Friday, September 16, 2005

Trapped by the Mormons-Life Behind the Zion Curtain

Author Natalie R. Collins' blog has such a great title, I had to steal it for this post today! It's my pleasure to welcome her to the blog as my Girlfriends Cyber Circuit guest. Natalie is a wonderful person, a very generous soul, and a terrific writer! Thanks for visiting today, Natalie!

Before we get started... here's a bit about Natalie and her newest book:

Wives and Sisters

By Natalie R. Collins


"It's a white-knuckles ride all the way. Expert depiction of a young woman's struggle with the oppressive "family values" of one kind of fundamentalism. Newcomer Collins is a talent to watch."--Kirkus Reviews

"Startling and compelling--I could not stop turning the pages. Natalie Collins weaves an absolutely riveting tale."-- Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Sinner

"A dark, powerful debut novel. Natalie Collins pulls no emotional punches crafting this searing tale of one woman's search for justice." ---Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of The Killing Hour

"Natalie Collins' Wives and Sisters is a journey through heartbreak, tragedy, and self-discovery with a courageous woman who dares to think for herself in a dogmatic society. This is a story for anyone who has ever questioned what they've been taught all their life; anyone who has ever doubted their self-worth, and everyone who loves to cheer on the underdog and watch them triumph in the end. You'll be glad you took this journey with her."---Tina Wainscott, bestselling author of I'll Be Watching You

"Please warn your readers, this is not a book that can be put down. It's so compelling, so dramatic, with strong suspense and mystery elements, that I had to find out what would happen."—Perri O'Shaughnessy, New York Times bestselling author of Unlucky in Law

"Wives and Sisters is indeed a suspense novel. It is not a condemnation of a faith, but rather those who follow blindly. It makes the reader think. Can you have faith without deceit? Can religion have too many rules? Read the novel for yourself. Make up your own mind."—The Clarion-Ledger

"…the author brings authentic color and gripping detail to her book, which underscores the very real mentality of protecting the Church at all costs, thus allowing offenders to abuse their victims over and over again without consequence."—The Tucson Citizen

"Well-written, fast-paced, Natalie Collins' is suspense filled satisfaction with a bone chilling, thought provoking similarity to recent events."—

"Wives and Sisters is a gripping tale oozing with skillful feminist commentary about the patriarchal nature of Mormonism, which may earn Collins disparagement in her home state. A spirited decision for a newcomer, and it earns her the status of a voice to watch."—Riverwalk Journal

"…fans will be stunned by this tense thriller that condemns extremist religious and social moral behavior at the cost of any segment of society."—Harriet Klausner

"Don't be surprised if you devour this book in one reading. Natalie Collins has captured the essence of a page turner by giving us a three dimensional characters, plenty of action and a healthy dose of controversy."—Midwest Book Review

"Author Collins excels in developing Allison, an extremely complex character. She is, at once, filled with rage, yet still compassionate and loving - rebellious, but loyal and ready to lend a hand when needed, even to her father, stepmother and family who have so wronged her."—Mostly

"Wives and Sisters is a raw, emotional story that never gives into sentimentality. It puts a plain, unvarnished face on the secret workings of the human soul and the price of blind faith."—The Celebrity Café.com

"This is a book written with skill and passion and I suspect it will resonate with women who have never set foot inside a Mormon church. These problems are too widespread to pin down to one place, one time or one institution."—The Washington Times

"WIVES AND SISTERS is clearly one of this year's best books; riveting, painful at times, realistic always, and completely unforgettable. It not only makes you cry, it makes you think, which is my personal hallmark of an excellent read. Natalie R Collins has emerged as one of the finest new authors I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Brava, Ms Collins! Brava!"—Rendezvous Review Magazine "Rosebud of the Month" winner


Set in the closed world of the Mormon Church, a world scrutinized because of the Elizabeth Smart case and covered in nonfiction bestsellers like Secret Ceremonies and Under the Banner of Heaven, WIVES AND SISTERS is the gripping story of a young woman on the run from evil, powerful men. When Lori Hacking disappeared last July, the nationwide spotlight turned to Salt Lake City once again, just as it had with the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart. But tragically, Lori did not come home alive. Lori's husband, Mark Hacking, pled guilty to the crime. Although written well before the Hacking case became know, Collins's WIVES AND SISTERS portrays a world eerily similar to that of Mark Hacking. The parallels between the deception Mark Hacking built around his education and the lies perpetrated by the character Mark in WIVES AND SISTERS are uncanny, right down to the same first name.

WIVES AND SISTERS opens with a look back at the sudden disappearance of Allison Jensen's best friend, who was kidnapped while playing in the woods near home. One moment her friend was beside her; then she was gone. When no leads emerged, she was given up for dead. Now, years later, trying to fill in the gaps of a patchwork memory, Allison still gets no answers from the Mormon community in which she lives. She is stuck in a world where she does not fit with a father who tyrannizes and torments heras the self-appointed messenger of God. Why is she being fed half-truths? When a brutal attack makes her desperate to escape Mormon bonds, Allison finds herself on a collision course with community leaders as they cover up the steps of a sexual predator.

Like Mark Hacking, Collins' character Mark Peterson is trying to live a life of impeccable standards, dictated by Mormon tenets, and when he fails, the consequences are deadly, as he will do almost anything to protect his standing in the community of Saints. Allison is determined to bring Mark and those who didn't stop him to justice, before they stop her from piecing together the tragic past that has haunted her for so many years.


As a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lifelong resident of Utah, Natalie R. Collins brings authentic color and voice to Allison. In her extensive research of the history and teachings of Mormonism, she has discovered that it is a very large organization with a violent and colorful past. WIVES AND SISTERS is a story familiar to many young men and women raised inside the strictures of fundamental religions. Many times there is a "protect the Church at all costs" mentality among Church leaders, which leads to a sheltering system that enables offenders to abuse their victims over and over again without consequence. Heartbreaking and thrilling, WIVES AND SISTERS will keep readers firmly on the edge of their seat.

Natalie R. Collins is an author and journalist with over 20 years of writing experience. She was also an editor for the 2001 and 2002 Sundance Film Festivals. A lifelong resident of Utah, raised a member of the Mormon Church, Natalie lives there with her husband and two daughters. Wives and Sisters will be available in paperback in March of 2006 and her next book, Behind Closed Doors, will be out in hardback in 2006.


MO'C: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Natalie.
NC: It is my pleasure.

MO'C: Where did you get the idea for this novel?
NC: It’s loosely based on my own life, sprinkled with bits and pieces of other people’s stories I have heard over the years.

MO'C: Can you please talk a bit about your background with the Church of Latter-Day Saints and how it has affected your work?
NC: Well, it certainly colors my work in that Mormonism is what I know. I’ve had people say, “Well, why Mormons? Why don’t you write about Catholics, or Baptists? Why pick on the Mormons? First of all, I’m not picking on anyone. I don’t write about Catholics or Baptists, because I was not raised as one, and Mormonism and Utah is what I know. While I have written about other cultures and concepts, this particular one seems to be the one that rings the most true. Go figure.

MO'C: Why do you think certain religions or sects maintain so firmly that they are the only ones that are right? What consequences does this have for our society?
NC: Because undaunted belief leads to followers of a peculiar stripe. If you have something that MIGHT be true, but admit the neighbor also has some of the truth, what is to stop the followers from going to the neighbor’s house? Then believers are spread too far and wide, and you’ve already encouraged them to believe there might be something else out there that can contain some of the truth. If you can convince someone that you have the ONLY ONE TRUTH, you have something over them. They will always come to you first. How can you turn away from that ONE TRUE THING? It colors everything they do, even when they sin. I think most people are inherently looking for the ONE TRUE THING. I know that even after I left Mormonism I was still seeking it. I look at the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 as one of the most frightening examples of this belief in one true thing. They could not even allow themselves, for even one minute, to think that maybe all Americans weren’t bad, or wrong, or maybe Allah wouldn’t want them dead. If they had allowed that thought to enter in, they would never have committed the atrocities that followed. As long as people think they are the only ones headed for Heaven, we will continue to have horrific crimes against man.

MO'C: Brilliantly stated, Natalie. Now, please tell us about your first novel, SisterWife, and how it relates to your novel, Wives and Sisters.
NC: SisterWife is about polygamists in Central Utah. It’s loosely based on the many polygamist sects in and around Utah, and shortly after it came out, Elizabeth Smart was returned home, telling the world she had been kidnapped to be a polygamous bride, just like my heroine Kelsey Waite. I’d like to say I was psychic, or something, but the truth is, all of this stuff has been happening for years, and is just WAITING to happen. ES just happened to be very high profile. Every year hundreds of young girls are forced to marry older and just plain OLD men, and if they fight back or run away, they disappear. SisterWife introduces the world at large to a man who lives the lifestyle, and attempts to make the reader understand HIM, as well as his followers, and those who don’t believe. It’s different from Wives and Sisters (and no, I am not title challenged. My editor at St. Martin’s changed the title of my second book, which was Outer Darkness, to Wives and Sisters.) in that it deals with the fundamentalist Mormons, rather than the mainstream church, which has eschewed polygamy—for now. It is still taught as a tenet of the Celestial Kingdom (God’s highest kingdom, in Mormon belief) but it isn’t practiced in mainstream Mormonism.

MO'C: Do you think you will continue writing with the Mormon church as a backdrop?
NC: Well, for a bit at least. I am contracted to St. Martin’s to do that. But I have some other things written where Mormonism really IS nothing but a backdrop, just because the setting is Utah. I like those stories, too. One is a fun, cozy mystery about a dance teacher who is framed when one of her psycho dance moms turns up dead. Did I say fun and dead in the same sentence? I must be a writer. Don’t call the FBI, please.

MO'C:Please tell us about your hate mail... I read it from time to time on your blog. What's the craziest piece you ever received? Does any of it actually hurt your feelings, or have you grown a thick skin?
NC: I think the craziest piece (aside from a rambling, crazy email that made not one iota of sense, so I can’t interpret it) was from a writer who asked me if my parents knew what I was doing! It was a veiled threat to tell them, and I thought, “Good God, I’m 42-years-old, and you’re threatening to tell my PARENTS?” At first I was appalled, and then I just started laughing. It was so funny. Do former Mormons never get to grow up and move on? I guess not. I’ll admit at first some of the mail was hurtful to me. But after a while I grew thicker skin and began to be able to interpret the writer’s intent. For example, I could tell when someone was writing with the “shield-of-the priesthood-and-the-only-true-thing” on their chest. Those emails are all from men, they are derisive and talk down to you, and rarely do they use facts or any real “truth.” Rather, they scold and talk in circles until you give up and agree with them just to get them to STOP. I also learned to recognize the emails from good, caring Mormons who truly DO want you to have the blessings they feel they have. I consider that one of the best outcomes of writing this book. I have made Mormon friends I might never have otherwise.

MO'C: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to would-be writers?
NC: Learning to accept criticism in the vein in which it was intended.

MO'C: What advice do you have for new writers?
NC: Be persistent. Don’t give up. Don’t fall in love with your own writing, and realize you can always improve.

MO'C: What's next for Natalie Collins?
NC: I’ve just finished revisions on my second book for St. Martin’s and am awaiting word from my editor. Until then, I am working on Dancing off the Edge, my cozy mystery, and ruminating on a new idea set at Flaming Gorge Dam, a truly awesome and inspiring place. And thanks for the opportunity, Martha!

MO'C: Thank YOU, Natalie!

Please visit Natalie's site, her blog, and don't forget to buy her book either at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your best bet... your local indie bookseller!