Friday, July 18, 2008

Answering Amanda's Question

Amanda left such an intriging question in my comment trail, I decided it was worthy of its own blog.

So Tristi - you say an LDS author is a person who writes books and is a member of the church - what are you then if you are NOT a member of the church (or are considered an inactive member for many years) but you write a book that per your definition qualifies as LDS fiction? I'm curious because I'm doing exactly that. I was a convert and only went to church for two years before I left. I have nothing against the church, but I don't believe in it. My current novel, however, is definitely an LDS novel, about a girl who has struggled with her spirituality, left the church, and who comes to realize through her father's declining health and eventual death that she needs to return to the church. I wonder how I would ever publish such a thing, because I don't consider myself LDS. Sort of an odd quandry, no?

As far as I know, there's no rule that says you have to be LDS in order to write and publish an LDS fiction novel. It's an interesting question because I've never met someone who wasn't LDS who wanted to write for the market, but there's certainly nothing wrong with it. If your book was basically clean and kept with the genre requirements for LDS fiction, then I would say, it's LDS fiction.

If you did want to include some swearing or other elements that took it out of the LDS fiction genre, you could publish it as general fiction and it would be about LDS people, although not necessarily to be considered LDS fiction. You could publish that on the national market, which isn't entirely opposed to publishing stories about Mormons.

To verify what I'm saying, you might consider popping an e-mail to the various LDS publishers and ask them what their requirements are concerning Church membership for publication. I'd be really surprised if they'd turn down a book based on your membership or lack thereof (have you had your name removed from the records, or did you just stop attending?) but let me know what they say. I'll be curious to find out.

And thanks for the thought-provoking question!


Amanda said...

Hey, thanks for addressing this Tristi. I'm not sure about my book yet. I've been working on it, and I'm not sure I like the direction it's going in, and by the time I finally get satisfied I don't know if it'll be LDS fiction anymore. But yes, right now it is. There is no swearing or other elements that would take it out of that category. It's very clean. And it really does deal with a girl who is trying to figure out her spirituality. I know it's kind of odd for a non LDS person to write LDS fiction, but I'm an odd person. And normally, I write mainstream fiction. This is the only LDS thing I've ever done.

Until I have it all worked out, I'm not going to contact publishers. I like to have things fairly perfected before going anywhere with them, I'm real picky about it. But if, in a few years, I get around to sending out questions, I'll be sure to come back and let you know what they say.

One of the big things I worry about, actually, is that so much of this book is steeped in LDS culture and doctrine that someone who didn't know what the church is about wouldn't understand it. That's one of the walls that I'm running into. I couldn't publish this to the national market - there are parts that simply wouldn't make sense. So I have to decide whether to make this LDS fiction or mainstream fiction about LDS characters. And I've hit a wall. Hence my lack of words lately on the BIAM challenge, haha!

Oh, and if it helps, you asked if I was taken out of the record books. As far as I know of, I haven't been. Unless they do that on their own when you stop coming. I just stopped coming. I haven't done anything to get me in trouble, haha. ;)

Kimberly said...

Wow, I bet that's not a question that comes up very often!

Annette Lyon said...

I think it would apply. The Association for Mormon Letters considers anything LDS Fiction that is "about, by, or for" Mormons. While that's a bit broad for the LDS market specifically, it basically valid.

Annette Lyon said...

Amanda, Another thought based on your comment here--there are LDS publishers who have books by former LDS people, books that, like you described, wouldn't make sense to someone who doesn't have the cultural and theological background for such a book to make sense. Check out Signature Books and Zarahemla Books. I'm betting both of those would be willing to look at your work. (Although they are small presses, so you wouldn't have big sales, but it would be an outlet.)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Definitely let me know what they say when you do ask -- such an interesting question!

You know, sometimes stories just take on lives of their own and you may just need to give this one its head and see what it is when you're done with it. It sounds like a really good story to me and I'll look forward to seeing it in print, regardless of whether it's LDS fiction or general fiction.

As far as your name on the records go, they don't do that automatically, it's something you request to have done. So technically you're a member, although you haven't been attending. Which, depending on what the publishers say, might come in handy. :) :)

Take care, and I hope you're able to move past your wall. Maybe there's a scene further along in the book you could work on and then come back. Sometimes that's helpful.

Jen said...

What an interesting topic for a book, given your current personal relationship with the church being that you don't believe in it. How do your personal beliefs affect your ability to write a book about someone who feels drawn to return to the church? In other words, is it a return to the church out of testimony, or a return out of need for community & support while grieving an approaching loss? Or something else entirely? If its more the community angle, why a return to LDS vs filling those community needs elsewhere?

Most, if not all, LDS fiction books I have read carry at least an underlying testimony, whether specifically stated or simply as a theme. How would you approach that cultural expectation as an author who doesn't believe in the LDS church, without it coming across as simply a financial appeal toward an added market niche to the one you are already writing for? Intriguing.

Amanda said...

Annette - thanks for the publisher suggestions. I'm definitely not ready for the book to be published, not by a long shot, but I'll keep the names in mind for later.

Tristi - Unfortunately, I only have the ends to tie up in the book, and since I might change direction back in the middle somewhere, I don't have the motivation to write something that will likely be undone. I'll probably switch to a new project for a little while so I can regain some equilibrium (that's usually what I do for blocks, it works pretty well).

Jen - the stories that I write are beyond me. Characters come to me and ask for their stories to be told. They are who they are, I don't create them. That's my take on writing. I have no illusions about ever making money with my writing, nor would I ever sell out in order to publish a book. I would never manipulate a market to sell a book - the idea makes me shudder! My character is LDS because that's who she was when I created her. And, as an author, I separate myself from the book entirely, so that my feelings on issues are nonexistant. My relationship with the church doesn't matter - only my character's does. I can step into her shoes and feel her conversion back (which IS based on testimony) and be okay with that. On the other hand, sometimes I worry that the process will be seen as dishonest, because I do not feel that conversion myself. It isn't, though. It's fiction. In order to say it's dishonest, a person has to assume that the author is part of the book, and I'm not. It's been a very hard book to write because of that worry, to tell the truth. I don't want people to think I'm lying or advocating one way or another. As the author, I have no opinion - I just want their story to be told.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Isn't it amazing how those characters will take on lives of their own and tell us what they want us to do, even if we didn't originally intend it? I've discovered that if I try to argue them out of it, they just get cranky. :)

Good luck with figuring out those loose ends -- sounds like that other project will help get the creative juices flowing. Sometimes switching gears is the very best thing you can do!

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