Today I am elated to have the opportunity to reintroduce you to my guest. Please indulge me so that I can explain why I am beyond thrilled.
Helga was a guest author back in May. At the time, I was behind in my requested review reading schedule and was unable to read and review her book. However, we traded emails regarding her showcase. She asked me about Partners In Crime Tours and decided to book a tour. I have since read her book and it is riveting!! Could not put it down.
Not only is she an amazing writer but a very kind, generous and thoughtful person who I now consider a friend. And today is her kick off and first stop as she starts her 2 month tour. Please meet author and friend, Ms. Helga Zeiner!!
“How did I research this subject”
Since Section 132 was published, I have been complimented quite often on the extensive research I had undertaken for this novel. Although the story is fictional, it is based on true events which took place in Canada and America. I therefore felt compelled to get all the relevant details right before I could create a tale that would grip the reader and transport him into this weird and freaky world.
Readers have asked me how on earth one researches a polygamous sect. Go under-cover? Infiltrate them somehow? Get in touch with and interview women and teenagers who managed to escape? Or did I maybe, just maybe, write from personal experience? Had I possibly been a sister-wife myself?
Well, it’s not quite that spectacular. It simply took years of painstaking, traditional subject matter research. I worked diligently on collecting supporting facts. I read many books, biographies, anything I could find about the history of the Mormon religion and their off-shoot cult FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Later Day Saints), the biography of its founder Joseph Smith, of their Prophet Warren Jeffs, as well as many accounts of women who had escaped the cult.
I closely followed a court case at the BC Supreme Court which had to decide if polygamy should be made legal in this Canadian province. This case was brought before the courts by the Bishop of the Canadian polygamous sectBountifulwho argued it on the grounds of religious freedom. Luckily, the judge ruled that polygamy is harmful to women and children and will therefore continue to be illegal.
Eventually I got hold of the ‘Book of Mormon’ and the attached “Doctrine & Covenants’ written by Josef Smith. There I found “Section 132’ which covers the holy covenant of ‘The Principle of Plural Marriage’ (polygamy!) and provides the religious justification for the strange rule that one man must have several wives. It was quite a read!
In the course of this research I got in touch with a wonderful group of University Women who have formed the ‘Bountiful Round-table’ as well as the ‘West Coast Leaf Lawyers Association’ – both groups are actively working toward their goal of banning polygamy in our society altogether.
Finally, I was contacted by members of a fairly clandestine organization who had heard about my efforts. As they are pro-active in rescuing women who try to escape the cult, they have met with some serious opposition in the higher echelons of the FLDS and have made quite a few enemies. They checked me out thoroughly before allowing me to join their closed group. I was honored to be able to collect further data this way. You can imagine what valuable insights, sometimes heart breaking and infuriating, I could gather through those channels.
All in all, it has taken me several years before I even wrote the first sentence. Although I have taken liberties with the truth and let my imagination run rampant, which is my prerogative as a novelist, there is still a very chilling element of authenticity in this story.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Lillian is only 13 when her parents marry her to a middle-aged Bishop of a fundamentalist sect who practices polygamy. She is forced to live with her new husband’s many wives and children on his compound tucked away in the Canadian wilderness.
The hardships of poverty and isolation have crushed the will of just about everybody in his flock. They suffer in silent submissiveness, trying to please their despotic leader. He justifies the humiliating treatment of his dependents by citing ‘Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants’ of his fundamentalist religion.
Until, one day, Lillian had enough. But it is dangerous to try and escape the Bishop’s iron rule. He practices blood-atonement, which is quietly sanctioned by the ‘Gatekeepers’, an American secret society within the Fundamentalist Mormon Church.
Lillian must find out-side help if she ever wants to leave the Bishop’s compound – but how can she do this if she is locked up without any means of communication?
Lillian doesn’t know how life outside a compound functions. She only knows that she can not live like this much longer. Many questions plaque her troubled mind.
Why do her sister-wives put up with this hardship, knowing only a bleak future lies ahead of them? Where do the child-brides come from, the Bishop keeps adding to his family? Where do some of his daughters disappear to, once they come of age? Lillian’s defiance grows with every injustice she witnesses – until she can’t hide her rebellion any longer.
Her desperate struggle to escape draws the reader into a very dark, very dangerous place. But not all is hopeless. When land developer Richard Bergman buys the neighboring property, Lillian’s luck seems to be changing …
Read an excerpt:
Martha knew the Bishop was coming for her. His boots stomped toward the office, and when he unlocked the door, she moved back to the opposite wall, trying to melt into it. The room was only about ten feet deep, and he was threateningly close as soon as he had entered. She saw the gun strap slung over his shoulder. Marion was beside him, her face still wet from crying, but already setting into a mask of acceptance and denial. Empty eyes buried in a stone hard expression. With only minimal movement of her body, she looked like a motionless statue, placed there only as an accessory to her husband, an extension of his wrath, coming alive only to cater to his demands. For the moment, he needed nothing of her except to observe him in all his glory as the executor of the faith.
Martha was not scared of him, but she was terrified of the unknown. What cruelty had he planned for her? Would she have to suffer long? It would be easier to bear if she knew what to expect.
She didn’t have to wait long.
“Get out of here, you worthless piece of shit!” he snapped at her. He slipped the gun strap off his shoulder and casually swung the hunting rifle in front of his massive torso like a trophy. “Here, see this! Fear this! It is the Lord’s instrument of vengeance. He has appointed me to be his executioner. Commanded me to exterminate filthy vermin like you. Get out, you slut, so I can punish you for your sins!” He came closer, lowered the weapon and prodded her thigh with the tip of the rifle. Martha jumped sideways and was forced to move forward and slide past him to the door.
He directed her with his weapon. “Bitch! Out with you! Outside! We don’t want a mess in here. Out you go, you miserable creature! I’ll show you who your master is. Move it, bitch, don’t drag your feet.”
Martha moved a little faster. She was numb, didn’t even feel herself walking past Marion who remained grotesquely frozen in her stance.
The Bishop kept pushing her forward, down the hallway, to the back entrance of the house. “Go, go, go. Let’s have a little target practise. You’d better move a bit faster, or it won’t be fun at all. Outside you go.”
He pushed her through the back door and out into the yard. “When I count to three, you run. If you make it over there, I’ll let you live. The Lord will decide.”
The distance from the house to the trees was much larger than she remembered. But it didn’t matter; he would get her anyway. Best to go slow, otherwise he might miss and only injure her.
Martha took a deep breath. He slammed his rifle painfully into her back. She nearly lost her balance.
She forgot her resolution to be an easy target and instinctively started to run.
She ran as fast as she could, trying to get away from his horrible ‘eeeee’. She practically flew over the ground, driven by her survival instinct, until she stumbled, lost her balance and fell face down on the ground. A sharp slash whipped viciously through her whole body, ripping her insides apart. She was surprised to hear herself groaning, although the excruciating pain of a moment ago subsided into shocked numbness. He had not finished her! Mixed into her total confusion of being shot at, lying on the ground and not feeling any pain, was the realization that something did not fit into the whole scenario. Something did not make sense. She had heard him counting and his final endless, blood curling “eeeeeeeee” still rang in her ears. She was on her knees now, slumped forward to steady herself with her hands, and turning sideways to look behind her.
He was also on the ground, holding his side with one hand, the rifle lying next to him. His “eeeeee” had evaporated into a whimper. At the same instant Martha saw the shape of a woman running away from him. Nothing but billowing skirts in a hasty retreat, impetuously heading for the protection of the trees. Anna! Already she had reached the trees. A safe haven for the fleeing Anna; as it would be for her, if she could reach it before he recovered from the injury Anna had inflicted on him. He was already shaking his head like a wounded bear, groaning in an effort to get the nasty foreign object that incapacitated him out of his flank. Martha did not see what had injured him so badly that the air had been knocked out of his lungs, but it must have weakened him considerably. He was wheezing, coughing and gurgling in his angry attempts to regain his stability and was slowly steadying himself.
If only she had not been hurt – if only she could reach the cover of the forest before he recovered from the surprise attack. She forced herself to try and scramble to her feet, surprised that she was still in one piece and not cut into two like she had thought. Where did it hurt? Even more surprised, she realized that she was not hurting at all. Her brain finally solved the mystery that had puzzled her before. No shot had been fired! On his last count she had only heard his scream but no shot – no bullet had been flying in her direction. She had stumbled and fallen, that was all. The pain had been imaginary.
By now her legs were firmly on the ground, holding her weight, and she started to run. She looked back once and increased her efforts to reach the tree line when she saw that he was already on his knees, groping blindly for his weapon. She literally flew across the yard, her skirt bunched up high, with her feet barely touching the ground. The forest. The trees. There they were. She ran past the first few trees, getting deeper into the woods before she pressed herself behind one wide trunk, panting heavily. She dared to look back. He was nowhere to be seen. He had moved. Where to? She knew her panting was too loud, but she could not stop it, her lungs were screaming for oxygen.
It was mercifully dark in the forest, but he only needed to follow the wheezing sounds she made to find her. Anger welled up inside her. She wanted to live! Why hadn’t Anna finished him! She must have been too weak. If only she had a weapon. The frustration of being so helpless made her even more angry. I will fight him, she thought. This time, I will scratch his eyes out before he can hurt me again. Martha slid down the tree trunk until she cowered on the wet cold ground, making herself as small a target as possible. She concentrated on the sounds of the night. He was injured and furious, he would not approach like a seasoned hunter but would storm through the darkness in search of her. When she heard him coming, she could hide or run away from him. She wasn’t quite sure what she would do, but this time she would not make it easy for him.