Interview with Author Shauna Packer

A couple of months ago, I had the distinct honor to review and help share the word on an important novel called Destroying Their God: How I Fought My Evil Half-Brother To Save My Children by Wallace Jeffs, Shauna Packer and Sherry Taylor. You can read the full review here.  This book is an extremely important look at the FLDS cult and the impact it has on it’s members and their families. I am now fortunate to be able to share an exclusive interview with one of the authors, Shauna Packer. Here is what she had to say about her experience writing this story and how she views the events related in it.

 

1: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you meet and eventually collaborate with Wallace Jeffs and Sherry Taylor?

Sherry and I have known each other for years as we volunteered in leadership positions through the League of Utah Writers. Sherry became acquainted with Wallace from a business networking group in the Salt Lake area. Wallace was in the movie, Prophet’s Prey, and a big-name producer/director (won’t name drop here) approached him and said he wanted to make a movie based on Wallace’s life story, but first, he wanted a book written. Wallace approached Sherry to co-author the book, but at that juncture, the timeframe for completing the project was only six months, so she asked me if I would like to join so it could be fast-tracked. As a professional writer for many years, I have been asked to collaborate on multiple books and, though I find all ideas interesting, have always refused. But when I heard Wallace’s story, of almost dying in order to protect his daughters from spiritual slavery, I knew this was one opportunity I couldn’t pass up! I believe strongly in a commitment to family, and the loyalty and sacrifice Wallace made for his children proved a theme that resonated deeply with my core values. I am continually grateful I had a chance to work on this project with Sherry and Wallace. After four years of co-authoring together, we get along well and enjoy a friendship and strong team commitment to each other individually as well as to our book.

 

2: What was the process like working on Destroying Their God?

Sherry and I would go to Wallace’s place and interview him as he told his life story. Or, sometimes we met at a restaurant or bookstore (nearby patrons were often quite intrigued by our conversation!). Some evenings there were things he wanted to speak about in particular; sometimes we had questions and we directed the interview. Then, I would come back to my home office and write the chapters and send them to Sherry for her feedback and addition/deletions. Quite often, we would have a lot of additional questions as we started laying out chapters and sections, so there was a great amount of follow up and digging down to do. We also had to make sure we put things into the correct historical context, sometimes that proved a challenge because access to FLDS records can be spotty or completely unavailable. Personally, I was super interested in the everyday life of an FLDS family. As a mother of children myself, I marveled at how you would even go about cooking meals for the sixty-five-plus children. So, alongside the details of Wallace’s life, Sherry and I asked a lot of questions about family dynamics. From a reader’s perspective, the feedback has been interesting: some of our readers felt like we included too many day-to-day details and some were quite frustrated that we did not include a whole lot more! But that’s the great thing about reading, it is a personal experience and preference.

 

3: What message do you hope this book sends to readers who are unfamiliar with FLDS or who don’t realize the affects both physically and psychologically on those who escape destructive religions? 

 

The truth of what happens in the FLDS and the reality of Wallace’s life is shocking to a lot of people. It certainly was to me. As a writing team, we genuinely strived with this book to illuminate, without hitting people over the head with the message, that being raised in the FLDS lifestyle demands certain behaviors and compliance or you doom yourself to destruction. It can be easy when reading about another’s life to become somewhat of an armchair psychologist. However, although highly suspicious to an outsider, this lifestyle literally represents life and death to people who are in the midst of the madness. If Wallace, or any other faithful FLDS member, would have chosen to leave, they would be banished from their family, their homes, their livelihood, their friends, and ultimately, in their minds, their salvation. Leaving the priesthood people and land equates a total loss of everything and utter destruction. This is especially a heavy reality when your own father, the prophet, and your mother represented this as absolute truth from birth. It is a culture of control and fear. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Wallace’s healing and ability to operate in a world he was raised to believe was wicked. I hope that the book not only educates, but also allows people to examine their own personal values. Wise individuals with sound moral compasses can indeed be manipulated by a parental and religious culture.

 

4: What would you say was the most difficult aspect of writing this novel?

There is some really raw information included in the book. In order for the reader (and Sherry and I) to understand why Wallace was willing to die to protect his children, we had to spend a lot of time with dark and gritty subject matter. This included listening to many hours of audio tapes made by Warren of his degradations. As a woman and mother to daughters myself, I can still scarcely believe what these women had to endure in order to attain salvation. However, I believe that writing should be about truth and we need to stand in that truth. Some publishers were interested in the story, but wanted us to remove some of the more challenging subject matter. We agreed as a team that as much as we found what happened repugnant, we had to recount it in truth, without allowing it to become gratuitous.

 

There is also a building up to extreme cruelty toward Wallace. Warren is a master of creating custom-made punishments, tailored to the individual “sinner”. I don’t want to give away too much of the book, but after Wallace defied his brother, Warren customized a punishment that is every parent’s worst nightmare. The night we discussed this event was a somber one indeed. I waited until I got to my car, because Wallace doesn’t like to see women cry and it seemed disrespectful to get rattled about something so personal to him, but how the tears flowed when I was alone! I even traveled down to St. George, Utah (about five hours from where I live) because I wanted to see the house where these painful events occurred and I also wanted to see where Wallace’s accident took place. Even though I have read this book dozens of times, I still get choked up when I read certain parts. I always have to call Wallace or text him to say, “I’m so sorry you had to go through this!” His reply is generally, “Thank you, but it’s what made me the man I am today.”

 

5: If you were able to reach out and talk to those still living the FLDS life, what would you want to say to them? 

That there are people and resources available to help them leave this cult. I do not believe it is God’s wish for families to be torn apart and for a prophet to constantly preach a message that says members are not worthy of the blessings of heaven. I would also share with them the many audio files Warren recorded, which are actively withheld from the FLDS people by leadership, and his own jail confession that “I am not the prophet”. They don’t have to lead a life based completely in fear, there are many who will help them discover the truth and find their own path!

 

6: What was the process like working with Wallace and diving into the ins and outs of FLDS and their practices?

Fascinating! I wanted to know everything and could still spend hours asking questions. When we are interviewed as a team, I never tire of listening to what Wallace has to say. The reality of growing up FLDS is a little hard to wrap your mind around. I really admire Wallace’s bravery; he always has an open and forthcoming attitude. Wallace has had a lot of things happen to him in his life, but he never wants to be seen as a victim. To write a book such as this, you really need to crawl through the cobwebs and challenge, probe, examine and then examine some more. There is a lot of digging into emotions and difficult memories. However, we chose to write the book in a more journalistic tone to match Wallace’s personality and so it wouldn’t seem overly emotional, as if he felt sorry for himself for the life events he experienced.

 

7: What’s next for you personally as an author? Any other projects on the horizon? Would you want to work on a memoir similar to this in the future?

I am always open to discussing future book ideas. If another project like Wallace’s came along that captivated me with a story of courage, love, and triumph, yes, I would definitely consider working on another memoir. I think Wallace has a few more books in him as well, and we have discussed further collaboration. I have my writing business, consulting with executives, corporations, and fiction authors on their content and editing needs. That keeps me happily occupied as I work on new books. Currently, I am in development on another non-fiction project. I also have a fictional short story that I wrote years ago and would and like to turn into a novel. It’s more of a happy story about redemption and it feels right at this moment in my career to work on something a little more upbeat. I have two completed novels I am in the process of marketing to agents. One is historical fiction called The Shadows of Plain Sight, set in post-Civil War Nevada, and the other, Ways To Go, is a women’s fiction novel.

 

Thank you for your time. It was an honor to speak with you and thank you for sharing this important story with the world. 

 

Shauna Packer

Shauna Packer Headshot

 

Shauna Packer has been a professional corporate and freelance writer, researcher, and content editor for over twelve years. She is a multi-award-winning fiction and non-fiction author. Shauna has been published in several commercial anthologies, including Angels to Bear You Up, Utah Voices: A Literary Annual, and Mother’s Messages in a Bottle. Though she has crafted a great deal of non-fiction over the years, Destroying Their God is her first full-length non-fiction book. She resides in the Salt Lake area with her family, including two cats named after candy bars.

 

Find Shauna Packer at:

 

https://www.instagram.com/shaunapacker/  

https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaunadansie/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17815620.Shauna_Packer

https://twitter.com/spackerauthor

https://www.facebook.com/Shauna-Packer-210939476157092/

http://www.destroyingtheirgod.com

 

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Destroying Their God: How I Fought My Evil Half-Brother To Save My Children by Wallace Jeffs, Shauna Packer and Sherry Taylor Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

One man’s journey to escape a dangerous religious group he was born and raised in and the harrowing experience of trying to save his own children in the process comes to life in former FLDS member Wallace Jeff’s novel, Destroying Their God. The book, (written also by Shauna Packer and Sherry Taylor), shows the terrifying process of being indoctrinated into a harmful doomsday religion and how despite a lifetime of indoctrination he managed to escape the group, but not without both physical and emotional scars. Here’s the official synopsis:

In 1991, Wallace Jeffs was coerced to become an FLDS polygamist. 

In 2011, Wallace rebelled against the sect, and the FBI helped him reclaim his kidnapped children.

Then an “accident” put Wallace into a forty-five-day coma. 

Growing up as half-brother to future Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saint prophet Warren Jeffs, Wallace tried to follow FLDS teachings. After he built a successful business, the church required him to marry a second wife. Wallace fathered twenty children, but he never felt comfortable with polygamy or many other FLDS beliefs.

As his prophet-brother increasingly manipulated him, Wallace started hearing about FLDS atrocities. On the day the FBI arrested Warren Jeffs for child rape, the prophet was en route to reclaim Wallace’s second wife for himself. Wallace defied the prophet and soon ended up in a coma. Though Wallace feared FLDS sabotage caused his car crash, he kept fighting the sect.

With today’s movement against male abusers, Wallace’s story reminds us that power and position don’t corrupt all men. In 2018, Wallace found resolution by marrying an LDS woman in the Salt Lake Temple. At the same time, he renews our concern for the thousands who still live under FLDS control, including some of Wallace’s own children. 

This is one of the most tragic, heartbreaking yet important reads of 2018. This is the kind of story people can connect with on multiple levels. For me, I’ve always been angry about all of the innocent people who’s lives are destroyed by religious cults and curious how the indoctrination process claims so many lives. As a non-religious person, I was always curious how people could get so ingrained into a religion’s policies no matter how strange or ridiculous they seemed to the rest of the world. Thanks to the incredible bravery of Wallace Jeffs defying his brother and the church he spent a lifetime serving, the world at large can garner a far better understanding of indoctrination as a whole.

The book goes into incredible and tragic detail on the religion and it’s actions. From the strange laws that dictated their appearance and interactions with the rest of the world, to the inner workings of polygamy and the apocalyptic beliefs that drove people to do or allow unspeakable things to occur. The book also allows readers to get better insight into the behavior and mindset of the sick religious leader who is deemed “prophet” in this religion, and that’s Warren Jeffs. Wallace and this incredible writing team showcase the rise of this criminal, whom his brother describes as “the most evil person to walk the earth”. From his early years being groomed to be the religion’s poster boy, to his sick pleasures and the mind games he played with the followers, including his own brother.

Overall this was an amazing book to read. Definitely one of the best books of 2018, Wallace Jeffs, Shauna Packer and Sherry Taylor have brought to life an emotional, heartbreaking and yet vital tale of escaping a toxic environment. You also get to see how he learns how to integrate himself into society years later than most and the physical and emotional struggle of one father who’s love for his children gave him the strength to fight the only group he’d called family to save his kids. This is a must read book, so be sure to grab your copy in eBook, audiobook or paperback formats on June 6th, 2018!

Rating: 10/10

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Interview with Mathias B. Freese

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Never begin a sentence with “well.” [a writer should break rules.]Well, writing, for me, was characterological. It was a consequence of a repressed and depressed childhood and adulthood. It was the spume of a discontented and directionless youth, of misspent energies and unclear goals. It was the product of an outer directed self. Aimless, un-fathered and un-mothered, I was benign neglect incarnate. There is much truth in the adage that we grow old too soon and smart too late.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

All of my books are not inspired; they are made from moving trends in my own personal reflections. When my thoughts founder upon a reef, I take the wreckage and begin to make order from disorder. A writer shapes experience. This book is a second memoir; the first was youth and young adulthood, lunacy, foolishness and recklessness; a land of mischief and misbehavior. The second memoir is more reflective, an older man’s thoughts, hopefully wiser, perhaps not; we are all fools until the day we die.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

In my memoir I carry on an imaginary conversation with Thoreau; however, he says nothing as I speak to him about the issues of my life. I keep Thoreau silent, for the questions I ask and the answers I get are solely of my own creation. The latent message of this literary conceit is awareness, or the awakening of intelligence, to cite Krishnamurti. Thoreau, as I see him, was consumed by the meaning of experience, of how to live an aware existence. In many ways he was a scold, hectoring us, berating us, pushing and shoving us into assessing what we are doing as human lives from moment to moment. I have been obsessed, if that is the word, with understanding who I am, and how to deal with existence since a young man. And so my affinity for Thoreau. This is an old man’s memoir filled with a young man’s ardor and exuberance.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I am free. [“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”—Kazantzakis] I took an arrow from my quiver and it read memoir and I tried this genre free of whatever memoirs are supposed to be.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

All the characters in my stories and essays and novel and memoirs emanate from me., at the very least are projections of myself. The essential questions I ask are ones of meaning, intention and purpose in life. In the last essay of my memoir I ask all the questions I have ever asked of myself to an imaginary Thoreau. I would hope the reader attaches his kite to mine and sets flight.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I am not interested in my readership. I have deconditioned myself from that. I have no interest in twitter and all the rest. I try to get my books reviewed or seen without going nuts over it. I write for my pleasure, to divine who I am. I write for no one else. To write for others is a kind of emptiness, or outer-directedness. Who said I had to have readers? Who said I have to be read? What is it I want is all that matters. I sell a smattering of books and engage a few people in literary discussion such as this piece, but that is all. I march to a different drummer.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Advice is generally used or secondhand; use it sparingly. It must always be questioned. With that caveat, I’ll say the following. Constantly reference yourself; look up quaquaversal which appears in my memoir. It is the source from which other things emanate. Trust yourself. Techniques can be learned and schools can teach that; but since you are the last of your kind, and no one will be like you ever again, it’s best to discover all you can about yourself through mentors, philosophers, therapists and most importantly the awakening of intelligence. Continually decondition yourself of state, religion and authorities of any kind. When you are free, your writing will be a song.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I may have written my last book. I am not sure. I hear fragments in my mind that may turn out to be stories. To wit, “It is here. Oh my…Oh my….” Strikes me ominously. I’ll see. I have no future. I have the moment, so why waste time on a future tense.

 

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the Story of a New York City
man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler
living and a late-life marriage to a saint of sorts, his persistent pet anxieties and
unanswerable questions follow him. Mathias Freese wants his retreat from the
societal “it” to be a brave safari for the self rather than cowardly avoidance, so
who better to guide him but Henry David Thoreau, the self-aware philosopher
who retreated to Walden Pond “to live deliberately” and cease “the hurry and
waste of life”? In this memoir, Freese wishes to share how and why he came to
Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential
impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone.

Book Awards:
• The i Tetralogy: Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award 2007
• Down to a Sunless Sea: National Indie Excellence finalist Book Awards 2007 &
• Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award 2007.
• This Mobius Strip of Ifs: National Indie (Winner) Book Awards, 2012 & Global
Ebook Award finalist, 2012.
• I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust: Finalist in the 2012 Leapfrog Press
Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions, Beverly Hills Book Awards, Winner;
• Readers’ Favorites, Five Stars; Indie Excellence Book Awards, Finalist; Readers’
• Favorite, Book Award Winner – Bronze medal
• Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers: 2016 Los Angeles Book Festival Honorable
Mention, Great Northwest Book Festival Winner in Biography/Autobiography
• Category, Runner-up in General Non-Fiction Category in the San Francisco Book
Festival, Winner for General Non-Fiction in The Beach Book Festival & Runner-Up
in General Non-Fiction in the Paris Book Festival

 

MATHIAS B. FREESE
is a multi-published,
award-winning author,
writer, teacher and
psychotherapist.

And Then I Am Gone teaser small

And Then I’m Gone: A Walk With Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

One of the most thought provoking memoirs in recent years challenges readers to examine not only the world around them but how they are living their lives in author Mathias B. Freese’s novel And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau. Here’s the full synopsis:

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the story of a New York City man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler living and a late-life marriage to a saint of sorts, his persistent pet anxieties and unanswerable questions follow him. Mathias Freese wants his retreat from the societal “it” to be a brave safari for the self rather than cowardly avoidance, so who better to guide him but Henry David Thoreau, the self-aware philosopher who retreated to Walden Pond “to live deliberately” and cease “the hurry and waste of life”? In this memoir, Freese wishes to share how and why he came to Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone.

 

This was one of the most unique and creative memoirs I’ve read in recent years. The story of the author’s journey in his later years in life allow us as readers to take the time to appreciate not only our own lives, but challenges us to think critically and take the time to find meaning in our lives. It does a marvelous job of using past life experiences, history, humor and classic pop culture references to contemplate the current state of our world. From the rise of Donald Trump as the United States President and what it says about the mentality of the nation as a whole to the hours spent on subjects like religion and life views that end up dividing us when there’s no need for it, this book is a perfect read for anyone looking to find meaning and purpose.

Written almost like a diary entry or an actual conversation between the author and the philospher Henry David Thoreau himself, this story exudes insight, psychology and honesty. It shows the power of hope in tumultous times, while also showing the history of the world and the threat of being doomed to repeat it in our modern times. It’s as much a reflection on our society as it is on himself, and despite the title’s ominous overtones, this story is not one of loss and hopelessness but one of learning from our own pasts and finding the will to reflect on our lives and come to terms with it. It’s a story of love, loss and life itself, and deserves to be read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copies of And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese today!

Rating: 10/10

 

About the Author

Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored six books. His I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust won the Beverly Hills Book Awards and the Reader’s Favorite Book Award, and it was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival. In 2016 Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards.

 

Shane Dawson’s “It Gets Worse” Book Review

Hilarious. Emotional. Original.

These are just a few words that perfectly describe the incredible second book from YouTube sensation and author Shane Dawson, titled “It Gets
Worse.” The follow up to his first book, “I Hate Myselfie,” this memoir gets even more personal and in-depth into the life of one of the biggest
names on the internet, and delivers an intimate experience unlike any other.

Stories revolve around so much of Shane’s life, from his experience coming out to the world as bisexual, to the emotional experience of connecting
with a lost loved one, and the hardship of dealing with haters from an early age. While his dark humor and incredible wit shine in every page of
this memoir, what really shines above all other things is the heart and emotion that one reads between the lines, (and often times right there in
big, bold print). The strong emotional pull that each story imparts with it’s lessons cut through to the readers core. So many of his stories
can easily be a reflection of our own lives, from the pain of loss to the struggle to define oneself or even the heartache that comes from being
told you aren’t talented or worthy enough for your dreams. His struggle is something that many people can identify with, and in a second book like
this the intimacy and deeper stories being told only serve to bring the readership closer together, and shows that while life can in fact “get
worse”, it can also get better or at least serve to strengthen us and show that we aren’t as along as we may feel in a given moment.

This is a powerful memoir that will make you laugh, make you cry, and will leave you wanting more, and this reviewer can only hope to see more from the
incredibly creative mind of this amazing author. Be sure to pick up your copies of “It Gets Worse” by Shane Dawson, and subscribe to his YouTube
channel to follow him across social media!

You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day Review:

A voice for an entire movement can come in many different forms. You never see when these voices will come along, utilizing wit and charm to
inadvertently give a sense of community and belonging to people. That’s what Felicia Day has done, and she showcases how being yourself can
lead to happiness in her memoir, “You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost).”

In this incredible book, Felicia Day does an excellent job of weaving humor into her life’s adventures. While many will know her from such works
as Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka and her original web series, The Guild, the young actress and writer had a unique childhood
that helped shape her into the creative tour de force that she has become. What really had this reviewer engrossed in the memoir was her
struggles with self-confidence and social anxiety, which are both things I identify with and I think a lot of people will respond to positively
once they read this book. Established fans of Felicia Day will love to get to know their favorite actress more in this book, while newcomers
will thoroughly enjoy the honest voice she writes with and the very real life experiences that have shaped her into the accomplished
entertainer she has become.

Overall, this is a story of following your passions and dreams, and not being afraid to push ahead and do things the way you want without
compromising your own vision. This is a story of a young woman who grew up in a sort of isolated state, who excelled at most of the things she
took on and pursued her dream rather than taking the self-assured path that many thought she should take. Written in her wonderfully hilarious
voice and using her incredible intellect and passion to connect with the reader, this is a one of a kind memoir that cannot be replicated, and
you guys should pick up your copies of “You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day today!

I, Justine: An Analog Memoir Book Review

A wonderful read! This memoir is a fantastic look into the world of the digital age. It showcases one person’s personal story of growing up with a fascination of the tech world, and her journey to immerse herself completely in that world. As a fellow tech lover, I responded to this story immediately. It also does a wonderful job of showcasing the transition from childhood to adulthood. It highlights the struggles young adults go through to not only pursue their dreams, but to make a place for themselves in the world.

If you want an inspiring tale of the pursuit of dreams, and how doing whatever it is you are most passionate about in life can turn into something spectacular, then I, Justine: An Analog Memoir is the book for you! With summer fast approaching, personal stories of growth, struggles and personal ambition such as this is a must read.

Want a more detailed review? Make sure to tune in to anthonyonrequest
 for an in-depth study of this amazing read, or you can head to On Request Magazine to read the review!

ijustine