Thank you for this opportunity. I was born in Salt Lake City and, except for a little over two years, I lived there until I was graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in Civil Engineering. In my early school days I had a lot of friends to run around with in school and out. Then came a time when I felt a call to wander alone on the foothills the Wasatch Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City. I was Flash Gordon, the Lone Ranger, and other heroes. Often I was a caveman, killing mastodons and protecting my mate from ferocious sabre tooth tigers. I made up my stories and acted them out.
I loved books and the adventures in them, starting with Dick and Jane Readers in first grade. Once I saw a pink, hardback book in a garbage can. The title was “Pong Choolie, You Rascal.” There was nothing about the book that attracted me, except that it was a book. I rescued it and read it – and enjoyed it. In ninth grade, I started writing my first novel. I could never get it the way I wanted, though I rewrote the first chapter a dozen times. I was ready to set my career path at that time. The choice was between being an Engineer or a Writer. Engineer won out. I had a sister two years older than I was. She was my preschool mentor. She taught me hopscotch, jacks, etc. We lay on the floor in front of the radio listening to Little Orphan Annie and I was expected to know all the characters from the Archie Comics. Maybe styles of play aren’t too important.
My personal library is quite extensive. It includes novels of all genres (except erotica), biographies, politics (conservative and progressive), science, text books, self-help, and others. Since I joined Goodreads in October of 2012, I have reviewed, rated, and posted books as I read them. I read almost anything, and I admire anyone who can shepherd an idea from concept to an interesting book.
Basically, when I am motivated to write a story, I look for the best genre to tell it, and then I read a lot of books in that genre to prepare myself to write the story. I don’t have a favorite genre – always the story dictates.
Timpanogos is a vanity book. In the summer after I was graduated from high school, I had a special romance with a girl from out of state who was visiting family. We met in rather strange circumstances and spent most of the summer together. In real life, there was no spirit circle, which plays a big role in the book. I felt I was truly in love, but in the end, I screwed it up with a very callous letter at a terrible time for her. In my defense, I didn’t know what was happening to her at the time. The first three chapters, up to Chantal Chastenet, of Timpanogos are based fairly closely on my life, though I created fictitious people to surround me. The girl in the novel is in no way similar to the girl in my life. From Chantal on, the story is completely unrelated to my life. The final chapters of the book are based on the question, “What if I had not been able to get over my summer love?”
The idea for the Neandertal series came from my caveman daydreams on the foothills overlooking Salt Lake City. As I looked out over the Salt Lake valley, I often wondered what a caveman would think and do if he came over a rise to see a modern city.
I first thought of my book as a single book about a Neandertal somehow being transplanted into modern times. The idea turned into a series when I wanted to include a feasible explanation for some of the Neandertals surviving. I mapped out all three books before I started actually writing the first book.
Heart of the Bison is an adventure around 25,000 years ago that provides a plausible explanation for how a group of Neandertals survived the extinction. Spirit Fire, about 5,000 years ago, explains why the Neandertals are so intent on hiding from modern men, why there is no archeological evidence of their survival from ancient times, and what started the program that allowed them to evolve so rapidly. Search for the Heart of the Bison was intended to be a modern romance between a Neandertal man and a modern woman. However, as I was working on Heart of the Bison, the attacks of 9/11 happened. That changed everything about Search for the Heart of the Bison and required a number of modifications in the first two books. A shadow of the romance remained, but the thrust switched to the concept of a rouge group of the Neandertals using terrorists to further their desire to conquer and rule the world.
The break points in the series, along with the beginnings and endings of each book were easy. The books in the series are separated by thousands of years. The human characters go from book to book in the form of legends. But there are important ties:
Heart of the Bison was published in 2002, Spirit Fire was published in 2005, and Search for the Heart of the Bison was published in 2011. During that time period, my ability and understanding of the writing craft increased immensely. I rewrote and republished Heart of the Bison in 2011. I just completed rewriting and republishing Spirit Fire. I am now very happy with how the books have turned out. I don’t think I will ever do a series where a single character dominates from story to story.
Here is a wild idea that I am toying with. In Dead Angels, the character, Shari Darling, considers writing a novel about two brothers born in the 1830’s. The story line comes from a past life dream of another character, Russell Blaine. Later, Russell seems to slip back into his past life. I am thinking about writing that novel under the nom de plume of Shari Darling. It would be based upon the premise that the main characters in that book would have been reincarnated as the characters in Dead Angels. They would play different roles in their different lives, but some personality traits would carry through. Also, near the end of Dead Angels, there is a hint that at least two characters in Dead Angels might be moving to a future life. Adding that to the mix would make Dead Angels into the second book of a kind of a twisted trilogy.
Dead Angels was first published in 2000. It was flawed in several ways and was rewritten and republished in 2012. In the mid-nineties, I learned that several women I knew had been molested when they were children. And then I heard about others I didn’t know personally. I wanted to write a book about that subject. I didn’t want to interview any of the women I knew – I didn’t know them that well, so I did a lot of research. It was my first complete novel and was titled, Robin. I completed writing it about 1995/96. I was disappointed with the result and felt unmotivated to publish it or take on another novel. I continued to become aware of more victims, some even closer to me. With all the research I had done for Robin, I saw molestation as a form of soul murder, and I was inspired to write another book from that angle. Dead Angels came from that inspiration. There was a lot of talk about the molester being a victim of abuse as a child too. Many molesters live double lives – caring church leaders, coaches, etc. I wanted to strip the cover from the perpetrator.
Dead Angels is about a fictional man who uses little girls for his pleasure with no empathy, no compassion. I made the man a serial killer because: Picture a victim who feels the shame, fear, worthlessness, etc. that a victim feels. She can’t stand it anymore, so she puts a gun to her head. She kills herself, but who is responsible? Picture another girl who responds to the same emotions by taking drugs. She accidently overdoses. Who is responsible? Picture another girl who responds by hating her body and dies of anorexia.
We are getting further away from the perpetrator, but a tie is still pretty obvious. Suppose another girl dies of a disease because she is too stubborn to get proper medical treatment. We look back through her life and see that the stubbornness developed in response to being molested. Well, we have gone far afield – and yet. In Dead Angels, I expose the deadliness of child molestation with the metaphor of making the man a serial killer. Yeah – he had his hard times as a kid, but he was evil by his choice. I gathered new research, took correspondence courses, read creative writing text books, and had portions of the manuscript professionally evaluated in order to prepare it for publication. When it was done, I was happy with it, but, as I explained, I have since revised it. It is much better now.
After the revision of Dead Angels in 2012, I felt that I was ready to tackle Robin again. I thought I would rewrite it, but after three failed attempts, I realized I had to toss it all out and start again. The new version is titled, Robyn: Family Secrets. I hope to send it to my publisher in the next few weeks. Like Dead Angels, this book will be hard for some people to read. However, it is not about murder, nor is it about the act of child molestation, though that has to be addressed.
This book is about the many ways child molestation impacts survivors and the dynamics in a family where molestation has occurred and been covered up. Some victims remember everything, while others have repressed the memories and confront them when the memories are recovered. Some victims are so emotionally damaged that they die. Some know the molester for the animal he is, while others know only the veneer he puts on. I have done a great deal of new research and I have confronted some demons in my own history.
While the string of events that caused me to seek the solitude of the foothills above Salt Lake does not rise to the trauma of child molestation, it was enough to alter my life. That and my current knowledge give me a perspective I didn’t have to work from when I wrote Robin. Robyn: Family Secrets is not a conventional book. It jumps around the timeline. Part is told in second person, past tense; part is a series of dialogs with no narrator, no names, and no tag lines – not even quotation marks; part is a modified version of stream of consciousness where I let a simple narrator move the character around a room.
On several levels, this is the most difficult book I have ever written. I have had to look at things in my personal history and work in writing styles that stretched me out of my comfort zone. Often I had to stop work because the work was too tense. I wove the rewriting of Spirit Fire in those breaks. This book spawned the creative juices that led to all my other books and is, at the same time, the fruit of everything I learned while writing them.
The impending completion of Robyn brings me full circle on the impetus that started my serious writing career. Since the time I first completed Dead Angels, this is the first time I have come to the completion of a book without a new book already started. Robyn took a great deal out of me. I am sure I will write many more books, and I do have a number of ideas, but I think I will sit back to let my next passion percolate a while. My secrets: Though there is no relationship between the stories of Dead Angels and Timpanogos, two characters in the books are friends with each other. Though there is no relationship between Timpanogos and Robyn, one character in Robyn is married to a character in Timpanogos. It’s a small world – ain’t it?
Article first published as Interview: Glen R. Stott, Author of ‘The Neandertals’ Series on Blogcritics.
Interview by Charline Ratcliff for RebeccasReads