I’m so pleased to welcome Gwendolyn Heasley to Rather Be Reading. If you remember, last week I reviewed Gwen’s June release, A LONG WAY FROM YOU about a vibrant Texan who travels to New York to attend an art program for a month. A LONG WAY FROM YOU is a companion novel to her debut, WHERE I BELONG, which presents the opposite situation — a New Yorker trying to make it in small town Texas. Currently at work on her third novel, Gwen lives in New York, teaches in New Jersey, and also loves the Baby-Sitter’s Club — my kind of gal! Much thanks to Gwen for taking time to answer a few of my questions. – Estelle
One of my favorite parts of A LONG WAY FROM YOU was all the New York City love! Were you able to incorporate some of your own favorite landmarks into Kitsy’s touring of the city?
Yes! Like Kitsy in A LONG WAY FROM YOU, I also live in the West Village, so some of my favorite spots made the book. I can (almost) see the garden she visits at the end from my apartment, and she also goes to a few of my favorite music venues. I loved seeing (my) city through her eyes.
A majority of Kitsy’s story once she lands in New York is pretty happy-go-lucky. But she is still dealing with big responsibilities and pressures from home. How were you able to balance that in the book?
I think Kitsy is thrilled to be pursuing her dream, which is the reason for her happy-go-lucky attitude. But the longer she stays in New York, she realizes that there’s a difference between exploring and running away. Ultimately, her trip to New York becomes about more than just learning art. She really grows up over the course of the book.
I tried to balance the two by letting her enjoy New York but also showing that she has a lot on her plate back home. I tried to include “home” in at least every chapter. Every day, I think we’re all affected by our past and I tried to stay true to that.
Most important question of all-time: ice cream or cupcakes? (I’m more of a cupcake gal myself.)
I love a good cupcake, but I think there are too many cupcake places. Like some streets in NYC have two cupcake places. I love Mister Softee Ice cream (and Sonic, Kitsy’s employer) but I also think there should be more cookie places. Why do cookies get the shaft?
You did a great job introducing cute (yet mysterious) Tad and expressing Kitsy’s own thoughts about her relationship back at home. Without giving too much away, did you know how this was going to end? Or were you surprised at the turn the book took?
The ending totally surprised me. That’s all I say without giving anything away.
I couldn’t help but laugh when Kitsy got on PATH way to New Jersey. When I first moved to NYC, I got lost taking a train into Brooklyn instead of Manhattan. I could relate. What’s the biggest blunder you made when visiting a new place?
I have taken the PATH to New Jersey by accident…..twice!!! So that story was ripped from my own life.
As for other blunders…. When I was little, my dad left my entire families passports on the train and I ran back and saved the day. (Still my proudest moment.)
Do you think you’ll revisit Kitsy and Corrine at some point? I would love to find out where they end up.
At this point, I don’t have any plans to revisit them….but if the books get SUPER SUPER popular, I promise I’ll write a Kitsy and Corrinne: The College Years book.
What inspired you the most while writing A LONG WAY FROM YOU? Did you listen to any particular music?
My fiancé is a fan of new, alternative music, so we listen to a lot of random Sirius stations and go to shows… That music inspired Tad and his band Hipster Hat Trick. I personally love country and listening to life about small towns. That’s the Kitsy in me!
What book are you looking forward to reading most this summer?
I love beach books. Any book that’s about someone on a summer vacation I want to read…preferably on a beach! I just read Oprah’s book club book Wild, which I enjoyed but YA is still my favorite!