Few people fall as far as the fictional character Allison Glenn does in Heather Gudenkauf’s new book, “These Things Hidden.” Once the golden girl of her small Iowa town, she’s sent to prison for a particularly gruesome crime, one that is shrouded in mystery. When Allison returns to town on work-release five years later, these secrets are slowly revealed by Gudenkauf’s skilled writing. The author talked to us from her own small Iowa town about her inspiration and how she finds the time to write.
You’ve said you wanted ‘These Things Hidden’ to be as emotional and strong as your first novel, best-selling ‘The Weight of Silence.’ How did you go about accomplishing that directive with this, your sophomore effort?
I think by the subject matter — an infant is left in a safe-haven site — and the mystery behind him and how he got there. Plus, the dynamics of the four women who have, at one time or another, fallen in love with that little boy.
You alternate between four different characters and four different voices in the novel. Was that difficult as a writer?
I really worked hard at writing each character at a different time, so I could really focus on that one character’s voice and really try to get into that character’s mind, feelings and characteristics in order to stay true to them and make each voice distinct and unique. They are all so very different from one another, so that was helpful as well.
Is there a unifying factor between them at all?
I think an underlying message is that of motherhood, or what it means to be a mother. At some point in the story, each of these women encounter the little boy Joshua and care for him.
You’re a mother of three; did your children’s characteristics ever creep into the character of Joshua?
You know, I’m sure they did, although I can’t think of any specific examples. But everything that we know and what we see with our lives creeps into your writing whether you want them to or not.
A writing and working mom
In addition to being the mother of three children, Heather Gudenkauf has also worked as a teacher for the past 19 years. She found the time to write her first book, “The Weight of Silence” during her school’s summer break. “I wrote the first draft before I had to go back to school,” she says. “I tucked it away until winter break, went over it again, and then sent it to a literary agent.”?Once published, it hit the best-seller lists.