Author Spotlight: Heather Gale

Oct. 31, 2019

Today we are excited to feature author Heather Gale and her debut picture book, HO'ONANI HULA WARRIOR illustrated by Mika Song (October 2019, Tundra Books)

Be sure to enter to win a copy!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

I’m originally from NZ and the eldest of six kids so on long car rides we’d have a competition – who could spot the oddest thing. Then we’d take turns building the story as to how and why it got there. 
Then, as soon as I could ride my bike, I was at our library every Friday afternoon for a new basket of books. My all-time weekend favourite past-time was spending quiet time lost in another world. 
And, as the eldest, my job was reading books to my siblings.

Congrats on your debut picture book, HO'ONANI HULA WARRIOR. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

 I’m beyond excited about HO'ONANI HULA WARRIOR making her debut. 
Set in Hawai'i, Ho'onani doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) or kane (boy). Instead she sees herself in the middle. 
But not everyone feels the same, especially her older sister. 
When Ho'onani hears an old tradition, the male-only hula, will be performed by the older boys at her school, she knows she must try out. 

My inspiration came from watching the PBS documentary, A Place in the Middle. 
Both producers, Dean Hammer and Joe Wilson, had woven so much emotion into their story telling that I cheered and wept and cheered some right to the end of documentary. 

Over the next few days I couldn’t get Ho'onani’s story out of my mind. 
I re-watched the documentary at least a dozen times and read and re-read everything on their website. 

I’d often heard, a great story will find you, and it took me a little while to realize a possible picture book story was right in front of me, just waiting to be told. 
And much like Ho'onani, all I needed was a chance.

I reached out to Dean and Joe and got a quick reply back – they were interested in hearing my concept.
To say I was over the moon, is an understatement. 
Dean, Joe, and Kumu Hina, who is Ho'onani’s teacher, trusted me with their vision, guiding the story until it reflected the same powerful message as their documentary.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

My journey to becoming published began on a summer day at the cottage. I woke up and announced to my husband over breakfast, today I would write a picture book story and by that evening, I promised, he’d get to read it. 

I pounded and pecked at the keys and by the time the sun rose and sank from east to west, I had many false starts but nothing that looked like a story. 
This baffled me, after being an avid reader all my life. Why was it so easy to imagine and tell a story and yet giving those scenes written words was elusive and incredibly difficult?
So, I promised he’d have a story soon, I just needed to do a little research and maybe take a course or two.

Seven years later, after many, many courses and a couple of conferences along with oodles of research, I had that story.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m super excited about my next picture book project about a boy diagnosed with autism, the Special Olympics . . . and string. 

What are the one or two best things you did for your writing career, and is this advice you'd give to others?

The best thing I did for my writing career was reading and studying as many varieties of books as possible. I love researching, reading and writing non-fiction, especially about people who inspire us all, but I also read a lot of fiction and poetry. 
I think the variety exposes us to the wonder and magic of words and we see how, when pulled together in an unexpected order, they create a sentence you wish you’d written.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

Most people probably don’t know that I love to cook. One of my favorite cooking moments was when family showed up just as I had brought in the groceries. 
While unpacking the food I suggested they stay for dinner and if they choose the ingredients, I’d cook – no recipe needed. We had one of the most diverse, tastiest meals ever.
I enjoy cooking so much I started a food blog. The photography gives me a creative outlet and a chance to research and write something different.

Where can people find you online?

People can find me over at and if they’re a little hungry.
 And, if anyone would like to watch the PBS documentary, A Place in the Middle, I’d love to share that link as well. It’s well worth your time!

Heather Gale is a former orthotist and author originally from New Zealand who loves stories of all kinds, but especially those that feature real people like Ho'onani.
Heather has two sons and now lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs.
When not writing you can find her in the kitchen or out on bush walks with the dogs.

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  1. I enjoyed your behind the book story, especially the part when you sat down to write your book, and then realized it wasn't as easy as you thought. Your cooking skills sounds wonderful!

  2. This looks fabulous. My kids love all things Hawaiian!

  3. What an empowering sounding story - can't wait to see it!

  4. Fascinating how your picture book came to be, with the connections and your outreach. Congrats!

  5. I love the ideas behind this story. Thanks very much for the chance to win a copy.

  6. Congratulations, Heather! I love your book. Reading a lot, and in many genres, is the best preparation for writing, i agree. Reading and listening to poetry is so important to creating beautiful rhythms.

  7. I would love to have books with more diversity like this one.


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