People almost always ask where I get my ideas. I think this is a universal question for writers. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve asked this of authors I’ve interviewed for ReadersRoom.com and other places. Because, really, we want to know. I mean, do writers just live like hermits, inside their hermetically sealed brains, dreaming this stuff up, or do they get an idea from a news story, from their lives, from someone else’s life, when they write?
Inquiring minds want to know. Me, I’ve always lived by the “truth is stranger than fiction” mantra. If my parents had figured this out, they would have implored me to write my life story (which was kinda boring) and not the hard-hitting fiction that I am now somewhat known for. Because most of the time, life truly IS stranger than fiction.
For example, living here in Utah, I am rarely without something to write about. If I’m not getting hatemail from people who take exception to the fact I sometimes spotlight the seamy side of life in a state known for strange drinking laws and adherents to a misunderstand and somewhat mystical religion, then someone here is doing SOMETHING that gives me another idea…..
Just this weekend, in a tragic case, a young man threw himself from a truck because his brother was using profanity. As a recently returned Mormon missionary, he took offense to the profanity, and, I guess, this was his form of protest. I’m sure he never thought this act would be fatal. Perhaps, in his passion, he thought that his act would be heroic, lifechanging, even, for his brother. Instead, it ended HIS life.
As usual, I am left wondering about those left behind. The brothers in the truck with him. Their stories. Who were they? Were they disaffected Mormons, believers no more? Were they simply Jack-Mormons, those who still believe but conveniently choose to live life outside the strictures, returning when the party time is over and adulthood sets in? How will this affect them? And who are these parents who raised this child, who was so vigilant and passionate about his religion he willingly put his life on the line for it? What is their reaction to this death? How will they take it, or even, spin it?
Did this boy not understand that someone else’s sin was not worth the loss of a young man who could have made a huge difference? Did the parents teach him this? Or did they simply teach him to devote himself to a religion and a God, regaling him with stories about those who died defending the faith, so that he was unable to discern that the choice he was making was, simply, the wrong one.
I grew up with faith-promoting stories, those told about incidents similar to the one noted above. Usually, of course, the people in the stories were saved, protected, rescued, but such is not the case in real life. This is no faith-promoting story. And I can only hope it doesn’t get made into one.
In my world, it won’t. But it does spotlight an interesting facet of humans, and why they take dire actions when confronted with things that mess with their reality. This is not a murder, of course, but this sort of religious fervor gets my brain working overtime. And thus, the makings of a story begin. It’s how SisterWife, my first book was born. I started wondering how these fundamentalists, these polygamists, could reconcile what they were doing. It all started with a news story, about how a man, John Daniel Kingston, had severely beaten his teenage daughter when she ran away from a marriage to her uncle. This was in 1998.
Kingston is still offending today.
I have no shortage of material. I know this state. I know these people. I write about this world, because it is my culture, my heritage, and my people.
But I have a great desire to explore other worlds, too. Perhaps, one day, I will sell a book that isn’t about the darker side of Utah. I’ll keep you posted….