I'll be giving away BOTH books to one lucky winner. I'll tell you a little about the books and then Gwen will answer a few questions.
Where I Belong is the story of snarky Manhattan teen Corrinne Corcoran, whose life is suddenly turned upside down when a financial reversal sends her to live in Broken Spoke, Texas with her grandparents. For me, this book was The Simple Life meets Friday Night Lights. I laughed out loud as Corrinne shoveled manure, learned to drive a truck, and slowly began to appreciate the charms of small town life.
One of my absolute favorite characters in Where I Belong was chatterbox cheerleader and closet art aficionado Kitsy Kidd. In Gwendolyn Heasley's brand new book, A Long Way From You, Kitsy gets her own story. She's accepted to a prestigious summer art program in New York City and, you guessed it, in this book, a simple country girl tackles life in the big city.
While these books do have crossover characters, you don't need to have read one to understand the other. They're great for YA readers from tween to adult -- perfect summer reads!
Jen: Welcome to my blog! I loved your books and I'm so happy that that you could drop by. Did you always plan to write a companion book for Where I Belong, or was Kitsy Kidd such a larger than life character that she demanded her story be told in A Long Way From You?
GH: When my agent sent in WHERE I BELONG to publishers, she also included a one-chapter sample I wrote. It was entitled MOCKINGBIRDETTE IN MANHATTAN. That chapter later became one of the middle chapters in A LONG WAY FROM YOU. For a while after WHERE I BELONG, I worked on another project before my editor and I agreed that Kitsy's story should be next. I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to write A LONG WAY FROM YOU because Kitsy's voice and story never left my head! By the way, I love the cheerleader chatterbox description of Kitsy! Very dead-on!
Jen: Kitsy does talk a lot in Where I Belong! But in A Long Way from You, she's in New York and out of her element. I think everyone can relate to feeling completely out of place. Were any of Corrinne's or Kitsy's experiences based on things that actually happened to you?
GH: Yes, I steal tidbits of my own life and rework them into my novels. When I went to grad school in rural Missouri, I felt a bit like Corrinne: a city girl in the country. But after grad school, I moved to NYC and felt like a country girl in the big city. So I definitely relate to both fish out of water stories. WHERE I BELONG was deeply influenced by my experiences in the recession, and A LONG WAY FROM YOU was definitely inspired by my first months in the Big Apple.Jen: While there is romance in these books, I was also happy to see that Corrinne and Kitsy are passionate about their dreams in life and aren't about to let the wrong guy get in the way. Was that a conscious choice you made when you were writing?
GH: Yes. I think having romantic relationships is an extremely important part of life, but you have your whole life to have romance. I think as a teen, you need to also learn who you are on your own. I especially wanted to encourage young women to make sure that romance doesn't get in the way of other dreams you have. I'm getting married in 2013, but I also spent many great years single! Single is not a four-letter word!Jen: Congratulations on your engagement! Speaking of relationships, I loved the fact that your books were full of colorful secondary characters. It's so hard for me to pick a favorite, but I might have to go with Rider, the emo musician. In your imagination, what happens to him after A Long Way From You?
GH: I like happy endings, so let's go with he has a one-hit wonder and then hosts an entertainment show like Access HollywoodJen: Ha ha -- I can see that. Your bio says that you are an avid Ann M. Martin fan. A lot of my blog readers are also Baby-sitter's Club fans. As a kid, which Baby-sitter's Club character did you most relate and why?
GH: I wanted desperately to be Stacey McGill. I pretended to like math because she did. I even pretended to like Porky Pig because she did. If I had the letter I in my name, I'm sure I would've made the dot into a heart like she did ... But in reality, I was much more Mary-Ann crossed with Mallory. I was (and somewhat still am) shy and bookish. But I do live in NYC now, so maybe I finally got to be a little more like Stacey! (Self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps?)Jen: Finally, tell us about your next project -- what are you working on now?
GH: I'm working on my third novel with HarperTeen. It's about the Internet and how that affects lives. That's all I'm going to say ... but it's in a similar vein to WHERE I BELONG and A LONG WAY FROM YOU. It's going to be funny and heartfelt... I hope so at least!Jen: Thanks so much for coming by! I really enjoyed these two books and look forward to book three.
You can read more about Where I Belong and A Long Way From You on Gwendolyn Heasley's website AND you can follow @GwenHeasley on Twitter!
I'm sending finished copies of both Where I Belong and A Long Way From You to one lucky reader. Open internationally! Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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