Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies – Book Club Interview

2014-11-12 09.10.07

A couple of weeks ago I went to the library to pick up Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf and found all this other awesomeness.  When I posted this picture on Twitter and tagged the authors, I got responses from pretty much everyone!  I heart Twitter so much!

Anyway, when I mentioned that Little Mercies was for a book club, Heather offered to answer questions for us!  I was super excited, since this was my first time participating in this parcivular book club.  How great would it be if I was the author contact for this book!

So all the members of the book club got together and put together the questions, and Heather (even with super short notice) answered them for us.  And the discussion at the book club meeting was so much better with her answers.


And now, with Heather’s blessing, I’m sharing the questions and answers about Little Mercies.  Enjoy!

1.  Why did you choose to write this story?  Was there a particular experience that made you feel that you needed to write it?

I often get my ideas from something that happened in the news. I got the idea for Little Mercies when I heard about social workers who ended up on the other side of the system they worked so hard for. LM emerged from this. 

2.  Did you have experience with social work before writing this book, or  did you have to do a lot of research?

As an educator I have worked with many social workers in a school setting. But for this project I met several times with a wonderful social worker who taught me so much about the very important work she does.

3.  Were there any parts of this story that were difficult for you to write?

Yes –there were many scenes from Little Mercies that were very difficult to write. The scene when Ellen discovers Avery was left in the car, when she had to say goodbye to her in the hospital. I had to get up from my desk several times when writing these. I thought about pulling back on these tough scenes, but also wanted to be realistic. Another scene that was really hard to write was the one when Ellen was arrested and booked. I was able to visit our local police station and walk through the booking process – very powerful.

4.  Do you plot out your books in advance, or do you just write as you go?

I’ve tried it all ways. I’ve found that when I try to plot out my novels they end up going the direction they want to anyway. I do keep a notebook with notes describing each of the characters – their appearances, likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, histories – it really helps me as I move through the novel.

5.  What are you currently reading?

I always seem to have a few books going at once – I’m reading an advanced copy of a novel by Kate  Moretti which is great. I’m also reading the newest MC Beaton, Agatha Raisin mystery – Death of an Englishman and John Grisham’s most recent – Gray Mountain.

6.  Do you have any recommendations for us?

I love the following authors and pick up anything written by them: Sandra Dallas, Louise Erdrich, Elizabeth Berg, Louise Penny, Anita Shreve and so many more!

7.  Do you have any advice for new authors?

Just write! It’s so easy to overthink what to put down on paper – just start writing, get everything down on paper.

8.  Can you spill any details on your new project?

I’m trying my hand at more of a psychological thriller this time round. No title as of yet  – but it should be released in Feb. of 2016.  

9.  How long does it take you to write a book?

I think about a new project for a long time. When I finally start to write it down, it goes rather quickly – a few months. But then come the rewriting and edits, so all in all it takes about a year for me to write a book.

11.  Why did you choose Cedar City for the setting?

Those who know me and those from my wonderful home state of Iowa can probably recognize the “fictional” settings of all my novels. Cedar City is very loosely based on Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I love referencing real places in Iowa and places I’ve visited. I think that the setting of a book is so important – almost like a character in itself.

And on a more playful note:

14.  If you were sorted by the sorting hat in Harry Potter, what house would you be in?

It’s so funny that you asked me that question – I just reread the first two Harry Potter books! I’d like to think I’d be sorted in to Gryffindor. 

15.  Team Gale or Team Peeta? (We started with the usual Team Jacob and Team Edward, but decided we’d go with Hunger Games instead.)

I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read the Hunger Games series. I know, I know…I hope you’ll still read my books anyway!

16.  What’s your favorite word?

Hmmm – that’s a tough one. I’d  have to say “family” is my favorite word.  I’m very close with my family and they mean the world to me.

17.  What’s your preferred reading format?  E-reader, paperback, hardcover?

I read in all formats. When I’m traveling, e-books work best for me because I can load my e-reader with books and not take up suitcase space, but at home I like paperbacks and hardcovers.

18.  What kind of pie will you be eating for Thanksgiving?

My mom makes a mean Key Lime pie – not very Thanksgivingy – but it’s my favorite!


Heather1Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and One Breath Away. She lives in Iowa with her family.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Julie

    Woot great interview 🙂 Glad you joined the club! Too bad I had to miss the meeting, but I had a good excuse. lol

    1. Leila

      Most of the questions came from other members, so thanks on their behalf. I am so happy to have joined. Thanks for the “in”!

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