Of course you know Melissa as one of the editors of I Heart Daily, but did you know she also writes books? She does! Her brand new spankin' one, Small Town Sinners, hit bookshelves last week. It's the story of 16-year-old Lacey Anne Byer, a good girl who's devoted to her evangelical church, The House of Enlightenment. She's excited to participate in her church's Hell House (more about that below), but a new boy in town starts to make her question everything she believes in. Intriguing? Yes! Here's Melissa answering a few questions for I Heart Daily:
I Heart Daily: What inspired you to write Small Town Sinners? Melissa Walker: Back when I was an editor at ELLEgirl, 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 it as a magazine story. The small town I visited, plus the teenagers in it, never left me. Here's that original ELLEgirl story.
IHD: What exactly is a Hell House? MW: It's a haunted house of sin where the audience walks through a church production about "sins" like gay marriage, abortion, suicide, domestic abuse, etc. They're a recruitment technique for evangelical churches, and they can be very political, though there are lots of different versions.
IHD: Why did you feel this was an important story to tell? MW: I think people often struggle with their faith and what to believe. Your parents really shape that part of your life, but at a certain point, you have to decide for yourself, so I wanted to write a story about that moment in time... when faith becomes a personal choice.
Want to win a copy of Small Town Sinners (of course, you do! Even The New York Times liked it!)? Click here, then "like" the Bloomsbury Teens Facebook page. You'll automatically be entered to win a copy. Good luck!