Monday, March 29, 2010

Interview with Heather Gudenkauf

From FemaleFirst (UK) --

The Weight Of Silence --

feb (05th) 2010 --

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 and gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by a tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry, alcoholic husband.

Now, although she denies that her husband could be involved, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered.

Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanour.

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 idea for The Weight of Silence, the story of two young girls who disappear in the woods and the desperate hunt to find them, came about one day as I was hiking in a nature preserve near my home.

'I was trudging up a craggy path, the only sounds were my breathing and the rustling of wet leaves and grass beneath my feet. I thought about how terrifying it would be for a young child to be lost in those woods, even more so if that child wasn’t able to speak. So began The Weight of Silence

'I also chose to write The Weight of Silence because, as a teacher for special needs, I spend day after day with young children who have readily shared their experiences, worries, and dreams with me. Despite their candid honesty in sharing their lives, I have come to realize over time that no one can truly know what happens in the privacy of the home.

'While the story of Calli is fictional, the domestic drama found in many wealthy, middle class, or poor homes, is not. Through this novel, my initial objective was to give a voice to the voiceless children of abuse from homes you would not expect, but found that I could not effectively tell Calli’s story without giving a voice to those around her.

'Through my interactions with families in crisis or with families of poverty I have learned that despite circumstances, despite mistakes, people truly do the best they can, however flawed.’

Heather Gudenkauf was born in South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month old, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation where her father was employed as a guidance counsellor 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, Heather tended to use books as a retreat and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education and has spent the last sixteen years working with students of all ages.

She lives in Dubuque, Idaho with her husband, three children and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys reading, hiking and running.

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