Saturday, June 9, 2012

Books by Mormons about Mormons for Readers Who Aren't Mormons

Most of the Mormon authors who've become household names in the national marketplace, like Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game), Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Shannon Hale (The Goose Girl), and the queen in the realm of Mormon authors, Stephanie Meyers (Twilight)--to name a very, very few of the many amazing Mormon authors out there--write speculative fiction, fantasy and sic-fi. Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) writes historicalThey don't write books that feature Mormon characters trying live their Mormon lives. (Except Shannon Hale--and I'll get to her soon.)

And I understand why this is true. First, economics. But also, the nature of art is to bury the truth it's built on at its core. Katherine Paterson (who I actually got to meet a few months ago) says our faith and values should be the "bones and sinews" of fiction. I did that with Sing me to Sleep. Taken by Storm was another story.

I didn't realize how rare a faithful Mormon girl struggling through the pages of a YA novel published by a big six publisher was until I moved to Arizona and met Janette Rallison (My Fair Godmother) who writes contemporary YA rom-coms and now several fun and exciting fantasies.

At my first Changing Hands event, Janette grabbed my arm and said, "How did you get that published? My editors made me cut all the Mormon stuff."

If someone wants to write a book dissing Mormons--or exposing Mormons--or mocking Mormons, the marketplace grins and extends a fat paycheck, great reviews, and big awards. But a faithful Mormon girl? A realistic depiction? Complete with prayers, visions, and abstinence? Are you kidding?

There are also loads of Mormon authors who write LDS fiction for the LDS market. Why didn't I just stick with that? Why was I insane enough to think I could sell Leesie and Michael's story to a national audience?

(Truth is, I couldn't. Not until Stephanie Meyers and Twilight revolutionized the YA world. Thank you, Edward, for making abstinence hot.)

Year after year I came close to a deal. Time after time it all fell apart. Why didn't I give up? Write something else? I did write two more books. But I couldn't make myself shelve Taken by Storm. I kept revising and reinventing it.

I would love to ask Shannon Hale how she came to write The Actor and the Housewife. It is about a Mormon housewife who becomes best friends with a Hollywood actor. It's not a pretty, Newbury fantasy for kids. It's face-paced, even wittier than her Austenland books, and depicts a faithful Mormon woman's life as realistically as I tried to show Leesie's. I laughed and cried my eyes out. My guess is Shannon Hale wrote The Actor and the Housewife first, but couldn't get it published until her Newbury success with The Goose Girl. Awards yield readers. Readers yield power to publish! Hooray because this book is great. It's now on my favorites list. It's the only other book I've read that presents a faithful Mormon-heroine in a contemporary, honest setting. (If you know of others, please enlighten me in the comments!)

When I was a BYU student, I discovered Chaim Potok--specifically, My Name is Asher Lev. I loved how he brought us into the intimate struggle of a young Jewish artist. If Chaim Potok could bring the world remarkable Jewish young adults coming of age, why couldn't I attempt the same for a Mormon farm girl?

I didn't try--for over twenty years. And then Michael walked into my head, and he needed a Leesie.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Michael and Leesie's 10th Anniversary

I'm feeling nostalgic today. I have to archive all the material on my website and put together an all new site. I've used Apple's and before that to host my website and with the advent of the free iCloud they've stopped hosting, so my old site is history! Aaaaaaah!

I'm keeping my same domain so you'll still be able to find me at And I'm transferring and updating the content. I think the new site will be great, but my old site has so much material on it. (And always turns up first on Google searches for me!)

I launched it in 2008 and it hosts my ChatSpot blog, Storm's Story, liv2writ, and an appearances blog. It records my launch tours, first reviews, all my blog tours, and school visits. What to do? What to do? I've decided to rescue all things Michael and Leesie from the website and share it here in new posts and pages.

July will be ten years from the date when Michael first talked on my page during a free-write at Vermont College. I wrote the "Grandmother Poem" that became Leesie's heart and soul during that same residency. Plus, there are parts of the story I've never told, cut scenes I published on my liv2writ blog, and lots of great pictures to make into slideshows. I'm going to try to bring it all together here for you to celebrate Michael and Leesie's 10th anniversary. (I know you're saying, "How could they be 10? TAKEN BY STORM was just published three years ago." Stick around for the story and you'll find out!)

I'm also launching two new blogs, Angela Morrison's liv2writ (for writing tips, news, contests, sneak peaks at new books, and what I'm up to these days), and What's the Opposite of Chewbacca? a blog devoted to the opposite poems I write with kids when I visit their classrooms. Wish me luck! I don't multi-task well. The two new blogs are post-less as I write this. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!