Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"The Scent of Rain" by Anne Montgomery

The Scent of Rain
by Anne Montgomery

Author Anne Montgomery stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from her latest novel, The Scent of Rain

Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away.
Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl - Rose - running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community.
With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father's age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust?

Rose Madsen couldn’t risk staying out much longer. She still felt the paddle blows—what her mother called “appropriate corrective measures”—from the last time she’d disappeared for too long. But the chill of the spring morning had eased following sun-up, a full two hours after Rose had risen to do her pre-breakfast chores, and now the high desert sky was a cloudless blue. When she got back, she’d have to bathe, dress, and feed Becky, a chore she didn’t mind doing, but right now all she wanted was to wade in the creek and feel the sun on her face. Becky could wait a little while longer.
“Recalcitrant,” her mother often said, referring to her seventh daughter. Rose rolled the word around in her mouth, but the term had too many sharp edges. Other folks in town didn’t use words like recalcitrant. Children were either good or bad. She’d overheard people say Mother’s vocabulary was too prideful, a sin that needed correcting, and struggled with the thought of Mother as a sinner.
Rose dipped a hand into the stream and marveled that just a day earlier it had been dry as a bone, nothing but fine sand and loose rock. But then the snow high in the mountains had melted, delivering a clear, cold flow that Rose knew would quickly disappear.
She dabbed at the milk splotches on the hem of her ankle-length cotton dress. She’d been milking cows for over ten years, but no matter how often she squeezed those velvety teats, she could never avoid splashing her clothes. Rose scrubbed at the almost invisible stains on the sky-blue fabric knowing that Mother would probably spot them no matter how hard she worked. She’d be shut up in that tiny room in the barn, forced to study her dog-eared book of scriptures and go without food because “dirty clothes proved one harbored dirty thoughts.” No matter how often Mother said that, Rose had no idea what it meant.
She removed her Nikes and socks and stepped into the current, bunching her skirt with one hand, lest the garment trail in the water providing proof she’d sneaked away. The water rushed around her legs, numbing them to mid-calf. She shivered. It was exhilarating. She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sky. If only she could stay here as long as she wanted.
She drew in a deep breath of cool, desert air and started to step back out onto the creek bank when a rock beneath the sparkling surface caught her eye and drew her hand into the flow. The stone was egg-shaped, spotted with the remains of multi-colored pebbles. She remembered learning in science class that stones like this were made up of smaller rocks that had been forced deep into the earth, melted, and fused together, only to reemerge countless years later to be washed and tumbled by the river, edges softened, rounded. She held the stone in her palm and ran her thumb over its smooth surface.
How long had this transformation taken? Mr. Wayland, who had proudly passed his rock samples around the classroom, might have known the answer. But he was gone, and the school was closed. Large goats had eaten away the greenery that once surrounded the building that housed the classrooms. A sign above the doorway still read Colorado City Unified School District #14. Trash littered the grounds that were hemmed in by a chain link fence. The Prophet had decreed that all children should be home schooled. And so they were.
Rose wanted to keep the stone, but that was impossible. The telltale smoothness of the rock would surely shout out that its life had been spent tumbling in the riverbed, one of the many places Rose was never allowed to go. Mother had warned her repeatedly about the terrible flash floods that could barrel down the mountain without warning, sweeping away everything near Short Creek. Rose wriggled her toes in the frigid stream, then sighed and dropped the stone back into the water where it landed with a plunk.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Very disturbing, but also compelling. Montgomery's voice is a no-holds-barred approach to a terrible truth disguised as the love of God. Just the thing for a stormy night's read." ~ Anna Baker
"Anne Montgomery has a great way of mixing local knowledge of Arizona with excellent story telling!" ~ PHX38
"The Scent Of Rain is a book that stays with you, that you continue to think about long after finishing to read it." ~ Sandra Richardson
"The Scent of Rain is the story of a tragic, intolerable situation, but it is a story of Hope and love as well." ~ Michelle Kidwell
"A heartrending, heartwrenching, fictional narrative set in the excessively strict, narrow world of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hurricane, Utah, The Scent of Rain is true-to-life real- life horror. Make no mistake, this novel will chill your spine; but this type of abuse of women, children, boys, and animals, committed in the guise of strictest religion, needs revealing. Even in the midst of tribulations, The Scent of Rain celebrates the resilience and persistence of the human spirit." ~ The Haunted Reading Room

Interview With the Author
Author Anne Montgomery stops by today to discuss her latest novel. The Scent of Rain takes on some difficult topics – polygamy, cults, misogyny, illegal immigration, and deportation – just to name a few, so what was your inspiration, Anne?
I have lived in Arizona for about 25 years. As an avid consumer of current events – yes, I’m a news junkie – it was hard to ignored the reports coming out of the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. I was astonished when I learned about the radical Mormon sect that lives on what is called the Arizona Strip and their tradition of marrying underage girls, some as young as twelve, to old men. The fact that this behavior could thrive inside the confines of the United States continues to shock me. I wanted to learn more about these people, who – in this time of technology with its cellphones and Internet and 24-hour news cycles – live mostly without any connection to the outside world.
What did you do to research for this book?
As a former reporter, I greatly enjoy digging for a story. I read articles about Colorado City and conducted interviews with people who had lived and worked in the community, including Flora Jessop, who escaped twice from the cult and today works with the Child Protection Project: an anti-child abuse group that helps women and girls escape from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stories Flora told me were so harrowing that to this day I have not listened the three-hour recording of our interview session. The images were burned into my brain. I also interviewed Dr. Theodore Tarby, who bravely confronted the cult members, asking them to refrain from marrying and reproducing with their close relatives, after he discovered that the cause of the awful birth defects in the community were the result of incest. Unfortunately, Dr. Tarby was ignored.
I find it impossible to write stories without actually visiting the locations where my characters live, so I recruited a dear friend, Patty Congdon, and we drove to Colorado, City. We concocted a story about looking for a place to retire. As we studied the community, children stared at us as if we were monsters. They are told that outsiders are devils. I am not afraid of many things, but I have to admit that I was uncomfortable while doing my research on site and have no desire to go back.
You have a background in broadcasting, sports writing, and other freelance work. When did you decide to start writing fiction? Why?
As most women who ply their trade in front of a TV camera will tell you, we have a shelf life. Once one is nearing forty, we are suddenly no longer qualified to do our jobs. When my contract at ESPN was not renewed, I began writing fiction. (I was unemployed and rather desperate for something to occupy my time.) However, all my novels are based on real events or situations. In A Light in the Desert, a novel about the deadly sabotage of the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train that was derailed in the Arizona desert in 1995, I wrote about child abuse, teen pregnancy, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as the crime. My historical fiction novel Nothing But Echoes, details the problems of archaeological looting, black market sales of antiquities, and the question of when Europeans first inhabited the Americas. In The Scent of Rain, I again tackle child abuse and also polygamy, and cults. So the theme, I guess, is that while I write fiction, my stories are based on facts: not the plot line, necessarily, but the details that support the story line.
What is your favorite part of The Scent of Rain? What did you enjoy writing about the most? Why?
I am most happy in the wilderness. The state of Arizona is one of the most wondrous wild areas I have ever explored. We have the incredibly diverse Sonoran Desert, as well as mountains and canyons and rivers and forests. I have seen much of the state because I’m a rock collector. (It’s true. I have about 400 specimens just in my living room. Friends know not to ask about them if I’ve had a glass of wine because I then feel compelled to explain when and where I found each one, whether they want to know or not.) Before researching The Scent of Rain, I had not traveled to the Arizona Strip. I was thrilled by the stark beauty of the area. Zion National Park is just a short drive from Colorado City. The thing I enjoyed most about writing the manuscript was incorporating descriptions of the landscape into the story.
Who is your favorite character? What role did he or she play in moving the plot forward?
That’s a tough question. Like asking a mom to name her favorite child. Still, there would be no story without Rose. I’m a high school teacher, and to have a student like her would be a delight. I admire her enthusiasm, her determination to find answers to the natural world around her, and her efforts to reconcile the beliefs of the strange community in which she was raised with all the new things she learns about the outside world. My second favorite character is Adan. Through some strange twist, I became a foster mom at 55. As I never had any biological children, you can imagine what suddenly having a 15-year-old boy in my home was like. Adan reminds me of my first son, Brandon. I now have three boys who call me mom.
How did you find a balance between light and dark/humor and levity in your narrative?
The subjects I write about tend toward darkness, however, I know as a reader that I search for the element of hope in stories. I feel it’s my job as a writer to provide characters with a positive way out, faith that their lives will get better. In real life, most of us have days that are generally sprinkled with all kinds of emotions, so in the interest of making the characters multi-dimensional, there must be balance. Also, I’m fortunate that there is a lot of humor in my world, thanks to my beau of 23 years. We laugh a lot. Whenever my students or my boys ask me about dating, I tell them to make sure they find someone who makes them laugh.
What do you think readers will enjoy most about The Scent of Rain?
Readers of my other novels have told me that they truly enjoy my diverse cast of characters. I think the same will be true of The Scent of Rain. But I also think it’s interesting to read about places that look and feel and smell differently than those we normally inhabit. I consider a book’s setting like a main character. In this case, I hope the readers will delight in the wild lands of northern Arizona.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
I am active on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Readers can also find me on Wikipedia, Amazon, and LinkedIn.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Anne. It's been a pleasure.

About the Author
Anne Montgomery
Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award winning SportsCenter. She finished her on camera broadcasting career with a two-year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Her novels include: The Scent of Rain, Nothing But Echoes, and A Light in the Desert. Montgomery teaches journalism at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, is a foster mom to three sons, and is an Arizona Interscholastic Association football referee and crew chief. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, football officiating, scuba diving, and playing her guitar.