by H. B. Moore
Covenant November 2008
Review by Anne Bradshaw
Heather B. Moore has written another winner. Her latest novel, Abinadi, is not only compelling reading from page one, but is also packed with excellent details of how life really was in those Book of Mormon days. Heather’s skills as a writer bring flavors of Eastern romance into an inspirational and edifying story.
Although the Book of Mormon’s account of Abinadi’s life (and encounter with Alma, the one person who listened to his message) is brief, Heather manages to fill in the gaps surrounding these important events with some intense adventure, and satisfying, though often traumatic, family details. Every character is finely drawn, believable, and unforgettable—including the wicked King Noah.
I highly recommend Abinadi as an engrossing read guaranteed to hover in the memory for a long time after the last page is turned. I feel like I’ve been to the ancient Americas, and absorbed the scent, scenes and sounds of historic events—an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.
What made you choose Abinadi and Alma as subjects for your book?
I wanted to start planning a new series and was looking for a good place in the Book of Mormon that would be conducive to 3-4 historical volumes. Abinadi, Alma the Elder, and
the Younger all live in the same century. I actually wrote the first chapter for Abinadi in 2006. I think I was mainly interested in what would make a man, a prophet no less, walk into a situation where he’d undoubtedly be executed. As I started reading a little about him, I found several articles that typified Abinadi as a precursor of Christ—their lives had many similarities. Then I started thinking of how I’d create an entire story around it (the fiction side of things), and that’s when I started to question how old Abinadi might really be. Alma
I asked my father (S. Kent Brown) if there was any scripture or scholarly information on Abinadi’s age. He said that no one knows his age and there is no scriptural indication of his age—although traditional LDS art depicts him as an aged man. The open-ended age question hooked me right there, and I decided to make Abinadi a young man—a man who has to give up not only his life, but a wife and a young family. Then of course
naturally came into the story because he was one of the high priests in King Noah’s court who heard Abinadi’s message—and believed. Alma
As I began to write full force on Abinadi,
really became more of a main character than I intended him to be. I found myself trying to reel in Alma ’s character so that we could still hear Abinadi’s story. Alma
Are you planning on more books about Book of Mormon characters?
Abinadi is the first in a series that will cover several Book of Mormon prophets. The publisher didn’t give this “series” a series title, but the books will definitely follow one after another. Although in the opening chapters, I’m careful to “catch the reader up” just in case the reader didn’t read one of the previous books. There will also be a character chart in the volumes after Abinadi. So to really answer the question, yes, I recently finished writing book two in this series—
the Elder—and will turn it into the publisher before Thanksgiving (2008). The third book will be about Alma the Younger. Then a fourth book will most likely be about Helaman. Alma
Where did you get all your inside information about life in Abinadi's day?
I have rows of books in my office—ones that I’ve purchased or borrowed. I used to get them at the library, then realized I needed them more than just three weeks. Even one year isn’t enough. Hence, the purchase cycle. I have books by John L. Sorenson on the Book of Mormon peoples in Ancient America, books by Joseph Allen about the sacred sites, and books on the Maya culture.
I also read doctrinal books on the specific Book of Mormon passages that I’m covering, written by authors such as McConkie and Nibley. Book of Mormon art has also been helpful—since most artists do plenty of research on appearances, characteristics, and clothing of the era. I also do a lot of internet searching to find tidbits about Mayan clothing, food preparation, medicinal practices, marriage traditions, crop patterns, etc. The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has also been very useful (produced by F.A.R.M.S, now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute). I’m constantly pouring over the newest insights published by Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican scholars.
Have you actually visited the places in your book, and if so when and why?
I’ve lived in the
Middle East, so I had that advantage when writing the Out of Jerusalem series. But as we know, Lehi’s family arrives at the promised land—which is somewhere on the coast of Guatemalaor . So, specific to Abinadi, I haven’t been to El Salvador . I do have readers who edit my book before going to the publisher who have been to Guatemala . And those documentary films come in real handy when working on description. Guatemala
Did you base Abinadi's character on anyone you know?
This is a hard question, because Abinadi is unlike anyone that I know. Yet, he has parts of many people that I know. When I set out to characterize him, I wanted him to be hard-working, yet not the complaining type. I wanted him to have some insecurities—asking himself, “Why me?” “Why did the Lord ask Me to do it?”
We all know those people who would rather be the secretary of something than the president of something. That’s Abinadi. He’s content with farming and caring for his aged mother. And only when he is “forced” out of the city, does he flee. In that way, I could compare him to Nephi or any other person of faith. A person who has tremendous perseverance. I purposely gave him what I call “light characterization.” This is because I wanted him to not be shackled with regret over this or that. I wanted him to be simple in the sense that he is not touched by the world as so many are. He not concerned with station or wealth. He sees life in whites and blacks. When he hears the Lord’s voice, he doesn’t doubt the Lord’s will or power, but he only wonders why he was the chosen one.
And it’s because of this very plain, simple, and even child-like faith, that Abinadi is willing to walk himself like lamb to the slaughter. I also wanted him to love and love deeply. Be it his mother, his brother, his wife, his son, or the Lord. I’m sure we can all think of people we know who have these attributes. Now, if you ask me about
, that’s a whole other story. Alma
Now, that's too tantalizing to ignore. So how did you come up with
's character. Is he based on someone you know? Alma
I guess I asked for it, didn’t I? By a whole other story, I mean
is quite different from Abinadi. There are some people who have a tough childhood and use it as a crutch the rest of their lives, where others—with a similar tough childhood—go out and change the world. Alma is the former, but makes an incredible transformation by the end of the book. I’d say that Alma is based after a man who’s had several difficult trials in life, and as a consequence, turned to the wrong sources in order to cope. Years later he makes a sincere turnaround. Alma
I’ll be interested in hearing readers’ feedback on
’s character because I had some mixed responses during the editing process. I wanted him to sink to the very depths of sin and despair, and some have been uncomfortable with that. But in my mind, the Atonement is there for everyone, no matter what the transgression. I wanted this to be available to Alma . He is one of those guys with a chip on his shoulder and when the good-life is offered to him, he dives in head first. There’s some trepidation on his part in the beginning, but it’s easily dismissed when power and wealth is presented to him. Alma
Dwelling at the very bottom enables
to truly rise to the top, with all the gratitude and devotion befitting a man who genuinely repents and tastes the sweet fruit of the Atonement. Alma
How do your children feel about having a successful author for their mom?
Hey, that “successful” word sounds nice. The reaction from my children varies. My oldest (14-year-old boy) listened to the audio version of Out of Jerusalem last year. He came to me the first night after listening to a couple of chapters and said, “Mom, did you really write that book? Or did someone else?” He loved that series and has listened to them twice.
Now, my 11-year-old daughter won’t touch the books or the audios. She’ll sit in her room hour after hour listening to The 13th Reality or Far World, but nothing to do with Nephi.
A few weeks ago she asked why people don’t follow me around. I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, because you’re like a famous author.” I told her, “I’m not that famous.” If someone calls the house, and I’m gone to a book signing, my eight-year old daughter will tell them that I’m at a book signing because I’m so famous. We have to monitor when she answers the phone now. And my four-year old just knows that mom “works” in her office. Her favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear.