Shortly after joining LDStorymakers some six or so years ago, I met a spunky new writer by the name of Tristi Pinkston. She was a very young mom of three, with ambition, optimism, and enthusiasm in spades. Since that first introduction is has been my absolute pleasure to get to know her. We have not always seen eye to eye on every issue--both of us editing each others work and giving back less-than-stellar feedback that irked us--however, we have also both admitted to being better writers because of the honesty of one another.
A few years ago, Tristi had a project that seized her by both wrists and would not let her go. She put all her other projects aside and dove head first into this story--a true life story from her family history about the hole-in-the-rock pioneers that settled San Juan county in southern Utah. Until reading her account I had NO idea that it took such an amazing feat of engineering to get those wagons through the hole-in-the-rock. Not only is the story about this incredible event, but amid this piece of church history, is also the story of people--people with an amazing faith that is truly inspiring.
With that introduction in place, here is my interview with Tristi:
1) Of the characters in this book, which one was the most fun for you to either learn about or write about?
I enjoyed each of them, but I'd have to say the one I enjoyed the most was Ben. He had a sense of humor that really appealed to me. He was a little rough around the edges -- he swore when the situation called for it, but his faith and dedication to the Lord was incredible. He was very human.
2) How long did this book take to write?
This is the only book I actually timed, and I only timed it because people ask me how long it takes me to write a book. (See, I came prepared!) This book took eighty hours of research and eighty hours to write. No, that's not typical for me. This book practically wrote itself.
3) I know the publishing houses aren't accepting books on polygamy, and you considered removing the polygamy from this story. You chose to keep the story intact. Can you explain to us your reasons for your decision?
There are a few factors that led me to my decision.
First, the faith and obedience that saw these pioneers through the Hole also saw them through their trial with polygamy. To tell one part of their story, and not the other, would deny them the recognition they deserve for the things they did.
Second, I don't feel we have to be ashamed of our polygamous past. I could never do it myself, but when I read accounts of faithful men and women who practiced it righteously, I'm so inspired by their stories.
Third, I can't tell the story of me without including the polygamy. I come through the second wife. It's a part of my heritage.
And fourth, I feel my best writing ever is included in the last section of the book. The message was so powerful, it picked me up and swept me along with it, and I was just there for the ride.
It wasn't an easy choice to make. I really agonized over it for about three days. What it all boiled down to, though, was this: Am I writing this book to tell the story, or aren't I? Polygamy is part of the story. So I wrote it.
4) If there was one all encompassing message you want readers to take away from this book, what would it be?
I would like people to come away from this book truly feeling that with God, nothing is impossible. Those pioneers should not have been able to accomplish what they did. Modern engineers have gone down to the Hole in the Rock site and declared they couldn't have done it, even with all their technology. That journey was led by God, inspired by God, and directed by God. You can't expect some cliffs to stop faithful, devoted servants of the Lord -- they'll find a way.
5) Polygamy is a hot topic, and a difficult thing for many members of the church to make sense of--what are your personal thoughts on plural marriage and how did writing this book influence that?
I've always hated the idea, personally. As I wrote the book, I really struggled with the passages that showed Sarah's struggle to accept Ben's proposal. I completely understood her refusal, but I couldn't wrap my mind around her acceptance. Finally, I made an important realization. Sarah didn't marry Ben because she became converted to polygamy. She married Ben because she was converted to the Lord, and she believed the Lord had commanded their union.
It's important to keep in mind that at the time polygamy was practiced, there was a shortage of worthy men. Many sisters had lost their husbands to mobs, to accidents, to starvation and cold. As the Saints settled in Utah and their numbers began to increase, the need to practice polygamy diminished. By the time the Manifesto was issued in 1890, the Saints were able to marry one man to one woman because the numbers were more even.
Writing the book made me more sensitive to this situation. It also made real for me the very intense emotional struggles involved all the way around. The men asked to practice polygamy didn't think about it as heaven on earth, having their own brothel -- they went into it reluctantly, not wanting to hurt their beloved sweethearts. When polygamy was practiced the way it was intended, it was never about sex. (Do you want me saying sex on your blog?? :) Change that if you want to) It was about seeing to the financial and protection needs of the women.
6) I know you're a huge advocate of family history, what has inspired that love of genealogy and what is your advice to other people that don't know where to start?
I am a huge advocate of it and I've always felt very close to my departed ancestors. As far as the actual performing of the actual genealogy, um, well, I don't know. That would be my husband's passion. He has a blog at http://www.familygroupsheet.blogspot.com and you can send all your questions his way. Me, I sit down at the computer and immediately go blank. I'd much rather write books about them then try to find them on a chart.
So, there you have it. For more information on Season of Sacrifice, go to Tristi's website