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Author Talk: May 2009

May 2009

Carol Lynch Williams is the author of many books for young readers, including the newly released novel THE CHOSEN ONE, which focuses on a teenage girl's search for freedom and a life of her own in the face of her strict upbringing in a polygamist community.
In this interview, Williams explains what prompted her to write about this very controversial and timely topic, discusses the research she performed on these religious cults, and describes what she aimed to show her readers through the book.
 
Question: Where did you first get the idea to write THE CHOSEN ONE?
 
Carol Lynch Williams: Many years ago I heard of a young woman who ran from her polygamist community. She was dragged home, beaten and yet she ran again. I knew at that moment --- at least a decade ago --- that I would write this novel.
One of my goals in writing the book was to show the difference between polygamist groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member. Some people still think that most men in Utah have more than one wife. Polygamists arenot Latter-day Saints. I wanted to show that in my book.
 
Q: Around the time you were starting to write the book, your daughter brought home a young man whose polygamous father was in jail. In what ways did this boy’s continued presence in your life affect the direction of the book?
 
CLW: When Chris came into our lives I was, indeed, just beginning the novel. I asked him a few questions, but Chris’s life was, in many ways, very different from Kyra’s. He didn’t live on a compound (though his family did live out in the desert away from people), he was allowed to choose how he believed when he got older, and while life proved to be pretty tough for him, he didn’t have to fight quite as hard for “freedom” as Kyra does.
 
Q: How did you go about researching polygamous cults? Did any of the strong, yet violent scenes, such as the punishment of baby Mariah, Kyra’s beating, and Kyra’s and Patrick’s run from the “God Squad” come from any real-life stories?
 
CLW: I did a huge amount of research before and during the writing. There are many different kinds of polygamist groups around the world. So while this book is grounded in fact, it is still fiction. Patrick’s story is made up, but another writer who was doing research for a book about polygamy told me about disciplining children by dunking them in ice water. I've also heard of crying babies being squirted in the face with water until they learn to not cry at all. As indicated by the news report about the young girl who was beaten when she ran from her polygamist community, the beatings do take place.
As far as research: I looked up everything I could online. This was a few years back, before the Warren Jeffs arrest. And it was kind of weird, because when I knew I was ready to start writing, it suddenly seemed that TV was full of stories of polygamists. I watched several nationwide news programs, read many newspaper articles, and read both positive and negative accounts of polygamy.