Q&A With Gwendolyn Heasley

I’m excited to welcome Gwendolyn Heasley back to the blog to celebrate her new book, A Long Way From You. Last time you visited my blog, you said you were sure being an author would hit you once you saw your books in bookstores and met readers at signings. So, has it hit you?

It doesn’t hit me on a day-to-day basis, but it does hit me when “fans” email me. I’ve been very fortunate to hear from quite a few readers, and I love it when they relate the book to their own lives. Since WHERE I BELONG is a recessionary novel, it’s especially moving when a reader says that the book has helped them adjust to a job loss, different lifestyle or a new town

How has your experience as an author compared with what you imagined?

Being a 21st century author means that you’re actively involved with your readers, especially through social media. As a reader growing up, I didn’t have access to my favorite authors. I think that’s the coolest part about being both a reader and a writer today. However, doing social media is almost like another job for an author. It’s a fun, exciting part of the job, but takes more time than I ever imagined. But I love how as an author I get to wear several hats. I’m a writer, a publicist, a movie producer—okay fine, a trailer producer!! It keeps everything fresh. I might get bored if I only wrote 24/7. (I also teach college in the fall, which I love and I think it helps my writing.)

When you set out to write Where I Belong, did you plan to write Kitsy’s story as a companion novel or did that decision come later?

When I sold WHERE I BELONG, I sent a sample for MOCKINGBIRDETTE IN MANHATTAN, which later became A LONG WAY FROM YOU. There was a period when I was working on another project, but then it became clear that Kitsy’s story should be my next novel! I loved, loved writing this most recent novel.

How did writing book two compare to writing book one? Did you feel a little older and wiser this time around, or do you feel like each book has its own learning curve?

I’m a bit nervous because I want Kitsy’s story to be as read as Corrinne’s. I think her story is equally (if not more) exciting and relevant to teens, so I’m really hoping that she reaches readers. That said, I definitely learned a lot about editing, publicity, etc. when WHERE I BELONG came out, so I feel more confident with that…but I still am obviously checking the Internet to see what people think! Some authors don’t care what readers think, but I do. And I think that information helps me become a better writer.

I gather from your blog that you are a Friday Night Lights fan. I’m a bit obsessed myself. Dish away: Who are your favorite characters? Were you happy with how things ended?

Confession: I haven’t watched the final season. I feel like once I do watch, it’s really over. I’m waiting for a really good rainy weekend, so I can’t comment on the ending. But I can comment on how hot Tim Riggins is, which is incredibly hot. And I think the story was very well written. It showed teens both at school and at home, which I thought was a great balance. No character on that show is flat in my opinion.

What lessons do you think writers can take away from FNL?

Making your characters gray (rather than black or white) was a smart decision on the FNL writers’ part. Many readers didn’t like Corrinne from WHERE I BELONG, especially at first, but I think that’s mostly because she broke the mold of the likeable main character. I don’t want my characters to be static just so readers “like” them. I think FNL had many characters (especially Tim and Lila) who did things that weren’t great, but that made them more real, not less. Although I sometimes didn’t agree with characters’ decisions on FNL, the characters always moved me, which I think is more important than liking a character.

What’s next for you? Do your characters from Where I Belong and A Long Way From You have more stories to tell, or will you be moving on to something different?

I’m going to be moving onto something different. I feel bittersweet about it, but think it’s time. My next novel is about the Internet, friends, and mothers and daughters. That’s all I’ll give away right now!

I’m a pretty big fan of the Internet, so it sounds like a winner already. I’m very much looking forward to falling in love with some new characters. Thank you so much for stopping by and I hope we’ll have the chance to reconnect again for book three!

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