Sometimes you just feel it--the perfect alignment of all the threads of your life, as if everything is pointing you . . . pushing you to the same place. That's happening to me right now as we finish up the last of the Free Men and Dreamers series with book five, "IN GOD IS OUR TRUST."
For followers of the series, you probably know I've been pulling off a Star Wars-type move. The original manuscript I submitted to my first publisher back in 2004 was never printed. I was asked to expand the story, but where to begin? A thread about pioneer/officer Stephen Mack, brother of Lucy Mack Smith and uncle to Joseph, leapt out at me from Lucy's biography of her son. I live in the middle of War of 1812 history, and I'm LDS, but for the first time I saw the overlay between this pivotal moment in American history, and events at the cusp of the Restoration. Anything that happens in America is part of American history, but now I realized that not only was the Restoration part of American history, but American history was pivotal to Church history.
So, I moved that original story, set in 1850, back a generation and dug into researching the War of 1812 from every angle. My shelves are lined with books on early nineteenth century history, medicine, weapons, religious thought, architecture, culture, furnishings, and period biographies.
I've embedded our six fictional families into real history, with intricately-researched historical figures, dragging them through the pre-war confusion as well as through key moments in the war, and through to the war's end. In this final volume, they're journeying forward to a new America molded by the struggles and strength those three years revealed. Change is on the horizon, and it's not all roses. I know where I'm going with the story. In fact, I've always known. Remember that original manuscript? It's been my north star.
Inspiration has led me to new characters and new plot twists, along the way, but the final destination has always been there, and you'll be amazed at where we're going.
I've been organizing a trek for the youth of our stake, and that experience has led me back where I began eight years ago, when I was teaching The Doctrine and Covenants and Church History course in Early Morning Seminary, noticing how the diverse threads of American and Church history fit together. The project has had its challenges.
I gave a presentation on the War of 1812 in a public library, and a reporter asked to do a follow-up interview on my books. Her editor refused, calling it a religious piece. I called and tried to explain to him that while religion plays a part in the story, religion is part of America's history. He wouldn't hear of it. Would it have mattered if the aspect of religion being covered wasn't LDS? I don't know. The interview never ran.
I've been approached about trying to take the series national, but in doing so I would need to dilute the material on Joseph Smith and the Restoration. It troubled me. I was watching the semi-annual conference of the Church this weekend, wrestling over a few scenes as I close out the story, and these verses from Revelation 3:16 kept playing in my mind:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
My decision was made and my course was set. We're following the original plan.
So once again, my spiritual life, my professional life and my personal life are all converging, leading me down similar paths, like three sets of eyes collecting exquisite snippets of history here, bits of Church history there, while sprinkling personal experience overall to help me write the accounts with fire and passion. I hope you'll like the finished product. For me, it's like coming home.