Madeleine VanHecke

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Dark stories to help women navigate the shadow side of life.

Madeleine Van Hecke writes dark novels that focus on what contemporary women fear (and often condemn) to help them better navigate the shadow side of life. A psychologist, former college professor, and author of two nonfiction books, Van Hecke has returned to her first love of fiction during her retirement years with her debut novel, Once You Know.

1. Um. Not to be rude, but aren’t you kind of old to be publishing a debut novel?
I am. And I can’t even blame procrastination. I was the kind of student who had term papers finished a week before they were due. But it takes courage to put yourself out into the world. I think it’s taken me all these years to be brave enough to do that.

2. So, why now? What made it possible?
One reason is that I found an absolutely wonderful developmental editor/writing coach, Alida Winternheimer who, quite simply, taught me how to write a novel. Like a symphony, a novel is incredibly complex. It has so many moving parts and blends different character voices. Though books on writing and week-long writers’ workshops have been helpful to me over the years, I needed something more intensive to even begin to master that intricate artistry. Alida’s astute guidance gave me that.

3. What made you want to write this particular book, Once You Know?
Women have confided in me. Often the hurt that caused them the most pain and was the most difficult to deal with was the hurt of being betrayed by someone they loved and trusted. What to do may appear obvious to those on the outside of that situation. But it feels much more entangled and problematic to the person within the relationship. That’s what I tried to capture in Once You Know in the hopes that this story might help women in similar circumstances make the best decisions possible for themselves.

About Me

On stage… I’m a nonfiction author (Blind Spots, Prometheus Press, 2007 and The Brain Advantage, Prometheus Press, 2011), a former college professor (North Central College, Naperville, IL) where I taught courses in psychology, creativity, and critical thinking, a lecturer (Common Ground, Deerfield, IL), and a game inventor (Wicked Words).

Behind the scenes… I’ve been a closet fiction writer, now able to use my retirement years to study the craft of novel writing intensively.

In my personal life, I’m a widow who still wears her wedding ring and her husband’s old flannel shirts on cold winter mornings. Greg Risberg, the love of my life who made me laugh nearly every day, died in 2014. My daughter Kalyn, son David, and granddaughter Claudia are my great joys in life.

“It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing…

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive…

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true…I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.”

From “The Invitation”
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

For the full text of this poem and to learn more about its author, visit

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