Heidi Durrow’s debut novel, The Girl who Fell from the Sky, became an incredible success on its release in early 2010.
Heidi, who will be at Books & Books on Tuesday, 15 February from 7pm, tells Weekender that the coming-of-age tale of a half-Danish, half-African American girl has been inevitably called autobiographical.
“It’s actually difficult to write anything that’s not autobiographical — the impulse to write, at least for me, comes out of my desire to understand the world we live in. People often think that Rachel, my main character, is me — her story is my story.
“There’s some truth to that in that her central struggles for identity were struggles I experienced too. But at the same time the other characters are also stand-ins for me: Brick, Laronne, the mother. They are all a piece of me — and they all have my heart.”
The manuscript took six years to write and was then rejected by dozens of publishers over the next four years, many passing because – get this – they didn’t believe readers would be able to relate to the mixed-race protagonist.
“What’s been so exciting is to see that readers connect with the main character in so many different ways — readers of all different backgrounds are finding themselves in Rachel, whether it’s her struggle to confront her grief and loss, to forge a place in a new community, or just being labelled young and trying to figure out whether she is going to claim the label as she comes into her own as a young adult.”
Writing, says Heidi, is the easiest thing in the world – anyone can do it and it is important that they do.
“Writing gives you an opportunity to stop and reflect. Publishing your writing is difficult!” she laughs.
The multilingual author speaks English and Danish and also studied French and Spanish for years.
“I think my favourite language is the one that allows me to express my soul’s intent,” she muses.
While on Cayman, Heidi is looking forward to “lots of sun” – when Weekender interviewed her, she was in Minneapolis, where the thermometer was hovering just above zero.
“I am looking forward to meeting the kids. I think that’s so important. I remember when I met ‘real’ writers and how it inspired me. I hope that if there is a budding writer in the group, he or she will find something useful in my appearance there.”
Join Heidi Durrow on Tuesday, 15 February at 7pm for the paperback release of her award-winning debut novel, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. This event is free and open to the public and will include a discussion and book signing.