In “Forever My Girl,” the race for Liam to once again win over Josie’s heart doesn’t go smoothly. For instance, their first encounter after years apart results in Liam getting punched in the stomach. And if the physical hit wasn’t enough of a wallop, then Liam learning about his seven-year-old daughter Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson) certainly provides another hit. The plot of “Forever My Girl” makes for intriguing drama. However, the winding and twisting story also feels like the type of community gossip fodder you’d quickly find within earshot at any small-town gathering.

And that sense of realism is due to Heidi McLaughlin’s attempts at making her characters feel familiar to her readers. During an interview with Michael Ventrella, McLaughlin explained that she’s always modeled her characters from people she’s known in real life in order to achieve a strong sense of believability. “Every character I write, I want the reader to feel like they know them, that they live next door or went to high school with them,” McLaughlin told Ventrella.

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