06-26-2012 09:21 AM - edited 06-26-2012 09:23 AM
Heather is an author who I've enjoyed many times before so please enjoy the Q&A + my review of her newest release out today! She's also a Harlequin author, that's right
New Release Feature One Breath Away
and Q&A with Heather Gudenkauf
Heather welcome to the B&N.com General Fiction forum
Debbie - Please tell us a little about your new novel One Breath Away
Heather - One Breath Away is the story of the small, fictional town of Broken Branch, Iowa whose school is taken hostage by a lone gunman. As the townspeople scramble to save their children, the story unfolds through the points of view of five very different characters: a third grade teacher, a teenage girl, a grandfather, a mother, and a female police officer.
Your books aren’t always easy to read but are always worth whatever anguish you put me through
Can you tell us where you get your ideas from
I get the ideas for my novels from the world around me. The idea for my first novel, The Weight of Silence, came to me while hiking alone through a wooded area and These Things Hidden came about after I heard a radio news program that discussed the history of safe haven laws. The idea for One Breath Away came from the many school intruder events in the news, but also from an incident when I was a senior in college. While I was a student at the University of Iowa an angry graduate student went on a rampage killing five and severely injuring a sixth. I was on campus at the time, but well away from the shooting. The incident left a long lasting impression on me and twenty years later I decided to tackle the topic in my writing.
Your bio states that as a youngster as a result of a hearing impairment you often retreated into books
Are you still a reader, what authors and genres do you like to read
I do still love to read – more than ever if that’s possible. I have so many favorite authors but a few that come immediately to mind are Sandra Dallas, Ann Patchett, Louise Erdrich, and TC Boyle. I read before I go to bed each night and can’t wait to be thrust into the worlds and lives of the characters that inhabit the books on my bedside table. I enjoy all genres ~ especially fiction, historical fiction and biographies. One of my all-time favorite biographies is River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey the account of President Roosevelt’s journey down the Amazon River.
Your bio also states that you are an educator, are you still teaching, or do you write full time
Education is in my blood – I come from a long line of educators including my great aunt, my father and siblings. As a child I played school, loved going to school and was one of those kids who eagerly anticipated the end of summer so I could return to school. I have been involved in education for the last twenty years and have taught nearly every grade level. Currently, I serve as my school district’s Title I Reading Coordinator.
I try to write every single day. Some days it’s early in the morning, other days I write in the evenings – it all depends on what is happening in my family life. I am so fortunate to be able to follow both of my passions ~ education and writing.
Do you belong to a writers group.
I do not belong to writers group but I do share my projects with a select group of individuals, who critique, proofread and make suggestions about my writing: my family! I can count on my mom, sisters and nieces to give me honest, constructive feedback about my writing. I send them copies of the manuscript that I am working on and then they dig in. I always appreciate the notations scribbled in the margins and the phone conversations discussing the characters and the direction of the plot. This collaboration definitely makes my writing better.
One Breath Away is your third novel, what are you working on now
I’m always challenged by exploring the complicated lives of women and the ways children cope with calamitous situations. I think the characters that have become my favorites are Calli from The Weight of Silence and Mrs. Oliver from One Breath Away. Seven year old Calli had an inner strength and bravery in spite of her difficult home life and Mrs. Oliver was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect her students.
I’m just now developing the newest characters that will inhabit my next novel and I love the process of creating their unique histories, the intricacies of their relationships, and their hopes for the future.
I’m sure your fans at B&N would love to meet you in person, do you have any Barnes & Nobel events or signings.
I’m looking forward to visiting the Barnes in Noble in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on July 31, 2012.
Thank you Heather for being our guest and good luck with the novel.
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. I would love to hear your readers’ thoughts about the novels. They can visit me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My review of One Breath Away
Heather Gudenkauf has amazed me before with her poignant and oftentimes difficult to read novels, but this time she goes above and beyond with this tale of the worst nightmare that, a school, parents, teachers and a town should ever endure. She had me gritting my teeth and holding my breath from the first page had me so entranced that I read it in one sitting. She brought me characters that had my sympathy, my empathy and my respect from the beginning and by the end I knew each one intimately. Her storyline is one that you could easily find on any media source local or national and as she tells her main tale she intersperses mini stories of the lives and challenges of her amazing characters and in doing so makes stars of them all. Her narrative is succinct and pull no punches and her dialogue gives perfect voices to her players.
If you’re looking for a novel with substance and depth, a read that will make you think and relish the quote “there for the grace of God go I” this is your one Must Read of the summer.
In a small farming community in Iowa disaster is about to strike on the last day of school before spring break. With a snow storm brewing and temperatures falling to frigid a desperate man walks into the Broken Branch K-12 school building and begins his reign of terror. More than a thousand miles away a woman is painfully recovering from burns suffered from a fire who thought sending her children to her childhood home in Broken Branch Iowa would be safe and has no idea what awaits them. A local policewoman dreads time off without her daughter not knowing what her last day on the job before vacation will be bringing her. A grandfather struggling caring for his grandchildren who were virtual strangers has no idea what he or they will face this day. A third grade teacher is about to learn what sacrifice really is. An angry misplaced teen right in the middle of it all will learn about bravery. All these people will be connected in a way that no person should ever have to experience and “One Breath Away” is all it takes to change these lives forever.