The Next Big Thing

I was honored when Cynthia Robertson and Sophfronia Scott tagged me in “The Next Big Thing,” a blog chain started by blogger She Writes to help female authors promote their current work by answering a set of questions and then “tagging” other writers, inviting them to do the same. Cynthia and Sophfronia are both such determined writers, who make a point to encourage other writers along the way. Cynthia has just finished her historical novel, Sword of Mordrey, and Sophfronia has a novel out with St. Martin’s Press entitled, All I need to Get By. I have loved getting to know these two ladies through social media, and I hope that our paths cross in person soon!

“The Next Big Thing” I’m working on is actually the second draft of my second novel, whose details I am not yet willing to share. So I decided this would be a good time to introduce my first novel, which will be released on July 1st and has just become available for pre-order.

What is your working title of your book?

The Outcast. My working title was The Bishop. But, after edits, the story became so much more about the protagonist Rachel’s journey from heartache to hope, that Tyndale’s fiction team, my agent, and I realized that it was necessary to change The Bishop to The Outcast. Plus, this new title better correlated with the themes of The Scarlet Letter, the classic from which my novel was based.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

When discussing the cover, I was adamant that I did not want Rachel’s face revealed. To me, unveiling the face narrows the reader’s scope for imagination. I think to select actors would do the same thing, though it is fun to muse. Whoever was chosen as the protagonist would have to play both Rachel and Leah’s parts, since they are identical twins; a crucial element in the medical aspect of the plot. I will add, however, that my Plain grandmother, Charlotte Mummau Grove Miller, often came to mind when describing the twins. She is pictured below.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter set in an Old Order Mennonite community in Tennessee.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My novel is currently in the copyediting stage with Tyndale House’s wonderful fiction team. I am represented by Wes Yoder of Ambassador Literary Agency. Before Wes moved to Nashville and founded his speaker’s bureau and literary agency (representing those such as Wm. Paul Young of The Shack and Rick Warren of The Purpose Driven Life), he was born and raised on an Amish farm in Lancaster. It has been wonderful to have his help understanding the nuances of the Pennsylvania Dutch language, which is still unwritten and, therefore, as convoluted as Tolkien’s elvish. Or at least it is to me!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Six months. I started writing the novel in June, when I had just found out I was pregnant, and was waiting on feedback from my beta readers about another manuscript. I met my agent in the beginning of August. I sent him the first 25,000 words in September, and then continued writing. I had the edited draft to him by Christmas. (Apparently, pregnancy hormones provide some fast neurotransmitters.) After the birth of my daughter, Wes and I finished gathering endorsements and sent the MS out to publishing houses in April. We had a contract with Tyndale House by May.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Scarlet Letter, to pay homage, but my novel is contemporary. I would also say Julie Cantrell’s wonderful Into The Free, but her novel is set in Depression-era Mississippi. Still, all three novels deal with those who feel ostracized by the church, and how they must understand that God’s love is not synonymous with the love displayed through organized religion.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Although my background is Mennonite (I was born in Lancaster), and my husband’s background is both Mennonite and Amish (his grandfather got in trouble for hiding his car in the barn), for years I refused to accept this part of my heritage. As I grew older, however, I saw it for the unique gift that it was. Around this time, a story was told to me about the power of desire and the reverberating cost of that desire if it was left unchecked. Shockingly enough, this true story took place in an Old Order Mennonite community. For two years, I mulled over this plot, but did not know the twist until my best friend went through a bone marrow transplant. Afterward, she and I discussed my plot again, and with the addition of the medical aspect, everything fell into place.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I was in the UK one month before I began writing The Outcast. While my best friend and I rode the London underground, this tall, pale man in a black suit contrasted with a purple shirt ducked into the cloistered compartment. He was a friend of the feisty Caribbean woman we were staying with. As strange as it may sound, this quiet poet – in the midst of so much clamor and so many strangers – began to prophecy over my best friend and over myself. He told me that I would give up the manuscript I was currently writing and begin to write again. I kicked against this prophecy for about two weeks. But when I returned to the States, the words of The Outcast began to pour out of me. I truly believe that I wrote the novel so quickly because I was led to do so. I pray Rachel’s story will galvanize readers to seek truth in every area of their lives.

Now, enough about me, I would like to introduce you to some wonderful writers and friends….

Paige Crutcher has just been promoted to Publisher’s Weekly’s Southern correspondent! She is an enormously talented writer, who I met a few years ago and loved, and I cannot wait to hear what she’s been working on herself!

Kim Green is a detective, pilot, writer, and world explorer, who once translated a memoir about a Soviet combat airwoman from WWII; Red Sky, Black Death that was published in 2009. I met her at a social media lecture in Nashville a few years back and have remained so enthralled with her life!

Renea Winchester is a small woman with a huge heart! She is constantly reaching out to others through book drives, blood drives, and gardening education. I am in awe of how much she accomplishes while keeping her family and friends first.

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is a speaker, author, and radio personality. I met her in Nashville two years ago and was amazed by this woman’s yest for life! Funny to the bone, she is truly the “Belle of All Things Southern.” My book club had a blast reading her nonfiction book, Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On!

Kimberly Brock is a warmhearted, Southern author whose debut novel, The River Witch, garnered reviews from NYT bestselling authors such as Joshilyn Jackson and Sharyn McCrumb. Can’t wait for you to meet her!



  1. I loved learning more about your book and can’t wait to read it! My copy is already preordered, Jolina! It sounds incredible!

  2. Great insight into the life of The Outcast. I especially liked the part about being prophesied to on the London and how after hearing those words, the words of your novel poured out of you. So amazing. Looking forward to July 1st to get my hands on The Outcast.

  3. Wow, everything about your book is so fascinating, Jolina, from the plot to the way you wrote so much during your pregnancy to the prophecy in London. I can’t wait to read it! I’m going to add this link to my post ;)

    • It was strange for me to recount it all and watch the crazy timeline fall into place. Definitely felt Divine, in many ways. I will never forget that quiet poet/prophet, who was so unassuming and yet spoke with such wisdom!

  4. So exciting, Jolina!!!

  5. I really cannot wait to get my hands on this book (as you know, one of my best friends was raised Mennonite, and our neighbors were Amish).

  6. Why, you’re practically a cousin, then?! : )

  7. Thank you, Susan! What an honor! xx


  1. [...] My friend, the poet, author and musician, Kory Wells, tagged me in this fun authors blog hop. (Thanks, Kory!) Read Kory’s post from last Wednesday, “Is There Still a Novel in This Poet’s Future?” I also enjoyed my friend, Jolina Petersheim’s post, “The Next Big Thing.” [...]

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