GC: What was your initial response to learning about Hell Houses? Did your feelings toward the movement change while you wrote Small Town Sinners?
MW: Honestly, my jaw dropped when I heard about Hell Houses. My opinions didn't quite change, but I did get a much bigger picture of the why and how of Hell Houses, and I grew to understand the people who are involved in them, and their good intentions, much more fully as I wrote.
GC: Was your goal in writing Lacey Anne for her to be a representation of an every-girl in a unique situation, or do you feel you wrote her independent of all stereotypes?
MW: I suppose Lacey is something of an every-girl, but she's grown up in a very specific way, and that's what gives her her independent character traits. I wanted her to be relatable and real, even if her world was very foreign to readers.
GC: How different do you think the book would have been had it been written from a different perspective? Did you ever consider writing different chapters in other characters minds?
MW: The characters in this book have such different outlooks that that approach would definitely be interesting! But once I got into Lacey's head, I couldn't stop hearing her voice, so that really dictated how the book went. I really wanted to stay with her.
GC: I read that before the idea for Small Town Sinners began to blossom in your mind you visited a town, where Hell House was a big deal, for an article you were writing. What further research did you do in terms of Hell Houses and the Christian religion to write the story?
MW: Well, I grew up Methodist in North Carolina, so I knew the church world pretty well. All those church dinners with fried chicken, red punch and butter cookies were actually research--who knew?! After I went to that first Hell House, I attended a few more, including a Judgment House (Baptist) that differed somewhat in its presentation. The overall feel of these productions, though, was similar, and that's what I wanted to take into the book.
GC: If you had been auditioning for Hell House, and you knew you would get the part, who would you try out for, and to what end?
MW: Oh wow. I'm not sure it ever would have been on my mind to act in a Hell House. If I did, though, I'd probably just want to play an angel in the Heaven scene. The rest of the production scares me, honestly. It really does.