Author of The School of Beauty and Charm and Polite Society, recipient of a Whiting award in fiction in 1995, and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University, Melanie Sumner is out with her newest novel, The Ghost of Milagro Creek. This coming-of-age tale, set in New Mexico, is generating some serious buzz. Critics are throwing around words like “vivid”, “haunting”, and “riveting”. Today we have an interview with Sumner and an excerpt from the book, so you can decide for yourself! (Note: Number three is most likely in reference to Faulkner, not Sumners life of crime).
1. Describe your new book in one sentence.
In Taos, New Mexico, the ghost of an Apache medicine-woman tells the story of her grandson, Mister Romero, who survives a rough and wild childhood with his best friend, Tomas, and ultimately realizes that they love the same woman.
2. Where do you do your best writing?
At my desk, which is an old door with many layers of peeling paint bought from the Santa Fe flea market, set on hand-carved douglass fir legs, screwed together as best I could at the time. I like to write in a small room, facing a wall.
3. What is your motto or maxim?
Kill your darlings.
4. Do you have any secret skills (besides writing, of course?)
Like Jésus and Cisco Cisneros in The Ghost of Milagro Creek, I have prehensile toes. I can’t wield a lug wrench like Jésus or play a musical instrument with my toes, other than the piano, but I can pick up a pencil and write my name.
5. Describe the plot of the first story you remember writing. “Why I Love Jesus,” a story about a thirteen year old girl who attends a Southern Baptist youth retreat and does not get saved.
6. If you had to change professions, and needed no credentials, what would you do? I’d teach literacy to adults by writing their life stories and reading them back to them, word by word.
7. Which band would you like to have follow you around, playing the soundtrack to your life? No band for me, just Johnny Cash.
8. Where do you hope to catch people reading your new book?
On Indian Reservations and in universities around the world.
9. What is your all-time-absolute-favorite book?
The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck.
10. What books have you read recently that you’d recommend?
A Pearl in the Storm, by Tori Murden McClure, The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy, Oliver Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron, Booklife, by Jeff Vandermeer