Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
In the Neighborhood of Normal. It is fiction, published by Regal House Publishing, release date 9/1/21.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Back cover copy reads: Eighty-two-year-old Mish Atkinson from Fair Valley, West Virginia, is determined she’s going to make something of the time she has left on this earth. When a text message on her new smartphone leads to an encounter with a woman she believes is Jesus, Mish is eager to obey the woman’s instructions to follow the love. She knows that Jeff, the gay pastor at her church, thinks she’s lost her marbles, but now that her husband is gone, she’s not going to let anyone put a damper on her sunshine. And when a pregnant teen needs her help, it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know the difference between STDs and DVDs, she follows the love—in for a penny, in for a dollar, as she always says. Following the love is exciting and meaningful… until it costs much more than dollars and cents.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
Women’s fiction or commercial fiction
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“In the Neighborhood of Normal is the exactly right read for this unprecedented post-Trump, knee-deep-in-Covid, uncertain moment.”
“It’s a story that reminds us of what we can do and who we can be when we look for and follow love.”
“I finished the book a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about Mish. I just love her!”
“I love Mish. She feels like someone I know.”
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
I think it’s a cross between A Man Called Ove and Jan Karon’s Mitford series.
- Why this book? Why now?
I try to read some of those tough “important books” that everyone talks about, but sometimes I just need an escape. At the same time, I don’t like to read books that are just “fluff.” So I tried to write the kind of book I enjoy reading: a book with real characters who deal with real-life situations, but that still provides the reader with a fictional world she would love to join. I also wanted to tackle some difficult topics in a way that makes them accessible. With all the harsh realities we are facing right now, I want an escape into Mish’s worldview to provide a respite. All we have to do is follow the love.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I am a pastor in the United Church of Christ, the most progressive mainline Christian denomination. Being invited into the best and worst moments of people’s lives is a pretty amazing job. It also involves a significant amount of writing, with those weekly sermons to prepare.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I want readers to be reminded that following where love leads may be a risky endeavor, but love is worth the risk.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
I can’t write to music like many authors do, so I don’t have those associations from the writing process. But the main character, 82-year-old Mish Atkinson, likes Southern Gospel music. As for food, she refers to herself as “a bacon and eggs gal,” which means she doesn’t have time for sugar-coating. Ever since writing that line, I can’t see bacon and eggs without thinking of Mish!
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I’m currently reading A Better Man by Louise Penny.
Learn more about Cindy on her website.