'I grew up as a Mormon, now I will delve deeper' says author of upcoming novel based in Preston
An upcoming fiction novel is set to explore Preston’s rich Mormon history and has now got the green light after its author secured coveted research funding.
This will be the second novel written by Dr Naomi Krüger, a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.
Dr Naomi’s novel is still in progress and will follow the journey of a young herbal physician and Mormon missionary challenged to travel to England to persuade Preston converts to emigrate.
When the missionary arrives, he discovers a divided town, simultaneously reeling from the aftermath of a mill-worker’s massacre while also preparing for the lavish Preston Guild celebrations.
The literature and creative writing lecturer is one of 36 academics awarded a visiting fellowship at the British Library’s Eccles Centre.
“I am excited to build on the research I have already conducted to help me create a detailed and believable fictional world and perhaps even make some discoveries that will push the novel in new, unexpected directions," said Dr Naomi Krüger.
The book will highlight the journey of American Mormon missionaries in Britain - who arrived as far back as 1837 - and the subsequent migration of thousands of British Mormon converts to the US.
“It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time, partly because I’ve grown up in Preston and I’ve lived here my whole life, but also because I grew up as a Mormon as well,” Naomi said.
“Obviously I grew up with stories of the converts and people who really embraced the faith,” she said, “but I didn’t hear so much about the other voices.
“I knew there was opposition but to be able to look at things like the Preston Chronicle and see how many letters were written objecting to the Mormons and the fear that they inspired has been quite interesting to explore.”
The author’s interest in history led her to write the book but the choice to write fiction stems from her role as a lecturer in creative writing.
“I am interested in history but I am a writer so fiction is what I do!” she said.
“Although I love history - and I do think it’s interesting - my main job is to tell a story.
“Research is really important to me and I want the story to be believable but I don’t feel that it’s my role predominantly to communicate history.”
Speaking of which, Naomi says her main characters ‘are not based on anyone in particular’ but rather, prominent Mormon missionaries and, in particular, herbal physicians.
“They mainly followed Thomsonian medicine,” Naomi said of the physicians, “and at least one missionary who came over from the US practised this.”
Naomi spoke of one incident where a Mormon missionary ended up in front of Preston Magistrates’ after attempting to treat a woman who had just given birth with a magic stick, rum and cayenne pepper. The man was eventually acquitted according to Naomi.
“There were missionaries over here who were predominantly trying to convert people to a faith,” she said, “but there was also some activity about healing as well which inspired a character.”
Naomi’s novel is only a first draft and could still develop in a different direction. However, expect key themes of faith, conflict and poverty to make an appearance.
The author aims to create a ‘convincing fictional world’ based on real events and social movements.
“A lot of the first converts were working class,” she said, “and some of the missionaries were seen as quite revolutionary.
“They were seen to be tapping into a dissatisfaction of poverty that working class Prestonians were feeling.
“I’m also really interested in exploring when personal development clashes with faith.”
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