Please welcome my guest, M.H. Gerber, the author of NIGHT WALKS SOFTLY, the first in a series of novels set in the small town of Yellow River. She has been a French teacher in public and private schools for 30 years. She enjoys reading, writing, gardening, and sewing. She also enjoys cooking but sometimes has a tough time keeping it interesting!
FAST FIVE: Maureen, can you share with us a more detailed account of NIGHT WALKS SOFTLY and your research for the novel?
M.H. GERBER: Night Walks Softly is Anne’s story. We start in the middle of the action; Anne has already fallen in love, decided to leave Chicago and her job at the Art Institute, a job, not a career, to marry Dan Stedman. Dan’s dream is to go back to the town of his roots, to open a law practice, and to have a life that matters all while surrounded by family and community. He is steadfast and rooted, qualities that Anne finds appealing from the start. She has never felt “solid” in her setting; she is looking for meaning. Anne wants connections.
|Night Walks Softly |
by M.H. Gerber
Meanwhile, there is a shadow in the idyllic community. All is not as pristine as it seems. There are drugs in the high school. A teacher has died in a car accident, an accident that seems suspicious. Anne unwittingly becomes involved in an intrigue of crime, danger and murder, simply by doing what she does best—listening, caring, helping.
As the year progresses, not only does Anne become more and more embroiled in the sinister plot, but at the same time, she becomes more of a member of the community, meets friends who become close and creates a stunning and personal home. Seasons change; the plot thickens; she grows. She and her husband become more used to each other, less eager to fulfill preconceived “roles” in their relationship and more comfortable, more together. The story ends with, as one reviewer says, surprise twists and turns, but at the end, dynamic change has happened in Yellow River. Anne has found her way.
FAST FIVE: After your protagonist, Anne, moves to Yellow River, she becomes a high school French teacher. Is “the job” the most important part of her life?
M.H. GERBER: Teachers are creative people. My protagonist creates. Her job is not her main focus. She loves her work, she loves every aspect of teaching and many scenes come either from the classroom, the teachers’ lounge or her home where she is preparing. She loves the grammar and literature she teaches. She enjoys the students, quirks and all. She is passionate about what she does. She loves connecting with members of the school community, working together toward a common goal.
But Anne is first and foremost an artist. She imagines perfection and works to craft it. She wants to build the perfect life, the perfect marriage. At the beginning of the story, her need for perfection is in overdrive and her relationship is a fledgling, not yet able to fly on its own. She works on her house, on her friendships, on her personal creations; all are equally as important to her as her job. For Anne, a full life is the goal. Anne wants it all.
FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?
M.H. GERBER: My novel works on so many levels. There is a clear suspense element that you see from the first, a thrill, an edge, but there is so much more. We really learn about a place and about how the characters fit into that place. We are invested in Anne, her friends and Yellow River. My unique twist is the sense of community, a sense so profound that I have written two subsequent books with the same setting and many of the same characters. My characters are round ---many of them. They become as real as friends in a setting that is beautiful, believable, hopeful.
FAST FIVE: How does your main character's profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)
M.H. GERBER: That’s part of the twist. Who would ever think a French teacher would end up in the middle of a criminal investigation? I dare not say much more so as not to spoil, but a French teacher is the least likely profession for a sleuth like Anne. Anne is not drawn into suspenseful situations, she cares and in so doing just falls into them. Sometimes rather clumsily. I love that about her.
FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?
M.H. GERBER: This is the first of three novels so far. All three focus on the story of one woman.My second novel, Should Night Come, is the story of Sherry, a CPA who chooses to stay home with two small children. Her husband, the owner of a major company in Yellow River, disappears under suspicious circumstances. Sherry’s business and family are threatened. Will she prevail?
The third novel, Silent Night, has Deb, Anne’s good friend from book one, as the main character. Deb’s story is both suspenseful and romantic. Just as Deb gets her life back together, she learns that Gary is back and that her mammogram is “suspicious.”
I have plans to start another novel after a school trip to France in the spring. I would like part of it to be set in France and going, albeit with students, will give me the inspiration I need to start. Will there be more than four? I don’t know. It’s hard to say…. My characters tend to call the shots.
FAST FIVE: Not a Fast Five question, this is more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.
M.H. GERBER: We have a very small lake house in NE Indiana. That is my favorite place to write. The glimmer of the sunlight on the water, the way the oak leaves rustle in the light breeze, the smells of the water, of the sun, all give me an ideal space. We even have a swan couple that returns each year to raise a new brood. My husband putzes, the kids read, fish, “be,” and I write. Later, we go out on the boat, cook out, hike. It’s all about family and relaxation. You can hear the quiet. No internet, no doorbell, no “noise.” That’s my dream writing space. The climax of all three novels, coincidentally, happens in NE Indiana lake country!
Maureen, thank you so much for visiting today and sharing information about your Yellow River series, available at:
For more information about author M.H. Gerber and her books, please check these sites: