Friday, April 15, 2011

The Books of April

If memory serves, I met April Henry about ten years ago during Malice Domestic.  I believe I was going up the hotel escalator and she was going down (or maybe it was the other way around?).  Anyway, it was one of those, "Hi, aren't you?" and "Yes, and aren't you?" kind of things. She was writing her award-winning Claire Montrose mystery series then and was about to take off in a new direction with her first stand-alone thriller, LEARNING TO FLY.  Next I knew, April was penning young adult thrillers and was one of the first to congratulate me when I signed to do YA.  So not only is April a multi-talented author, she's also just plain nice. The latest of her adult thrillers, HEART OF ICE (co-written with Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl), hit bookstores on April 5. I was happy to get the chance to talk with April about that and everything else she's got on her busy schedule these days.

Susan: You're co-author of HEART OF ICE, another sure-to-be-best-selling thriller. What's it like writing as a partnership with Lis Wiehl? How do you bring the ideas and words together?

April:  When Lis and I begin a new book together, we sit down and hash out the plot, then talk about it with our editor and publisher. We look at real-life experiences Lis has had (she's a federal prosecutor and now a TV legal analyst) that we can tie our story to. Then I work on the first draft and after that the two of us fine-tune it together.

Susan: Speaking of ideas, where did the story for HEART OF ICE come from?

April: We both were fascinated by the sociopaths - people who are basically born without a conscience. As a prosecutor, Lis has crossed paths with a few - and I've known some in real life as well. Sometimes the most attractive and interesting person in the room hides a dark heart.

Susan: Do you ever lose sleep at night after writing a particularly scary scene or chapter?

April: Sometimes if I've really put myself in the moment, it will affect me later. What is more of a sleep-stealer, though, is some of the research I've done. I've seen some pictures of murder scenes that I really wish I could erase from my brain.

Susan: Your most recent young adult thriller, GIRL, STOLEN, came out last year. How does the voice of your YA books differ from those in your adult novels? Is it fun going back and forth? Is it difficult in any way?

April: YAs are often written in first person, but GIRL, STOLEN is written in two alternating third person POVs. My YAs are shorter than my adults, averaging about 50,000 words. My editor thinks that's a sweet spot for readers who might be intimidated by longer books. I love teens because everything is fresh and new for them, and they have lots of enthusiasm. If they like your book, they love it, and if they dislike it, they hate it. I do love writing for both audiences. The only thing that's hard is trying to juggle all my books. I usually have two I'm writing (one adult and one YA), two being edited, and two I'm promoting. That's six books!

Susan: I love the story about you and Roald Dahl, author of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Can you share it again (as I know you've told it many times!). Did you keep in touch with him?

April: When I was 12, I sent Roald Dahl a short story about a frog named Herman who loved peanut butter. My parents had told it was possible to contact authors through their publishers, so I sent off my story, carefully written on wide-ruled paper, to his publisher, and somehow it found its way over to England. The day he received it, Dahl had lunch with the editor of an international children's magazine and read her the story. She contacted me and asked to publish it.

Now this could also be a cautionary tale about publishing, because I got no money and had to subscribe to the magazine (which was quite expensive) in order to see my story.

I actually got one more postcard from Roald Dahl, but I've since lost it. It's a miracle I've managed to hold on to this nearly 40 year-old postcard. I was under the impression we were friends. I understand he could actually be something of a curmudgeon, but I appreciate how he made such an effort to contact one little girl.

Susan: The best piece of advice you ever got about writing/publishing?

April: It's my advice to myself: Tenacity is as important as talent. I know far better writers than me who gave up after a few rejections. I never gave up.

Susan: What are you working on now?

April: My next YA comes out in 2012 and is called THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED. It will be followed by another YA thriller called FINISH HER OFF. Right now Lis and I are working on the fourth Triple Threat book, which will be called EYES OF JUSTICE.

Susan:  Thanks so much for visiting us today, April!
April:  Thanks for asking!

Noted author Roald Dahl helped New York Times bestselling author April Henry take her first step as a writer. When April was eleven, she sent the famous children's author a short story about a frog who loved peanut butter. He read it to an editor of an international children's magazine, who then asked to publish it. April has since written several highly acclaimed mysteries and thrillers. Her books have been short-listed for the Agatha Award, the Anthony Award, and the Oregon Book Award, and translated into several languages. Two have been chosen for BookSense by the independent booksellers of America. April lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

For more about April and her books, visit her web site.


  1. April, thanks so much for joining us today! I think we should all sing "Happy Birthday to You" since your b-day was yesterday. Or else, we'll just remain quiet so there's no chance of your ears ringing all weekend. ;-)

  2. Great interview. I love the Roald Dahl story! And happy belated birthday, April!

  3. Thanks for having me. And I had a great birthday!