Friday, June 14, 2013

Where I thought I’d be

by April Henry

When I was in high school, I thought by this time in my life I would be a famous medical researcher, one who had quite possibly discovered the cure for cancer. I never expected to be a writer. It would have been like thinking I could fly by flapping my arms really, really hard.  Now I'm a New York Times bestselling mystery/thriller author whose 15th book (The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die) came out this week.

Why I thought I would make a good scientist
Three high school teachers I admired contributed to the idea I could be a scientist: my biology teacher, who devised experiments designed to appeal to teenagers (making our own soap or peanut brittle), his student teacher (who had served in Vietnam and tossed out the curriculum in favor of us holding hands in a circle in a darkened room while talking about our feelings), and my honors chemistry teacher (who did things like light his shirt on fire to prove ... something).

Reality meets fantasy, reality wins
Cut to fall term, freshman year of college.  Based on my A in honors chemistry in high school (totally undeserved - the teacher dropped hints every time I started to give a wrong answer), I was enrolled Biochem 204H.  I was under the erroneous impression that class wasn’t being held the first day, so I didn’t show up until late in the class period.  By that time they had already checked out equipment, been assigned a lab partner, watched a safety video, and performed an experiment.

I dropped the class a week later.

My secret dream
All along, buried deep in my heart, was the secret dream of being a writer. A writer!  I loved books so much that there were years I asked for nothing but books for Christmas.

But I had never met an author. I figured they were from big cities, went to boarding school, spoke French, and probably owned a beautiful horse they showed while wearing jodhpurs (a garment I had never seen, but which seemed to feature prominently in books).

Writers were most certainly not girls who had grown up in a little logging town in Oregon. Girls who never wrote for the school paper, who weren’t in advanced English, who weren’t anything special at all.

Dream becomes reality
I finally got up the courage to acknowledge my dream, but I didn’t start writing until my 30s.  I got published when I was 39.  At my first signing, over 100 people showed up. I remember thinking I was going to pass out and my husband was going to have to drag my body away. That night, Powells sold out of books.

Now, 15 years later, my 15th book, The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, has just come out.

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die
From the jacket flap:
She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is, or why. All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that two men are arguing over whether or not to kill her.

And that she must run.

Booklist says: "If you liked Girl, Stolen, you’ll love Henry’s latest tale of abduction, escape, and paranoia. ... Henry is a dependable best-selling force in both adult and YA worlds, and this book is tailor-made to please her fan base." And Kirkus calls it "an adrenaline rush" and says the "direct, first-person narration make the Hollywood-blockbuster–like story pulsate."


  1. Wow, 15 books? That's an incredible achievement!

  2. I had a similar path to writing.... it wasn't until my 30's that I thought about pursuing it as more than just something to do when I was bored.

  3. LOL, I had the same feeling about writers: Did they really exist? Where the heck were they, because I sure didn't know any? Did they all live in New York? And what the heck did jodhpurs look like?

  4. Paul - I'm actually up to 25 books, if you count the ones written but not published.