I’m a Mormon who reads and a Mormon who writes, but I haven’t purchased LDS fiction from a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in almost a decade. Of course, I moved to Minnesota in 1998 and didn’t move back to Utah until 2006, so that’s one explanation. And I haven’t stayed away from LDS bookstores altogether. While I was a resident of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I made many visits to the small LDS bookstore adjacent to a Quick Stop gas station and down the road from the Minnesota temple. But what did I buy when I was there? I bought sheet music for a Christmas quartet. Some of those “Help Me! I Can’t Think of What To Do For Sharing Time!” books. Little Articles of Faith cards to go in the Primary kids’ birthday bags. Every once in a while I’d buy a book by my favorite General Authority, and once I splurged and bought myself a copy of Rough Stone Rolling for Christmas. But even with all those visits to my independent LDS bookstore, I never bought a single work of fiction. And since I’ve moved back to Utah, I haven’t darkened the door of an LDS bookstore even once.
Here’s the kicker: I write fiction about Mormons for Mormons. I’m a former fiction editor of Irreantum magazine (the magazine for the Association for Mormon Letters) and I’ve spent the last three years or so trying to persuade any number of LDS publishers to take a chance on my novel. I care about LDS fiction. I’m interested in it. I want LDS writers to succeed . . . and I want LDS readers to buy LDS fiction because, well, I’m writing it! But with all that background and as much as I have personally at stake, I still have a difficult time finding fiction by, for, or about Mormons that I’d like to read.
But we do have some LDS publishers that I know are publishing well-written stuff. Signature has published a lot of wonderful fiction over the years, and some new publishers like Zarahemla and Parables are trying to win over literary Mormon readers as well. (In the interest of full disclosure, after three years of looking, I finally found a publisher willing to take a chance on my novel and Parables is publishing it in February.) But it’s very difficult for books from these publishers to find an audience. Not only is advertising money hard to come by, but these titles very rarely find their way onto the shelves of Deseret Book or Seagull. Often, the only way to find out about the book is through word of mouth, and the only way to order it is online.
Which is why I’m taking up space on this blog. I want to know what LDS literature you like and where to find it. I also want to give you a heads up on some of the titles I’ve loved and see if you agree. There are many of us, I’m sure, who love literature and want to see Mormon literature succeed—but we have no idea what novels are out there and where we can go to get them. So let’s help each other!
During my monthly posts, I’d like to talk about literature explicitly aimed at the LDS market, but I’d also like to discuss Mormon authors writing for a national market (Orson Scott Card, Brady Udall) and non-Mormon authors writing about Mormons (Jacqueline Mitchard’s recent Cage of Stars, for example). So, to get things going, here are my questions: Do you read Mormon literature? Of not, why? If you do, what do you like? What are your recommendations? Also, what would you like to see in the future, as more LDS authors with literary talent try to reach an audience? What kinds of books do Mormons want? What kinds of books do Mormons need? I’d love to hear your response to any or all of these questions. Let the literary discussion begin!