|Welcome to New Faces, where we are pleased to spotlight some of the newest mystery writers in the genre. This week we welcome April Henry, whose debut novel Circles of Confusion is a humorous mystery featuring a woman who works for the department of motor vehicles, checking vanity license plates.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Medford, Oregon, a small town near the California border. I
now live in Portland with my graphic-designer husband and three-year-old
daughter. While majoring in business at Oregon State, I made my first
sale - a paper I had written for my business class on whether or not OSU
might begin allowing alcohol on campus. Anheuser-Busch bought my term
paper for $50, three T-shirts and two cases of beer.
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
I've been working as a corporate writer for about 12 years. I am still
employed full-time by Kaiser Permanente Northwest, where I am in charge
of employee communications. They have allowed me to shift my hours (I
work 6 am to 2:30 pm) to give me time to write.
What led you to write mysteries?
To be honest, I wrote a book that was interesting to me, not thinking
whether it would fit into a particular genre. I've long admired Ruth
Rendell and Scott Turow. I've read nearly all of Anne Perry's books, as
well as Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael series. Now, as I've met more
mystery authors, I'm reading many, many more mysteries.
Tell us about your road to publication.
I've written a couple of other books (one coming-of-age drama, one
historical) that got nothing more than praise-filled rejection letters,
so I was ecstatic when Circles of Confusion sold in less than a week to
Harper Collins, the first house it was submitted to.
Two writers who have been helpful are James Lee Burke, who told me that I
was "a winner" and Phil Margolin, who liked the book and gave me a nice
blurb for the back of the jacket.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
I did a lot of research into art that has been missing since World War
II, as well as into art fakes and frauds. I also did a lot of reading
about what Germany was like during World War II and shortly thereafter.
For a story line I ended up not using, I also researched what it was like
for Jews who disguised themselves as non-Jews in Germany during World War
Who are your influences as a writer?
I like Ruth Rendell and Scott Turow, as I said earlier. One reader
turned me onto Sparkle Hayter, who in addition to having a great name
also writes really funny mysteries. I like Margaret Lawrence's series
about a midwife, which is set shortly after the Revolutionary War. On
the non-mystery side, I admire Lee Smith, John Dufresne and Marge
What does your family think of having a mystery author in their
My father long dreamed of publishing a novel, and both my parents are big
readers. My mother always told me that she believed I would be
published. My brother talks my book up to all his customers, and my
sister has always encouraged me. In short, they have been excited as I
Tell us about plans for future books.
Square in the Face will be published in 2000, probably in February. I'm
hard at work outlining the next book, in which Claire will go to her
20th high school reunion. The title for that book will have the world
"Heart" in it.
How can readers get in touch with you?
The best way would be e-mail: AHenry@literati.net. Check out my Web
page at literati.net/Henry
Thanks, April, and good luck with your fiture releases! Readers, check out our review of Circles of Confusion.
March 10, 1999