Interview / Novels

Creating Gwendolyn Gray: an interview with B. A. Williamson

Hi, everyone! Well, we’re halfway through April, and I’m happy to say we’re back on our regular interview schedule. I’m very excited to have as our guest today B. A. Williamson, the author of The Chronicles of Gwendolyn Gray. I wrote up a review of the second book in this series back in February, and the first book is currently saving my sanity as I teach at home. ^_^

Gwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand. But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations.

With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: One of things I love about this series is its strong positive messages about imagination. What makes this an important topic for today’s young readers?

B. A. WILLIAMSON: Ideas are the only thing that ever change the world. I wanted to show the magic that happens when you have an idea, and believe in it so strongly that you make it real and literally change the world around you. That’s the essence of all progress, creation, and invention. People imagine things, and make them real. Gwendolyn just does it more literally than most. And she’s fighting against forces that want to stop that, people who tell you not to step out of line, to keep doing everything the same way it’s always been done. Tradition vs. innovation. I think exploring this topic is vital for a generation of disrupters. As the last two years (and last two months) have taught us, we can’t even begin to imagine the world they’ll be inhabiting. But hopefully, they can.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: If you had Gwendolyn’s abilities as a child, what do you think you might have imagined into reality?

B. A. WILLIAMSON: My imaginary super hero friends. I would sit in 8th grade math class and imagine flying around the room having adventures, and wishing they were real. When I thought about writing for this age group, I thought about myself at that age, and this was a key memory that sparked the idea for the book.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What is the first story you remember writing as a child?

B. A. WILLIAMSON: I remember spending hours in my room scribbling in a notebook until my parents got worried and came upstairs to see why I was so quiet. It was a mashup of Marvel superheroes, DC superheroes, Star Wars characters, and a handful of heroes of my own invention all running into each other on a strange planet.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Are there any settings or characters you had in mind for the Gwendolyn Gray books that never made it to the page?

B. A. WILLIAMSON: Yes, but most of them will probably come back in books 3+4, if we get that far. I’ve started writing book three already. I’d love to play with other genres, like horror, or sci-fi. The idea of working sci-fi into a book with such a classical, almost fairy-tale tone to it is challenging, but I’ve got some ideas. I’d also love to explore the worlds where Criminy and Sparrow and Starling come from. And along the way, I weave in all these threads that would be fun to come back to, like telling a Kolonius story, or the story of how Cyria founded Copernium and ended up in Faeoria with Titania.

Urban Fantasy Magazine:  If you could give Gwendolyn one book to read before all her adventures begin, which book would it be?

B. A. WILLIAMSON: Ooooo, good question. It would either be “The Neverending Story,” so she can see what happens when you go into a book, and that you can make your ideas and wishes come true, but see that there is always a cost. Or maybe I’d give her “Anne of Green Gables” so she’d have another redheaded misfit to relate to, and see how she can maintain her optimism in tough times, and have plenty of adventures in her own back yard.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: And, finally, this last question actually comes from my child, who has quickly become a fan. How did you decide on the name Gwendolyn Gray and did you ever think of giving her a different name?

B. A. WILLIAMSON: No, that was actually one of the very first things I thought of. It went:
-Need to write a story, the kind you read at bedtime.
-I want it to be about a young girl. A strong girl. With a big imagination.
-Maybe it’s SO big, it becomes real!
-Why is this a problem? Oh, maybe she lives somewhere with NO imagination. Where everything is gray.
-Now, I need a name. Something classic, but unique, and rare. Like Lucy, or Susan, or Wendy. Oooo, Gwendolyn! Gwendolyn Gray!

Urban Fantasy Magazine: That’s awesome! I love hearing how characters come to life. Thanks for the interview. Readers can find out more about B. A. Williamson on Goodreads, and you can order Gwendolyn Gray on Amazon (affiliate links–but please support your local bookstore–if you have one–first!):

The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray (The Chronicles of Gwendolyn Gray)
The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray

Finally, if there’s any other parents looking for something for their kids to enjoy while schools are closed, B. A. Williamson also has a YouTube channel, where you can enjoy the author reading chapters from the first book as you and your child read along.

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