By Fiona Morgan, the Advocate-Messenger, March 1, 2022
Local author Heather Henson is releasing a young adult novel called “Wrecked” with Simon and Schuster publishing company on March 22.
Henson, who is managing director at Pioneer Playhouse, has written mainly children’s books for 20 years. “Wrecked” is only her second young adult novel, the first being in the beginning of her career.
“Wrecked” is a more mature story than others she’s written. It’s a romantic thriller about three teens in rural Kentucky who deal with difficult times, first love and drug use.
The book alternates between three main characters’ first person narration. Teenager Miri, who grew up in the knobs of Kentucky, struggles with her father, who cooks crystal methamphetamine. Her childhood friend Clay has been on his own since his mother went to prison for cooking meth.
Miri starts a relationship with newcomer Fen, who moved to Kentucky from Detroit. Fen likes to record ambient sound and create soundscapes as an art form. Henson said “Wrecked” is a gritty, real story about family secrets and mystery, troubled relationships, and meth addiction.
“What I love about ‘Wrecked’ is that it has a strong female character; she rides a motorcycle, she knows how to fix a motorcycle, and is really good with her hands,” she said.
Henson said the story is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” In the play, a father and his daughter became shipwrecked on an island and stayed there for 12 years. The father, who was betrayed by his brother, eventually uses dangerous magical powers to get revenge on the people who sent them to the island.
“Wrecked” parallels the relationship between the father who has dangerous magic and the daughter who struggles with what to do in her situation. The themes are loss, revenge, and love.
“The storm that wrecks them is a huge theme of the book, so that’s why this is called ‘Wrecked,’” Henson explained. “It’s kind of a riff on ‘The Tempest’ and the wreck that happens in the first part of the play.”
“The Tempest” has always been one of Henson’s favorite Shakespeare plays, and she had been wanting to retell the story’s basic essence for a long time.
One of her children’s books, “That Book Woman,” tells about pack horse librarians in Kentucky who would go into mountains and bring books to kids. She wanted to focus on Kentucky’s unique rural locations.
“I became very interested in finding little bits of Kentucky history that hadn’t really been talked about in children’s books,” Henson said.
Another book, “Here’s How I See It, Here’s How It Is,” was inspired by Henson’s own life growing up in Pioneer Playhouse. The story is about a girl growing up in a summer stock theater who wants to be an actress. In the book, that theater is putting on “The Tempest,” and the story focuses on that play.
Still wanting to do more with “The Tempest,” Henson toyed with the idea of setting her novel in a post-apocalyptic world. But instead of being stranded somewhere with no actual escape, Henson set her story in an isolated part of Kentucky with a feeling of no escape.
Henson has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in creative writing. She worked at Harper and Row publishing company, now called HarperCollins, as an editor of children’s books.
She never had a desire to write children’s books until working with children’s authors. After realizing she couldn’t work full time and devote herself to writing at the same time, Henson quit to become a freelance writer.
Her recent books include “The Whole Sky,” “Dream of Night,” “Lift Your Light a Little Higher,” “Grumpy Grandpa,” among others.
“Wrecked” will be sold everywhere books are sold, both in bookstores and online at sites like Amazon. Henson said she wants to especially support independent bookstores.
She will have a launch party at Plaid Elephant, an independent children’s bookstore in Danville, on March 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. People can pre-order the book on Plaid Elephant’s website at plaidelephantbooks.com/heather-henson.
Henson, who just left the board of the Boyle County Library after 10 years, is also planning events for the library surrounding the book. She is working to coordinate a workshop where people can learn how to create soundscapes, which the character Fen does in her book.
Henson said that Director of Arts Education at the Danville Schools Jane Dewey is teaching a class at Centre College where they are using her book. Students in the class are learning to teach literature to high school students. Those students will be teaching about “Wrecked” to students at Danville High School.
Those events will take place in mid-April.