Wednesday, March 27, 2019


A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence.

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

“[A] scintillating psychological thriller....The stunning plot builds to a chillingly realistic ending. Gudenkauf is at the top of her game.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

"Eerily page-turning and wonderfully twisty, Before She Was Found is the riveting story of one troubled group of young girls struggling to belong and the frighteningly blurred boundary between where urban legend ends and real danger begins." —Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and Where They Found Her

“Dark and stylish, Before She Was Found is an entertaining read that thrills to the last page.” —Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of A Gathering of Secrets

“Heather Gudenkauf has done it again. She manages to merge engaging characters and terrifying topics resulting in unputdownable suspense set in a small Iowa town. In Before She Was Found, Gudenkauf takes us into the lives of three young girlfriends as a sleepover turns into tragedy. Examining today’s realities of social media and the added pressure our connected culture creates, Gudenkauf has crafted a gripping thriller.” —Kaira Rouda, bestselling author of Best Day Ever

Some Q & A with Heather ~

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
I was so fortunate to be able to pursue careers that I am passionate about. I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a young girl and have spent the last twenty-seven years in education. Over the years I served as an elementary and middle school teacher, a special needs teacher, an instructional coach and as a Title I reading coordinator. I didn’t seriously consider writing until I had been teaching for several years and my three children were in school.

I started writing my first novel, The Weight of Silence after school was let out for summer break. I bought myself a beautiful journal and started writing the story longhand. I finished the first draft just before I went back to school that fall.

I think the key to being able to juggle multiple roles is to truly love what you do. For me, writing is an escape, an opportunity to explore new ideas, new characters, a chance to express myself creatively.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
When I’m not writing, you can usually find me doing one of four things: hiking, yoga, spending time with my family or reading.

One of my favorite pastimes is hiking with our German shorthair pointer, Lolo. We love to visit local nature preserves to hike the trails and bluffs. It’s a great time to clear my mind and often I’ll be able to work through some challenging plot points on a book I’m working on or where I’ll come up with new ideas.

I practice yoga several times per week. What I love about it is that we all come to our mats with our own expertise (or in my case, lack of) and we can move at our own pace and level. I’ve found that yoga really helps to balance me – mind and body – especially since I spend a lot of time sitting behind a computer.

I spend as much time with my family as possible. Though my three children are grown and out of the house, we get together as much as possible. I also spend a lot of time with my folks – in fact, we just celebrated my mom’s 80th and my dad’s 85th birthdays. I treasure every day that I have with them.

I always end my day with a good book. Currently, I’m reading a galley copy of Jason Pinter’s THE BROKEN WOMAN. So good!

Where do you get your ideas?
Just like for many of my novels, the idea for Before She Was Found was inspired by news headlines: A fictional online entity and real life collided with heartbreaking results. In Before She was Found, three young characters similarly become fascinated with an urban legend with devastating consequences.

Through my writing, I also wanted to explore how the lack of mental health services, family dynamics, and social media can impact actions and decisions that have life-altering costs.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or the decision to write?
There are so many authors that have inspired me to pursue my dream of becoming a novelist but I’ll try and narrow it down to two.  As a young girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House on the Prairie series made me into a reader. I would spend hours and hours reading and re-reading the Little House series.

Willa Cather made me want to be a writer.
Willa Cather is my all-time favorite author and My Antonia – is my all-time favorite book. Cather’s writing is just beautiful. I love the way that she could describe the setting in a novel and it actually seemed to become a character within the story. Cather’s writings showed me the magic and power of words. I reread My √Āntonia and O Pioneers every single year and can only dream of writing such powerful stories.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best advice I have for beginning writers is to do just that ~ write. It is so important to set aside time each day to get your thoughts and ideas down on paper. It can be an hour or ten minutes. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the pages start to add up. I also think it is crucial for writers to be readers. Read far, wide and deep!
Place you’d like to travel?
I’m a definite homebody – but I do like to go on adventures now and then. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit Italy. My dad was stationed there years ago when he was in the navy and the stories he tells makes me want to hop on the next plane. I’d love to hike through the Italian countryside, take in the all the sights and of course, sample the food!
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
I love talking reading and writing with fellow book lovers! 

Readers can connect with me in the following ways:

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


We Hope for Better Things has it all: fabulous storytelling, an emotional impact that lingers long after you turn the last page, and a setting that immerses you. I haven't read such a powerful, moving story since I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. This book will change how you look at the world we live in. Highly recommended!"--Colleen CobleUSAToday bestselling author of the Rock Harbor series and The View from Rainshadow Bay

When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.


"A timely exploration of race in America, We Hope for Better Things is an exercise of empathy that will shape many a soul."--Julie CantrellNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials

"I applaud [Erin's] courage, her authenticity, her beautiful turn of phrase, the freshness of her imagery, and the depth of her story that speaks to a contemporary world where understanding is often absent. We Hope for Better Things is a remarkable debut novel."--Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of Everything She Didn't Say

"Storytelling at its finest. Erin Bartels delivers a riveting story of forbidden love, family bonds, racial injustice, and the power of forgiveness. We Hope for Better Things is a timely, sobering, moving account of how far we've come . . . and how much distance remains to be covered. A compulsively readable, incredibly powerful novel."--Lori Nelson SpielmanNew York Times bestselling author of The Life List

"In this powerful first novel . . . Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family."--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Some Q & A with Erin ~

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
Funny how when someone asks us about ourselves, we define ourselves by our roles. My first inclination is to tell you that I am a 39-year-old pastor’s wife and mother of one 10-year-old son. My next is to tell you that I have worked in book publishing for 17 years. That I am a former English major and history minor. But you’d know me far better if I told you that I love to spend time in places where there are no signs or sounds of humanity. That I am a close observer of nature. That I’m an ambassador for my beautiful home state of Michigan. That I love to create—to write, paint, build—and I am passionate about the creations of others—music, movies, books, works of art, architecture. That I’m an introvert who prefers long discussions about thorny topics to small talk, which I loathe (yet must practice regularly as a pastor’s wife). That I live in a city but I would far prefer to live on the edge of some wild place.

I have always wanted to write, to contribute to the body of work that I studied in college and to the business I entered after I graduated. I think so many of us who love to read find ourselves itching to write. At some point I realized that if it was ever going to happen, I needed to stop thinking about how I should write a novel someday and just buckle down and do it. I quit a number of other activities to make time for writing, found a writing community in my city and online that would help keep me accountable, and dove into years of hard work, learning, and rejection. It has all been worth it.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I like getting out in nature, whether it’s an hour at our local nature center or a four-day backcountry camping trip or a week-long road trip, to marvel at and take pictures of the grandeur and intricacies of this incredible planet. Patient and quiet companions are welcome, though not required (I love being alone).

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
I do! I have worked for an independent, family-owned publishing house for seventeen years, most of that time as a copywriter. I write back cover copy, catalog copy, and web copy for fiction and nonfiction books. All that writing that tries to get you to buy the book!

Where do you get your ideas?
To me, stories arise organically from the swirling combination of what I’m reading, what I’m watching, people I observe, ideas out in the Zeitgeist, news stories, trips I take, and conversations I have. Every once in a while, out of this soup, an idea rises to the surface. But usually, they’re not ready at that moment to act upon. They take a while time to develop. In fact, some take years to coalesce into something useable. But every little thought I have that might get included in a story idea someday has to be written down or it’s gone forever, so I always have notebooks with me. And if I find myself without one, I write on my hands and arms.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
One of the hardest things about writing for publication is waiting. Waiting for critique partners to give you their thoughts on your manuscript. Waiting for agents to respond to queries and then to read and respond to your manuscript. Waiting for a publishing house to take a shot on you. Waiting for your editor to get you her notes. Waiting on the whole publishing machine to do all the things it needs to do—the title, the cover, the marketing plan, production, etc.—so that the story you long to share with the world can actually be shared with the world. From initial concept to final publication, We Hope for Better Things was more than seven years in the making. That takes a lot of patience every step of the way.

How do you market your work?
I keep up a rather visible and busy online presence, from my website, blog, and podcast, to my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve been building relationships with readers and other writers for more than a decade, and those networks of real relationships are helping me spread the word now that I finally have a book published.

What are you working on now?
At the moment, I have three other novels in various stages of development. One, The Words between Us, will be coming out this fall and tells the story of a reclusive used bookstore owner who is far more at home in the fictional worlds of books than real life. Another, which takes place at a summer lake house in Northern Michigan, is nearing the point at which my agent will begin pitching it to publishing houses. And the third, which involves two sisters and a hiking trip gone wrong, is in the early stages of drafting and revision.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
You know, I don’t think there is anything in my debut novel, We Hope for Better Things, that is based on any of my personal real-life experiences, but it is solidly based in the history of the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights era, the Detroit Riots of 1967, and the modern-day challenges of the city of Detroit. People who have read the book who grew up in Detroit in the 1960s keep telling me how real the book felt to them, how it just brought that part of their lives back to them, which is gratifying.

Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
Two come to mind.  First is the scenes in the 1960s where Nora and William meet. There’s a lot of tension and anger that kind of melts into intrigue and even attraction. It was fun to write. The other is the scene in which William’s nephew JJ and his friend are breaking into buildings and looting during the riot. JJ is so conflicted about what he’s doing, but it’s shown in subtle ways. I think it helps readers understand why someone would participate in such a lawless act and it helps them have empathy for people they might otherwise look down on.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
What I love about writing is what I love about reading: experiencing the world from someone else’s perspective. When we read fiction, we experience the world through the eyes and emotions of the characters. The same thing happens when we write fiction. Writing fiction is my way of working through what I think about the things that matter in life—human relationships, religious belief, and ethics, where we fit in history, where we are going in the future. Reading and writing helps me get my mind around these huge concepts and helps me understand my place in the world. Challenge yourself when you write to write about things you don’t understand, things that make you uncomfortable, things that make you squirm. We’ll all grow from it, and you most of all.

Also, if you’re going to get serious about putting in the time necessary to write something that is ready to be published, you’re probably going to have to quit some other things you enjoy. That’s just the reality. You can’t do it all. So make sure you’re doing what no one else can do: writing your books.

Favorite singer, actor, writer?
Brandi Carlile, James McAvoy, and…I just can’t choose. I love so many writers.

Place you’d like to travel?

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you! I am so, so grateful you’ve given my stories a chance. A writer is nothing without readers.

Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for seventeen years, most of that time as a copywriter. She is also a freelance writer and editor and a member of the Capital City Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel. Her second, The Words between Us, releases September 2019.

To connect with Erin ~

Twitter: @ErinLBartels
Instagram: @erinbartelswrites