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The Chosen One



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Author Carol Lynch Williams on Writing THE CHOSEN ONE


Author Carol Lynch Williams
on Writing The Chosen One

For me, a good story is something that I feel emotionally connected to. That's the story I want to write. If I'm angry at an idea, or laughing over it, or weeping at it, then I will probably want to put pen to paper. And the thing that I most love about writing is making things appear out of nothing - after a lot of work, of course. I love beautiful language. The easiest part of writing, for me, is the beginning. My friend Ann Edwards Cannon (author of Charlotte's Rose, Amazing Gracie, Loser's Guide to Life and Love) says that starting a new novel is like getting a new boyfriend or girlfriend. All fresh and romantic. That's how it is for me. I love the discovery of the character, finding out who she is, what makes her tick, what her problems are going to be.

THE CHOSEN ONE came about in this way: Years ago I heard about a girl who had run away from her home several times. She ran because she was supposed to marry someone in her extended family - her father's brother. (Sound familiar?) The girl was part of a small polygamist group. She ran away more than once, and each time she was beaten and brought home. When I heard about that incident, I knew at that moment, someday, I would write something to do with polygamy. That's when the seed was planted, maybe six years before I even began working on THE CHOSEN ONE.

Then, years after I'd heard about the story of the girl who ran, two things happened at once that made me feel that it was time to write the story. First, I came up with what I thought was a good opening line: “If I was going to kill the prophet, I'd do it in Africa.” And second I met a young man from a polygamist family, Chris Green. Chris has since become an almost-part of my family, but I remember saying to him when he and I first met, “Tell me about your family”. “I have 36 siblings,” he said. “And my father is a polygamist.”

Oh.

I have to admit I was worried! But I couldn't help but want to find out more. “Really?” I said, “I'm getting ready to write about modern-day polygamy. Can I ask you some questions?”
“Sure,” Chris said. I can still see how shy he looked. He didn't answer a lot of my questions - he'd mostly shrug. But when the book came out he said to my daughter Laura, “I can't believe your mom got so much right.” A real compliment to me.

Before I really sat down to write THE CHOSEN ONE, I did a lot of research. Tons!  In fact I researched the whole time I was writing the novel. When I started looking at this topic, everything seemed to be about polygamy - stuff for me to really study. Lots of interviews with polygamists on TV, websites helping people get away from the more strict communities, newspaper articles. I found out about friends who had become polygamists, or were no longer polygamists. I learned about polygamist groups who frowned upon the more strict communities. I spoke to one woman about why she had decided to marry a man who later married her mother. I discovered that there are polygamists all over the United States - all over the world, as a matter of fact. The more I looked, the more the information just seemed to go on and on. The research did show me that, despite what people may think, polygamist communities are NOT all like the compound in THE CHOSEN ONE. The novel is a piece of fiction. But a lot of what I talk about in the book has happened. And of course abuse occurs in all religions - and in homes where there is no religion at all.

Even with my research there was still a huge amount of work ahead of me. The hardest part of any novel for me is the middle. Middles are tough! The magic of making something out of nothing is suddenly becoming work. Here, Ann Edwards Cannon says, the love affair is starting to look a little less romantic. You know, it's that moment when you notice the guy or girl you like doesn't floss or wears stripes and plaids at the same time. THE CHOSEN ONE was no exception. I remember lying in bed thinking I was NEVER going to finish the novel. Never! It was a red hot mess and I couldn't figure out how to clean things up. Every night for several nights I lay in bed and thought, “What am I going to do? Help!” And then, slowly, the solution started to come to me - how I should set the novel up; how it should look on the page; the idea to use flash backs and tell the rest of the story in present tense. When the answers started coming, I would lie still, not moving, afraid that I would scare them away. Then - when I felt they were solidified in my head - I began a huge rewrite of the novel.

During the writing of THE CHOSEN ONE, I watched Kyra become a real person to me. A girl who would leave everything she knew behind in order to be free - what kind of girl was that? She'd have to be brave. And spunky. She'd have to be able to follow her heart. I've always wondered why the ONE leaves. In this novel, books opened up a passage to a life outside her compound. So, for me, Kyra needed help to get away - and her love of Josh and her love of books helped her realize there was a bigger and better world, for her, outside the compound fence.

The favourite part of writing a book for me? When I type those words “The End.” So exciting! So satisfying! As I wrote the end of THE CHOSEN ONE, when I finally got it right, what I felt was the best it could be, I was so relieved. It's not an ending that wraps everything up easily. I couldn't do that to Kyra without losing the truth of her story. I knew it wouldn't happen the way people hoped it might. But I also knew in my heart that I had found the right ending. And I felt that I had done the book justice. I hope readers in England think so too.


WHY BE A WRITER?

I've always wanted to be a writer. When I was a little girl I wrote plays that my sister and I, or my cousins and I, would perform. Mostly Nana (my maternal grandmother) endured these plays (which once included borrowed music that *I* sang while we danced around in her nylon nighties). Then, as I got into college, I began writing a collection of short stories. This was in my first creative writing class. Bruce Aufhammer was my teacher and I was a month away from turning 17 and excited to write. He gave me great encouragement.

Still, I didn't believe in myself as a writer. After I married and began my family, I took an independent writing class. My teacher was Louise Plummer (a terrific YA writer whose titles include The Romantic Obsessions and Humiliations of Annie Sehlmier,  A Dance for Three and Finding Daddy). She encouraged me to find a publisher. I entered a contest at her suggestion, and four months later got a call from Bantam Doubleday Dell. My first book did not win the contest, but Delacorte did publish the novel. Kelly and Me came out two years later. I've since written over 20 books for young readers.


Bio Blurb: Carol Lynch Williams is the author of more than 20 books for young readers. Her books have garnered several positives nods including being on the Quick Pick list, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, nominated for the PEN Award, winner of the Nebraska Golden Sower Award, IRA Teacher's Choice book, Selected book for the Social Studies, Top Ten Romance Book for Booklist, Book for the Teen-Age New York Public Library List, Top Ten Barnes and Noble Book and Scholastic Book Pick for Humor. Her newest novel, GLIMPSE (told in the short, choppy line) is catching the attention of readers. Her next book MILES FROM ORDINARY comes out in the Winter of 2011. You can read more about writing on Carol's blog www.throwingupwords.wordpress.com