When readers think of LDS fiction, they sometimes tend to categorize it in the same way they’ve thought about it for years—nice stories without a lot of meat. LDS authors have been stretching the limits of the genre for some time now and have made strides in expanding the perception of the public in regards to it, and today I’m featuring two authors who have really explored new territory and blazed trails for other authors to follow and readers to enjoy. Their books straddle the line between LDS and national, and carry appeal for both audiences.
Michaelbrent Collings is best known for writing horror. In fact, he’s an Amazon bestseller in that genre. So what’s he doing writing about a crime-fighting Relief Society president? Having a great time, from what I can tell. Collings’ new release, Blood Relations: A Good Mormon Girl Mystery, features Lane Cooley, a tough cop who takes care of bad guys by day and her ward family by night. The style of the book is very similar to what’s currently being done on the national market—tight, terse sentences, action-packed scenes, bad guys who are really bad—but also brings in Lane’s Mormon faith. In my favorite part of the book, Lane receives a call from a sister in the ward while investigating the scene of a brutal murder. Seeing her try to balance the information coming in her ear while dealing with the scene in front of her—two diametrically opposed situations—truly made me laugh.
I also enjoyed the relationship Lane has with her coworkers. She genuinely cares about each of them and has made her home into a haven for them where they can come and unwind and regroup after facing the outside world. They don’t share her faith, but they respect it and they benefit from it. This is a mystery with grit but without the guilt.
My other offering today is BYUCK by Theric Jepson. Jepson is a new author on the scene, and I want to see a great deal more from him. His style is so unique and his voice is so fresh, you won’t for a minute feel like you’re reading the same old story about BYU students. Instead, it’s literary and comedic tongue-in-cheek writing, following a stream of consciousness with a great plot.
Our main characters are David Them and Curses Olai, two young men attending BYU who are fighting against the cultural and religious expectation of matrimony right after a mission. And what is the medium by which they choose to make their point known to the public? A Mormon rock opera, of course.
But the book isn’t one of those old Hollywood chestnuts—“Hey, there’s a barn. Let’s put on a show.” There are so many layers to the story, every one of them completely quirky. We have college-student hijinks, of course, because this is BYU, but we also have romance, and philosophy, and moments of contemplation that loop right back around to being quirky. I have to say, I enjoyed every minute of this read. It truly was out of the box.
And there you have it—two examples of fiction by LDS authors that transcends the barriers and pushes our expectations just a bit further. Stories by Mormons about Mormons can take any form, and I’m glad to see that more and more often these days, they do.
Blood Relations by Michaelbrent Collings and BYUCK by Theric Jepson are both available at Amazon.com.