Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview with Tiffany Fletcher, author "Mother Had a Secret."

Tiffany Fletcher is the second oldest of six children, born to a mother diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was her love of writing that helped Tiffany cope with the difficulties of her childhood and offered her peace in the mist of chaos. That peace led Tiffany to serve an LDS mission in Independence, Missouri, with a special assignment to serve in the LDS Visitors' Center. After her mission, Tiffany received her Associates degree from Rick's College and went on to receive her BA in English from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. While at Weber, Tiffany met and married the love of her life and they are now the proud parents of five young children. Tiffany enjoys reading, writing, and playing her flute and spends her spare time home-schooling her five children. Tiffany and her husband reside in Eagle Mountain, Utah where there is plenty of room for small children to grow.

As a teenager, Tiffany Fletcher knew that her mother, Vickie, had been brutally abused as a child. She knew that the abuse caused her mother’s severe mental and emotional instability, which brought painful complications for the entire family. But until a horrific car collision landed Vickie in the hospital, Tiffany didn’t know that there was a name for the turmoil gripping her home: Dissociative Identity Disorder, which produces multiple “personalities” in victims of profound trauma. It’s hard enough having a mother with one personal identity — Vickie had fifteen.

The true story of this complicated mother-daughter relationship unfolds in a weave of memory and emotion as Tiffany recounts the challenges of growing up in the care of a woman held hostage by her own shattered mind; a woman who inadvertently hurt the children she only wanted to love and protect; a woman whose premature death brought deep waves of loss, but also much-needed healing. Poetic, poignant, and heart-wrenchingly honest, this riveting narrative offers hope to victims of mental illness and their families and provides insight to readers unacquainted with this struggle. It invites compassion and inspires positive action in our most treasured relationships.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tiffany and having her tell me about her book. Immediately I was impressed by her depth of humility and strong desire to share her story, hoping to give help, insight and hope into mental illness and those who are affected by it.

This book is raw, emotional, and inspiring. Tiffany opens her heart and shares her experience with complete honesty and courage.

Here is my interview with Tiffany:

M.B.: When did you decide you wanted to write this book?

Tiffany: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I knew I wanted to write this particular book when I was in college. I took a
journalism class where the assignment was to do a profile piece on a person who had an interesting life. I chose to do the piece on my mother. When I interviewed her, I realized that there was much more to say than could fit in a 600-800 word article. I kept the notes from that interview, and collected other information that I thought I might need for a book. After my mother died, I knew I wanted to write the book, but didn’t get up the courage until four years later, in 2008.

M.B.: Because this book was so personal, did you have a hard time sharing something the was so emotional and close to your heart? How did you break through that barrier?

Tiffany: This book was very personal, which made it very difficult to write at times. There were times when my husband would come home from work and I would be in tears because of the memories and emotions that I was recalling. He would lovingly force me to take a break just so I could get back to a place where I could function again. After a day or two, I would jump back in and once again go through the cycle. It was very therapeutic, though, and by the time I was done, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. During those difficult days, it was the power of prayer and the love of my husband that brought me back to reality and helped me see the beauty and blessings around me.

M.B.: What was your experience like to write this book?

Tiffany: As I said before, it was very therapeutic. It allowed me to see my mother from a different perspective and to appreciate her for the good things she brought into my life. Seeing how she forgave her own father helped me forgive her and to see her as God sees her. This book is very dear to my heart because it was my journey from anger and hate to love and understanding. It’s not just a book to me, it’s my life outlined with every imperfect detail written in black and white for everyone to read about. My experience writing it was both bitter and sweet, up and down, disheartening and spiritual, and I wouldn’t change any of it.

M.B.: What is your writing and educational background?

Tiffany: I have a BA in English with a minor in Communications and I have been writing since I was in the first grade, where I won an award in the Young Author’s Fair. I was Editor-in-chief of my High School’s literary magazine, and Feature’s Editor of my college newspaper. I have published poetry, but “Mother Had a Secret” is my first book.

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your book published?

Tiffany: After I wrote the book, I sent query letters to several different publishers and agents and the majority of those letters were returned with a rejection, or were left unanswered. One of the publishers forwarded my query to an acquaintance of theirs who owned a literary agency. The agent then sent me an email asking if they could read my manuscript for possible representation. After reading the manuscript, the agent told me that the book read more like a family history book rather than a story, and requested that I change it before they could represent me. With the help of my husband, we were able to revise the manuscript into what it is today. My agent submitted the manuscript to several publishing companies, and again there were several rejections stating that because of the economy, narrative non-fiction was on the chopping-block, and without a following (they called it a platform) that it would be difficult to sell.
I decided to put the first two chapters of my book on my blog and ask people to leave a comment if they wanted to read more. Then, with the help of a friend, I made an account on Facebook and immediately found friends and allies. I started a group entitled, “Mother Had a Secret” with a link to my blog and a plea to read the chapters and share it with their friends. After a few months, I had over a thousand people join who wanted to read more.
A few months later, my husband, who is a school teacher, was planning to take a group of his students to Utah Valley University for the Book Academy. He kept asking me if I wanted to go as a chaperone and I kept telling him that we could use the money for other things. Finally, the day before the conference, my husband sat me down in front of the computer and showed me the list and biographies of the people who would be presenting at the conference. Among the names was Kathy Jenkins, senior editor of Covenant who had a background in advocating for mental health. Although Covenant had been one of the publishers who had rejected me a year earlier, I felt prompted that it was worth a try because my book was about mental illness, and I immediately registered for the conference.
On the day of the conference, with my husband’s students in tow, we attended the Book Academy. I took classes that I thought would help me learn how to get the publicity I needed to gain a publisher’s attention. One of the classes I attended was taught by Kelly Smurthwaite, a publicist from Covenant. She asked if anyone wanted to pitch their book to the class and I raised my hand. I decided I was here to get noticed, and that was a good start. After I pitched my book, the class was buzzing with enthusiasm. At lunch, Kelly found the table we were setting at and joined us. She proceeded to ask questions about the book and even offered her services if I ever needed good ideas. Kathy was speaking on a panel of editors during our lunch, and Kelly’s interest gave me the courage I needed to approach Kathy. After everyone had left, I walked with Kathy out the door and pitched my book to her. She was excited and told me to re-submit the manuscript to Covenant and to put her name on it. Four months later, after meeting Covenant’s board of directors, “Mother Had a Secret” was accepted for publication.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Tiffany: You bet I was discouraged. It was tough getting all of the rejection letters but I decided that I was determined to tell my story and I wasn’t going to let ‘no’ stop me. It was great too, to see how other people received the story and the first two chapters. Of course there were some negative comments made, but for the most part, people kept telling me how my story was going to touch lives. It also helped that I have an incredible husband who has always been supportive and encouraging. He always believed in me which made it easier for me to believe in myself. It also helped that my agent believed in me. It is not very often that a writer gets an agent requesting to represent them and I felt honored that I had been given that blessing. She is also very supportive and kept telling me that we just had to find the right person to read the manuscript. That person was Kathy Jenkins. I also felt Heavenly Father guiding me. I knew that if He wanted it to happen, it would.

M.B.: What do you hope readers will get from this book?

Tiffany: I hope that every reader gets what they need. There are some people who read this book who may come away with a better understanding of those who suffer from mental illness. I hope that it allows them to have more love and compassion for those who are different. Others may come away with hope and the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are others who suffer, and that no matter what, God loves them. Even others may come away with a better understanding of forgiveness and a desire to be more forgiving in their own lives. I hope that after reading this book, people are kinder, more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, and more hopeful. I hope that we can all see people as God sees them and love them as God does. We all suffer from something, and if we can all strive to be a little more like the Savior, healing will take place in all our lives.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Tiffany: I like quiet. It allows my thoughts to flow and the spirit to whisper to me. My husband on the other hand, listens to music while he writes and I can never understand how he can get anything written with the music blaring. But it works for him, and he is a much better writer than I am. Maybe I should give music a try. ☺

M.B.: To let readers get to you know you better, what is something about yourself people don’t know?

Tiffany: My life is an open book, literally. Writing this book has opened up all of my secrets and put them out there for everyone to see. I suppose, though, that the thing that I get the most comments about is that I home school my five children (which is probably the main reason why I like quiet when I write, because solitude is absent from most of my day). I do not home school because I am ultra-conservative, but because I have a background in education and I figure why am I sending my kids to school so someone else can teach them when I paid big money to get a degree in it. It just didn’t make sense to me. I have a degree in English and Communications and was also trained in music, and my husband is a high school teacher with a degree in both history and physics and a minor in math. We figure that between the two of us, we have every subject covered, so why not teach our own children.

M.B.: What are you working on now?

Tiffany: There are a few things I am toying with. I have a poem about the Savior that I am having someone draw pictures to for a possible gift book, similar to “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I am also thinking about a couple of other non-fiction books. I am waiting to see how well “Mother Had a Secret” is received before I make any definite plans.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

Tiffany: I would like to thank you for your willingness to review my book and conduct an interview. All of this is so new to me and I am overwhelmed by the support I have received from not only readers, but other authors who have helped me feel so at home in this strange new world I find myself in.

M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

AUTHOR: My books can be found at Seagull Book, Deseret Book, Costco, Wal-Mart, and, including a Kindle edition.

Feel free to visit my blog at

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hometown Girl featured in the Standard Examiner

LDS novel focuses on healing wounds
Standard-Examiner staff  
SANDY — With its focus on Christ, Christmas is a time of healing for many.
A new novel now available for Christmas gift-giving is a romance story about healing from past experiences.
Michele Ashman Bell, 51, of Sandy, is the author of “Hometown Girl,” published by Covenant Communications ($16.99).
“Hometown Girl” is the second in a series but is a story that stands on its own. It’s the story of a woman who inherits her deceased grandmother’s home in the suburbs of Seattle. After she moves into the house, she relives a time in her life when she was dealing with a mistake she had made and that she kept from her friends at that time. “She finds strength to forgive herself and to find peace,” Bell said. “I love that she grew and got strong and was able to reclaim things in her life. It was a neat thing.”
She said the story shows readers that they do have control over things in their lives, but it takes a lot of belief and faith in God.
The series started out about six girls who go to high school together. On graduation day, one of them dies in an automobile accident under questionable circumstances.
Bell also has a third novel coming out in April — to wrap up the series — that finally solves a mystery in the first novel.
The story line in the series also is about lives that don’t necessarily turn out the way these young girls had planned. “A lot of girls find themselves in a situation where they are a little disillusioned,” Bell said. “They say, ‘This is nothing like what I thought my life would be.’ ”
But Bell said the message of her novel is that a person can still stay faithful and have hope that things will work out. Bell’s own story as a novelist is itself a story of overcoming hardship. “Before I got published, I tried to write for almost every market possible,” she said. But she received a long list of rejection letters. It took her 11 years to find her niche. And Bell said she discovered she wasn’t comfortable writing for the national market. “It really is required of you to include certain types of scenes,” she said.
“The good thing is that I never gave up,” she said. “There were times when it was hard. … I really do feel like those years I spent trying and failing were actually my years of learning and improving and growing.”
Since that time, she has published 22 women’s fiction novels, targeted mainly for young women who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said her novels are classified as romances, but she always believes there is a bigger element in the stories.
“It’s a nice age group to target, because you still reach older and younger readers,” she said. “I have readers who are 12-year-olds up to 80-year-olds.”
Bell said she thinks there is a place for LDS novels alongside doctrinal books.
“Sometimes it’s through a fiction story that has true principles in it that you can understand how to apply it to your life,” she said. “It touches hearts in ways that others can’t. … That’s the payoff when people say ‘It helped me.’ ”
Bell’s novels are available wherever LDS products are sold and at  .

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review of Angela Morrisons, Taken by Storm and Unbroken Connection

Taken by Storm

Sometimes only love can save you.

Leesie Hunt's Unbreakable Rules: No Kissing (at least not of the French variety)...No Sex (hah! Not even close to happening anyway)...No Dating Outside the Mormon Faith (what would be the point?)...ABSOLUTELY No Falling in Love with the Wrong Boy (would ruin everything).
Leesie thinks she has her whole life planned out: get into the school of her dreams, write her poems, meet the perfect guy, and settle down. Then she meets Michael--a boy whose parents were killed in a diving accident during a terrible storm.
Michael is drowning in tragedy. And all Leesie wants is to save him. With each day, her heart hurts more. Could it be, perfect Leesie is falling from grace? Or is she just falling in love?
But if Leesie gives in to temptation, who is going to save her? From Amazon US

Michael is in Belize with his parents, doing what he loves most . . . diving and trying to pick up girls. He’s in his element, even to the point of pushing his limits, maybe recklessly, but what can you expect from someone who lives to dive?

Ironic that this place he loves is also where he suffers his greatest tragedy in life, one that overwhelms him with guilt.

Leesie . . . the kind of girl who is responsible, a straight arrow, knows exactly what she wants out of life and where she’s going. Her life has been planned out since she was a little girl.

Her plan didn’t include Michael.

As Michael goes through the motions of being a Senior in high school, living with his grandmother and dealing with the Post Traumatic Stress of losing both parents in a hurricane, he meets Leesie.

After going on a field trip together she offers to take him to the closest thing Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has for a beach, even with its forty degree water. Suddenly, Michael decides to free dive and practically scares the life out of her. It’s not a typical start of a relationship, but nevertheless, Leesie and Michael become inseparable.

Told from alternating points of view, including Michael’s dive log and Leesie’s private Chapbook, we are able to feel Michael’s pain over the death of his parents, and agonize with him as he is plagued by nightmares and visions of his loss. Leesie seems to be the only one who can calm the storms he carries inside. Their bond deepens and the closeness they share emotionally creates a challenge for the physical closeness Michael craves. Yet Leesie is determined to keep the relationship chaste, in accordance with her choice and beliefs.

As Michael and Leesie deal with personal struggles as well as physical intimacy issues they disagree on, their relationship is pushed to the limit. What ultimately develops is a true love tuned into their emotions, not turned on by their desires.

I enjoyed Morrison’s writing and was impressed by her style, voice and impeccable research, making sure that each element of the story is believable and real. Descriptions of settings and actions and even beliefs are detailed and thorough making the characters and locations come alive. The plot was heavy and emotional at times yet contained a good balance of humor and wit. Again, Morrison knows her craft and does a fine job of pacing, tension and character development.

While I understand the target audience and the nature of teens, I did feel that Michael had a preoccupation with sex, starting with the very first paragraph of the book and continuing regularly throughout. Even though Leesie stood by her principles, many of the conversations they shared and some of their makeout sessions felt a bit gratuitous for me. Perhaps this is acceptable for the national teen audience, but could be a little much for a conservative, religious audience. If this is a concern, I would say, mom’s read it first, then decide.

The sequel, Unbroken Connection, continues the story of Michael and Leesie, and takes place for the most part, with them separated while Leesie attends Brigham Young University and Michael goes to Thailand.

With their relationship stretched across the world, their differences seem to escalate, forcing them to test the strength of their love. It is during this period of time that they discover that their commitment to each other is stronger than the miles that separate them. But, the fact remains, their relationship cannot move to the next level until one of them changes. She won’t marry him outside her LDS temple, and he won’t join her church so they can.

I don’t want to spoil the end, but the story build to an emotional and powerful climax that will leave readers wanting more. The raw emotions that surface are very real and angst-filled and readers will care even more about Leesie and Michael and what lies ahead for them.