Monday, May 4, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

CAROL LYNCH WILLIAMS, a four-time winner of the Utah Original Writing Competition and winner of Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award, grew up in Florida but now lives in Utah with her husband and seven children. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and helped develop the conference on Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers at Brigham Young University.

The Chosen One, her newest book is about thirteen-year-old Kyra who has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father’s three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.

Kirkus says The Chosen One is, “Intensely gripping and grippingly intense . . ."

and Booklist says it is “a heart pounder.”

Please join us in welcoming Carol Lynch Williams to the Café . . .

Mary: Tell us about your newest book The Chosen One

Carol: The Chosen One is about a 13-yr-old girl named Kyra Leigh Carlson. Kyra lives in a polygamist community that is stuck in the middle of nowhere. She has a loving father, three mothers and 20 brothers and sisters. Kyra has discovered the outside world by reading—something that is not allowed in her community. And she has also met someone that she cares about. But where Kyra lives the prophet chooses who you will marry, and the young women are saved for the old men of the community. When Kyra finds out that she has been chosen to marry someone else, she has to make some dangerous decisions.

Mary: What was your inspiration for this story?

Carol: Several years ago I heard about a girl who had run away from home several times. She ran because she was supposed to marry someone in her extended family. The girl was part of a small polygamist group. At that moment I knew, someday, that I would write something to do with polygamy.

Mary: Do you remember writing the first words? Are they still the same?

Carol: The first words of the book are, “If I was going to kill the prophet, I’d do it in Africa.” I do remember coming up with the line, though I don’t remember what I was doing—not writing, that’s for sure. As soon as the words came to me, I knew I had the start of the novel.

My friend, Richard Peck, once spoke to a group of writers here in Utah. He said, “You are no greater than your first line.” For me, my first line was a strong one—one I hope Richard Peck would approve of. J And that beginning hasn’t changed.

Mary: What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

Carol: I did a lot of research. I read many articles about polygamy, watched several specials that were aired as I started writing, talked to people who practiced polygamy or came from a polygamist background, and spent a lot of time making sure the facts for my story were right for my story—if that makes sense. This is a piece of fiction. But a lot of what I talk about has happened. Abuse occurs in all religions—and in homes where there is no religion.

Mary: What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Carol: The hardest part of this book was knowing that much of what I wrote truly happened in some homes. I cannot abide the thought that any child might be in a dangerous situation. So I didn’t relish the dark scenes of the book. When I talk to people about writing I always say, “Someone is either dead or naked in all the books I write.” When I realized exactly what was going to happen in this book, I was not happy.

Mary: What one question do you wish an interviewer would ask you but never has?

Carol: How do I stay so young and beautiful—and all without surgery or smoke and mirrors.

Mary: Ha! Love it. I never get asked that question either. What are you working on now?

Carol: At this moment—and for maybe two more days, I am actually in between pieces. I just turned in my next novel for St. Martin’s Press, a young adult book called Lost in Peace. I’ll be working on rewrites as soon as I hear back from my editor. I’m thinking, though, that I need to write something lighthearted next. I’ve been in some icky places with my last few novels. Something funny would be nice.

That said, I do have a story that isn’t so happy that I’m about a third of the way finished with. So, we’ll see.

Mary: How did you become a writer?

Carol: I have always wanted to write. As a young girl I wrote as soon as I was capable of putting stories together. I wrote plays that my family performed. And when I was in ninth grade we actually had a creative writing section (about 9 weeks long) in English. During that time my regular teacher was gone, but we had a substitute and she read my story out loud in class. I was thrilled. Later, when I turned 16 or so, I began working on a collection of short stories. A few of those wound up in my first novel, Kelly and Me.

A hint for all the readers who want to be writers: writers write. So if you’re writing? You’re a writer.

Mary: Was there any part that you struggled with or avoided writing?

Carol: I struggled with the format of the book. In order to tell the story, I had to spend a lot of time with flashbacks, in Kyra’s past. You have to know Kyra’s life before to see why she does what she does at the end. And I couldn’t figure out how to do that. I went to bed every night for like two weeks wondering how to fix the novel. Slowly it came to me what to do, and like an experiment, I started rewriting. And it worked out.

The saddest part of the novel for me is the final scene between Kyra and her sister, Laura. That was painful to write.

Mary: What's on your nightstand right now?

Carol: Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Eternal, Ann Dee Ellis’ Everything is Fine, Jeanette Ingold’s Mountain Solo, the scriptures, and my journal. Also a stack of cooking magazines, a couple of notes from my girls, and a lamp. Dust. A cross-stitch chart. A tiny music box (broken). Vitamin E lotion. And a novel for adults that I will never read.

Mary: Besides writing, do you have any other passions?

My daughters. Reading. Dreaming about planting gardens and having a countertop in the kitchen that is solid surface granite. I love to watch movies—though I haven’t in a long time. I love watching American Idol—but right now our satellite is broken and I don’t know why. I love hanging out with my writer friends. I love to teach writing. But only children’s writing because that’s the only thing I can do. I love to sing and make people laugh.

Mary: If you could be anything else besides a writer, what would it be?

Carol: A Country and Western singer. Or a solid gold dancer, but I would have to be SOLID gold. Or I would like this job: Reading books for a living. But only books I loved. I wouldn’t read books that I didn’t love. Now that would be a darn good job.

Mary: I agree. Sign me up for that job. Thanks for all the insights, Carol, and congratulations on the publication of your newest book.

Okay, blog readers, now it's your turn. Throw confetti and cheers Carol's way, or ask her a question.

~~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Carol, please post them now.