I read an earlier excerpt from this book, and not only is the premise amazing, the story and writing are brilliant. THE TRUTH IS A LIE by Sally Lotz is currently available on Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/story/297731033-the-truth-is-a-lie
Sixteen-year-old Sara, a member of the Truth, must follow the rules of keeping separate from the Worldly and all they believe, or risk not being saved when Jehovah destroys the earth sparing only those who follow Him. When she wins an art contest, Sara keeps it a secret from her family and friends because art is a sin in Jehovah’s eyes. Sara begins to feel guilt over her secret and wonders if Jehovah still loves her and if she will ever make it to Paradise on Earth. When she learns her stepfather is sexually abusing Rachel, a Sister in the Truth, Sara tries to help by going to the Elders, which is breaking the rules of the Truth. Instead of helping, she finds herself punished and on the verge of being shunned while her stepfather goes free. Sara begins to see that the Truth is a lie, and Jehovah is never going to help her, no matter how much she sacrifices or does for Him. To save Rachel from further abuse, and herself from being shunned, Sara goes to the World she was taught to fear.
Trigger warning: While there is no explicit content, this story does contain sexual and verbal abuse.
According to your website bio, you balance your writing with your work life by “getting up at 5 am during the week, and carv(ing) a slot of time on the weekends.” What has been the most challenging part of making sure your creative well remains full?
That’s a great question. I am a morning person. I decided early on that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to make sure I put the effort and time in. With a full-time job and a busy social life, the only opportunity left to write is when everyone else is sleeping, which is also my most creative time.
Typically if I am working on my work-in-progress, I can write in short bursts. I am usually anxious to get started. But there are days when the allotted time does not bring a creative thought. When I feel blank, I will typically free-write with pen and paper. I have learned over the years not to force myself to try and be creative. If it’s not there, it’s not there.
To keep the well full, I take time off from writing to rest and renew just like I do my job. Another trick I discovered early on is a walk – by myself. No music. No podcasts. Nothing. Whenever I can do this, I’m letting in new thoughts and ideas. I see new things and give my brain a chance to regroup.
Something else I learned that keeps my creativity flowing is to not box it up into a specific time. Creative thoughts hit me all day long. I have learned to use the voice memo app on my phone and dictate paragraphs, random story ideas, plot twists, etc. For fun, I keep a list of names too. Whenever I hear an interesting name, it goes on my notepad app.
A lot of great ways to keep the creativity flowing! I go for walks too, but I will have to try it without music. As mentioned earlier, your book THE TRUTH IS A LIE is available on Wattpad. What about this story was the most difficult for you to write, and why?
Wow, that’s hard because writing this book was challenging from start to finish. The Truth is a Lie is the fictionalized story of my life growing up in a cult. I had the idea to write it, then shelved it because I couldn’t figure out how to do it. It was my life. I thought, what sixteen-year-old is going to care about my story? I struggled with writing it as a memoir, but that didn’t feel right either. I shelved the whole project and tried to move on. But, after sitting in a workshop about writing your actual story as fiction at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, I was moved to start.
Once I did start, I wasn’t prepared for all of the emotions and memories writing this story was going to bring up. My first draft was very angry and full of bitterness. My second draft was toned down. My third draft was in a great place and is what got me an agent. Then Covid hit, and I found myself editing for going out on submission. At the time, my mother, who is still in the cult, lived with me, and every day I saw her and had a visual reminder of my childhood. I was a hot mess. I actually had to go back into therapy and make significant life changes.
Lastly, I was crushed when my agent and I parted ways due to circumstances beyond my control. My manuscript was pulled from submission. For the last 4 years, everything had pointed me in the direction I was going, and then it felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me. My story, I know, needed to be told, and while I am still querying, I decided to put my manuscript up on Wattpad. Wattpad has been an excellent avenue for me. But, it has also closed a chapter in my life – my family. My family, who are still in the cult, saw my social media posts about my book and disassociated from me, calling me a liar and an apostate – which is all the more reason for this story to be read.
Wow. And rest assured; there are definitely a lot of people, not just sixteen-year-olds, who need your story. What are some of your current projects?
After finishing The Truth is a Lie, I decided to go lighter in my writing. I wrote some short stories, one of which won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 90th Annual Short Story Contest in 2021. I finished a middle-grade horror novel set during Y2K, a nod to Stephen King. I’m currently querying this project. My current work-in-progress, which I started last year during NaNoWriMo, is another middle-grade horror novel with the working title of Witch Island.
I am also writing creative content for adults on Medium, with two bylines. One is called Growing up Cultish. Which are vignettes about growing up in a cult. The other is Burnt Match, where I share my online dating horror stories with humor. I’m also moving toward full-time writing, so I don’t have to box myself into writing between 5 am and 7 am.