Former Muscatine resident writes novel inspired by hometown

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–For most of her childhood, Jane Hensge grew up in Muscatine. The daughter of Arlene and Lester “Bud” Foster, Hensge spent many hours in her family’s grocery store, Foster’s Market on Lucas Street. “That’s where I got my confidence from,” she recalls. A graduate of Muscatine High School, Hensge moved away at 21, but still makes trips back from time to time.

Though Hensge never set out to write a novel, she discovered she enjoyed writing first through helping with the Aroran yearbook at Muscatine High School, and later through writing copy for real estate and new construction ads. When she found herself at a crossroads in her life, Hensge realized she wanted to write her first book. Inspired by the possibilities starting fresh gave her, she developed a protagonist, Jen, with similar experiences.

From there, her story, “Do Over in Pearl Center” grew. Set in a fictional city inspired by Muscatine called Pearl Center, Jen makes a new life for herself, reviving her parents’ long closed store, reconnecting with old friends, and vowing to live a healthier life. However, Jen soon finds something amiss in her hometown, as a series of accidents begin to plague her, her store, and her friends. Jen, assisted by some of her closest allies, attempts to track down the perpetrator of the mischief before the acts committed against her grow too serious and jeopardize the future of the store.

A positive first writing experience, Hensge loved developing her protagonist’s voice, something many of her early readers have complimented her on. “I let my heroine, my protagonist, Jen, sound like me, on steroids,” she said with a chuckle. “People liked the way she spoke.”

Though fully revising and editing her writing before presenting it to editors took time, Hensge persevered and completed her manuscript. After exploring different ways to get her novel into print, Hensge chose to self-publish and recently received the first copies of her book. Self-publishing also gave her a unique opportunity to collaborate with her grandson, a senior at the University of Michigan, as well. Though her grandson plans to pursue a science-focused career after graduation, he enjoys art as a hobby, and Hensge invited him to design the cover art for “Do Over in Pearl Center.”

With her books hot off the press, Hensge has started the process of making them available to any mystery fans who would like to give it a try. Hensge has started selling “Do Over in Pearl Center” online via Amazon. She has also started looking for locations in Door County Wisconsin, near where she lives now, and in Muscatine to sell her books.

As Hensge enjoys the excitement of publishing her first novel, she feels glad to share her work with Muscatine, a city that left a lasting positive impression on her. “It was a good place and it is a good place,” she said, thinking back both to her childhood and her recent trips back.

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