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‘The Fine Line’ author credits Newton schools for success

Newton native Emily Chesshire Thompson is getting ready to release her debut novel

Emily Chesshire Thompson thinking and typing as she put's the final touches on her debut novel "The Fine Line".
Emily Chesshire Thompson thinking and typing as she put's the final touches on her debut novel "The Fine Line".

J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer should be notified that a new writer is looking to join them in the higher ranks of successful female authors. Former Newton resident Emily Chesshire Thompson is looking to launch herself into that stratosphere as her debut novel, “The Fine Line,” is set to drop this spring.

“Basically, ‘The Fine Line’ is a story about an American girl who goes to Mexico, and one day she shadows a prison chaplain,” Emily said. “And she becomes consumed with the people and the setting, and she never goes back home. She ends up moving in with the chaplain’s family and ends up going to the prison every day. It’s really a story about what happens when you cross that fine line you have in your own mind and that society has of the fine line of what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable.”

For Emily, penning the book serves a few purposes. Part of protagonist Maggie’s experiences in Mexico were based on Emily’s own missionary trip to Mexico when she was 19. This book is a way for her to tell what she saw and add a bit of spice to it.

“After my sophomore year of college at UNI, I went down to visit this family I had met doing some mission work in high school,” Emily said. “They just invited me down to there house, and I had really bonded with them. I went down just for one week, and I ended staying throughout the entire summer for about three months.”

“Their father did prison ministry full-time,” Emily continued. “I went with him from 9 to 5 for five days a week. A lot of this novel is based off of my personal experiences and interaction. A lot of the emotion of the main character is the emotional roller coast. I went through personally. And a lot of the setting was captured through my own eyes, during that summer in that prison.”

Emily knew that taking such an action was a huge risk, which is why she didn’t tell her family what she was really doing in Mexico at the time.

“They did not now what I was doing,” Emily said. “I did not tell them after I came back. They thought I was just staying with this family, they knew I had a relationship with them and was pretty bonded with them. And I don’t think they were very excited about me being out of the country for the summer. There was no way. I didn’t tell them that I had been to the prison or that I was planing on continuing that.”

The second big thing Emily accomplishes with this book is living up to a promise that she made to herself to finally finish this book. She has been writing this book on and off since that first trip to Mexico when she was in college. That was quite awhile ago for her considering these days she’s busy as a mother of four boys, works as a teacher, and faithfully serves as the first lady for her husband Pastor Rick Thompson’s church.

It was during her maternity leave with her youngest son that she eventually sat down to finish her book that had taken nearly a decade and a half of her life to write.

“It’s very strange,” Emily said with regard to how she got her book deal. “November of 2011, I was at home on maternity leave with our fourth little boy and I decided to finish the novel. I had been kind of writing bits and pieces over the last several years and I decided I would finish. I went to the Thomas Nelson Publishing (Christian book publisher) website... and they had a women of faith book-writing contest.”

“I decided to enter it, and I filled out the entry but I never sent in my final manuscript,” Emily continued. “The deadline came and went in January of last year and I just wasn’t confident enough with the novel yet. I wasn’t satisfied with it. And so I thought, ‘Oh maybe I’ll enter next year’s. And then late March of last year the publishing company called me and expressed interest in my manuscript and ideas. We had a long conversation about what I was writing and the doors all swung open right then.”

Emily still sometimes pinches herself and can’t believe this is really happening to her.

“I was writing as a little girl and really loved it,” Emily said. “I really developed a love for it when I was at Newton High School. I went into journalism my freshman year at Newton High school and my teacher’s name was Susan Narigon. And I wrote for her, and was in newspaper and I was her yearbook editor. I just always loved words and making them work. And she really encouraged me from my freshman year — really just made me believe in myself and my ability to write. It’s been a long-standing passion of mine and I really believe a calling all of my life.”

The 28-chapter book which Emily purposefully wrote to have mass appeal is set to drop in the spring. She also plans on using this book to be the first in a series of books.

“I would say young adults and up,” Emily said about her audience. “Anyone high school age and up will probably enjoy the novel as far as age ranges. As far as interests as a whole, I think women will really be drawn to the novel, just because they can relate personally to the evolution that Maggie is going to go through.”

“But, I think if you like a show like ‘Prison Break’ then you’ll love this book,” Emily continued. “I loved ‘Prison Break,’ and it was very action driven. And planning driven and there was very small little elements of romance, but that wasn’t what carried the show. I think ‘The Fine Line’ is very similar to that.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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