Friday, February 22, 2008

It's Who I Am

It's not uncommon for me to get asked whether I've always wanted to write for the LDS market or if I have plans to publish nationally some day.

The answers to the two questions are a bit convoluted.

To the first part, no, I didn't always plan to write for the LDS market. But that's largely because it didn't really exist as a significant force when I was younger. As it matured, I also matured as a woman and as a writer. So did my interest in it.

Writing about my own people—and in recent years, my people's history—somehow feels like coming home, in writing terms.

In a strange way, it's also made me feel more connected to the roots of the Church, because with my mother and paternal grandparents all being immigrants, I personally have no pioneer blood in me. I have no ancestors who pulled handcarts or who knew Joseph Smith.

Don't get me wrong; I absolutely adore my heritage. I'm proud of being half Finnish, belonging in large part to a country with such an amazing, and powerful history, a place that is prettier than almost any other land on Earth. It's no accident that I wrote an entire book set there.

And when I got to visit Ellis Island a few years ago, I drank it in, imagining what it must have been like for my paternal grandmother to come over from Germany as a baby, for her future husband to arrive in America years later from Switzerland with his first wife.

For that matter, I have plans for a book about that era, featuring Ellis Island. (That may be years away, but it's niggling in the back of my brain somewhere.)

But writing about Church history has brought me a closer connection to those who came before me. That alone has been a huge reward for this journey I'm on.

To answer the second part (do I want to write for the national market?), well, maybe.

Here's where it gets confusing.

I've been toying with an idea for a contemporary novel (for a change) that's very timely and (to me, at least) very powerful emotionally. While I began research on my next temple, I started playing around with scenes for this other book.

I had no intention of making the characters or plot line LDS. I had no plans for what I'd do with the story if and when I ever finished it. It was just something I wanted to get out of my head and through my fingers on the keyboard. Something different, something fun.

And yet . . . the very first scene I ended up writing takes place inside an LDS church building during a Relief Society Enrichment night.

Uh, what just happened?

I tried to figure out a way to write that scene in another context so the story didn't necessarily have to be viewed through an LDS lens. And then lo and behold, I'm realizing that future scenes will deal with home teachers and priesthood blessings.


While it's very likely that I'll write stories that have no LDS content at some point, I have no plans to stop writing for the LDS market. But right now, it seems that no matter what writing comes out of me, it's LDS-related anyway.

Being a Latter-day Saint is a huge part of who I am, so it's hard to find a story where my world view, my beliefs, the things most dear to my heart, my ways of dealing with problems, don't come into play in some fashion.

At one point when working on that other project, I almost laughed and said, "Help! I'm LDS and I can't write anything else!"

But in the end, I supposed that's a good thing. It's who I am, as a person, as a writer.


Autumn Ables said...

This post really hit home for me. I think in a way we are urged to do a certain work on this earth and for you it is this, for now anyway. The veil is so thin and I can't help but think that you are inspired more then you think. {Or maybe you do}

I am in the middle of my first novel and wasn't trying to write for the LDS market by any means- but as I wrote... some of the things that came from my mind through the keyboard and landed on my monitor... turned my work into something other then I'd imagined. Interesting, huh? I did a post on this myself.

Cheers to writing about who you really are! And I have to say- I love your work! I'm reading your novels right now. ;)

Michele Holmes said...

Your contemporary WIP is a MUST finish. All your temple historical fans will wait---and be glad they did when they read this timely story.
And Ellis Island?! That place fascinates me. I'm going to start bugging you to write that one next :)

Don said...

I tried very hard to not make my current WIP an LDS story. It just didn't work - the characters and their motivations would simply not line up with the story.

Since you're so good at historicals, maybe you could set your first national title in, say, 1801. That would force you to write non-LDS characters.

C.J. said...

Yes, I hear you. It's natural to write about what we know and feel everyday. That said, my first four books (two are published) have LDS elements in it and my current WIP does not at this point. However if I set a novel in Utah, about Utahns, which is what I know, it pretty much has to have Mormonism in it. Good luck with your WIP.

Unknown said...

awh you're totally cute here annette. you try really hard not to and it is so in your blood, it still comes through anyway. just keep doing what you are doing. tell the story the way you need to. be comfy.

niggling? love that. will have to add that playful word to my vocab now. makes me think of jello, too! ha.

i especially like how you said writing this has made you feel like you have come home. such a peace about how you said that and how you feel this way.

you are grateful.

okay, i have given you far too much attention today. ha. i better stop before you get totally sick of me tonight. he he.

you're doing great. i look up to you girl, kathleen

Luisa Perkins said...

To thine ownself be true (but you are clearly very good at that). :)

It's wonderful that the LDS market has matured, due in large part to talented writers like yourself.

Josi said...

And you are such an asset to the LDS writing community. I feel the same way (not the asset part, the 'who I am' part) it's hard for me to depart from the LDS perspective. I've recently finished a national market book and been equally surprised to realize that in some ways I need the LDS market to keep me true to myself, when the boundaries get hazy I find myself pushing things. Very bad.

Jenna said...

I'm so glad it's who you are! Run with it, it's working for you!

Julie Wright said...

Annette, I am glad it is who you are. I loved this post and as I sit here in a slump wondering who I am, I'm glad to have your example to follow


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