12 June 2014

Getting to know you with Jolina Petersheim

Please welcome Jolina Petersheim to my blog today. Her new book The Midwife is out this month.


1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My husband and I share a Plain background that originated in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but we actually met here, in the mountains of Tennessee. (Our fathers even attended the same Mennonite high school.) We met at church through my husband’s formerly Amish grandfather, Amos Stoltzfus, who encouraged my family to visit. Grandpa Amos was a wonderful, lively man, and I partly based my character in The Outcast, Amos King, after him.
My husband and I are both drawn to a simple life, reminiscent of our heritage (our long-term goal is to live off the land), but we do not intend to drive a horse and buggy any time soon. We have a darling little girl, who is two, and who is about ¼ my size already (she takes after daddy!). We’re expecting our second child in September. I know I am blessed. (Jenny here, I got to visit Lancaster county last year)

2. When you were a child did you have a favourite book or books?
Yes! The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. I loved Anne with an ‘e’ so much that, for a long time, I wanted red hair just like hers. To this day, I feel Anne and I could be the best of friends because the two of us are always getting into scrapes.

3. Do you have a favourite Genre to both read and write?
I gravitate toward literary fiction with unique characters and a strong sense of place, such as The Orchardist, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and The Invention of Wings. However, I will read about anything if it’s a break from Curious George!

4. Did you have favourite authors growing up who have influenced you?
We didn’t have a TV for the majority of my childhood, so I instead read everything I could get my hands on. Sometimes, this got me into trouble as I was ten years old when I selected a book with mistress in the title. But, for the most part, this sampling allowed me to get to know a wide range of authors like Austen and Eyre, which I still enjoy reading today.

5. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not enjoy making up stories. My father and his friend wrote songs together on Tuesday nights for many years, and I believe this helped influence my love for the writing process. My insatiable hunger for books combined with this love, and by around six years old, I knew I wanted to be an author.

6. How did you go about becoming an author?
Since I started out so young, I really just continued to read and read every chance I got. I also wrote every chance I got. I have fat diaries crammed full of my thoughts from the time I was six until I was twenty-two and started using my spare time to work on my first novel, which shall never see the light of day! I also became connected with a group of authors in Nashville, who taught me about the importance of an author platform. I started using social media and pursuing publishing credits. I signed my publishing contract with Tyndale House three years (and two novels) later.

7. If you were not a writer what would you like to be?
A journalist who goes around, trying to get people to tell me their stories. Writing, of course, would be involved. But I love words so much and am so equally terrible at math that I don’t think I’d have many other options.

8. Outside reading and writing what do you like to do?
I love hiking. I don’t go as often as I used to because I’m a mom, but there’s just something so therapeutic about being outside with nature. If I ever need to process life, I go for a long, long walk by myself, whereas I usually take my daughter and my Akita pup, Kashi. I often don’t have an answer by the time I return, but the problem doesn’t nearly seem as insurmountable as it had before.

9. Do you have a place you love to visit or would love to visit?
Rugby is this little restored Victorian village nestled in the mountains of Tennessee that was established as a Utopian society for the second sons of England who didn’t share the rights and privileges of their firstborn brothers. Of course, this society didn’t work out, but the dream is still there in the lay of the land and the ornate beauty of the buildings. I feel like I breathe more easily when I am there. What can I say? I’m a romantic.

10. If you could have a meal with 3 living people who would you choose and why?
(1)    Ina May Gaskin, one of the founders of modern midwifery, who lives in a commune in Summertown, Tennessee. Midwifery is a subject that utterly fascinates me. Fannie Graber, the head midwife in The Midwife, is partly based on Ina May.

(2)    Lois Lowry, the author of The Giver. Her depiction of the rise and fall of community really resonates with me—as my family lived in a community when I was growing up—and is something I am trying to convey through my own fiction.

(3)    Heidi Baker founded an orphanage in Africa and has witnessed miracles. I would love to hear her recount these miracles in person. Seems it would be an incredible faith builder.

Finally can you tell us about your current books and/or any that will be coming out soon. Also where we can find you on the web.

Short version: The Outcast, my debut, is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter set in an Old Order Mennonite community in Tennessee—released July 1, 2013

Long version: Four years ago, a family member told a true story about the power of desire that was left unchecked and how it trickled down through an Old Order Mennonite family, not only affecting that generation, but the generations to come. We were all sitting around the kitchen, and after the person finished speaking, I gasped, “That’s a book!” But I did nothing about it. At the time, I was writing Southern fiction and did not want to surrender to “Amish fiction”—a genre my father always told me I should write.

However, a few years later, I was on the London Underground when a tall, stoop-shouldered man in a black suit stepped on board. My best friend and I recognized him as the person who was friends with the woman who was allowing us to stay in her flat. On the subway, this unsung poet and prophet spoke into my best friend’s life. Then later, on the double decker bus, he spoke into mine. He told me I would give up the manuscript I was currently working on and begin writing again. I didn’t know I would listen, but when I came home, I could not hear anything else. I put my current manuscript in a drawer and began writing a fictionalized version of the story that had been told to me. The unsung prophet of the London Underground is mentioned in the acknowledgements section of The Outcast.

Synopsis of The Midwife—released June 1, 2014

Since the day Rhoda Mummau was baptized into the Old Order Mennonite Church and became the head midwife of Hopen Haus, she’s been torn between the needs of the unwed mothers under her care and her desire to conceal the secrets of her past. Contact with the outside world could provide medical advantages, but remaining secluded in the community gives her the anonymity she craves.

Graduate student Beth Winslow is on a path she never would have chosen. Heartbroken after surrendering a baby to adoption, she devotes herself to her studies until she becomes pregnant again, this time as a surrogate. But when early tests indicate possible abnormalities, Beth is unprepared for the parents’ decision to end the pregnancy—and for the fierce love she feels for this unborn child. Desperate, she flees the city and seeks refuge at Hopen House.

Past and present collide when a young woman named Amelia arrives to the sweeping countryside bearing secrets of her own. As Amelia’s due date draws near, Rhoda must face her past and those she thought she had left behind in order for the healing power of love and forgiveness to set them all free.

You can find me here:



pol said...

Thanks AusJenny for your post today with this new author to me, I have been seeing this book and know I will want to read it. It is good to read how the author started out and some info about her life. The next books really sounds good too, I remember the scarlet letter.
Good luck Jolina with your new books.
Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

Dorothy Adamek said...

So great to read more about you, Jolina. :) It's been your week to visit Downunder!

I really loved Lois Lowry when I was younger, too. I would probably love her just as much now, I'm sure.

Thanks for the interview, Jenny.
Blessings, xx

Jolina Petersheim said...

Thank you, Pol and Dorothy, for stopping by and reading and commenting. Thank you, also, Jenny, for letting me visit with you. What an honor! I loved your questions. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...