Thanks to everyone who sent in questions (compiled below), thanks to Hanna Pylväinen for her thoughtful response, and thanks to MacMillan for sending 10 free copies of We Sinners. They will go to the first 10 readers to email me with (1) a suggested blog topic and (2) a mailing address (United States and Canada only, please).
When "Learning to Live Free" began in 2004, it felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. There was nothing available, online or in print, about the experience of leaving Laestadianism. Is yours the first novel on this theme? How did you choose to write about it? Did you ever visit Learning to Live Free?
Toni Morrison said that she wrote The Bluest Eye because she wanted to read it -- and I remember, as someone who had turned so often to literature, wanting there to be a book that somehow caught at the turmoil of leaving a community that was not all bad, a community that had some very lovely things about it, but that, ultimately, was forcing me to leave them because I did not agree. So in some ways I wrote We Sinners because it did not exist -- because the literature on Laestadianism was limited to the pamphlets, novels, and dictums coming from within the Laestadians themselves. I did, in fact, run across "Learning to Live Free," which lessened somewhat my sense of loneliness, but when I began to see that I was interested, moreover, in writing qua writing -- in fiction, in arcs, in stories -- I began to see that, in fact, I could be the one to write about Laestadianism; it could be me. This revelation was slow to arrive, but once it did, I began to see that contemporary American literature was very much lacking in sincere discussions of faith -- and perhaps even I could add to that.