New Faces 12 - April Henry
by Cathy Sova
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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 II.

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 Piercy.

What does your family think of having a mystery author in their midst?

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 have been.

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


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