Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Latayne C. Scott is author of 15 published books, including the recently-released Latter-day Cipher: A Novel (Moody Publishers) and The Mormon Mirage: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today (Zondervan). She is the recipient of the Distinguished Christian Service Award by Pepperdine University for “Creative Christian Writing.” She has published hundreds of magazine articles and has also won national awards and contests for poetry, humor and radio plays.

When did you decide to be a writer?

In a way, writing chose me. As part of a school assignment when I was in the third grade, I wrote an essay on fire prevention that my teacher entered into a local contest. I won five dollars and have been a professsional writer ever since.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

I don’t know how to answer this without sounding prideful: I don’t feel personal pride in the fact that God has given me a kind of writing gyroscope that keeps me steady. I know that’s an unearned gift He could withdraw at any time. Writing has always been natural to me, exhilarating and satisfying. But in some ways like Paul who had a thorn in his flesh that kept him from becoming prideful, I have very vocal critics who hate what I write and why I write it. My sense of calling from God helps me ride along above those waves of criticism.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

That depends on whether I have a deadline or not. I’ll work all night on adrenaline if I do. Unfortunately I let distractions keep me from being as productive when I don’t have a deadline. (Maybe I’ll live longer that way.)

What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

We live in a beautiful wooded area in central New Mexico. I love being outdoors. I also love thrift stores. And grandchildren. And our two children who gave us the grandchildren.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

Oh, absolutely reading others’ work helps me. It stimulates my creativity. It refreshes my mind. And in one case, reading a book actually brought me out of a three-week slump when I wasn’t able to write a word. That book was Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. She described the quirky people in her childhood and it made me think of odd things that happened to me when I was a child. Once I wrote down one of those incidents it was like the dry pump had been primed and I was back to writing, stronger than ever.

You recently released a book called The Mormon Mirage. Can you tell us about it?

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow morning and had been convinced beyond a shadow of any doubt that the God you’d worshipped, served, and to whom you had brought others, did not exist?

For ten years, I was a faithful and very happy Mormon. I was devastated to learn that its founder Joseph Smith was a deceiver and that its “scriptures” could be definitely shown to be of human origin; but even more hurt by the knowledge that its formerly-human “Heavenly Father” god did not exist.

This book is the result of years of research and investigation. It has hundreds of footnotes and an extensive bibliography so people can follow up on what I have written. It is also in audiobook (15 hours long!) and was just this week released as an expanded e-book, with two new chapters that don’t appear in the print edition.

The first part of the book deals with LDS history and doctrine, while the second part examines the new issues facing the church in the 21st century, such as those of race, gender, and dissidents. It has gotten excellent reviews, and many of them comment on the lack of bitterness I show in the book.

Where did you get your inspiration for The Mormon Mirage?

It’s true that this book was released recently, but as a major revision and update of its first edition which I wrote when I first left the Mormon church years ago.

As incredible as it might sound, a Christian author I met at a book signing contacted a publisher because she thought my story needed to be told. The rest, as they say, is history.

What special challenges did you face writing this book?

One thing I did before finishing this revision and update was to go away to a town in another state. There I attended LDS church services and read only Mormon materials for a week. I immersed myself back into that world so that I could be absolutely certain I wanted to put myself into critics’ crosshairs again, and that I was being fair in my depiction of the church I once dearly loved. (And still miss, by the way.)

Can you give some advice to people considering leaving the Mormon church?

I was recently interviewed by a site called Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify. http://exmormonscholarstestify.org/latayne-scott.html I would urge anyone who has the courage to face the difficult issues that I faced, read this.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

About the time that The Mormon Mirage was published by Zondervan, Moody Publishers also published my first novel, Latter-day Cipher, also about Mormonism, a murder mystery. Not everyone learns in the same way – some people learn by reading facts and history, and others through story. I wrote the novel to speak to people’s hearts about how satisfying Mormonism is and what lengths people will go to, in order to show their loyalty to the Mormon Church and its members.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

I think that my blog, Latayne.com, is a helpful, ongoing resource for people. It has what may be the most complete list of links to other sites about Mormonism on the Internet. And I constantly add to the “365 Reasons I Won’t Return to Mormonism” with new items of news or insight from other ex-Mormons too. I don’t think of this site as a marketing tool as much as an additional resource with tons of information for people who may or may not want to buy any of my books.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I call my WIP—with the title A Conspiracy of Breath --my first-first-second book. That is, it is written in the first person, and it’s about a first-century character, and it’s my second novel. Its premise is that a woman wrote one of the books in the New Testament, and it explores what it might have been like for a woman to have received revelation from God. I believe this will be the signature book of my life, and I’m nearly done with it. Or maybe it’s nearly done with me.

I’ve also got a proposal in to my agent, Janet Grant, for a book where I interview 9 other people who have left the Mormon church, asking them for advice for Christians and others who want to understand Mormons and reach them with the truth.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I am very grateful for the professionals in my life who help me write better. The authors at NovelMatters are wonderful advocates and cheerleaders. Everyone should have supportive writer friends – if you don’t have any, find some. Give to them and they will give to you a hundredfold. I am grateful for my agent, Janet Grant.

And I am grateful to editors. I often hear writers talking as if they feel that they are in an adversarial relationship with editors. I have never felt that way. Think of an editor this way: An editor is the one who tells you there is spinach on your teeth, just before you sit for the only portrait that may survive you.
My Web sites:
Blogging with five other upmarket Christian fiction writers at http://novelmatters.blogspot.com
Theological writings at http://www.representationalresearch.com
Latayne is giving away a copy of her BOTH of her books, The Mormon Mirage and Latter-day Cipher. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. "Think of an editor this way: An editor is the one who tells you there is spinach on your teeth, just before you sit for the only portrait that may survive you."

    I love it! Latayne, are you writing your first-first-second novel under deadline? I just wondered how you've been able to take two years to write it. Sounds like my dream scenario!

  2. Good question, Lori! You know how we've been talking about subtext over on NovelMatters-- where there is an underlying meaning beneath dialogue. Here's how it's gone with my wonderful agent and me.

    Me: I want to write a first century historical novel in first person.

    Her: Good.

    Me: Here are the first 25 pages. Want to start shopping it around?

    Her (much later): Good. I'd like to see the whole thing.

    Me: (much, much later): It's almost finished. Sure you don't want to look at it? It's controversial and I'm taking a lot of literary risks to write it.

    Her: I've love to see it when it's finished. (Subtext: So then I can run like crazy away when I'm sure it's as controversial as you say.)


  3. LOL! That's funny, Latayne. Sounds like me and my agent.

  4. Just love your definition of an editor! Perhaps you would be the one to ask for a better analogy of getting published than my current favorite; it's like giving birth without drugs.

  5. Elizabeth and Dionne, I have to say this about having an agent. If getting published is like giving birth without drugs, then doing it without an agent is like giving birth without drugs and being your own Lamaze coach.



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