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 Ántonia 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:
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