I’m thrilled to be touring the awesome Melissa Walker (fellow Teen Fiction Café author) and her book Small Town Sinners.
Small Town Sinners is the story of Lacey Anne, daughter of the pastor and perennial good girl, who is eligible for a lead role in the season’s Hell House production—a role she’s been coveting for years. But when Ty moves to town as casting begins, a new perspective is added to Lacey Anne’s world and she starts to see her tight-knit, Evangelical community in a different light. With the help of her two best friends Starla Joy and Dean, and her potential first love Ty, Lacey Anne begins exploring her own thoughts and feelings about her religion, her community, and her place within both. While this novel deals with provocative issues like religion, teen pregnancy and underage drinking, it is not an “issue” book; the topics are masterfully interwoven into this story of friendship and family.
What inspired the plot for your book?
My friend Joy’s mother, Betty, started telling me about her church’s “Judgment House” and my jaw dropped. I researched more about Hell Houses and Judgment Houses, and then I pitched my ELLEgirl editor on a magazine story. She bit, I got to write the story. And the small town I visited, plus the teenagers in it, never left me. Here’s that original non-fiction story:
Why did you decide to write in this genre?
My inner voice is set squarely at 17, and I’m glad (though I try to act more mature most of the time, it’s just an act).
What is your writing process like?
I outline chapter by chapter, which takes about a week for a full plot (that I’ve been thinking about in my head for anywhere from a week to a year), and then I write, write, write!
What are you working on now?
My next book is called UNBREAK MY HEART–it’s a love story, and it’ll be out from Bloomsbury in summer 2012!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read and I watch a lot of TV. I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie.
Who do you like to read?
Anyone who writes with heart. Some favorite reads so far this summer include Dana Reinhardt’s THE SUMMER I LEARNED TO FLY and Nova Ren Suma’s IMAGINARY GIRLS.
MELISSA WALKER: Melissa has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. She is the author of the Violet on the Runway series as well as Lovestruck Summer. Melissa manages I Heart Daily, an e-newsletter and blogs for ReaderGirlz, an online community for teens. www.melissacwalker.com
“Small Town Sinners shines a light on the fascinating world of the teenage Hell House. Sit back and let Melissa Walker be your guide. She writes without a shred of judgment and plenty of heart.” —Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter of My Impossible Life
“Walker is sympathetic and respectful of her characters’ faith, while putting on display the shocking extremist scare tactics that make Hell Houses, well, hellish.” —Donna Freitas, author of This Gorgeous Game and The Possibilities of Sainthood.
“A non-judgmental, nuanced, fascinating look at the teenage religious right… Walker writes an outstanding contemporary novel with a cast of characters who, far from being portrayed as hateful zealots, are relatable for readers of all faiths. The extremism of Hell House is tempered by the perfectly understandable attitudes and intentions of Lacey Anne, who struggles with what it means to grow up, to question and to think for herself.” –Romantic Times
“Both tender and provocative… Walker creates an astutely balanced portrait of a conservative congregation’s in-your-face response to perennial issues of domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide, as well as of those who struggle to fit the prescribed Christian mold.” –Publishers Weekly
“This secular story about religious people could easily devolve into camp mockery, but because Walker takes her character’s crisis of faith seriously and sensitively, readers will, too.” –Kirkus Reviews