Best-selling author Karen McQuestion's new novel, The Long Way Home, is the story of four women brought together by chance. On an impulse, the group takes a road trip from Wisconsin to Las Vegas to help one of the women, Marnie, reunite with Troy, the boy she raised as her own. Humorous, heartwarming, and bittersweet, the journey has something special in store for each woman. In this interview, McQuestion discusses her characters, why she takes them on the open road, and what she is up to next.
Question: Marnie, Jazzy, Rita, and Laverne are all unique characters. What inspired them?
McQuestion: The women's ages range from early 20s to mid-70s and their personalities are diverse. My inspiration for my characters comes from my imagination as well as from every person I've ever met, every book I've ever read, and every movie I've ever seen.
Q: The names of the ladies really match up to their personalities. Are the names of the characters important?
McQuestion: Naming characters is one of the joys of writing novels. Sometimes the names come to mind almost as if the character stepped through a door and introduced themselves; other times it takes some brainstorming to get it right. For this book, Laverne, Jazzy, and Marnie revealed their names right away. Rita spent a few chapters incognito until I cleverly discovered her real identity. One of the secondary characters, Kimberly, was named in honor of a reader—the first person who ever emailed to tell me she loved one of my books.
Q: Why did you decide to take these women on a road trip?
McQuestion: What could be more stressful or more fun than a carload of women driving cross country? Throw in the fact that they start off as strangers and that each has their own issues, and I knew there would be no end of story possibilities.
Q: You've written for kids, teens, and adults. What do you like about writing across age groups?
McQuestion: I love having the freedom to write for all ages. Each category comes with its own trials and joys. Kids are savvy and the quality of children's fiction today is high—doing it well is always a challenge. The novels I write for adults allow me to incorporate the type of humor and pathos that might not go over well with younger readers. But for all my books, I believe in happy (or at least hopeful) endings.
Q: What can readers look forward to next from you?
McQuestion: I'm currently writing a young adult novel with paranormal elements. Beyond that I'm mulling over a few other ideas including another women's fiction novel, and additional books for my middle grade series. As you can tell, I like to mix things up.