Monday, February 07, 2011

RiYA: Interview with Gwendolyn Heasley

Today, I’ll be interviewing Gwendolyn Heasley, the debut author of Where I Belong – a sweet and charming contemporary novel from Harper Teen.

What or who inspired you to write Where I Belong?

The recession was my greatest inspiration to write WHERE I BELONG. When I wrote it, the recession was the topic. There were recession specials at restaurants, 90% of news stories seemed be recession centric, and everywhere you went you heard the r-word.  It truly made me reflect on money and how money affects lifestyles and attitudes.

Also, once I found Corrinne’s (the main character) voice, she inspired me to write. 

If the recession didn’t happen, do you think you would still have been able to write your debut?

Yes, but I think it would have taken several years and maybe it wouldn’t have been a YA book. I have always wanted to be a writer, so I think it would’ve happened somehow somewhere.  I am very blessed to be published and have worked with such amazing people on the novel.

What lessons will readers pick up from your novel?

I hope that people will learn that life is a work in progress. We’re all capable of changing and adapting. I think it’s what makes humans interesting.

I noticed that your plot was called somewhat cliché. What does Where I Belong have that makes this somewhat cliché plot stand out?

My story is a fish-out-of-water story, which is the cornerstone of YA literature.  People also say there are only really two stories. 1) a family takes a vacation 2) a stranger comes to town. WHERE I BELONG is definitely the second type of story.  It doesn’t bother me that people say that the plot is a cliché because it is a familiar plot. I want WHERE I BELONG to stand out for its characters, its humors, its voice, and its themes.

What part did you enjoy writing the most: beginning, middle or end?

That’s a hard question! I liked writing the end the least because I had to let go of my characters. I would say that I liked the middle the best because that’s when Broken Spoke (the town) and the characters come alive!

If you were to twist something in Where I Belong now and change it, what would it be?

Writing (and all other art forms) are difficult because you never feel finished. There’s always a sentence that could have been better or a joke that could have been funnier.  To be honest though, I wouldn’t change anything! I worked hard on the novel, my editor worked hard on the novel, and I feel comfortable with how it ended up!

What kind of romance did you put in Where I Belong?

WHERE I BELONG has romance for sure, but it isn’t strictly a romance novel. I think the romance is innocent, and it’s more about how you learn a lot about yourself by the company you keep. Corrinne grows a lot throughout the novel, and her romantic choices and decisions reflect that!

What do you think are the elements of romance in YA that will make it successful?

Corrinne develops a serious crush on a singer named Rider, and this crush at times clouds her judgment. I think that teens (and adults) will relate to how crushes can be super intense.

Being an adult changes your perspective on romance and love. How do you manage to write romance for teens? What do you do?

I don’t think romance for teens is really any different than romance for adults. Each relationship is very unique, so it’s hard to compare any two relationships whether they are between adults or teens. Adults can be at a disadvantage though because the older you get, the more guarded you can become.  When I write romance for teens, I want to make sure that I am authentic to how wonderful and overwhelming romance can be. But I also want to be clear that romance is only part of anyone’s life and how important it is to remember that.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day! So I’ll ask a Valentine question: what is love, for you?

I have a wonderful boyfriend who has taught me a lot about love.  I also had a friend tell me that love should be easy, and I never completely believed her.  I do believe her now, and I think that’s important to remember. Love for me is someone who makes life seem easier and brighter.

What is it with mac ‘n cheese that you like? J

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s often associated with childhood, which makes it both nostalgic and delicious. Also, I have yet to really learn to cook and mac n cheese is one of the few foods that I am very good at making.

Any last words?

Thanks so much for having me on your blog! I hope that everyone has a great Valentine’s day. Whether you have a valentine or not isn’t important.  If there’s no special boy or girl in your life, make a valentine for a best friend or a mother! Valentine’s day celebrates all types of love.
Thanks for dropping by, Gwen!

Are you looking for a contemporary read or a debut novel? If that’s the case, Where I Belong is perfect for you! My review will be posted later, so watch out for that.
You can buy the book at Amazon!


  1. I don't think that there's anything wrong with a normal, cliche sort of plot. In my experience, life is fairly cliche. So I like to read a cliche story once in a while. And, I've pre-ordered this book!

  2. I agree with Mrs. DeRaps - there's nothing wrong with a cliche plot. It's the way the story is told and the characters broguht to life that make it unique and special. Which it sounds like Where I Belong is! Glad I read this interview and became aware of this novel, I'm definitely interested in reading now!