Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Latter-Day Cipher

Before we get to today's post--Congrats to Philangelus and JDAZE, who tied as winners of Photo Friday. Philangelus' caption: "The Audacity of Nose." JDAZE's caption: "If you cover one nostril, Obama's books stinks only half as bad."

Winners and Bonnie Toews (submitter of photo), please email me: brandilyn (at) brandilyncollins (dot) com with your street address and choice of one of my novels. (If you're not sure which one you'd like, visit my Web site to read first chapters.)

For today, from craziness to serious. Meet Latayne C Scott, author of 15 published books (Zondervan, Baker, Word, Waterbrook, Moody and others). Her first book, The Mormon Mirage (first published by Zondervan in 1979), told of her reasons for leaving the LDS Church, which she deeply loved. In 2007 Zondervan approached Latayne to write an updated and expanded version of the book. That version releases next month. Meanwhile, Latayne has just seen her first novel released. Published by Moody, Latter-day Cipher is a story about Mormonism.

Hm. Two books released in two months, two genres, two publishers--one topic. That brings to mind some questions:

So, a nonfiction about Mormonism--and a novel. Why did you write Latter-Day Cipher?

I believe that straight reporting of facts is good for some purposes. That’s what I did when writing The Mormon Mirage. It has over 700 footnotes, for instance. But just demonstrating that Mormon doctrine and “scriptures” don’t match up with the Bible is one thing: showing how real human beings deal with that kind of contradiction is another. I wanted this kind of struggle--and there are millions of ex-Mormons in the world--to have a “face,” so to speak.

Plus, many people will read a suspense novel that would never pick up a book of non-fiction. I really wanted to create an exciting book that I would like to read, but also one that would make people uncomfortable and cause them to try to find out if the historical details and doctrinal points I wrote about can be verified. One reader said that Cipher “should be read with an open Internet connection.”

How is Latter-day Cipher based on information from your own life? How did you use your own experiences?

In this book, I tried to portray Mormon people sympathetically (as indeed, I do feel tenderly toward them) as they struggle with enormous contradictions between what their leaders tell them they must believe, and what past LDS prophets have taught. When I found out how many facts about Joseph Smith and Brigham had been whitewashed, I felt confused and even betrayed--and that’s how my Mormon characters in the book feel. In the words of one man who read The Mormon Mirage years ago and left Mormonism at great personal cost, “You can’t unlearn truth.”

Were there points at which you had to pull back from your own experience?

Absolutely. On the one hand, I have found after a lifetime of writing non-fiction, that the writing of fiction is exhilarating. I mean, it’s a blast! I love it! I think I’m addicted! On the other hand, I was hyper-aware that I wasn’t just creating entertainment. The issue is truth, and the stakes are people’s souls. I want people to ask questions, follow up, check quotations.

Do you expect this book to create controversy?

I hope so. The last time I wrote a book about Mormonism was 15 years ago. So I’m hardly obsessed with the topic, nor do I have any sort of vendetta. But that’s how it will be interpreted by some people, I am sure. On the other hand, people have a natural curiosity about a religion which deliberately hides not only some of its own rituals from outsiders, but details of its history and conflicting past doctrines from its own people.


From the back cover of Latter-Day Cipher:

When rebellious Utah socialite Kirsten Young is found murdered in Provo Canyon with strange markings carved into her flesh and a note written in a 19th Century code, questions arise about the old laws of the Mormon Church. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned the story—which quickly takes on a life of its own. Even before the first murder is solved several more victims appear, each one more mysterious than the last.

Adding to a slew of other distractions, Selonnah’s cousin, Roger, has recently converted and is now a public spokesperson for the Mormon faith. But paradoxically, Roger's wife, Eliza, is struggling to hold onto the Mormon beliefs of her childhood. If something is really from God, she wonders, why does it need to be constantly revised? And could the murderer be asking the same questions?

Visit Latayne’s Web site. Latayne blogs with five other fiction writers at Novel Matters.


Allie said...

I'm going to have to check these books out at some point! Sadly my TBR pile is out of control.. but hopefully, one day!

Sheila Deeth said...

This sounds interesting, particularly as we used to live in SLC