The Short Bio:
HEATHER writes Upper Middle-Grade books about history, social justice, science, & magic. She is a mother of two and an education equity activist. As a biracial author, Heather is passionate about creating diversity in publishing. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Indigo and Ida, has been called “moving and inspiring,” received two starred reviews, made Booklist’s 2023 “Top 10 First Novels for Youth,” and is a finalist in the Jane Addams 2024 Children’s Book Awards. Her next book, THE RULE OF THREE (Lerner/Carolrhoda Books) publishes in August 2024.
The Long Bio:
HEATHER MURPHY CAPPS grew up in a small Minnesota town where the motto is: “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment.” She went to an all-women’s college, and after she graduated, she moved to Western Kenya to teach English in an all-boys high school. Heather always wanted to be a writer, but while she was in Kenya, she realized she also wanted to be a reporter, so she came back to the United States to study journalism. After 15 years of reporting on politics, the military, war, wild weather, and everything else in between, she finally decided to transition to her first writing dream: middle-grade fiction. She writes about friendship, family, fitting in, and finding yourself, often grounding her stories in history and social justice themes. She’s also endlessly fascinated by science and magic (… and the magic of science and the science in magic …) Heather is biracial and invested in creating diversity in publishing. In addition to her busy writing schedule, Heather teaches writing, English, and public speaking skills to professional adults, and she’s a community leader and activist fighting for public school education equity. Her critically acclaimed novel INDIGO AND IDA. (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner, 2023) received two starred reviews. Heather has a HUGE sweet tooth (chocolate, cookies, and pie, not necessarily in that order), drinks both coffee and tea, and lives in Virginia with her husband, two kids, and one cat.
Why do you set many of your books in Minnesota?
I did a lot of my growing up in Minnesota, and I love my home state. I still consider myself a Minnesotan even though now I live in Northern Virginia.
I heard you were born in Peru?
You heard that right. I’m not Peruvian by ethnicity or nationality—my parents happened to be living and working there when I was born. I went back a few years ago with my mother to visit—it’s such a beautiful country. I’d like to go back again.
Where else have you lived?
Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Oregon, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
That’s a lot of places. Where’s the longest place you’ve ever lived?
Virginia! Followed by Minnesota.
Have you always been a writer?
Yes! I wrote a lot of fiction when I was in elementary school, and I had a vague idea that it would be fun to write books when I grew up. After college, I got bitten by the news bug, which is an entirely different kind of writing. I started as a radio news reporter, then went back to school and got a master’s degree in journalism, which led to my first job in television. I was a television news journalist for 15 years before I decided to go back to my first dream job: writing fiction.
Why do you add magic to most (but not all) of your books?
I love magic.
I also love magical realism.
There’s a difference:
Magic is when people do supernatural things they’re not supposed to be able to do in the material world.
Magical realism is a literary technique traditionally used in stories featuring communities battling oppression. This realistic world has a slight touch of magic, but the people in that world don’t really think of the magic as being unusual. The magical element supports the people as they cope with or speak out against the oppression they’ve faced.
So, I use magic in my books that feature cool science as part of the plot because I think the scientists of the world and their amazing discoveries and innovations are slightly magic. Science has allowed us to do things we have never been able to do before, in medicine, technology, and space. I love writing about that intersection where the magic of scientific discovery turns into reality.
I use magical realism in my historical fiction because I am also writing about people from communities that have struggled for equity and inclusion and have battled endless oppression.
Magical realism illustrates the fight against the institutions that have historically oppressed.
Wow. That was a long answer. You sure you’re finished?
Nope. (SMILE) I could talk forever about those subjects. And I definitely hope to write more books about them… so I hope you’ll stay tuned!