Today I'm stepping away from the reigns at Read My Mind to let Gwen Heasley, author of WHERE I BELONG, a chance to talk about her inspiration for this sweet contemporary YA, where the recession takes a toll on a New York socialite. Heasley is a debut author for 2011 with HarperTeen, who lives in New York herself.
Find her at her website, and on Twitter.
In a nutshell, the inspiration for WHERE I BELONG came from my own unemployment! I finished my Master’s degree in Journalism basically on the eve of the recession and it seemed like overnight, jobs dried up. I ended up taking an unpaid internship because I needed to do something, but it didn’t fulfill me creatively (or financially). Months passed and I was still living in a two-bedroom apartment with my mom and dad as roommates. I spent my days interning, scouring for jobs and my nights watching TV. Since I didn't have my own TV, I watched what my dad watched- Law and Order and CSI. I came to the conclusion that although today many 'normal' adults still live at home, they are only presented as murder suspects on primetime television.
This scared me more than anything else. So I decided just because I couldn’t find a job in journalism or anywhere else for that matter didn’t mean that I couldn’t be productive or creative even just for my own sanity. After I made that decision, I started writing through an online course the story of a teenage Manhattanite who moves to Texas to live with her grandparents after her father looses his big time job and savings. As someone living with her parents for the first time in seven years, I understood what it felt like to be in a shocking situation due- or at least partly due- to the recession. And luckily, HarperCollins enjoyed it enough to make it a novel!
But Corrinne is not me. As a teenager, I was not nearly as funny, sophisticated or cool as Corrinne. I grew up in Minnesota, not Manhattan. But Corrinne’s struggle to rebuild her life A.R., after the recession, definitely pulls from my own personal experiences. Like Corrinne, I initially viewed myself as a victim of the recession, but I no longer feel that way- and not just because I got a book deal out of writing about the recession. I truly think that the recession taught me to reprioritize my life.
Now, I have two dream jobs! I teach and I write! I would like to say that I followed my dream with confidence and determination, but that’s not exactly what happened. What really happened was that I wrote for myself and used my writing to understand my own experiences as well as what our country was going through. I would recommend people to write for that exact audience- yourself- and write what you want to read. I think it’s the best way!
Thanks Gwen, for letting us in on your life. It sounds like you have found what makes you happy, and I wish you luck with your latest book in progress. I definitely want more!
WHERE I BELONG BLURB (from GoodReads):
Meet Corrinne. She's living every girl's dream in New York City—shopping sprees at Barneys, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was. . . .
When Corrinne's father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she's stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she's supposed to be living. She doesn't care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R.—before the recession—was as perfect as it seemed.
I'll be posting my review tomorrow, February 22rd, so be sure to come back then!