Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Deborah Heal  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Christian Fantasy Historical Fiction (Regional Illinois) Young Adult Fiction

Audience: Adult; Young Adult;

Born: 1954 in Eldorado, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

I was born in Eldorado, Illinois but grew up in Woodburn and Bunker Hill. I attended the University of Illinois, and received a Bachelor of Arts in English at Southern Illinois University. I currently live in Waterloo, Illinois. My books highlight southern Illinois history.

Biographical and Professional Information

I was born in Eldorado, Illinois (Be sure to pronounce that with a long A.) but grew up in Woodburn, a tiny village in Macoupin County. We lived in a house over 100 years old and I often wondered about the people who had lived there so long before. One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I wished there really were a “Way Back Machine” so I could go back to the olden days to see what it was like. My husband Bob and I farmed and raised a family there in Macoupin County on his Centennial Farm just up the road from Woodburn.I earned an English degree from Southern Illinois University and then taught high school English, including creative writing, composition, grammar, and literature. My husband and I left the farm and came to Waterloo in 2001, both taking teaching jobs in the area. We missed the farm, but loved our new hometown and loved teaching here. Eventually, I left teaching to devote more time to writing. I have secretly wanted to be an author for a long time. When I was four, I remember scribbling furiously on my paper, and then asking my mom if it was writing yet. “No, not yet,” she answered. I went busily back to scribbling, hopeful that the next time I showed her, the lead on the paper would have been transmuted into fine words.When I was in 8th grade my teacher wrote these encouraging words on one of my stories:Be sure to give me a signed copy of your first book!It's been a long time since 8th grade, but those words stuck with me, and that dream at last came true. Unfortunately, Mrs. Fite is no longer with us, so I couldn’t bring her a signed copy. But I did dedicate my first book Time and Again: Charlotte of Miles Station to her. The story is set in Miles Station, a town that once existed just down the road from our farm in Macoupin County. I had never found a “Way Back Machine,” but happily my characters did. (Ah, the beauty of fiction!) Abby and Merrideth get to see what the town was like in its heyday in the 1850s and they meet Charlotte, the girl who lived in their old house. Time and Again: Charlotte of Miles Station was released by Tate Publishing in January 2012. The next book in the series will be out in late summer 2012. In Unclaimed Legacy the intrepid explorers must solve a 150-year-old murder mystery, this time in Shake Rag Corner, another historic southern Illinois site.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Time and Again: Book 1 in the History Mystery Series
ISBN: 1482627213

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2013

Time and Again (book 1)

An old house + A new computer program =The travel opportunity of a lifetime another century.

The People

Abby Thomas is spending the summer in a run-down old house
with a bratty pre-teen named Merrideth she is supposed to tutor. Not a dream
job. But it does come with perks.

There's John Roberts, a devastatingly attractive neighbor
who is almost too wonderful to be real.

And there's the new computer program Beautiful Houses--also too amazing to be real. No one knows how it
works, but with it she can rewind and fast-forward the lives of all the people
who ever lived in the house, including Charlotte Miles.

In 1858, the house is a train stop on the Alton &
Chicago Line. And Charlotte is stuck there serving meals to the passengers,
wondering if she'll ever get to have any fun. And then she meets two travelers
who change her life forever.

There's James McGuire with whom she falls in love. And
there's his boss, a young Springfield lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. His debate
with political opponent Stephen Douglas catapults him onto the national stage.
And it inspires Charlotte to take up the cause of abolition.

The House

A stop on the Alton & Chicago Line. A stop on the
Underground Railroad.

Watching the house's history unfold, Abby and Merrideth gain
a new perspective on their own lives as time and again they see God's loving
hand in the lives of its inhabitants.

Keywords: slavery, underground railroad, Abraham Lincoln, time travel

Unclaimed Legacy: Book 2 in the History Mystery Series
ISBN: 1478311495

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2012

Unclaimed Legacy (book 2)

An old house + A new computer program = The travel opportunity of a another century.

The People

Abby Thomas' 11-year-old student Merri is finally warming up to her. Her friendship with John Roberts is also heating up. He's definitely marriage material. Except for the fact that when she tells him about Beautiful Houses he thinks she's crazy.

Because a computer program that allows you to rewind and fast forward the lives of people from long ago is surely pure fantasy. Then John sees for himself that it's not.

Together they use Beautiful Houses to help the "Old Dears" next door with their family tree. Rummaging around in their history, they discover that the 85-year-old twins have been keeping a secret from each other since 1941. And the ladies' ancestors have a few secrets of their own.

Convicted in 1871 of murder and arson, Reuben Buchanan is a blight on the family name. But was he really guilty? Abby and John must get inside the mind of a murderer to find out.

But there are also heroes in the family tree--like Reuben's ancestor Nathan Buchanan. That doesn't mean he didn't have a few secrets, too. And Abby and John find one that's lain undiscovered for over 200 years.

The House

It began life as Nathan's log cabin built outside the walls of Lewis and Clark's 1803 Camp River Dubois. It was added onto through the years, and at one time it was a stage coach inn called Shake Rag Corner. Today it is a condemned derelict. While watching its history unfold, Abby and John discover a legacy waiting to be reclaimed and that God's promise to bless a thousand generations is really true.

KEYWORDS: time travel, coming of age, lewis and clark expedition, mystery, young adult fiction

Every Hill and Mountain: Book 3 in the History Mystery Series
ISBN: 1482609169

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2013

Every Hill and Mountain (book 3)

An old house + A new computer program = The travel opportunity of a another century.

The People

Since Beautiful Houses worked so well for the Old Dears' family tree project, Abby's college roommate Kate hopes the computer program will help her find out more about her ancestor Ned Greenfield.

Abby and John reluctantly agree to help Kate, but only on the condition that she and her fianc Ryan promise to keep the program a secret, because if the government ever discovered they possessed a computer program that allows you to rewind and fast forward the lives of people it would surely want to get its hands on it.

The two couples take a trip to the tiny town of Equality, set in the hills of southern Illinois and the breath-taking Shawnee National Forest. According to Kate's research, Ned Greenfield was born there at a place called Hickory Hill.

The mayor, police chief, and townspeople are hospitable and helpful--until the topic of Hickory Hill comes up. Then they are determined to keep them away. Eventually they find Hickory Hill on their own--both the mansion and the lonely hill it sits upon.

The House

Hickory Hill--an old house with plenty to say about its past. Built in 1834, Hickory Hill stands sentinel over Half Moon Salt Mine where the original owner John Granger accumulated his blood-tainted fortune with the use of slave labor. In the free state of Illinois--the Land of Lincoln.

Abby and her friends meet Miss Granger, Hickory Hill's current eccentric owner, and they eventually get the chance to run Beautiful Houses there. Their shocking discovery on the third floor concerning Kate's ancestor Ned Greenfield is almost too much to bear. What they learn sends them racing to the opposite end of the state to find the missing link in Kate's family tree. And there they are reminded that God is in the business of redemption--that one day he'll make all things new.

KEY WORDS: time travel, coming of age, underground railroad, slavery, civil war, mystery, young adult fiction

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