Connor’s Q&A with Author L. T. Downing

My daughter recently had a chance to ask author L. T. Downing questions about her historical novel for kids, Adventures of the Restoration: Get That Gold! Here are L. T. Downing’s responses:

Connor Hales: How do you come up with ideas when you write your books? 

L. T. Downing: The ideas for the Adventures of the Restoration series came because I love history and storytelling. I have read a lot of history books about the early days of the church, but those books were too boring to read to my own children. So I began telling them about the really amazing things that went on during the Restoration period. Next thing I knew, I was writing those stories down.

CH: When did you decide that you were going to become a writer? 

LTD: I remember the moment I decided to be a writer like it was yesterday. I was four years old. When I was a baby, I never learned to crawl and a very famous baby doctor had written a book that claimed that babies who never crawl are likely to have trouble learning to read. My mother was worried I wouldn’t be a good reader so she started teaching me as soon as I turned four. To her surprise, I took to it very quickly. One day I was sitting with her on the edge of my parents’ bed, reading a story that had a big red can in it. My mom kept telling me there was no red can in the story. I got mad and kept pointing to the word. “C-A-N,” I said. Then she pointed to the last letter and asked me to look again. Well, can you believe it? The word was spelled “C-A-R.” The big redcar. Not can. I was astonished that changing one little letter at the end of word could change the entire meaning. That’s when my mom said, “When you grow up, you can go to college and study English. And if you want, you can become a writer.” Bam! Decision made. At the age of four, I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful—and powerful—than creating meaning by arranging letters into words and words into sentences and sentences into books. I still think that. 

CH: Was it fun writing the book? 

LTD: YES! There is nothing that is more fun than writing books for kids. Except for Halloween. And Christmas is pretty good too. 

CH: How long did it take to get your book published? 

LTD: Don’t ask! I wrote Get that Gold! and the next book in the Adventures of the Restoration series (The Pilfered Papers) when my oldest child, who is twenty-four now, was about ten years old. I mailed the manuscript to two LDS publishers in existence then. I was told that the first publisher to whom I sent it would take it, but, in the end, the person with the final word rejected it. He said he didn’t think it was a good idea to publish a novel with Joseph Smith as the point of view character. After all, no one knows exactly what Joseph Smith was thinking when those men in the woods attacked him. I guess the publisher thought kids might get confused and not understand what fictionalized history is. But personally, I think kids are really smart. The other publisher I sent it too didn’t seem to understand that it was written for young people because they sent me a nice letter explaining how I should make the work much, much longer and more like The Work and the Glory series, which was written for adults and has books that are hundreds and hundreds of pages long. I felt sad that they wouldn’t publish the Adventures of the Restoration series because I really felt like Heavenly Father inspired me to write them. But I also figured I’d just trust Heavenly Father and move on to the next thing. Your mom and dad will probably tell you that God’s time schedule is not the same as ours. They are right. Nearly fifteen years after writing Get that Gold!, it found a publisher. 

CH: How did you become interested in Joseph Smith? 

LTD: I became interested in Joseph Smith when I was fourteen years old. Before then, I’d never heard of him. I was raised in the Catholic church. But I began hearing about Mormons when I was in eighth grade, so I looked them up in the encyclopedia. That was the first place I learned about the First Vision. I went to the public library and checked out a Book of Mormon. I did a lot of praying and received a testimony of the work of Joseph Smith. I always thought he was very brave. I know sometimes I was scared about joining the church because my family and other people didn’t believe that the gospel needed restoring. I spent a lot of time thinking about how brave Joseph Smith had to be to do what he did. He wasn’t a perfect man. He made mistakes. We all do. But he is my hero. So it helps my testimony stay strong to think about the hard things he had to do so we could have the gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth. 

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