I received an email a few days ago by a man named Mark Oppenheimer. The subject read, “NY Times interview?” Of course this made me curious, and somewhat hesitant. Was this for real? I tend to be guarded when someone claims to be a representative of something big like the New York Times.
His email asked me if I’d be willing to answer some questions about Mormon writers. I cautiously sent a reply stating I’d be willing to answer any questions the best I could.
His follow up question was simple enough: He asked if I had “any thoughts on why so many LDS writers seem to gravitate toward genre fiction -- sci-fi, fantasy, young adult?”
I gave it some thought and elected to send an email instead of talking over the phone with him—part of that was also for security concerns. I had googled the name “Mark Oppenheimer” and he seemed legit, but still, someone could be faking it.
Here is how I responded to his question:
You pose an interesting question, and one I have wondered about myself. I have come to a few conclusions based on my personal experiences as well as those shared with me by my peers.
I think that there is a distinction: writers who are LDS and LDS writers.
There is no shortage of non-fiction books written by members of the LDS faith, as can be seen when scanning through the inventory of Deseret Book—the primary retailer for LDS books. These people I would classify as “LDS writers.”
It is the second group, writers who are LDS that, as you say, “gravitate toward genre fiction -- sci-fi, fantasy, young adult.”
I believe that most people of the LDS faith are taught at a young age that there is a difference between the imaginary world of fantasy and science fiction, and the unseen, but considered true, aspects of religion—like the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
In general, LDS families celebrate Christmas with the notion of Santa Claus bringing presents. They celebrate Easter with the Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy makes visits to children who have lost their teeth and placed them under their pillow. Children dress up for Halloween and go trick-or-treating.
With the idea that LDS people see fictional elements as separate, and not in conflict with, spiritual matters, sci-fi and fantasy are tools to share a message.
When Jesus Christ taught, he often used parables. These relatable stories taught a message. People were interested in the story itself, and therefore would listen to it and then contemplate it. Many writers who are LDS feel the same way. They use fantastical elements to help relay a bigger message—a message they as storytellers want to share.
I believe that most writers who are LDS are by default labeled as “young adult” writers because graphic sex scenes, graphic violence and swearing are omitted from their writing—even if the material is for a more mature audience. That is true of my first four books—books that I wouldn’t classify as YA, per se, but they are lumped into that group because they exclude elements that would make a movie rated “R.”
Even among writers who are LDS, there are factions. Some writers use different pen names for books that might be considered “too worldly” for the LDS market. Yet they will use their own names when writing books that are “LDS friendly.”
In short, many writers who are LDS that write YA, sci-fi and fantasy do so because they understand that fantastical elements are a way to tell a story, and in doing so, it is make believe and not an opposition to their religious beliefs.
Let me know if you have any other questions.”
To my surprise, and delight, not only was this interview really with the NT Times, but I was also quoted in the story.
Here is the link:
So, there you have it. I’ve now been quoted in the NY Times.