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Advocate-Messenger profile of Heather and “Wrecked”
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.
“The Whole Sky” honored at Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award Gala
The Whole Sky was one of three finalists for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. Heather, along with fellow nominees Felix Francis and Sasscer White, attended the awards presentation on Thursday, April 19, in the historic stallion barn at Castleton Lyons Farm in Kentucky’s Horse Country.
For the first time in the $10,000 award’s 12-year history, every honored book was a work of fiction. Since its inception, only two novels had won—Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule in 2010, which also took home the prestigious National Book Award, and Andy Plattner’s Offerings from a Rust Belt Jockey in 2014.
The Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award is named for the man who launched it in 2006. Dr. Ryan was a globally known businessman, sportsman, and philanthropist who loved horse racing and fine literature. He passed away in late 2007, and his namesake award has since been continued by son Shane.
The Whole Sky was the first young-adult book ever nominated for the Ryan Prize. Felix Francis’ Pulse and Sasscer Hill’s Flamingo Road, two mysteries, were the other finalists.
Flamingo Road, a spine-tingling tale of crime, gangs, and suspicious racetrack happenings, took home the Prize.
Heather reported the results on her Facebook page April 20:
“The Whole Sky did not take the big prize last night at the Dr Tony Ryan Book Award ceremony, but as one of three finalists, I definitely felt I was already in the winner’s circle. Can’t say enough about the other two writers and the judges and all involved with this terrific award, especially the Ryan Family and Castleton Lyons farm!”
Lovely feature on Heather and “The Whole Sky” in Advocate-Messenger
Bobbie Curd of the Danville Advocate-Messenger, Heather Henson’s hometown newspaper, has written a terrific in-depth profile and discussion of The Whole Sky.
Heather Henson can cite various inspirations for her new book for middle school readers, “The Whole Sky.” Her second book involving horses, it’s not a true story — but was inspired by true events.
Back in 2001, more than 500 thoroughbred foals died on farms in Kentucky from Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS), with the cause of it a mystery for a long time.
“As far as I know, there was no one person (like Sky Doran, the main character in the book) who ultimately helped connect the dots and solve the MRLS mystery; there was no one girl who talked to horses,” Henson says. “But I’m a writer, so I like to imagine that there was — or is.”
One of the reasons Henson began writing about horses — her first book about them was published in 2010, “Dream of Night,” also for middle school readers — is actually because her editor suggested it.
“I’d just moved home to Kentucky after living in New York City and Brooklyn for 17 years, and I was talking to my editor at Atheneum/Simon and Schuster about book ideas and also describing living on a farm and seeing horses every day —so different from my city life. She suggested that I think about writing a novel that was literary but would also appeal to young horse lovers. She felt that since I had moved back to the middle of horse country I would be able to tap into that world, and she was right.”
Read the entire article on the AmNews website….