Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I have been so preoccupied with the aftermath of Katrina that it's been hard to remember that normal life keeps rolling along. But roll along it does, and today, we have a wonderful guest rolling through these parts with it--Natalie R. Collins, currently promoting her novel WIVES AND SISTERS on her Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Tour.

The novel sounds so compelling:

Set in the closed world of the Mormon Church, a world scrutinized because of the Elizabeth Smart case and covered in nonfiction bestsellers like Secret Ceremonies and Under the Banner of Heaven, WIVES AND SISTERS is the gripping story of a young woman on the run from evil, powerful men.

As a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lifelong resident of Utah, Natalie R. Collins brings authentic color and voice to (her main character) Allison. In her extensive research of the history and teachings of Mormonism, she had discovered that it is a very large organization with a violent and colorful past. WIVES AND SISTERS is a story familiar to many young men and women raised inside the strictures of fundamental religions. Many times there is a “protect the Church at all costs” mentality among Church leaders, which leads to a sheltering system that enables offenders to abuse their victims over and over again without consequence. Heartbreaking and thrilling, WIVES AND SISTERS will keep readers firmly on the edge of their seat.
It has received tons of glowing reviews, including these:

"A white-knuckles ride all the way. Expert depiction of a young woman's struggle with the oppressive 'family values' of one kind of fundamentalism. Newcomer Collins is a talent to watch"—Kirkus Reviews

“Startling and compelling--I could not stop turning the pages. Natalie Collins weaves an absolutely riveting tale."-- Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Sinner

I had the chance to ask Natalie a few questions…

<<-- What inspired you to write Wives and Sisters?>>

I was toying with writing my memoirs, but my parents were absolutely distraught that I would write about my family and my life. I left the Mormon Church when I was 18 (or at least I tried to leave, but they seem to want to keep me a member), and my parents have remained devout members, so it's been hard for them to understand or deal with me. I decided that I would respect their wishes, and stick with fiction. Of course, parts of my life are represented in Wives and Sisters, but it is also the story of many, many other people. The main goal I had in writing the book was to spotlight the problem of abuse in the patriarchal Mormon society. It's a dirty little secret no one talks about, and although the LDS hierarchy have made some changes, it is not enough. Bishops that counsel members need to be trained and need to be given a system of referral for problems they cannot handle.

<<--How has the Mormon community reacted to your novel?>>

Typically. They have condemned, dismissed, ignored, and reviled it. Most of that is from people who have not actually READ the novel. I have gotten some hate mail from Mormons who have read it. The Church hierarchy dismissed it as a book by an "unknown author." They asked for advance copies from my publisher long before they even should have known it existed. But I've also gotten some good response from Mormons. Some people understand that it is addressing people who go too far with fundamental religion, and a system that allows it to happen.

<<--Your book is so much about the perils of blind faith and fundamentalism. I'd love to hear your thoughts about blind faith and fundamentalism in our world today.->>

In my opinion, it is one of the biggest ills facing our world. Think airplanes flying into buildings, people drinking cyanide Kool-aid and young girls being given as gifts to old men.

You don't have to look too far in Utah to find examples of religious tyranny and fundamentalism. One of the worst abusers, Warren Jeffs, has even disappeared and is apparently in the Evil-Prophet-Relocation-Program because no one can find him, and yet his group has built a huge temple in Texas, on a compound. Just the word "compound" send shivers up my spine. The FBI doesn't much like the word, either.

<<--What are you working on now?>>

I am working on Behind Closed Doors, another suspense novel set in Utah, about, as the title might give away, how little we know about people's lives, even those we are close to. The main character, Jannie, has always been a little jealous of friend Melissa, but when Melissa disappears, she is forced to go back and realize that Melissa's life wasn't even close to being as perfect as she imagined.

<<--Because I always have to ask a question about fruit...Are there any Mormon rules regarding fruit? If so, I'd love to hear about them. If not, what do you consider the most suspenseful fruit, and why?>>

Fruit is best served in Jello. Mormons put EVERY fruit in Jello. They even put PASTA in jello, and call it frogeye salad. Yuck. But the oddest one, in my opinion, is the jello salad with CARROTS in it. But fruit and jello seem to go together. As for suspenseful fruit, it HAS to be the kiwi. Who would guess how wonderful the insides taste based on the hairy, ugly, outside?

<<--Pasta in Jello?! (Shudder.) And I'm in full kiwi agreement (the kiwi meditation in my book Fruitflesh is one I keep returning to.) Thanks so much for stopping by, Natalie--I look forward to reading your book! Best of luck on the rest of your cyber tour!>>

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