Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Author Interview: Gwendolyn Heasley & Review: A Long Way from You

Q. Welcome to Fictionally Inclined! We'll go ahead and dive right into the questions. First of all, how (and how much) does A Long Way from You connect to Where I Belong?
WHERE I BELONG and A LONG WAY FROM YOU are companion novels. WHERE I BELONG is narrated by Corrinne Corcoran and takes place mostly in Texas. A LONG WAY FROM YOU is narrated by Kitsy Kidd (Corrinne’s Texan friend from WHERE I BELONG). A LONG WAY FROM YOU is primarily set in New York. And while Corrinne appears in the second novel, it’s truly Kitsy’s book.

Q. How do you name your characters?
Each character is different.

I have a good friend Corrinne (who goes by Corrie) and I love that name, so I put it in a book although the character is nothing like my friend.

While researching rodeos, I saw the name Kitsy on a list of rodeo queens. I fell in love with it. I’m almost sad I used it in a book because I would love to name a daughter Kitsy. But I can't imagine my character as anyone but Kitsy, so I'm glad that's my character's name.

For other characters, I just picked the names out of mind and for other ones I looked through baby name websites. All the names in my books are fairly unique and I think that’s because I have a unique name too!
Q. What is your writing process like?
I try to outline first and then I write a first sloppy draft. Then I have to do a LOT of work editing because the first draft was sloppy…but for me, I have to let the story tell itself first before I get micro on it
Q. What do you do when you're not writing?
I also teach college at Kean University and I’m earning a MFA through Vermont College of Fine Arts. And I’m a planning a wedding, so I keep pretty busy.
Q. Favorite childhood book?
The Baby-Sitters Club. Love those books. I could talk BSC for hours.
Q. Favorite recent reading discovery?
Sara Pennypacker’s middle grade novel, Summer of the Gyspy Moths. It’s a great story of self-discovery and friendship…and it’s set in Cape Cod. It’s a must read for summer. I don’t want to give a lot away, but I loved it.
Q. Do you have anything currently in the works?
I’m writing my third novel for HarperTeen. It won’t be related to the first two and I’m excited for a challenge.
Q. Is there anything you would like to share with your readers and fans?
Thank you for reading…. By the way, I love hearing from my readers. Please email me or visit my website and share your opinions, both the good and the bad. I learn a lot from my readers feedback, so I read every review that I find online. I think it's helpful to know what your readers did and did not like.
My Review

Title: A Long Way from You
Author: Gwendolyn Heasley
Published: June, 2012 (HarperTeen)
Disclosure: Received for review from Little Bird Publicity.
Summary: For too long, Kitsy has had to satisfy her dreams of becoming a real artist by giving her friends makeovers before prom. So when her best friend Corrinne's family offers to sponsor her for a summer art course in New York City, Kitsy bids a temporary good-bye to Texas to say hello to the West Village. Between navigating the subway and the New Yorkers—namely, the Art Boy who has a nice trick of getting under her skin—Kitsy knows that this summer is going to be about a lot more than figure drawing.

My Review: I was very excited to read A Long Way from You after reading Heasley's debut and this book's companion novel, Where I Belong. Kitsy was my favorite character in that book, so I could not wait to hear her story! A Long Way from You was a very good book that I definitely enjoyed reading.

One of the best things about A Long Way from You was the emphasis on family. Kitsy loved her little brother, Kiki, fiercely, and it showed. The relationship between the two was so very touching; I often smiled and was occasionally moved to the brink of tears. Kitsy's family dynamic was messed up because her father was out of the picture, and her mother had a drinking problem. Kitsy had practically been acting as Kiki's mother for years. However, over the course of the book, the dynamic shifted in some ways, and it was interesting to see this progression.

This story was about Kitsy and her coming-of-age, getting-to-know-herself journey. Kitsy, a teenager from small town Texas, had no idea how New York City worked. In finding her way through this new adventure, Kitsy truly got to know herself for what was perhaps the first time. I really loved watching her develop through her interactions with others and her journey through her art. Kitsy's view of and passion for art was thought-provoking and moving.

Again, there were two boys in the picture in A Long Way from You. One was Kitsy's long-time boyfriend, Hands, and the other was a musician from New York, Tad, whom Kitsy met early on in the story. They were both good guys, but there were also negatives to both of them, as well. For the longest time, I was not sure which of the two I wanted Kitsy to wind up with at the end! I won't give it away, obviously, but I was satisfied with how it ended. One thing I loved was that we got to see Corrinne again! I really loved her friendship with Kitsy in Where I Belong, so it was nice to see a continuation of that. I was not a huge fan of Corrinne's story in this book, but now I am just crossing my fingers for another Heasley novel that will give me even more!

Also, as an endnote, because at the end of the day, I'll admit to being totally shallow when it comes to covers: May I address the fact that the cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous? Again! If all of Heasley's books continue to have covers like this, I don't think I'll ever be able to resist one. So lovely.

He’s like inspiration in a can.
You can feel naked in a lot of different ways. With each line of my pencil, I feel as if I too am disrobing.
Who you are depends on where you are.
I realize why everybody falls in love with New York City as I approach Union Square. On one block alone, there’s a cupcake and two Mister Softee ice cream trucks.

Lunch Break Read
Purchase this book at: Amazon || Barnes & Noble || The Book Depository

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