Gwendolyn Heasley is a graduate of Davidson College and earned master’s degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Gwendolyn lives in Naples, Florida, the setting of Don’t Call Me Baby, but still misses New York City. She is also the author of two other novels for teens, Where I Belong and A Long Way from You, and a digital original novella, The Art of Goodbye. Visit her here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, ‘Don’t Call Me Baby.’ How did you get the idea for it? How long did it take to finish the book? What is it about?
Don’t Call me Baby is about the daughter of a mommy blogger and her fight for independence.
I got the idea because I read so many articles about mommy bloggers but none about their children. I wanted to give voice to the child of a mommy blogger. What would it be like to grow up with parents who share your life on the internet—and earn money off it?
It took me about a year to write and edit the novel.
NAW- Imogene’s life is chronicled by her mother. How did you develop the character? Are you close to your mother? I feel daughters tend to have more of an emotional bond with their fathers rather than their mothers, right?
I’m very close with both my parents. But I do still understand that parent-child relationships can be tense.
Imogene, the main character, wants to be close to her mother but she feels her mother only cares about her because of the blog. Like many teenagers, Imogene wants her mom to see her for who she is, not who her mother wants (or portrays) her to be.
I believe the mother character is a very real character because she tries hard but is deeply flawed. I based her on many real mothers who I know but I also did a lot of research on mommy bloggers as well.
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
Where I Belong, my first novel, is a riches to rags story set during the recession. A Long Way From You, the companion novel to Where I Belong, is about chasing a dream in New York City.
The Art of Goodbye is a digital sequel to Where I Belong and it’s about saying goodbye to high school.
NAW- Do you carry out any research for developing your characters and your stories? How do you go about it?
I studied Journalism in graduate schoool and I research like a journalist. If I’m writing about a character who horseback rides, I try to learn everything I can about it. I do this through reading, interviewing, watching YouTube etc.
I think the more you can put yourself in your character’s shoes, the more believable a character becomes.
NAW- Which authors have influenced you?
Ann M. Martin of Baby-Sitter Club fame is my first and foremost influence. Like her, I want to write characters that readers remember 20 years later.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I love the water…..and everything that you can do with it from swimming to paddle boarding to fishing to boating to sunbathing. It’s a good thing I live near the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida.
NAW- Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing while eating)?
If that’s strange, I definitely have a lot of strange habits. I have a baby now, so I do basically everything while writing or thinking about writing.
And oh, I definitely talk to myself.
NAW- How important are names of characters in your books? How do you name the characters?
Very, very important. I have a original name and I love unique names. I use a lot of baby name websites to name my characters but I also keep my ears open while I absorb the world.
NAW- Did you face any struggles early on? How did your first book get published?
Yes. I couldn’t get a job in journalism, which was the field I had hoped to practice.
I wrote my first book Where I Belong because I was cooped up in my parents’ house at 26 and I need a creative outlet. Where I Belong centers around the recession and I was lucky enough to get it published because it was timely.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
I’m working on a project that’s Miley Cyrus meets the rom-com classic Sweet Home Alabama.
I also have a YA historical and New Adult romance spinning around in my head.