Meet Carrie Stuart Parks, Suspense Writer
Carrie Stuart Parks is a breast cancer survivor, forensic artist, popular speaker, and most recently, a fiction writer. In her debut suspense novel A Cry From the Dust (Thomas Nelson), Carrie explores the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, telling a fictional story against the backdrop of real-life events.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON SECRETS AND HISTORY OF MORMONISM IN THIS NOVEL?
I had a number of reasons. I’m the fourth generation from Idaho, home of one of the largest populations of LDS outside of Utah. My dad’s family was the first non-Mormon family in that part of the state. Many dear friends were Mormon, and I did an extensive study of their beliefs and history.
Several years ago I visited the Little Bighorn battlefield where my forensic instructor had reconstructed the skulls of some of the soldiers. I knew of the Mountain Meadows massacre. I started to wonder … what if an interpretive center were built in that part of Utah … and what if a forensic artist reconstructed the faces of the only three buried bodies on the site … and what if one of the three bodies turned out to be Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church ... ooooh, this was simply a story waiting to happen.
WHAT ARE SOME SURPRISING FACTS YOU UNCOVERED DURING YOUR RESEARCH?
Joseph Smith was buried at least three times: once in the floor of an unfinished building, once on the family land, and the third time in 1928. It took them a week to dig up his body because they forgot where they buried him.
The Mormon church purchased and restored the jail where Smith was shot 25 years before anyone looked for his body and grave.
The Mountain Meadows massacre occurred on September 11, 1857—the first 9/11. It was the largest domestic terrorist attack on US soil until the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
There was so much more, but I don’t want to spoil the story.
YOU BEGAN WRITING THIS BOOK WHEN YOU WERE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER. DID THE PROCESS OF WRITING CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR RECOVERY?
It kept me pretty sane! Going through all the tests, lumpectomy, mastectomy, port insertion, and four months of chemo meant I couldn’t do as much as I was used to, but I could write and draw. I was not just working on the novel, but also a drawing book (Secrets to Realistic Drawing) for North Light publishers.
During this time, my mom was dying of emphysema. I kept her in her own home where she was bed-bound and on oxygen. Although I had a lady helping me, I took care of her evenings, weekends, and holidays. She passed away just over a year from my initial diagnosis, never knowing I had the disease.
It was a hard time, but it allowed me to clearly see God’s hand in my life.
THE NOVEL OPENS UP JUST AS YOUR LEAD CHARACTER'S LIFE IS FALLING APART--CANCER, DIVORCE AND A REBELLIOUS DAUGHTER ARE ALL THINGS SHE HAS TO DEAL WITH. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR THE PLOT TO PUT HER IN SUCH A DESPERATE POSITION?
The theme of the book is that everything happens for a reason—although we may not know what that reason is in our lifetime. Gwen, the book’s protagonist, just knows she’s being hammered by the events around her. But these same events will shape her and build to the exciting climax of the book.
The plot of the book is intriguing! Other than an enthralling plot, what can readers expect from this novel?
Aaah, you’ll feel so good afterward!
There’s a great deal of information on the LDS church, presented in a matter-of-fact way that could lead to some interesting conversations. The study questions at the end provide provocative topics for group discussion. You’ll learn a lot about signs of deception as well as forensic art from someone who’s worked in the field for over 30 years.
DO YOU HAVE MORE PLANS IN PLACE FOR FUTURE FICTION WORKS?
Yes, although I’ve written and illustrated five art books. I’ve already finished book two of the series, called Lone Wolf, about the Christian Identity movement, and book three is in the research stage.