WeekEND Reading: Heather Gudenkauf on her most personal thriller yet, who her favorite character is, why nurses aren’t boring, grit, determination, oh–and a dead body–in her new book, NOT A SOUND

By Leslie Lindsay 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf churns out her most personal, and powerful story yet with NOT A SOUND, rife with medical mysteries and a murder, too. 

Not A Sound cover
When a tragic accident leaves ER nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose anything she ever cared about: her career, her husband, and her 7-year old stepdaughter, Nora.

It’s two years after that fateful night in which Amelia loses her hearing when she stumbles across a dead body in the dense brush by the river where she likes to paddleboard–someone she knows. I don’t want to give away too much, but it goes without saying that she gets wrapped up in the murder case. Clues seem so familiar to her own, earlier accident which caused her deafness. Could the two be related?

Told entirely from Amelia’s first-person POV, the writing in NOT A SOUND is taut, emotional, fast-paced, and Gudenkauf’s research clearly shows.
Amelia Winn is strong, capable and I was definitely rooting for her. And her service dog, Stitch, who really kind of became the star, at least for me.

I’m super-thrilled to welcome Heather back to the blog couch to chat about her amazing new novel, NOT A SOUND (Park Row, May 30). Plus, it’s a REAL SIMPLE magazine pick of the month! 

Leslie Lindsay: Welcome back, Heather! I practically devoured NOT A SOUND. It was a rainy weekend in Chicagoland and I couldn’t put it down. I might be wrong in saying this, but I felt the pace of this one was much faster than your other books. Can you speak to that, please?

Heather Gudenkauf: Thank you, Leslie! NOT A SOUND does have a swift pace. I think I structured the novel this way for several reasons, the first being that at its heart NOT A SOUND is a thriller and the brisk pace lends itself to the tension and suspense that I hoped to achieve. Also a good amount of the novel is set along the Five Mines River and like a fast moving river, the events in NOT A SOUND tumble along at a break neck speed. timthumb

L.L.: I guess before we get too far into the narrative, I’m very curious why this story, why now? I know two things: 1) you’re partially deaf yourself and 2) your son has battled cancer. Those two things alone are hugely personal and sometimes personal things make great fiction, sometimes not. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration for NOT A SOUND?

Heather Gudenkauf: For me, I tend to weave little snippets of my life – locations, some small experiences – into my novels. And while NOT A SOUND isn’t autobiographical it is the first time that I included such personal topics. I was born with a profound hearing loss that was discovered when I was in elementary school. I’m deaf in my left ear which makes it hard for me to be able to tell where sounds are coming from and in noisy situations I can have a very difficult time understanding others, but most of the time I don’t think twice about it.

My son did battle cancer as a young teen and is now doing great! The entire experience was heartbreaking, painful and absolutely devastating but we also found many blessings during this very difficult time. We had an incredible medical team, family, friends and community there to support us the entire way.

I’ve always wanted to write a story that featured a heroine that happened to be deaf and I knew I wanted to explore the topic of health care and cancer in one of my novels. Writing from the point of view of a character who happens to be deaf was challenging and it was important for me to portray a deaf character accurately and respectfully – I hope I did Amelia justice.

download (5)L.L.: And Amelia! I loved her. A writer friend once said long ago (I’m paraphrasing), “Nurses as characters are boring. Nothing ever happens to them; they are always conscientious and thoughtful and busy saving lives.” I chewed on that a bit. I’m a former R.N. I don’t think of myself as ‘boring.’ I’ve toyed with the idea of a nurse protagonist, too but…well, I lived it and discounted it. Can you talk a little about your research into the nursing profession, procedures and terminology? [P.S. May is also National Nurse Appreciation Week/Month]

Heather Gudenkauf: I absolutely don’t think of nurses as boring! I grew up watching medical dramas like M*A*S*H and Trapper John, MD and was entranced by the capable, methodical nurses who always kept their cool. I knew early on that the nursing profession wasn’t for me, I get a bit woozy around blood, but I’ve been in awe of nurses my entire my life. My mom was a nurse, as was my sister-in-law. Then, of course, there were the nurses who took care of my son during his illness.

For the novel, when it came to the technical aspects of the medical profession, I definitely relied on the experts ~including a great friend who is a nurse and my sister-in-law who is a physician.

L.L.: Amelia isn’t your ‘typical’ goody-two-shoes nurse. She paddle boards and lives in a cute little A-frame on the banks of a river. She’s getting divorced. She has some demons. And then she finds this dead body. How did Amelia’s character evolve for you as you wrote her story?

Heather Gudenkauf: Amelia is definitely not a typical wife, mother or nurse. She came to me in bits and pieces over the course of the novel. I knew she was going to be strong and independent, but her other character traits emerged as I wrote the novel. At the outset, Amelia is just getting her life back together after hitting rock bottom. She’s starting from scratch and finally lands a new job and gets to spend time with her step-daughter when she comes upon a grisly discovery while paddling boarding. Immediately Amelia is thrust into a mystery that threatens her own well-being and she needs to utilize every bit of her determination, grit and intelligence to survive.

L.L.: In the terms of medicine, we’re always under the impression that ‘doctor 41m+qEX4S7L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_knows best.’ When we’re in the throes of a medical emergency or a grim diagnosis, we have to put our trust in the trained professionals. In fact, there’s a brand-new memoir [THE TINCTURE OF TIME] out about a mother whose infant was having mysterious strokes and she put all her faith in the medical community. Not everything turned out for the best. So if you were to complete this sentence, “Putting your trust in medicine is____,” what might you say?

Heather Gudenkauf: I love reading memoirs ~ I’ll have to check this one out. I would say “Putting your trust in medicine is absolutely necessary.” But that said, it’s imperative to listen to that little internal voice that tends to pipe up once in a while. Ask the questions, get the second opinion. It can be scary when you have to rely on the expertise of others especially in life and death situations. It’s important to feel comfortable with the care you or a loved one is receiving. Fortunately, my son received top-notch care while he was battling cancer ~ and we are forever grateful for this.

L.L.: What, in your real-life might make a plot for a mystery?

Heather Gudenkauf: Oh, wow! I live a completely boring, nondescript kind of life so I’m afraid that the extent of intrigue in my life comes down to remembering where I lay down my glasses and the book I’m currently reading!

“Twisting, atmospheric and dark, Heather Gudenkauf’s Not A Sound will draw you right into the silent world of Amelia Winn and keep you riveted. This is a thrill ride to be sure, but it’s also a gripping tale of tragedy and redemption. If you haven’t read Heather Gudenkauf yet, now’s the time.”

—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hunter

L.L.: What was the last thing you Googled? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Heather Gudenkauf: I’m trying to make healthier meals at home so I Googled a recipe for fried cauliflower rice. It was surprisingly delicious!

L.L.: Heather, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

Heather Gudenkauf: Thank you, Leslie ~ I always enjoy chatting with you!   I do want to give a shout out to who is perhaps my favorite character in NOT A SOUND – Stitch, Amelia’s service dog. On more than one occasion Stitch manages to steal the show. He’s a loyal, loveable and excellent in a crisis!images (5)

For more information about NOT A SOUND, to connect with Heather via social media, or to purchase (pre-order, available May 30 2017) your own copy of the book, please see: 

HeatherGudenkauf credit Morgan HawthorneABOUT THE AUTHOR: Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. 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 loss (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 continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator. Heather lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading and hiking. She is currently working on her next novel.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, through these social media sites:


[Cover and author images courtesy of Park Row Books and used with permission. Image of nurse retrieved from iStockphotos.com, image of service dog retrieved from anythingispawasble.com. Image of Tincture of Time retrieved from Amazon, all on 5.19.17]


Write On, Wednesday: Meet THE GOOD GIRL Author Mary Kubica

By Leslie Lindsay

With about a million accolades already brewing for this dark, gripping psychological thriller set alternately in Chicagoland and rural Minnesota, Mary Kubica is here to chat with us about her debut, THE GOOD GIRL (to be released July 29th, 2014). It’s the most perfect summertime thriller. Read it at the pool, the beach, on the plane. You won’t want to put it down. THE GOOD GIRL

Leslie Lindsay: Mary, I am in the midst of reading THE GOOD GIRL and I must say…I love it! It’s raw, it’s authentic, and highly engaging. Can you explain how you came up with the premise of the book?

Mary Kubica: Absolutely. But first let me say what an honor it is to be here with you today at Write On, Wednesday. Thank you so much for having me, Leslie!

I’d love to say that there was some big, defining moment or event that sparked the ideas behind THE GOOD GIRL, but the truth of the matter is that it was a very conscious effort. When I began writing, I had this notion of a kidnapping that was not exactly what it seemed. I knew I wanted to write the novel in a non-linear, multi-perspective format, but other than that, I wasn’t entirely sure where the novel would go. The bulk of the ideas came to me as I wrote, and on any given day that I sat down to work, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to happen in the lives of my characters that day. But I found myself completely consumed by them – thinking of the characters at all hours of the day and night – and feel fairly certain that they’re the ones who told their story to me.

L.L.: From what I understand, you wrote this book almost entirely in isolation. Your family and friends didn’t even know you were working on a manuscript. How I wish I could keep something like that a secret! Was it fear of the unknown/fear of rejection that kept your lips sealed? Something else?

Mary Kubica: You pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Leslie! I’d definitely say it was the fear of rejection – or rather, the likelihood of rejection – that made me keep quiet about my work-in-progress. I’d been writing since I was a young girl, though as a hobbyist and nothing more. I understood that the chances of having my work published were slim to none. When I began writing, I wrote for me and only me, never imagining that something would become of my work. And so I began THE GOOD GIRL in secrecy, only telling my husband about the project. It wasn’t until I sold the manuscript to Harlequin MIRA that I spread the great news to family and friends – not only had I written a book, but it was going to be published, too! They were certainly surprised!

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.” From THE GOOD GIRL, 2014

L.L. There’s a wealth of insight a writing community can provide—feedback, instruction, plot twists. Don’t tell me you’re one of the rare lucky ones who can pull it off without a “village.”

Mary Kubica: When I wrote THE GOOD GIRL, I didn’t belong to a writers’ group, and my creative writing education was limited to one college course that I didn’t particularly like. I didn’t have a beta reader; no one – besides me, of course – read the manuscript before it was sent off to agents. That said, I found my village in the publication process. THE GOOD GIRL would certainly not be what it is today without the tremendous effort of my agent, my editor, and the many other brilliant people at Harlequin Books. I’ve connected in the past year or so with a number of authors – both in person and online – and I’m a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, which has offered much advice and enthusiasm throughout this process. I know authors now who I can go to for questions or lean on for support. Fellow Harlequin MIRA author Heather Gudenkauf is certainly one who must be mentioned; she’s been an amazing mentor to me this past year!             

L.L. I had to smile when I read somewhere that you fell in love with THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB series by Ann M. Martin…I’m so there! My friends and I devoured those books and then thought we could start our own club. Or at least write like Ms. Martin. Is this when your love of writing began?

Mary Kubica: I love this question – and I feel obligated to say that my sister and I did begin our own babysitter’s club back in the day; we printed up fliers and passed them around the neighborhood, and earned ourselves quite a few babysitting gigs! But yes, absolutely, this was the time in my life when I first decided I wanted to me an author. It was a cousin of mine who I accredit with my early love of writing; she shared with me a story she had written when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Until then I had no idea where books came from before they magically appeared in bookstores. They were just there. I’d never really thought much about the author behind the book, but I knew then and there what I wanted to do: I wanted to write books.   

L.L.: So, Chicagoland…ironically, it’s where we both live. In fact, several recent books have been set there—even ones featured here—what qualities do you feel Chicago authors bring to the literary table?

Mary Kubica: This is a great question! I can think of many notable Chicago authors off the top of my head – Veronica Roth and Gillian Flynn are two that come to mind, as well as Lori Rader-Day who you spoke with recently and whose debut THE BLACK HOUR I cannot wait to read – though I think every city and state across the country has its own set of notable, distinguished authors. I might be a bit biased here, but I feel Chicago is a highly cultured city, deeply rooted in Midwestern values, and that the cross between urban, suburban and country can make for a very diverse landscape in literature. Our people are unique, too, and stem from all walks of life, a fact that has likely inspired many remarkable characters. All in all it’s a great city, and I feel very proud of the authors who have come from Chicagoland.       

L.L.: And then you toss in Minnesota. Funny, cause I lived there, too! In fact, I’ve been to Two Harbors and Grand Marias—not in the winter like in the book—but in “mosquito season.” How did this remote cabin come into play?

Mary Kubica: It was really about logistics. I needed a remote wilderness where Colin and Mia could disappear – someplace far enough from Chicago where they wouldn’t be found easily, but close enough that they could drive there. Until recently I had never been to Grand Marais or up the Gunflint Trail and relied solely on research to describe the setting in THE GOOD GIRL. My family did, however, just take a trip to northern Minnesota (Yes, in mosquito season! I believe we went through three cans of Off!). I was dying to see the region in person, and on the eve of book publication, it seemed like the right thing to do. I was thrilled to discover the area was exactly as I had imagined it to be, and so excited to see streets and landmarks that are mentioned in the book in person. We even saw a moose and bear!    

L.L.: You’re a mom, a wife, a suburbanite. Even an animal shelter volunteer. As a writer and mom myself, I find I’m constantly juggling things—dropping balls, even. I think of characters at dinner and plots while at soccer games. How do you make your writing life possible…and keep all the balls in the air?

Mary Kubica: I’ll admit I’ve been dropping more and more balls of late, Leslie. Nothing vital, thankfully, but laundry gets done less and the house is not quite as clean as it used to be. These days my writing life happens between 5 and 7 a.m. Once my kids are up and awake, I pack my writing career away and become ‘mom’. My youngest is in half-day kindergarten; the few hours that he is in school are filled with errands and housework, and volunteering as much as I can at the animal shelter. But my mind is always busy plotting and carrying on conversations with my characters in my head, whether I’m at home or watching soccer games or swimming lessons, or driving the kids to and from school. It’s not easy; I’ll be the first to admit it. A few years ago I was the woman who could do it all, and now I must concede that I can’t do everything. I have to rely more and more on the help of family and friends, and I’m so very thankful to everyone who has stepped up to make my dream a reality.

L.L.: I suppose I could go on and on, but I’ll stop with one last question: what’s next?

Mary Kubica: I’m finishing up my second novel, which is about a Chicago mother who encounters a young homeless girl waiting beside the ‘L’ with a baby. She feels a strong desire to help this girl with her plight, and as she does, she discovers more about the girl that perhaps should have remained uncovered. Like THE GOOD GIRL, it has plenty of twists and turns along the way that will hopefully keep the reader guessing!  

Bio: Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.  She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.  The Good Girl is her first novel.

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