keeping you caged...When Allison is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult in her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces the whispered rumours every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It's Brynn - shy, quiet Brynn - who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her. But then Allison is released, and is more determined than ever to speak with her sister. Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

These Things Hidden


It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.
Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by a tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra or Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered.
Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

The Weight of Silence
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