Yesterday I ran a review for The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. Here, author Williams talks about what drew her to the subject of polygamous groups, how she researched the topic, and the transformative power of books.
Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a writer.
CLW: I’ve always wanted to write. At quite a young age I started playing with words. My mom went to college to be an English teacher and I remember her writing novels herself (she never published any of her novels, but man, did she ever write!). I wrote all through elementary school—and told lots of imagination-type stories to and with my friends. I wrote letters with one of my best friends that we made into mini epics! In high school, one of my best friends and I gave each other writing assignments during lunch (an example is “You are a tennis shoe. Tell about your day.”). And when I was 16, I started the stories that wound up in my first book, Kelly and Me.
How did you become interested in the topic of polygamous groups?
CLW: Long ago I heard about a girl who had run from her home because she didn’t want to marry a much-older family member. The moment I heard that story I was like, I’ll write a book about that some day. But the story stayed just a kernel of an idea for many, many years. This was a tough book to write. It needed time to germinate.
What kind of research did you conduct to learn more about those groups before you wrote The Chosen One?
CLW: Well, the group that I write about, The Chosen Ones, are fictitious. I made that place up, the people, everyone. I based it in some fact. There are some polygamous groups that say the more severe polygamists (the ones marrying younger girls) give polygamy a bad name. (I’m just saying what I’ve read!)
I did a huge amount of research before I started writing and during the time I was writing. There are many different kinds of polygamous groups in the USA and in Canada and Mexico, and of course, around the world. So while this book is grounded in fact, it is still fiction. Some of this abuse is real-life. Some is from my imagination. Patrick’s story is made up. The dunking in ice water? I heard from another writer who interviewed someone who was a polygamist, that type of discipline is true of some groups (children are to be seen and not heard.).
In your book, you write about both good and bad aspects of being part of a multi-family society. What are your personal views on the topic?
CLW: I prefer to stay in the kind of family that is more traditional. Polygamy is NOT the way of life for me.
The mobile library is very important in Kyra’s life for many reasons. Did a mobile library have an influence on you when you were young? If so, in what way?
CLW: No, but I have always loved the library. I’ve spent a lot of time in libraries over the years. I can’t hardly seem to get out of one without a pile of books. In fact, when I head to the library, I make sure I have plenty of daughters around to help me carry out the stacks of books! We’re getting ready to move and that means I am getting a new library card (right after I have the electricity turned on at the house!).
Kyra’s world is transformed when she begins to read books that are banned from her compound. Do you believe in the transformative power of books even for someone who is not shut off from the wider world?
CLW: Oh absolutely! People read for a number of reasons. Just for the pleasure, of course. Or to learn something new. Or because a book has been talked about. But studies show that kids read for other reasons, too. One is to experience something that they could not without a book—like being a wizard, for example. Or if the reader comes from a good, strong home, they might read a dark, edgy book because they want to see the way others live. Also, kids might read because they, themselves, are going through hard times. A book might show them how a protagonist has survived what the reader is going through. Books change people’s lives. I believe in reading and I encourage my kids to read just about everything that is out there.
Kyra is only thirteen years old, and she knows if she rejects what she feels is wrong, she could lose her family. Where does she get the courage to consider acting with such dire consequences?
CLW: I think Kyra gets this courage from something that is inside her. But this something has been facilitated by parents and siblings who love her and the idea that outside her world there is freedom. That thought of freedom seems right to Kyra. Somehow, Kyra is one of those people who comes with the courage to be different—and to stand up for what she believes is right.
Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of MotherDaugtherBookClub.com?
CLW: Have fun reading as Moms and Daughters! Sheesh, what a cool thing to do. I still read out loud to my girls. We read at night before bed. What a cool time to be together. As a mom I love the time my girls and I spend discussing books we’ve read. You all are luckies!