Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Interview I Gave at BYU (Part 2)

Katherine: So you originally started out writing for a non-LDS audience. Has that changed. and now you feel your writing for more of an LDS audience?

Yeah, at first I really wanted to write more for non-LDS people and sort of crack open the LDS experience from an insider perspective—not with the effort to convert people, but just to show how Mormons are another kind of human being. And that motivated my writing for several years, but now I think I’m a little more focused on writing for Mormons. I think the transition took place because I didn’t break through. It was really tough to break through. I even had an agent who really tried hard.

I’m not saying I’ve given up on trying to write for non-Mormon audiences, but as a writer you want some acceptance, and I’ve received a little more acceptance within my own culture. So that’s where I’m focusing a little more now. But I’ll probably make another attempt at doing some kind of a book for non-Mormons about Mormons.

Katherine: So what do you consider your greatest success as a writer?

I would say that some of my humor writing has been the most successful. I was involved with a satirical Mormon news source called The Sugar Beet. That was really rewarding because it was very fun to write—very cathartic to use humor to diffuse some of the cultural tension I feel in this rigid culture that we have. And the response was really tremendous. We were giving the material away free on a website, and that made a big difference, but we had a lot of media coverage and we had probably 10,000 or 15,000 unique visitors to the website each month. We had a big audience, and when you have an audience it feeds your enthusiasm. And so I really enjoyed it and still enjoy writing some satire because of that experience—I wish I had made some money from it, though.

David: Is there any kind of general theme that you see come up in your writing?

I think a theme that comes up for me is deeply believing in Mormonism and yet facing personal flaws, sins, and shortcomings. The tension that arises between the ideal and the real experience and coming to terms with how to face that. My characters are often caught with one foot in orthodox Mormonism and one foot maybe in the world and deal with that tension of being. We say “in the world, but not of it.” But sometimes my characters are “of the world, but not in it.” They feel worldly influences, and yet they’re trying to be in this Mormon milieu.

Katherine: What advice would you give to young writers?

If I had it to do over again, I think I was a little too worried about carving out a career and getting published a little too early. And I’ve learned that I get more out of writing when I just want to do it for my own enjoyment. I don’t like to use the word hobby for my writing, but it’s something I do and would enjoy even if someone else didn’t publish it. And then you can play mental games with yourself and think, “If it did get published, I would be very happy, but that would just be the icing on the cake.” I think more of that kind of mindset would have helped me enjoy some of it a little more and not feel frustrated when I got a lot of rejections. So that would be my advice: go for the personal enjoyment first.

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