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Valrico Author Publishes 1st Book, Speaks at Bloomingdale Library

Kat Heckenbach will discuss why she began writing and her journey to become a published author Saturday, Feb. 4, at 3:30 p.m. at the Bloomingdale Regional Library.

It wasn't that she was unsatisfied.

Kat Heckenbach loved her life as a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling her two young children.

But something was missing, she said.

"I just felt like there was something else I should be doing," said Heckenbach. "I told my husband and he said, 'Well, haven't you always wanted to write a book?' It kind of hit me like a train and the thought wouldn't go away."

So, Heckenbach sat down at her computer and started writing one day in 2007.

"I told myself, if it is good, I'll keep going and see where it leads me," she recalled. "I ended up with the first chapter of my book, 'Finding Angel'."

Testing the waters, she read that initial chapter to her best friend. "She said she got goose bumps as I was reading to her," said Heckenbach.

But the first draft of her book sat gathering dust. Heckenbach didn't have a clue about how to get a book published.

So, she began attending writers' seminars and meetings of the Brandon Christian Writers, which meets monthly at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church.

"I didn't know what I was doing in the beginning," she conceded. "So I began to educate myself."

On the advice of fellow authors, she also began writing short stories and submitting them to print and online magazines, getting many of them published.

"They told me if you can get short stories published, it helps build your credentials," she said. "I ended up getting hooked on writing short stories, both fiction and nonfiction."

Still, she had her heart set on getting "Finding Angel" published.

"I went into the publishing process completely naive," she said. "It can be very discouraging when you keep getting rejection letters. But I was lucky enough to find an independent publisher who was a match for me."

"Finding Angel" was picked up by the small New Zealand publisher, Splashdown Books, a publisher Heckenbach previously did work for as an illustrator.

Heckenbach was ecstatic. A one-time art major at the University of Tampa, Heckenbach not only wrote the fantasy for middle-grade students but designed and illustrated the cover.

"Finding Angel" is now available online at Amazon.com, Barnesanoble.com and Booksamillion.com.

It's the story of a 13-year-old girl named Angel who was found roaming down a country road at the age of 6 and is taken in by a foster family.

"But she feels she belongs some place else," said Heckenbach. "One day at the library, she meets a man named Gregor and feels she knows him."

From Gregor, Angel discovers she was born on a magical island off the coast of Ireland and knew Gregor as a child. Gregor has the magical ability to create gateways in trees. As a young child, Angel was in danger and Gregor sent her through one of his gateways. But the man who was threatening her burned down the trees that made up the gateway, and Angel was lost. She learned that Gregor had been trying to locate her for seven years.

She returns with Gregor to her homeland where, once again, she faces danger from this mysterious antagonist.

"It's the kind of book I read when I was that age," said Heckenbach. "I loved fantasies, like 'Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle and 'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster."

She grew up on a wooded lot in Riverview and said she would fantasize that the woods behind her house was an enchanted forest.

It seemed only natural that she would gravitate toward the fantasy themes that attracted her as a child.

"The book is really for the middle grades, age 12 up to young adults. It's really targeted to the Harry Potter age group, but I've had kids as young as 10 read it," she said.

In addition to publishing "Finding Angel," Heckenback has had two stories published in "Chicken Soup for the Soul." And most recently, she had two stories published in "Women of the Secret Place," a compilation of inspirational stories written by local women authors.

If You Go

Residents can hear Heckenbach discuss her journey to become a published author when she speaks at the on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 3:30 p.m.

For more information, visit the author's website.

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