Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Anne Montgomery

9780996390149_p0_v2_s192x300Yesterday, I shared my review of the fabulous book, The Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery. Now, we get to hear more details about the book and Anne’s own true experience with the people of Colorado City as well as what she has coming up next!


What inspired you to take on this subject?

The ideas for all of my books come from current events. I am an admitted news junkie and have been reading the newspaper front to back daily for about 40 years. I’ve learned that truth is often far stranger than fiction. Stories about the polygamists in Colorado City are often in the news here in Arizona. I had never heard about the cult until I moved here and was shocked that such a group could exist today in the US. In regard to Rose, the 16-year-old protagonist, I am a teacher in a Title I high school in Phoenix. Many of my students come from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds. I am also a foster mom. I have seen what abuse and neglect can do to children first hand.

Many of the non-FLDS characters describe the hostility they face from the residents of Colorado City and at the end of the book, you said you traveled to Colorado City for inspiration and experienced similar treatment. What was that like?

I find it impossible to write stories without actually visiting the locations where my characters live, so I recruited a friend and we drove to Colorado, City. We concocted a story about looking for a place to retire. As we studied the community, children stared at us as if we were monsters. They are told that outsiders are devils. We drove around town, stopping at the the local market, the shuttered public school, the grave yard, and the leader’s palatial estate. I’m pretty sure we were being followed, at times. It was very disconcerting. I’m not afraid of many things, but I have to admit I was uncomfortable while doing research on site and have no desire to go back.

What other research did you do for the book?

As a former reporter, I greatly enjoy digging for a story. I read articles about Colorado City and conducted interviews with people who had lived or worked in the community, including Flora Jessop, who escaped twice from the cult and today works with the Child Protection Project: an anti-child abuse group that helps women and girls escape from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stories Flora told me were so harrowing that to this day I have not listened to the three-hour recording of our interview session. The images were burned into my brain. I also interviewed Dr. Theodore Tarby who bravely confronted the cult members, asking them to refrain from marrying and reproducing with their close relatives, after he discovered that the cause of the awful birth defects in the community were the result of incest. Unfortunately, Dr. Tarby was ignored.

Many scenes in the book are very emotional and are based on real-life FLDS decrees and beliefs. How did you decide what to include in the book? 

I took into account the stories that Flora Jessop relayed and, when possible, I gave those experiences to Rose. I find it interesting that some readers have been put off by certain scenes and have suggested that I have overplayed the situation. But the vast majority of the information I wrote about came directly from my interviews with Flora and Dr. Tarby. I also included information gleaned from newspaper articles and TV reports.

What do you hope people take away from the book?

Be aware of what’s happening around you and speak up when warranted. Some characters in “The Scent of Rain” are kind, well-meaning people, but they don’t acknowledge what’s happening right under their noses. Mistreatment of people, especially children, is something no one should tolerate, and no belief or religion should be a mask for abuse.

What are you working on next?

Two of my books that were previously published are to be soon to be reissued. “A Light in the Desert” is a soft-thriller involving a Vietnam veteran who is succumbing to a strange form of mental illness called the Jerusalem Syndrome, a pregnant teenager, and the deadly, real-life, cold-case sabotage of an Amtrak train in the Arizona desert. “Nothing But Echoes” is historical fiction that deals with the discovery of a fabulous tomb in Northern Arizona that reveals a man interred 900 years ago who doesn’t look like the pueblo people who buried him, and which leads to questions about archeological looting, the black market sale of antiquities, and when Europeans first arrived in the Americas. “The Castle,” which tells the story of a female National Park ranger who is a rape survivor and the serial rapist who is stalking her, is currently being offered to publishers.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

First, don’t quit your day job. It’s extremely difficult in the ever-changing of world of publishing to make a living as an author. And remember that authors are not just story tellers. In order to be successful, they must be marketers and bloggers and speakers. Also, an author will not survive without extremely thick skin. Rejections can wear you down, but they are part of the process. When someone says no, politely ask why. Respect the person’s opinion and see what you can do better. Obviously, writers must write. When you finish that perfect novel, take a few breaths then write another one. Publishers are not looking for a one-hit wonder. They want to sign people who produce lots of books. Finally, try not to take the ups and downs of publishing too seriously. If you have a sense of humor and appreciate those baby steps forward, you will be a much happier author.

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery

Today, I am pleased to share my review for The Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery. Tomorrow, I’ll have a Q&A with Ms. Montgomery! Make sure you don’t miss it! 

The Scent of RainThe Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always been fascinated by fringe religious groups, including the FLDS, or Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. So when I got the chance to read this book, I was very excited to get started.

This book was hard to read – very hard to read, at points. The subject matter is intense and based on real-life events and people.

But it is so, so important to read and digest. It makes some great points about what people believe, want to believe, and what they’ll do in the name of faith and love. This book has some heroes and some villains, some both. That creates, I think, a really true-to-life dynamic of the working of these communities. Some people are just really, really bad. Some people do bad things and get away with them. And we have to navigate that.

The book follows both the stories of Rose, a young FLDS girl, who feels that something is not right in her community, and Adan, a foster child who runs away from his group home and is discovered by a local man who works closely with the FLDS community. When their journeys intersect, it will change the community forever, if they can stay alive.

I loved the dynamic between Rose and Adan. It wasn’t sappy, overly romantic nonsense. It was really true-to-life for the characters; with her never having seen a boy outside her community and him also fascinated and attracted.

The revelations Trak and Chase had about why they (the community, including themselves) allow the FLDS to operate without interference we’re really good too. I think they made some really important points that we could learn from.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. I think it was believable and really made some amazing points about faith, love and what we can tolerate as a community. If you’re interested in this subject at all, you’ll want to read this book.

Highly recommended.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Girl on a Wire by Libby Phelps

tGirl on a Wire: Walking the Line Between Faith and Freedom in the Westboro Baptist ChurchGirl on a Wire: Walking the Line Between Faith and Freedom in the Westboro Baptist Church by Libby Phelps

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always been fascinated by the Westboro Baptist Church – any extreme religious movement, really – and while I read “Banished” by Lauren Drain, we really hadn’t heard too much from members of the Phelps family themselves. The people who were born and bred to build the church.

But that’s changed now with this great memoir by Libby Phelps Alvarez, granddaughter of Fred Phelps, a prominent figure in just about every documentary major protest by the WBC prior to her defection in 2009. She left after being bullied by her fellow church members who were “concerned” about an innocent picture of her and her sister wearing a bikini in a vacation photo. In the book, she shares her memories and analysis of events from before the WBC began its picketing routine up through its protests of major, national tragedies. It’s really a fascinating book.

I think this novel is the best glimpse we have yet into the inner-workings of the church and it’s members. Libby answers pretty much all the burning questions spectators have about the group: Do they really believe what they’re saying? What was Fred Phelps like around the people who were closest to him?

The journal-like writing style is a great way to convey the story, which shows not only Libby’s growth, but the radicalization of the church itself and the brewing storm that continues to this day within it.

There are also so many insights, I think, into other fundamentalist movements out there (I’m looking at you, Duggars!) Phelps describes in plain language how these extreme churches and movements keep control over their adherents. It’s really a very good analysis.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the WBC and it’s inner-workings. It was very brace of Libby to write this book, and I applaud her for everything she’s done to make amends for her years of picketing.

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Posted in Reviews

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

The Magdalen GirlsThe Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’ve never heard of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, I would suggest googling them before reading this book. The subject is difficult and rage-inducing (to think people could treat each other like that!) but these were indeed true places.

I first heard about the laundries through the movie “The Magdalene Sisters,” which would be a good companion to this book for those who want to learn more. The laundries were places for “fallen women” to go in very Catholic Ireland, where they were treated as prisoners, doing heavy manual labor under the Watch of often cruel nuns, and they could not be released until, generally, a male family member came to retrieve them. Many were only released through death.

“The Magdelen Girls” depicts one of these places, The Sisters of Divine Redemption, in a very real and powerful way. Set in the 1960s, the book follows three girls who find themselves given over to the nuns by their families for various offenses, including “seduction,” and just generally not being useful around the house. Seriously.

The book is a bit depressing because – as in the movie I mentioned – even when the women are rescued – they often feel empty, betrayed, hopeless, etc. Happy endings are few and far between here. And this book is also light on them.

In specific terms, the book also doesn’t add much to the understanding of the places, so I would recommend it mostly for people new to the subject. It’s also pretty unresolved in the end. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but things aren’t completed in the end. As was the case in real life, some of the girls are “out” but some aren’t, and the nuns go unpunished. It just, is.

So, if this is a subject which interests you, I would pick this book up. But if you’re well-versed in the subject, and are looking for more of a detailed account, I would recommend some of the memoirs that are out there.

Either way, I’m glad that the memory of what these women went through isn’t forgotten.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Cover Me in Darkness by Eileen Rendahl

Cover Me in Darkness: A MysteryCover Me in Darkness: A Mystery by Eileen Rendahl

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled with what to rate this book because I really liked it. It was a fascinating perspective: what happens to people who survive horrific events long after the news vans leave? How do they move on? Or can they ever do it, really?

But what bumped it down to 3 stars are some key issues, including he ending. More on that later.

The story centers on Amanda, who managed to prevent her mother from murdering one of her brothers, but was too late to save her youngest brother 10 years earlier. At the time, the family were members of a cult, which Amanda blames for pushing her mother over the edge. At the beginning of the novel, Amanda learns her mother has committed suicide in the psychiatric hospital she had been kept in since the murder. But then, Amanda finds evidence that there might be more to it than that. And then strange things start happening at work and in her personal life. She quickly realizes things are happening that may destroy the life she’s carefully constructed.

This book was good. I really, truly enjoyed the story. But once things started picking up and moving to the conclusion, it kind of fell apart. The ending was terribly rushed. Just over all at once. And with numerous, gaping plot holes that didn’t get fixed or resolved. I don’t want to give them away, but if love to chat with someone who’s read it to see what they think. Maybe I’m overthinking things.

The stuff that did get resolved was fairly easy to figure out. I don’t mind figuring out some things, but when the only “big reveals” are incredibly obvious, it’s frustrating. That’s why those other plot points need to be resolved too! To provide depth!

Also, I felt frustrated with Amanda. At the end of the novel, she was in the exact same place she was at the beginning: feeling obligated to support someone who did her numerous wrongs. She basically willingly traps herself in a cycle of never, ever moving on. But this I’m more forgiving of, because maybe that’s how it is with people who survive things like this. I can’t imagine being in her place. But more discussion of this may have been helpful. But again, the ending was rushed, so we didn’t get any discussion of these nuances.

Overall, this was a good book, but I was left feeling frustrated. With a little more development, this book could be great. Absolutely.

Proceed with caution.

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