Small Town News
Author receives accolades for novel
A little more than a year after independently publishing her first novel, "Jimmy James Blood," Melissa Peterson is receiving some very positive feedback for her work.
Last month, Peterson learned that her novel was a finalist for the 2012 Indie Excellence National Book Award, and was listed in the top 25 independent books on Kirkus Reviews.
Peterson, 31, who goes by the pen name "Missy Anne," said she is encouraged by how many people have read and reviewed her book on websites such as Goodreads.com.
"Most of those reviews are from people I've never met," she said.
The novel centers on a group of teenagers struggling to get by in a rural logging town much like Shelton. Peterson is a Shelton High School graduate.
"It's a community going through a transition (and the) hopelessness people can feel in the transition," she said. "It's kind of about young people trying to find power in a situation where they are powerless."
While writing, Peterson was so in tune with her characters that she would wait to write a part until she felt her characters were behaving naturally.
"I was really inspired by my characters -- I thought a lot about them," she said. "Most of the characters are a mixture of different things, different people in my life or people I've talked to."
The book explores poverty in rural areas and how the young people in her novel respond to challenges.
"It was something I was thinking about for a long time," she said.
While attending The Evergreen State College, Peterson said she realized that the kind of poverty seen in small, rural areas was misunderstood by many people.
"I sensed a real misunderstanding of the fact that we are talking about people with families and lives," she said. "It is hard for people to pick up the pieces and start over. People living in these impoverished communities that are cut off from social services ... have a really tough time surviving, making it work."
The 200-page novel includes recurring themes Peterson said she sees in small, economically depressed towns, including drug use and violence among teenagers and young adults.
Kirkus called Peterson's book, "An intense, lyrical portrait of America's vulner-able underbelly," and added, "But those who persevere will be rewarded with an eloquent description of today's desensitized, emotionally detached youth."
When she decided to independently publish "Jimmy James Blood," Peterson said she knew there was a stigma attached to self-published novels.
"I think a lot of it is because people don't receive editorial input from outside sources," she said. "I was careful to find people I trusted to give me honest feedback."
Peterson sought help from friends, family and editors to make her novel the best it could be and called the book "a community work."
"It was something I accomplished with the help of many people," she said.
Peterson is working on a new novel called, "Little Fish."
"Jimmy James Blood" is available at www.missy-anne.com, as an ebook on Amazon.com, and Browsers Books and Orca Books in Olympia.
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