A Glimpse into an Author’s Life After the Novel Hits Shelves – A Guest Post by Author Jolina Petersheim
Today on the blog we are very excited to welcome back debut author Jolina Petersheim. Jolina joined us here in February for the beginning of her publishing experience as her “book baby” was born, sharing with us the bumps and surprises along her journey.
We’re pleased to have her back today as her first novel, The Outcast, hit shelves this July. In Petersheim’s intriguing retelling of the Hawthorne classic The Scarlet Letter, we meet Rachel Stoltzfus. Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, this strong-willed single woman is fully content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of her religious sect as she is shunned and eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop. But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.
We have the pleasure of hearing from Jolina as she welcomes us into her neck of the woods, providing a glimpse into the whirlwind life of an author post–published novel. In addition, Jolina is offering one lucky winner the chance at a great giveaway. See below for details!
The glass tea dispenser fractured fifteen minutes before The Outcast’s launch at my family’s business, Miller’s Amish Country Store, leaking the precious meadow tea my best friend had spent three hours boiling down to an amber-colored concentrate.
Always cool under pressure, I threw open the door to the store and charged past the baked-goods shelf, startling the customers who had chosen this inopportune moment to pull my mother aside and ask to order one of the barns she sells.
“I need a pitcher!” I screamed, then grabbed a glass vase and dumped out the synthetic flowers. “The dispenser broke. Tea’s everywhere!”
My mother’s employee cried, “Don’t use that vase! It’s cracked!”
So I set it back on the counter. My best friend said, “Go grab a bucket from the house!”
I sprinted through the storage room, slammed open the storm door, and darted toward the house. I seized a glass pitcher hiding under a stool in the kitchen, scrubbed it in the sink, and took it back to my best friend. She was on the front porch of the store, shaded by the awning, carefully ladling meadow tea into a plastic pitcher. She stopped when she saw my wild eyes and sticky hands.
“Go get dressed,” she commanded, waving the emptied ladle at me. “We’ve got this.”
I nodded and went running back toward the house. I pulled on the white sundress that I’d ironed but that already bore a stain from being hauled next to the whoopie pies. I dragged a brush through my hair.
Earlier, a good friend who’d been a few grades below me in high school had offered to do my hair. But when she appeared in the doorway—brandishing hair spray and a curling iron—I looked at the clock on the nightstand and said, “Maybe we can just spray it?”
“Whatever you need,” she said.
So I threw my head over and she sprayed it. Then she helped me put on a slim gold headband and brushed out the strands.
I thanked her, slipped on some heeled sandals, grabbed my necklace, and went clattering out the door.
My husband, who had just arrived with our one-year-old daughter, was leaning against my car while talking to my mother-in-law and father.
I kissed my mountain man (who’d even thought to put bloomers under our daughter’s dress!). Then my father pointed to a vehicle that had just pulled into the parking lot. “Who’s from Illinois?” he said.
“Karen Watson!” I yelped, naming Tyndale’s acquisitions editor. I was more than excited to meet her, but a rare surge of shyness kicked in and I went tearing (in heels) up the back steps of the store. In the storage room, I tried breathing and untangling my necklace with shaky fingers. It wouldn’t work.
The friend who had fixed my hair came into the storage room and offered to help untangle the necklace. I gladly handed it off to her, smoothed my limp hair and my now-wrinkled dress, parted the curtains of the store, and went out to greet our new arrivals.
My wonderful high school English teacher was there, holding a colorful bouquet of flowers. She was standing beside her sweet daughter and a few other friends. I gave them hugs and then saw Karen Watson. I felt all of my nervousness disappear. She was smiling the warmest smile possible, so I went and gave her a big hug as well.
“I’ve been to this store!” she said, spreading her arm to indicate the wrought-iron bed draped with postage-stamp quilts and the shelves lined with homemade candles and soaps.
“You have?” I asked.
“Yes!” Karen laughed. “It’s in your book!”
I thought, Just don’t tell my mother she’s Ida Mae.
I asked everyone if they would please follow me outside because we were actually holding the signing beneath a rustic pavilion that my best friend had ornamented with a sheer, vintage curtain and a chandelier (see why I keep her around?).
Feeling less frazzled now, I went and sat at the signing table, festooned with a vase of sunflowers and a picture of my Plain grandmother, Charlotte Mummau Grove Miller.
I greeted a few guests and signed their copies of The Outcast, and then—in the midst of the crowd—I saw two of my friends from high school. One of them I hadn’t seen in almost ten years.
We all hugged and I smiled up at my longtime friend, my eyes filling with grateful tears. She leaned down and said in her typical sassy fashion, which I love, “If you start crying, I’m gonna pinch you.”
So I started laughing instead. The threat to my mascara temporarily avoided, I saw my agent, Wes Yoder, striding up to the pavilion while wearing a straw hat, just like he’d promised he would.
I went running over and gave him a hug. We chatted for a few minutes, and then my friend from high school pulled me aside. She gently spun me around and said, low so no one else could hear, “Your dress, it’s unzipped.”
I felt her hand on the zipper, and then she zipped it about six inches up my spine. If my face weren’t already beet-red from the heat, I would’ve blushed. At least I was wearing an undershirt.
The rest of the book signing went more smoothly: light salads and sandwiches were eaten and cups of meadow tea consumed (though one Southerner did ask for more sugar); I signed a basketful of books; people stayed around just to mingle and listen to the hymn sing performed by—you guessed it!—my saintly best friend, her husband, and her father.
At the end of the night, I sat barefoot on a stool, wolfed down a chicken salad sandwich, and unwrapped half a whoopie pie that someone had discarded in my emptied book basket. (They must’ve mistaken it for a trash can.)
I took a bite of dessert and mulled it around. The whoopie pie was delicious, almost decadent, but definitely a little gooier than I remembered. My best friend and I had worked together on the whoopie pies. And we’d been talking so much—catching up on life while standing barefoot in her kitchen, the scent of simmering mint hanging thick on the air—that I kind of lost track of the cups of flour I had already dumped into the bowl.
I held up the whoopie pie and asked my mother-in-law, who—having an Amish heritage—is the queen of shoofly pies and whoopie pies alike, “Do ya think I used too much flour?”
She hesitated a moment, then smiled and nodded. “That’s why they got so big.”
Laughing, I polished off the whoopie pie and wiped my sticky fingers on my skirt.
Maybe I’ll figure out baking and this fancy-pants authoress thing tomorrow.
Thanks, Jolina, for letting us “attend” your author event through your story. Sounds awfully fun (and delicious!).
As a special giveaway from Jolina, we have a chance for one lucky reader to win this beautiful handcrafted magazine basket.
To enter, please leave a comment with your name and the title of the fiction book that’s on your nightstand or e-reader right now. And don’t forget to come back to the blog next Friday, July 26, when the winner will be announced!
Interested in The Outcast and meeting Jolina?
Visit her website for information on upcoming book signings and events. Scroll down to the bottom for news on upcoming events.
Thanks for stopping by!