It’s time for an author interview that I’m super excited about!
Jennie Melamed is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child abuse. Her debut novel, Gather the Daughters, was released this past July. The book is set on an island where men reign supreme and girls are forced into marriage once they hit puberty. The girls feel trapped in their lives, and suggestions of an uprising begin to circulate.
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What inspired you to write “Gather the Daughters”?
I first got the idea in college, a very long time ago. A lot of my friends were starting to open up about the trauma they had suffered in their childhood. It seemed to me that almost everyone had something- and then I started thinking, what if there was a society where abuse was just part of everyday life? (I didn’t realize back then that this actually has happened multiple times.) The idea occurred to me while I was watching a movie- I can’t remember which one- and I left the theater and went to the computer lab and wrote a short story. The idea knocked around in my head for years, but it wasn’t until I was working with trauma survivors, and reading research, that I began to piece it all together.
Do you have any favorite authors that influenced you to write?
Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, the Brontës, Wilkie Collins, most recently Louise O’Neill… the list goes on and on.
What do you love about the dystopian genre?
I’ve never thought about it, and yet I’ve loved dystopian books since I was a child. Perhaps it’s my dark view of humanity in general; we try to build a perfect society and it always goes incredibly wrong. Things fall apart so easily in very isolated societies, and I’m fascinated by things falling apart.
I also think that in dystopias there’s such great opportunity to depict characters who think and act drastically different than we do, and chances for individuality and heroism to shine through.
What was the hardest part to write in Gather the Daughters? Your favorite part?
Probably anything to do with the new Mr. Adam. Not that I found the character difficult to portray, I just hate him so much, and found it rather awful- but compelling- to write about him.
My favorite part is the rebellion, and the girls on the beach. That just flowed. I wish they could stay there forever.
This is your first novel! How long had you been writing before Gather the Daughters was published?
It took me three years to write the book. Then it took about two years to get an agent. The book sold quickly. A year of editing, then publication was exactly one year after the edits were done. Six years total!
Do you read book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad reviews?
I try to limit myself to reading the good reviews, since reading bad reviews gets me upset and there is rarely constructive criticism in them- although I do appreciate good ideas for improvement when people have them.
Dealing with good reviews is easy! I’m grateful that somebody liked my book and felt the urge to give feedback. I still can’t believe that there are people out there reading and loving my book. It makes me so happy.
When I read a bad review, I get down and disappointed. I try to remember all the good reviews and remind myself that the book I wrote is not a crowd-pleaser. That I’m not sorry for the story I told or the characters I created and loved. That even The Underground Railroad has some one-star reviews- and I am in utter awe of that book and have no idea how anyone could ever dislike it.
I am trying to be philosophical about it. One of my main supports is my friend and next-door neighbor, who is an incredible artist. Her work is breathtaking. She tells me that there are people who don’t like her paintings and criticize them for one thing or another- and she just knows that you can’t please everyone with a creative work. She loves her art and accepts that other people might not love it, and that’s the price of being in a creative industry.
What are your three favorite books of all time?
Oh, that’s such an unfair question! Just three?? I’m going to have to pick them at random from my list of ten or so: Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, and Call of the Wild.
What do you do in your free time when you aren’t writing?
I run, sail, scuba dive, hike, and play with my dogs. I try to do something writing-related about six hours a week, and I work, so my free time is very limited.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently wading through research for my next novel, which will be a piece of historical fiction. I do want to write a sequel or a prequel to Gather the Daughters at some point.
I want to thank Jennie Melamed for sharing her thoughts with us! If you want to learn more about Jennie Melamed and any upcoming projects, visit her website! You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and visit her Facebook page!