It’s truly my pleasure today to be interviewing OneFourKidLit author Helene Dunbar. Helene’s YA debut, THESE GENTLE WOUNDS, celebrated its release from Flux yesterday! Here’s the lowdown on this emotional, riveting read:
“Sometimes I wish I’d lost a leg or something. Everyone can understand that. They never get it when what’s been broken is inside your head.
Five years after an unspeakable tragedy that changed him forever, Gordie Allen has made a new home with his half-brother Kevin. Their arrangement works since Kevin is the only person who can protect Gordie at school and keep him focused on getting his life back on track.
But just when it seems like things are becoming normal, Gordie’s biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there’s nothing to stop Gordie from falling into a tailspin that could cost him everything—including his relationship with Sarah, the first girl he’s trusted with the truth. With his world spinning out of control, the only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future.”
DG:“These Gentle Wounds” feels like a very personal, close-to-home kind of story. What was your inspiration for the book?
HD: Unfortunately, there have been many cases like this in the news. After a mother in upstate New York drove her car into the river with her four children in it and one survived, I started wondering what that surviving child’s life would be like.
Also, I thought that someone needed to bring more attention to PTSD brought on by childhood trauma. I’m sure that many readers either suffer from similar issues or know someone who does.
DG: You are a female author, but writing from the perspective of a male protagonist. What was most interesting or challenging about writing from that point of view?
HD: Honestly, I’m far more comfortable writing from a male POV than a female one. I’m not completely sure why that is. But I can say that Gordie’s voice was always extremely clear in my head.
DG: This is a very intense, emotional story about trauma and healing, abuse and redemption. Was it an emotional experience to write it? Did you have a hard time keeping an “authorly” distance, or were you right there in the thick of it with your characters? How did you as an artist walk that line?
HD: This wasa very tough book to write in that being in Gordie’s head was a very draining experience. I never worried about keeping my distance, but I have to admit to some relief at having finished the book. Gordie is in a very different place at the end of the book than he is in the beginning, but it was still quite difficult for me.
DG: What drives you to write for the Young Adult market, rather than in another genre?
HD: I’ve always been an obsessive reader, but for a while I just couldn’t find anything that interested me. Melissa Marr’s series, brought me back to reading and opened up a lot of doors. YA didn’t really exist when I was a teen so I’m making up for lost time as a reader. But also, I very much buy into the “write the book you want to read” mentality.
DG: What are some of your very favorite YA authors and books?
HD: I’d list my fav YA books as (in no particular order):
- Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Boys Series
- Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely Series
- Andrew Smith’s The Marbury Lens and Stick
- David Levithan’s Every You, Every Me
- Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy
DG: I see that you have a varied writing resume, writing about everything from Irish music to court cases to Native American tribes. Did all this other writing experience help when you sat down to write “These Gentle Wounds?”
HD: I always said that I couldn’t write fiction, but what I really meant was that I couldn’t plot. I still find plotting much more difficult than writing characters and dialogue. That part comes very easily to me.
I’ve always written, mostly journalistic pieces, but I think that regardless of the type of writing you’re doing, it helps to polish your craft.
DG: “These Gentle Wounds” is your debut novel. What was your pre-publication journey like? Was it a long, hard road to publication?
HD: My road was fairly fast, but it still felt difficult. TGW is my debut, but it was the second book I went out on submission with. The first, WHAT REMAINS, will be released 2015 by Flux. I didn’t begin writing fiction until 2009 and I have a couple of trunk novels that I wrote before What Remains.
DG: What advice would you have for someone who is hoping to get published, or struggling hard toward that goal?
HD: Read. Read. Read. Read. And try to build a community around you of people who “get it.” My writing partners keep me sane.
DG: What can we expect to see from you as a writer in the future?
HD: That is up to the gods of publishing, but definitely watch for WHAT REMAINS, which is a love story between three friends and which explores loss, grief, and guilt from an unique angle.
DG: This interview is appearing on the “Fearless 15er” blog of us 2015 debut authors. As someone who is a year ahead of us on this journey, what advice to you have for us for the upcoming year?
HD: My #1 piece of advice would have been to join the Fearless 15ers, so you’re already there. The OneFourKidLit community has been an amazing support system.
DG: Finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
HD: I’m terrified of public speaking so my book launch should be a barrel of laughs. I’m not afraid of being emotionally honest. I’m very much a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person.
DG: Thanks so much for your time, Helene. It’s a beautiful book (and I’m sure your book launch went great!), and we wish you the best of luck with this and all future endeavors!
About Helene Dunbar:
Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She’s lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.
|Dan Gemeinhart is an author and teacher-librarian who lives smack dab in the middle of Washington State with his wife and three daughters. What passes for his website can be found at www.dangemeinhart.com, and he can more frequently be found on Twitter. His contemporary adventure MG novel, THE HONEST TRUTH, will be out from Scholastic Press in January 2015.