April Henry was born in 1959, in Portland, Oregon. After living in several states, her parents moved to Medford, Oregon, when she was five. She lived there until she graduated from Medford High School. A graduate of Oregon State University in Corvallis, she also studied abroad at the University of Stuttgart.
She put herself through school using a patchwork of scholarships and odd jobs, including cook, maid, German translator, life drawing model, data entry person, and a brief stint as the girl who jumps out of a cake.
After working for more than a decade as a health care writer, April was able to leave her day job in 2008. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
Do you begin with character or plot?
I’m all about plot, baby! Of course, character and plot are intertwined, so character quickly follows.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
It’s about a girl who grew up thinking that her dad killed her mom in the woods, dropped the girl (who was only three at the time) off at a Wal-Mart, and then became a fugitive. As the book opens, her dad’s body is found in the woods near where her mother’s was found 14 years earlier. The police realize that they are looking for one killer for both her parents – and it was the killer who took her from the scene. The girl decides to go back to the small town where she was born and try to figure it out on her own. I wrote the first chapter this week!
What was the best thing that happened to you this weekend?
I went to Threat Dynamics, where you train with Glocks that are modified to shoot CO2 cartridges and you interact with HD filmed situations like home invasion, parking lot hold ups, and active shooters. I write adult books where the characters, like FBI agents, have guns, and this kind of training helps me write more realistically. Plus it is a total adrenaline rush. I even wore this belt that gives you a five thousand volt shock if the you get “shot.” (And it’s not so scary as guns with real bullets. I’ve done that with the FBI.)
What advice would you give to new writers?
Tenacity is as important as talent. When I started out, I had a writing class with two wonderful writers, Tom and Jane, who were much better writers than I was. But after a few rejections from agents, they gave up. I never gave up, and I ended up getting published.
What do you consider to the most valuable thing you own?
The work is done. How do you recharge?
I suck at recharging. I usually just feel empty. If I’ve put in a good day of work, I like to watch True Blood or thrillers from Netflix.
Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?
I have done both and anything in between. Seat of the pants works fine for thrillers, but not mysteries, because otherwise it’s hard to leave clues about the killer. With thrillers, the character is just trying to stay alive. I just had to write an 85,000-word book in four months, and if I hadn’t had an outline, I would have been in trouble.
What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?
I would love a treadmill desk. I did get a standing desk.
In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I actually thought about being a writer. I even sent a story to Roald Dahl – and he sent me a postcard. What the postcard doesn’t say is that he showed the story to the editor of a children’s magazine, and she contacted me and asked to publish it.
What is your secret talent?
I can make my tongue into the shape of a cloverleaf. Supposedly this is genetic, but I didn’t figure out how to do it until about two years ago, when my daughter showed me she could.