Jennifer Rudy, a fifth-grade teacher at Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, holds her debut novel “Truly Madly Deeply” at Martin’s Point Park in Sabattus. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Fifth-grade Oak Hill Middle School teacher Jennifer Rudy is a proud Sabattus resident and local history buff riding high from the June publication of her debut novel “Truly Madly Deeply.”

The 740-page story is a seasonal, 1990s sit-com riff on the ins and outs of high school life written during Rudy’s husband Adam’s leukemia diagnosis and treatment. Some of the proceeds of her sales are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

As Rudy basks in the glow of her first mainstream success as a writer, life nowadays still includes lesson planning and setting up her classroom for the quickly approaching school year.

Who are you, where are you from and what do you do for a living? Where I’m from has a lot to do with who I am. I’m the third generation in my family to live in Sabattus, Maine, which means so much to me. I often compare it to Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and try to live my life here in the light of George Bailey. I’m an active member of the Sabattus American Legion Auxiliary. I’m a fifth-grade teacher here at Oak Hill Middle School. I live right on Main Street and enjoy giving out full-size candy bars to my students who come trick-or-treating. I’m a member of the Sabattus Historical Society, and a particular favorite thing of mine is being around people of various eras who can tell stories of experiences and life that I’ve never seen but can hopefully continue telling long after they’re gone. I teach a local history unit to my students for this reason as well. This town and its past are a part of me and who I am. For a living, I teach, but all these things make up my real day-to-day life.

Going back to peak high school days, what did you think you’d be doing as a 30-something? This makes me chuckle reminding me how, in high school, I had the dream of being an author and would often tell my best friend I’d be a famous author someday and she’d get 10% of my book (a manuscript that she had contributed the initial idea to). It was an ongoing joke. I was quite a dreamer. There was even a house in town that when we passed it, I’d tell my parents I’d buy it when I became a famous author! I didn’t have any idea or plan when publishing would come to fruition. I think the most solid thing I saw myself doing at 30-something was teaching. That had been a goal of mine since I was probably 5. I don’t think I recall a time when I didn’t want to be a teacher.

What drew you to education? What’s your favorite part about being a teacher? As a child I think I enjoyed the idea of sharing knowledge, teaching someone about something I know. Later, I think the drive came more from wanting to be a positive light in a child’s world— to help nurture and guide children to being the best versions of themselves and to educate and prepare them for great futures. My favorite thing? Definitely the kids. They are such a precious thing and getting to see their “ah-ha” moments when things click, or laughing together in class, or learning that you made a difference in their life is what makes it the best job. I especially love when they come back and visit as high school kids to tell you how life is going because it matters to them to share with you.


When was it clear to you that you had a novel in you? Was it an epiphany or was it something that kept growing? High school. I finished a manuscript then (not “Truly Madly Deeply”) but I knew it needed more. I knew I needed more. I went through college and continued to play with it. When the idea for “Truly Madly Deeply” came to me about three years ago, for whatever reason, I knew that was going to be my first novel. That felt more like an epiphany moment, but overall, I think I always felt I’d write a novel.

What’s “Truly Madly Deeply” about and what does it mean to you? “Truly Madly Deeply” is about the shared high school experience, the ride of adolescence we can all relate to. It’s a coming-of-age story about love in all forms — romantic love, friendship love, family love, finding love of oneself, love of music or passions in general. The story covers all four years of high school like four seasons of a sitcom, a 1990s sitcom. It follows the main character, Claire Hanover and her best friend, Sam, as they take on school, bullies, crushes, heartbreak, their own friendship hurdles, changes of time and what that means for teens in high school. It brings light to topics that teens often encounter like alcohol, drugs, and intimacy, but through the lens of a strong and positive role model moving through them. The main love interest is Adam Miller and readers follow the ups and downs of Claire and Adam’s friendship and the intricacies that go into young love. It’s a loveable cast of characters that, though the book is quite big, you won’t want to say bye to in the end. You’ll be glad you had all four seasons!

To me, “Truly Madly Deeply” means so much. It’s multi-layered to be honest. It is of course a big accomplishment and dream fulfillment to say I’m a published author. So, though I struggle with any type of compliment or pat on the back, I am very proud of it. It represents a milestone for me and a motivation to keep writing.

Where were you in life when your story took shape and the writing took over? I started really writing the book during COVID while my husband and I were fighting his leukemia diagnosis. The entirety of this writing journey from idea to publication took place during his chemo, transplant, post-transplant, and the continued health battles since then. It was an escape for me, survival to be honest. And now, he has turned a decent leaf with his health (we still have many moments, but it is better), and the book is out and the timing feels symbolic. Though I would never wish cancer on anyone and if I could take back all that my husband went through, I would, life doesn’t work that way and we both agree that at the very least, this book came out of it. We made a positive of a pretty dark situation. The Adam of the book is very much an ode to my Adam, and I poured a lot of myself into the character of Claire. While facing a time where we weren’t really sure how much time we’d have together, it was quite nice to be able to bring to life a time of youth, fun, frivolity, and to write about an era that wasn’t plagued with so much heaviness.

How do you balance work, life, and writing? My gut response is to say “I don’t!” There are a lot of late nights and early mornings. I’m not sure if it’s from all the pre-bedtime writing I did in Boston during my husband’s transplant stay, but I write the most at night. I get a lot of peace from the night. I honestly don’t think I had any balance these past three years with my husband’s health. Every day, sometimes every minute, was truly up in the air. To say it has been tough is an understatement for us both, of course! Caregiving is its own entity that is matched by nothing else I have ever been through or done and probably will ever do. It is a full-time job. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Adam and I got through it and continue to. Moving forward, my balance is really teaching and life with my husband, and I utilize the evenings or school breaks for my writing. I try to get in at least 20 minutes a day though.

What are some of your favorite things when not writing, teaching or being a supportive partner? I love reading. I also have an adventure book that I fill out every January 1st. It contains attainable things to do within the year like fly a kite, swim at five beaches, visit three libraries, make a map of a fake world, road trip using only the Maine Gazetteer, etc. Some items are crafty, some are places to visit, and some are themed party-type things to host. Checking off and documenting items from my adventure book is a favorite pastime for me. My next one is to go blueberry picking. I’ve never been!


What is the most important part of your day? The most satisfying? The most important part of my day is my morning coffee. I don’t think I’d function without it. On slow mornings (non-school mornings), it’s also my favorite time. There is something calming about drinking a cup of coffee with my husband. On nice days we go outside and watch our six ducks run around. During school, I make my coffee in my classroom and prepare for the day. I think it’s the idea of a morning routine. I think that is the most important. Set yourself up for success. But it definitely needs coffee! The most satisfying is definitely the evenings. I’m a night owl. It usually involves coffee as well (decaf) and a sweet snack and writing. It calms my brain and is relaxing.

Who are your biggest influences in life? I’m fortunate and blessed to say I have quite a few influential people in my life to make this a tough question. My parents instilled such a drive for compassion, community and perseverance, and never ever made me feel that my dreams were unattainable. It didn’t matter if I told them I was going to be a famous author one day and be able to buy the big old yellow house on Main Street. They not only would nod along, but they always spoke as if I’d become an author. If I said what I was going to do, they owned it too, for me.

My brothers, sisters-in-law and grandmothers were all major influences on me throughout my life and taught me a lot of life lessons. Age gap created an interesting dynamic in my life since, though I’m only 31, my parents are part of the boomer era, my brothers are Gen Xers, and I grew up with grandmothers who were born in 1918 and 1928. In just three generations, we span quite a few years, which I think created a unique influence on me. I also put a big claim on Mr. Feeny of “Boy Meets World” for a major influence. Just saying. And, of course, my husband, Adam, is the bravest, most courageous, strongest, and loving person I know. I’m in awe of him every day.

What kind of legacy do you want to build? As much as I want to leave behind a slew of books that make a mark on the world and are forever remembered, I think I really want to leave behind a legacy of kindness and compassion. I want to be a beloved teacher and the kind of person that perhaps was never in the spotlight, but at the end of their life, is remembered by many for their big heart, kindness, laughter, spirit and compassion.

Do you have more stories to tell? What comes next? I counted and I currently have 21 folders set up on my computer for different story ideas that I’ve had and want to eventually write! I will say that I am currently working on rereading and probably rewriting the manuscript I wrote in high school that I mentioned previously. It’s a young adult thriller suspense novel! And I really want to be on the show “207!”

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