Monday, January 19, 2009

More than you wanted to know about Latayne C. Scott...

A Shout-Out to wonderful followers: Rachel, The Koala Bear Writer, Sharon M, Suzi Shepherd, Cathy Bryant, Booklover 323, Yvonne Olson, Kimberly Payne, Page McManus, and Laidlaw Photography. Thank you!

And don’t forget to post a comment about your best friend to be entered into a drawing to win Sharon K. Souza’s wonderful book, Lying on Sunday.

Author Latayne C. Scott

I’d like to introduce myself by saying that, since you’ve already met the other six authors, you’ll agree after reading my introduction: They’re nicer than me.

First of all, they’re six very loving people who reach out to others in a way I admire. I’m not equipped, I guess, to be able to nurture beginning writers in the way that some of them can do.

And secondly, a lot of people are angry about what I write. If you took a poll of the 13 million Mormons worldwide, many of those who have heard of me would say they hate me. Some have threatened me. I’ve written several non-fiction books about why I left the Mormonism I so deeply loved. One of them is the April release from Zondervan, The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition.

My first novel portrays Mormons – the people – sympathetically, but turns a glaring searchlight on Mormon history and doctrines. So I will try to answer some questions from the point of view of my novel, Latter-day Cipher (Moody) which is, like The Mormon Mirage, available for pre-order on CBD, Amazon, and B&N. My editor called Cipher “the DaVinci Code of Mormonism,” and compared its insider view to The Godfather.

(And now I’m working on a new novel that promises to make some Christians mad or at least very uncomfortable. See, I warned you that I’m not that nice.)

Conflict is central to fiction, but how do you create a work of fiction that is tense, difficult, and sometimes even frightening, yet make it a place readers want to go to, spend time in, and get to know well?

I love reading mysteries – I began with Nancy Drew, and then read every single Agatha Christie and went on to a steady diet of modern mysteries. I love the technique of the cliffhanger, and have tried to use it in my novel, Latter-day Cipher.

But the cliffhanger is a trust agreement between the author and reader – the reader has to trust that the author will resolve it in a satisfying way. Not necessarily fix everything, but earn the reader’s respect for setting up the situation in the first place. Otherwise the reader won’t want to be played with again.

Where is the strangest place that you had a brainstorm and had to stop and write down an idea or snippet of dialogue?

My colleagues have teased me about the dream I had about a family that survived by eating wolves who had eaten corpses. That’s a scene in my novel.

I often awaken in the night and write down ideas, so I try to keep pen and paper nearby. One night I found the pen but it was too cold to go find some paper, so I just wrote all up and down my left arm, looping around, adding in things with carats. When I stumbled into the bathroom the next morning, my husband was shaving. He asked, “What is wrong with your arm?”

For the first moments, I didn’t know either. I wondered if I’d forgotten that I got a tattoo.

Which one of your characters most resembles you and how did you draw from your life to create them?

I thought I was being very subtle, but even before the release of Latter-day Cipher, people who read the manuscript said that I’m very much like the hard-headed agnostic reporter, Selonnah. She’s impatient with foolishness and people who talk too much. Okay, that’s me!

Tell us about the relationship between your writing and your spiritual life.

I guess because I deal in my writing with the way people wrestle with God, I’m a better writer when I’m spiritually off-balance. I do not welcome such feelings but I feel that God enables me to work through, and articulate, difficulties on behalf of others.

When you sit down to write, who is your audience?

As a novelist, I don’t write for Christians. I write for non-Christians. I want my writing to be understood without church-speak. In Latter-day Cipher I have a Christian character explain her faith by using some unusual images, but no Scripture quotations. My greatest goal is to be able to convey the truth of the Bible in a way that gains the respect of the unchurched reader.

What are your favorite things to do to take a break during a long writing session?

I hate breaks and interruptions. Therefore I don’t have any favorite thing to do except get back to writing. I’m really not much fun when I’m involved in a project. (See, not nice…)

Think of a novel you have not written - yet - but would like to one day. The best thing you will ever write before you die. Don't tell us what it will be about, but instead, tell us how it will make the reader feel.

The situations I depicted in Latter-day Cipher were those of the horror of losing one’s faith. I want a reader to feel that someone has looked in his or her soul, extracted the deepest, sick-swallowing fears and put them under a shadowless light.

For such readers, I want to examine in fiction those secret dreads and be able to tell them that there is a coherent, authentic way to find to answers that are transcendently, eternally true.

And, a real Person behind those answers.


In subsequent posts, I want to talk less about myself and more about the writing process. But to conclude my introduction, here’s my branding statement, which sums it all up:

I pull an amorphous issue forward until it resolves into its face. Then I put my face right up against it and talk to it.

I take all comers: the monolith of Mormonism, the challenge of writing truthful fiction, the bittersweet contradictions of faith in a mysterious and terrifying God of love.

I look them all straight in the eye.


Bonnie Grove said...

This is such an honest post! I'm amazed at the level of honesty of all you ladies - you come out and say, "Yep, this is me." Gorgeous!

I haven't written on my arm in the cold of night, but I'll keep that idea "up my sleeve" in case I need it one night.

Oh, and you say you're "not nice", but I ain't scared of ya! :)

Thanks for this Latayne, it takes courage to write - the courage of one's convictions.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

What a great idea, writing on your arm! That's a keeper. Now, if I can just get those ideas to cooperate.

Thank you for this incredibly frank glimpse into who you are, and what drives you to share what God has placed on your heart.

You say you're 'not nice,' but I know better!

Nichole Osborn said...

Being uncomfortable is a good thing. I think God uses that to make us grow. We headed back to the "safe" issue from a previous post. I think we Christians, as a whole, have become complacent, which is safe. I like to read a book that will challenge me. I haven't read an of your books yet, but believe me, I will be be searching them out. I really don't think you are as "not nice" as you say. Thank you for the honesty in your post.

Anonymous said...

This blog is a must-read for anyone interested in writers and their work. These ladies provide an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the writing life as well as insights into some of the best written books in today's market.

Bonnie Grove said...

I so agree - being uncomfortable tells us something is shifting, changing, we're growing and stretching.

Fiction is one way (a great way) to ensure we are living an examined, intentional life. It can make us ask questions of ourself and our life.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you Bonnie and Debbie. It helps to have a thick skin --whether I'm writing on my arm or writing things that challenge people's thinking.

Kathleen, every writer in the world wants to hear those words "must-read." Thank you so much.

And Nichole, I agree with you. There is a place for "nice" writing and there's a place for in-your-face-with-respect. (Look at the way the apostle Paul wrote.)

I told my fellow NovelMatters authors that every novel needs a villain. I guess I'll be that for this blog.

Anonymous said...

Latayne, I love your honesty and forthrightness, neither of which makes you "not nice." I see the seven of us each bringing something different to the table, yet we balance each other out, have our own role in the work we hope to accomplish here.

I think we're all aiming for transparency, and I think that will be the basis for some great dialogue here.

In my mind I see us linking arms, all for one and one for all. We're in this together and we'll take whatever heat is thrown our way, being Truth-bearers: true to our call, true to the One who has called us.

You rock!

Bonnie Way aka the Koala Mom said...

Latayne--nice to meet you. You sound like a very honest, say-it-the-way-it-is kinda person, and that's refreshing sometimes. I love your story about your writing "tattoo." I'm a little bit confused about what side of the fence you're on--but I'm guessing you left the Mormon church for the Christian church? Sounds like you'll have an interesting perspective to bring to this blog--and your writing. Looking forward to hearing more about you and your books.

Latayne C Scott said...

Hi Koala Bear Writer. Boy, it certainly would be controversial if I were a Mormon blogging here! No, I was a happy and satisfied Mormon for 10 years, and left that system of thought because I discovered that I had to choose between Mormon doctrine and the Bible. I chose the Bible. I've actually written several books about Mormonism: The Mormon Mirage (first and second editions), Why We Left Mormonism, Why We Left a Cult (actually not specifically about Mormonism, but good information about why it and some other groups fit that category) and After Mormonism, What?

Latter-day Cipher is my first venture into fiction (which of course is the focus of this blog). I wrote it partially to scratch an artistic itch, so to speak; but also with the knowledge that some people will read a novel and absorb as much information about a real-life situation, as will those who read a non-fiction book on the same subject.

So thank you for your encouragement. We'll see, of course, whether or not I accomplished that when the book actually is published in April.

Patti Hill said...

Latayne and I shared a seat on a bus, and she didn't bite me once, but she made me THINK. That's what we all hope to do with our novels.

Personally, I start a novel with a spiritual/relational problem for which I don't know the answer. It's not the most comfortable way to write, but wrestling with truth keeps me on my knees. In short, writing novels has improved my prayer life and my relationship with God. I hope the same for my readers.

Latayne, I want to be as not-nice as you.

Rachel said...

Latayne, I commend you for getting the word out about mormonism. I was appalled to read an article where they showed that Christians believed that Christianity, Mormonism and Jehovah Witness were all the same! It's time for us believere to show the True distinction. It may be the unpopular route, most like a candy-coated feel good message, but where is the growth in it. I am so glad Jesus didn't do that. He was the most controversial man who ever walked the earth.
I told my husband about your books and to my surprise (because he doesn't like to read) he told me he'd like to take a look at your books. Trust me, a major compliment!

Lori Benton said...

@Patti."I start a novel with a spiritual/relational problem for which I don't know the answer."

I did this too, Patti, which might explain why it took me four years to work it out and get a finished draft! Well, that's part of the reason. The other is I had to give myself a crash course in 18thC American history. In any case, the book didn't end the way I thought it would. My characters made a mess! It came down to a case of knowing what was right for them to do, but it was so painful it took some time for me to accept it, and write it. It truly felt like when the Lord deals with me in the area of correction. Revelation, resistance, finally acceptance, then the hard doing of it. And then... ah, freedom!

This is going to be a great writing blog, ladies.

Latayne C Scott said...

Thanks, Rachel and Sharon, for what you said. Knowing that there is a great, silent, powerful group of people who've "got my back" helps me be more courageous.

Of course I didn't bite Patti the time I sat next to her on the bus. I told you, she's nice. Besides there were witnesses.

Patti Hill said...


You got it, girlfriend. Four years is about how long it SHOULD take to read a novel worth reading. Have you sold it? You have a great heart for the things of God. I hope to read your book someday.

We'll be talking about things like, can a fabulous book be written in a few months or a year? Are there people so gifted that they don't need time to niggle over the details? I think I know the answer, but it sure will be fun to hear what you have to say.

Patti Hill said...

Oops, I didn't preview my comments. I meant to say "write a novel," not "read a novel." Geesh.

Lori Benton said...


How funny, my brain auto corrected for you!

No, I've not sold my novel yet. I'm working diligently to bring the too high word count back down into breathable air space first. But it did win third place for historicals in the 2008 ACFW Genesis contest (under the title Trouble the Water, although I'm calling it Kindred now). If and when I get the word count down, I'll be sending it around to agents. Hopefully before April... which will mark year 5 of working full time on this novel.

I look forward to discussing how long it takes to write a book. Care to tackle the length issue too? LOL. That's been my big stumbling block for the twenty years I've been trying to get something published.

Kathleen Popa said...

Let's see, when the Bible names the fruits of the spirit, it lists love, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, joy, peace, gentleness and faithfulness.

Hmmm... niceness isn't listed.

Okay Latayne, you're still in. I'm thrilled to have you on Novel Matters.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog since it began. I've enjoyed getting to know each of you. LaTayne, you definately have my attention. I often admire those who have the courage to bring the truth to light. Often I find that no matter how nice a person may do this they will still be labeled "not so nice." We don't always enjoy having our heads pulled out of the sand even though we may depsarately need to do so ourselves.

My best friend is one of thsoe people who has a "gift" for pulling our heads out of the sand. There are times she is able to do so with humor and comedy and other times she must later apologize for her tactics. Being a worship pastor's wife she walks a fine line but does so with uprightness and character.

Latayne C Scott said...

Jena, I appreciate your comments. It reminds me of the scripture that says, "Better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy." I can remember vividly the times when someone, like your friend the pastor's wife, pulled my head out of the sand. It stung -- and sometimes the sting lasted for a long, long time.

Editors fit in that category. I always tell editors how much I appreciate what they do, because they are the friends who tell you your slip is showing BEFORE you go out in public. They got to be editors, after all, because they know what needs to be done to improve someone's writing. But it still can sting when, as agent Janet Grant says, they "murder your darlings" -- cherished phrases that are over the top, bits of dialogue that only the author thinks are funny, crafted (but ultimately empty) descriptions.

Patti Hill said...


I have no doubt that Kindred will find a home. You have the one thing most required of a novelist: persistence. Almost everyone I talk to wants to write a book. We all have a story, but the person who sits at their computer day after day is the one who succeeds. I'd rather taper down a work than add any day. Good for you!

LeAnne Benfield Martin said...


Just wanted you to know there's an award waiting for you and Novel Matters at my Beauty and the Beholder blog today, so come by and pick it up!

Latayne C Scott said...

LeAnne, thank you so much for the award! I speak for all NM authors in thanking you.

If you've ever tried to get an email committee together to do anything, you'll understand that we'd have to corral all 7 chickens to vote on who to pass it on to. We do good to remember who's posting when!

We thank you for honoring us, LeAnne.