Stumbling into the Interesting
I have a thing about research. To say that I love it would not be an overstatement. It might be safe to assume that almost all writers could make such a claim, and especially writers of historical fiction who tend to get lost in the pulling together of another time and place. Usually we wind up choosing to tell the stories we stumbled upon while lost in the library stacks—the unexpected, delightful little tidbits that made us say, “That’s so interesting!”
My newest release is certainly one of those. The project came about because my family and I had recently moved into a new neighborhood in Salem, Oregon where we felt immediately and warmly welcomed by our new neighbors. My sons, then ages three and five, quickly made friends with all the other littles running around.
It was a wonderful place to be, with a small grade school at one end of the subdivision and a Latter-Day Saints church at the other. I soon came to realize that most of our wonderful new neighbors belonged to the Mormon faith, a tradition that, despite growing up with several friends whose families were part of the LDS church, I didn’t know a great deal about.
I started reading, and as I did, I came across a mention of a conspiracy theory that plagued the church in its early days in the 19th century and still has never entirely gone away. The theory, known as the Spaulding Enigma, suggests that The Book of Mormon was plagiarized by the prophet Joseph Smith with the aid of a preacher named Sidney Rigdon, from an earlier, unpublished manuscript allegedly titled Manuscript Found.
I confess I love a good conspiracy theory. It’s not that I necessarily buy into them, but I’m fascinated by how they develop and gain momentum and can even become huge cultural movements.
I kept coming back to this Spalding Enigma. It’s never been proven because Manuscript Found, if it ever existed at all, has ironically remained lost to history. But I also couldn’t deny that the claims made by those who promote it are plausible.
What I found was that in order for the theory to work, this mysterious manuscript had to have been in a specific location within a pretty narrow window of time and had to have been removed from that location by someone who wouldn’t likely have been noticed.
That’s when I said, “That’s so interesting!”
And a story began to develop in my fiction writer brain. I had a when and where. All I needed to supply was a who and a how.
Of course, the novel that resulted from the research encompasses much more than the conspiracy theory that inspired it. It is, at its heart, the coming of age story of an abandoned girl in desperate search of a moral compass who becomes a woman burdened with a great secret upon which rests an entire spiritual movement.
My hope is that as readers wander through the pages of this novel I’ve called Smoke Rose to Heaven, they’ll find themselves exploring the world of 19th century New York that I’ve worked to create and just maybe stumble on something that makes them say, “That’s so interesting!”
Available at Amazon!
New York, 1872.
Diviner Ada Moses is a finder of hidden things and a keeper of secrets. In her possession is a lost manuscript with the power to destroy the faith of tens of thousands of believers.
When a man seeking the truth knocks at her door with a conspiracy theory on his lips and assassins at his heels, she must make a choice.
Spurred by news of a ritualistic murder and the arrival of a package containing the victim’s bloody shirt, Ada must either attempt to vanish with the truth or return the burden she has long borne to the prophet responsible for one of the most successful deceptions in US history.
Protecting someone else’s secret may save Ada’s life, but is that worth forcing her own demons into the light?
SARAH ANGLETON is the author of the historical novels Gentleman of Misfortune and Smoke Rose to Heaven as well as the humor collection Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History and Nonsense. She lives with her husband, two sons, and one loyal dog near St. Louis, where she loves rooting for the Cardinals but doesn’t care for the pizza.
Find Sarah in the following places:
Sarah is giving away 5 e-book copies of SMOKE ROSE TO HEAVEN and all you have to do for a chance to win a copy is to leave a comment below.
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