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Heather Young Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Lost Girls (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Distant Dead (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Heather Young is one of the most promising historical fiction writers, best known for the novel, The Lost Girls. Heather was born in Maryland, but made San Francisco her home since 1991. She also has strong roots in the Midwest, as her parents are Iowa natives who met at the University of Iowa. While, Young and her siblings grew up in Washington DC, the family would spend most of their summers in Minnesota. The emotional connection with the Midwest is immediately apparent in the settings, events and characters of The Lost Girls, which has a distinct Midwestern feel. In a recent interview, Heather asserted that practicing law had a lot to do with her deciding to become a writer. Being a lawyer involves a lot of writing, and after practicing in San Francisco for over a decade, she felt the time was right to become an author. Nonetheless, while her lawyer career helped hone her writing skills, it was her professional training and certifications that made it possible for her to stop writing in the factual manner of the legal profession. After deciding to become an author, she enrolled in the Bennington Writing Seminars from which she obtained an MFA. She is also an alumnus of the Tin House Writers Workshop and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. When she is not writing you can find her hiking, biking, skiing, neglecting potted plants, and reading books. She resides in Mill Valley, California, a small town just outside San Francisco with her two teenage children and her husband.

Young has asserted that her family life and favorite writers have greatly influenced her writing. She cites her favorite writers as Annie Proulx and Marilynne Robinson, who are known for making their settings into something of a character, just as Young does with hers. In the novel, the Minnesota locale which include the lake house and the lake are so intertwined with the family’s history, that they become almost something of sorrowful sentient observers of the tragedy that befalls the family. The dearth of vivid descriptions, which include shimmering lakes and slumped over homes make the settings come to life. As for her family, Young says that the strong family bond in her middle class family in Washington DC was a great influence particularly in the construction of the story of Lucy. The experience of losing her only brother to cancer informs much of Lucy’s story of how to cope with the loss of a loved one, particularly when their daughter Emily vanishes without a trace.

Coming from a legal background, Young asserts that part of the fun of writing a historical fiction novel was trying to find her voice and learn a process that worked for her. She first considered going into writing when a recently published friend of her asked her to attend a writing mastermind group. After attending for half a year, eating the cookies and saying the usual smart things about other writers’ works she still had written nothing. The group finally told her to write something to bring to the group the next time if she wanted to keep attending. She immediately went home and typed out a full scene for The Lost Girls in one night. While the scene did not make the final cut into the finished novel, it gave her the kick that she needed to get started on her writing journey. She has also been active on the site The Debutante Ball where she chronicles her writing process for other upcoming writers to emulate. A close-knit community, the site invites five writers a year, to document and advice new writers on how to get started on their writing careers. Despite publishing her first novel, The Lost Girls just months before she turned fifty, she asserts that she wishes she had dove in sooner. Nonetheless, she believes that her life experiences over the past five decades have made her a better writer with deeper insights than she would have had, had she started earlier.

The novel has an intricate,e taut structure that seems to belie Heather Young’s status as a debutant novelist. The Lost Girls is set in rural Minnesota on a summerhouse on the shores of a lake that is a treasure trove of dark family secrets. The novel begins in 1935 with Emily and her sisters Lilith and Lucy visiting the lake house with their parents. The six-year-old Emily soon disappears with no trace, destroying her family and shattering the tranquility of the small town. After their father’s grief leads him to commit suicide, Lilith, Lucy and their mother keep vigil in the lake house for the rest of their lives waiting for Emily to return. Six decades later, the truth comes to light when Justine, the grandniece of Emily inherits the house and finds Lucy’s notes detailing the events of the disappearance of her sister. With her two daughters living in the house, Justine finds herself drawn into the decades-old mystery, in ways she could never have imagined.

Young’s The Lost Girls is a complex novel that displays Justine’s experiences and Lucy’s writing in alternating chapters. It is something of Russell Crowe’s movie, A Beautiful Mind, with its story informing story structure and chapters bouncing off each other in weird thumbtacks and little ribbon like plots. While Heather asserts that writing the novel was hard, she kept at it and produced her first 170, 000 draft in six years. The final copy was of course whittled down with entire characters and subplots cut out to conform to the normal length of a novel that is typically between 80, 000 to 120, 000 words. As a writer that loves reading works that have settings with a bit of character, and mysteries full of emotion and character, The Lost Girls is a type of novel that she would have loved to read. The novel that is full of dark secrets, uncovers the trove gradually, making the novel full of suspense and tension. Moreover, as a voracious reader of novel with complicated themes, the book would offer a lot of entertainment and intellectual stimulation. The unique experiences and emotions coupled with the coming to age stories in the book would strike a chord with anyone that loves conflicting obligations, loyalties, bonds, and complexities that inform family and sibling relationships.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Heather Young

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