Hi Melanie, congrats on your debut novel, THE PROPHET CALLS. The novel is getting rave reviews on Goodreads and I can’t wait to read it myself!
Thank you so much!
You’ve woven a story that’s both realistic and unique, with the premise having to do with a polygamous family. How did you go about researching this type of community? How did your background in religious studies and law come into play?
I received my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and have maintained a long-term interest in studying world religions. As a lawyer, I’ve always been interested in the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (which allows for the freedom of religion) and how that can ultimately play out in our country.
A couple of years ago, I was guest teaching a class on religious radicalism. For that class, I had updated my research on various religious sects, including the polygamous community known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). When I started to write, I updated my research further by reading or re-reading memoirs of those who had left the community, listened to recorded sermons, watched documentaries and read books by members of law enforcement who had interaction with the FLDS.
For a middle grade novel, the concept is deep and underscores the theme of courage. How did Gentry’s character evolve from your early drafts to the finished book?
I do quite a bit of up-front planning when writing a book. So by the time I start writing, the characters are pretty well established. From the beginning, Gentry has been strong, smart and loves her family. She’s passionate about her music but is starting to question her faith and the inequitable treatment within her community. I’ve always known how much Gentry cherishes her family, but as I was writing, it did surprise me how fiercely loyal she was to them, even to certain family members who wrong her.
You have another novel coming out in 2019. What can you tell us about it?
My second upper middle-grade novel, The Inside Battle, is set to release in the fall of 2019. It is the story of a boy struggling to win his father’s approval, but when the boy follows his dad inside a racist, anti-government militia group, he has to choose what’s more important: his father’s approval or speaking up for what is right.
What advice do you have for new kid-lit writers looking to get published? Did you find an agent by querying? Or did you find a publisher first?
After more than 100 cold queries and many revisions, I received three offers of representation from agents. Although that book was well received by publishing houses, it ultimately did not sell. So I kept going and wrote my next book.
I know it seems trite, but my advice is to never give up. Keep working on your craft. Connect with other writers, because the highs of publishing are few and far between for most of us. Listen to people who know the business. Be willing to change and adapt, while remaining true to yourself.
Thank you and best of luck on your debut!
Thanks so much for having me!
About the Book:
Title: THE PROPHET CALLS
Author: Melanie Sumrow
Pub. Date: November 6, 2018
Born into a polygamous community in the foothills of New Mexico, Gentry Forrester feels lucky to live among God’s chosen. Here, she lives apart from the outside world and its “evils.”
On her thirteenth birthday, Gentry receives a new violin from her father and, more than anything, she wants to play at the Santa Fe Music Festival with her brother, Tanner. But then the Prophet calls from prison and announces he has outlawed music in their community and now forbids women to leave.
Determined to play, Gentry and Tanner sneak out. But once they return, the Prophet exercises control from prison, and it has devastating consequences for Gentry and her family. Soon, everything Gentry has known is turned upside down. She begins to question the Prophet’s teachings and his revelations, especially when his latest orders put Gentry’s family in danger. Can Gentry find a way to protect herself and her family from the Prophet and escape the only life she’s ever known?
This realistic, powerful story of family, bravery, and following your dreams is a can’t-miss debut novel from Melanie Sumrow.
About the Author: Melanie Sumrow received her undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and has maintained a long-term interest in studying world religions. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a lawyer for more than 16 years, with many of her cases involving children and teens. Melanie lives in Dallas with her husband, her daughter and one very spoiled dog.
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