Hi guys! Happy Presidents’ Day! We don’t have a giveaway planned for this week, but we do have a special interview with Helene Dunbar, author of These Gentle Wounds! I loved this book, and it’s really haunting and chilling! Hope you enjoy this interview!
1. What is your book These Gentle Wounds about?
These Gentle Wounds is about Gordie, a boy who is the lone survivor of a horrific family tragedy. It opens five years after that event, at a time when Gordie feels as though his life is as “normal” as it is ever going to be, given his abuse and trauma-related PTSD. But the reemergence of his biological father, the person he blames for the tragedy, turns everything upside down and he is forced to figure out how to draw upon strength he never knew he had, in order to move forward.
It is a story of strength and brotherhood and complicated relationships.
2. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
I’ve written as long as I can remember. In high school, I was editor of our newspaper and literary magazine. I even went to journalism camp. My goal, which I achieved, was to work as a drama critic, but finding full-time work there is hard, so I moved to marketing writing. I came to fiction writing very, very late.
3. Who are your favorite authors, and which ones have had an impact on you? Who has affected your writing style the most?
I have favorite books more than favorite authors. Usually I fall deeply in love with a book and then am disappointed to find the author going in a different direction with their other work, although I totally understand that because I do it myself.
It’s hard to say who has had an effect on my writing style. I come from the world of drama and journalism, so some of that probably leaks through and it’s probably why I love writing dialogue because theatre is, of course, 99% dialogue.
I can say that when I started writing fiction, I spent a lot of time analyzing books by Maggie Steifvater, Hannah Moskowitz, and Andrew Smith as kind of my own fiction-writing tutorial.
4. What are your favorite genres to read and write? What are your favorite books?
The books that got me back into reader were Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, but I primarily read contemporary.
My favorite books are a mixed bag, but here are a couple: Amber Dermont’s THE STARBOARD SEA, Hannah Moskowitz’s TEETH, Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY, and my all-time favorite is Evelyn Waugh’s BRIDESHEAD REVISITED; I’ve always been fascinated by that period of English history.
5. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
When I’m not writing, I’m a wife and mom. Currently I have a number of part-time jobs all of which involve writing in one way or another, but I’m preparing to go back to full-time work in communications I’m also a long-time freelancer for an Irish magazine called Irish Music Magazine, covering traditional music in the US, which is a huge passion of mine.
6. How much research did you have to complete to make Gordie’s case of PTSD as authentic as you could?
I spent a lot of time in PTSD forums, read many, many articles, and drew on some of my own experiences as well.
7. The title of These Gentle Wounds still intrigues me. What is the origin of the title, and why is “these” in These Gentle Wounds a different font than the other words?
The book was originally called “In Case of Emergency”, which wasn’t a title I really loved. Titles have never been my strong-suit and These Gentle Wounds came as a suggestion from my Flux editor, Brian Farrey. We discussed the idea of how mental health issues aren’t the same as physical issues because they can’t be easily seen and that makes it, in some ways, so much more difficult for anyone who is wrestling with them.
As for the italics, you’d have to ask Flux.
8. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
In TGW, my favorite was probably Kevin, Gordie’s brother. I did a lot of work on him very late in the revision process because his scars are harder to see than Gordie’s. Since Gordie was directly involved in the incident and Kevin wasn’t, I really wanted to show how the event damaged both kids in very different ways. Kevin has a lot of survivor’s guilt and that comes out in a variety of not-always-productive ways.
9. Gordie’s favorite sport is hockey while Sarah’s favorite hobby is photography. Are you interested in either hockey or photography?
I grew up in Detroit, so I love hockey. Gordie was named after Gordie Howe. I don’t have a particular interest or talent in photography.
10. I saw that you are a Pitch Wars mentor. Could you describe to us what Pitch Wars is and what you do in it?
PitchWars is a writing “contest” started by the amazing Brenda Drake. Mentors publicize the type of manuscripts they’d like to work with. Writers then “query” us. We choose a project to work on and basically put the writer through boot camp, helping them revise and polish their manuscript in order to get it read for agents.
It is a crazy amount of work, but is massively rewarding. I’ve worked with two authors who have gone on to sign with amazing agents and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
11. In your bio, you state that you have lived in two countries and six states. Where have you moved, and how did you end up in Nashville? Which one was your favorite place to live?
I’m from Michigan, and in chronological order the list would be: Michigan, Chicago, DC, New York, New Jersey, New York, England, New York, Nashville. I’m very good at packing.
My heart will always be in New York. I moved to Nashville to work (briefly) for a record label and because my Scottish-born husband really wanted to get out of the city. It’s home for now.
12. How do you cure a case of writer’s block?
I rarely have writer’s block, my probably is usually a lack of time to sit down and write. But I’m also a believer in giving myself a break when I need it. So if I’m not on deadline and boring myself when I sit down on write, I just take time off until I’m hungry for it again.
13. One of my favorite quotes in the book was when Ms. DeSilva said to Gordie, “See, I told you that you were brave.” Bravery is one of the central themes that surrounds this book. What is the message that you are trying to tell your readers with Gordie’s story?
I believe that everyone has more strength, courage, and love inside them than they give themselves credit for. TGW is really a story of Gordie learning to believe in himself and if there is a message to this book that would be it.
14. Do you have any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?
Read. Read. Read. Then write according to your heart and not the marketplace.
Try to learn patience. Publishing is a very slow business.
Find your community. Writing is isolating, and bonds with other writers can get you through the storms.
Thank you so much, Helene, for coming onto our blog!
If you want to check out Helene’s books and social media, click below!
‘Til Next Time! – Kester