Sisters author pens lighthearted tale


Last updated 3/19/2024 at 11:07am

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Melody Carlson

You might assume a novelist with a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award adorning her shelf writes mainly about romance. But Sisters author Melody Carlson considers women's contemporary fiction her go-to genre - "books about relationships, and issues, and life," she says. "I know how to write a love story, but I don't do the (romance genre) formula."

Carlson's mountainous body of work - she stopped counting at 250 books - ranges from children's books to teen novels to young adult fiction. But women's fiction is where she lives most. Several of her stories have been adapted for TV movies and are currently streaming.

Carlson observes, "One of the most interesting changes I've seen is how readers as teens enjoyed my teen books and now some are in their thirties and devouring my women's fiction. How fun is that!"

No doubt, these are some of the readers who will be flocking to pick up Carlson's newest book, "Just for the Summer," releasing this week from Revell Publishing. Carlson describes it as "a lighter read with a bit of depth to it."

The story opens with two completely different women living completely different lives, with one exception: they both work in the hospitality industry.

Having assumed responsibility for her younger sister after the death of their mother, Ginny worked her way up to manager of a chichi boutique hotel in Seattle. But she can't take much more of her demanding boss. Meanwhile in Idaho, Jacqueline feels she's frittering away her hospitality degree as manager of her grandpa's rundown, Podunk fishing lodge. The story picks up as both women become so disenchanted they visit the same job-swap website.

The solution to both their problems seems obvious. Just for the summer, they'll swap jobs and lifestyles. "What could go wrong?" Carlson says, laughing.

Library Journal gave "Just for the Summer" a starred review. And Publishers Weekly writes, "Two career-focused women swap hospitality jobs and chaos ensues in the jovial latest from Carlson. Her lighthearted take on an old trope charms."

Carlson has a talent for writing her stories quickly.

"I write really, really fast," she says, "probably because when I started writing I was running a day care center, had two boys in grade school and I still did things like PTA. I didn't have very much time!"

She wrote her entire first novel longhand on a yellow legal pad during the kids' nap time.

"I still write relatively fast, but not as many books in a year," she said.

Carlson's current rhythm still offers fans one new full-length novel each spring and a Christmas novella each fall. It's a pace she hopes to maintain even as she and her husband, Chris, navigate a new and arduous chapter in their own lives: Chris was recently diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the same disease that recently beset actor Bruce Willis.

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Although all of Carlson's books have been traditionally published by Christian publishing houses, her stories are never designed to sermonize.

"I let the book tell me what to do," she said. "Even as a reader, I appreciate it when it (the faith element) feels organic to the story."

Carlson believes that reading stories, immersing ourselves in a fictional character's point of view as they navigate struggles, has the power to grow in us "a little more kindness, a little more grace, a little more understanding. A novel gives us that opportunity to peel back those layers," she says.

"Just for the Summer" released March 19. It's available in Sisters at Paulina Springs Books and Suttle Tea, and wherever books are sold.


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