It is easy to make assumptions when you don't know the full story.
In a new and uniquely written parallel-book series, Utah authors Josi Kilpack, Julie Wright, Annette Lyon and Heather Moore give readers a rare treat of just that — the full story.
In 2012, the four Mormon authors collaborated to write the first four books in their nine-book series, The Newport Ladies Book Club. Each author takes on one book from the point of view of one character, visiting the same scenes from a different perspective.
Through the eyes of each character, readers have the opportunity to read a story on a much grander scale.
In 2009, Kilpack had the idea of writing a parallel-book series based on life issues that everyday women face, such as divorce, betrayal, family tragedy and love. She mentioned the idea to author and friend Wright, who became excited about the idea. After careful consideration, the two invited Moore and Lyon to join, giving readers four different minds as unique as the characters they would create, instead of just one author's take on each point of view.
Although each of the writers is a seasoned and published author, writing a parallel-book series required lots of communication, teamwork and stretching themselves in ways they never had before. Certain scenes and conversations needed to match, and each author needed to know enough about the other characters to make the stories flow together without errors or contradictions.
In order to make things work, each writer took turns writing one of the shared scenes, then forwarded them to the other women. The scenes would then be rewritten from a different character's point of view, allowing each writer to add or omit details that made sense for her character.
"As we brainstormed together, we each came up with a character we were excited about fleshing out, a woman with a specific problem we each thought would be interesting to delve into and pick apart," Lyon said.
Once the authors had their characters and their primary conflicts figured out, the next step was to figure out how each character's story would intersect with the others'.
"Without that element, we wouldn't hit the target of what we were trying to accomplish," Lyon said.
One time in particular, both Lyon and Kilpack agreed that it would make their stories run smoother if Olivia's mom was dead and if she had stepchildren and grandchildren. Wright, who was writing Olivia's story, didn't hear about the news until after Lyon and Kilpack had already worked the ideas into their stories.
"They just said, 'By the way, Olivia's mom is dead,'" Wright said, laughing.
In the end, the ideas worked well for Olivia's story, and Wright used them to help shape her story.
One of the ladies, Paige, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a young, single mother of two. Athena is a self-proclaimed bachlorette and is dealing with a family tragedy, while Daisy is in her mid-40s and about to be a grandmother.
Overall, the writers hoped the stories would help readers who haven't experienced the issues the characters are dealing with to better understand what they are like, rather than just touch readers who are dealing with those issues.
As Wright said, "We wrote the books hoping that it would help women find a little extra mercy for each other — to help women be not so quick to judge based on initial appearances."
While one character may be quick to judge another's situation, readers can find out the truth of each character's reality and their thoughts by reading their individual stories.
Kilpack noted that although there are several shared scenes in each book, the stories are not all parallelled. Each book tells the story of a different woman's life.
Although the authors had not experienced some of the situations they wrote about, Moore noted that "we all have the same emotions," so she tried to put herself into each situation and write based on how she would feel. "What if this happened to me? How would I feel?" Moore said.
The four books about the first four book club members, "Paige," "Daisy," "Olivia" and "Athena," are currently all available, with four more coming out within the next year, making a total of eight books about eight book club members. The stories in those eight then will culminate in a final reunion book.
For information on the series, the authors blog at thenewportladiesbookclub.blogspot.com.
Hikari Loftus is a graduate of the University of Utah.