Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ten Questions From Tara: Interview with Claire Avery, Authors of Hidden Wives

I have been given the pleasure of posting an interview with these two talented sisters, Mari Hilburn and Michelle Poche, aka Claire Avery. Their first novel, Hidden Wives was just released June of 2010. And what an amazing novel it is! I have posted a review and a giveaway. Those interested in reading the review or entering the giveaway may enter here:

But for those who want to get a little deeper into this touchy subject and learn about the masterminds behind this brilliant debut novel, here are Ten Questions From Tara...

Tara: The "about the author" says that you grew up in a Catholic Fundamentalist group. How similar were your own circumstances to what Rachel and Sara go thru in HW?

M&M: As children, we were raised in an extreme form of Catholicism. Our father was a founding member of this group in Chicago. The whole theme of religious extremism was derived from personal experience. One of the first things we thought of when we heard about polygamy going on in this country was that if our father had been Mormon instead of Catholic, we almost certainly would have been raised in polygamy as fundamentalist Mormons. Our father was drawn to extremism within his faith. Now, we didn’t have to worry about being forced into a plural marriage with someone old enough to be our father or grandfather. But we had other fears. For example, growing up in Chicago, we were always vigilant about the possibility of demonic possession. Over the years, our parents knew many people whom they considered to be possessed by the devil. As children, we frequently heard stories of demonic possession, and our father had assisted in exorcisms with some regularity. We were given books as children warning us that we could become possessed by the devil if we grew too attached to a favorite toy, for example.

Thankfully, we were not physically or sexually abused by our father. In that way, our own father was nothing like Abraham. However, in some ways, he resembled the cult leader, Prophet Silver. Our father was extremely charismatic, a natural leader, and he was a brilliant public speaker. With his charisma, he manage to convince many families from the Chicago community that the apocalypse was near, and that we all needed to pack up and move to rural Arkansas and build a bomb shelter.

Like Rachel and Sara, we were constantly afraid of going to hell if we weren’t devout enough. And like the two sisters in the book, we were taught that women must be submissive to their husbands. But at least our father’s religious dogma didn’t force us to marry men five times our age. We didn’t have to give up our education, freedom or dreams. And if one of us met the love of her life, she was free to marry him. Most importantly, she wouldn’t have to share her husband with sister-wives.

Tara: I loved the way your book brought up racial issues and prejudice. Did something in particular inspire you to take this path?

M&M: During the course of our research, we discovered that certain groups of polygamists are extremely racist, and that racism is integrated into their religious beliefs. We were so sickened by their racist attitudes and beliefs, that we felt compelled to expose them and then try to dismantle them through our characters and their experiences.
Tara: Have you faced any discrimination of your own due to your strict religious upbringing?

M&M: Unlike Sara and Rachel, who were only allowed to attend a fundamentalist Mormon school, we attended a mainstream Catholic school during the week, but on weekends we had to attend services and events with the fundamentalist Catholic group our father co-founded. We kept that part of our lives a secret from our regular school friends. We recognized very early on that the fundamentalist group was very different, even bizarre, and we didn’t want other kids to know about it. During early adolescence, it was harder to keep the strict upbringing a secret. We lived in a commune and some of our friends had parents who didn’t want their children associated with us because of our parents’ extreme beliefs and lifestyle.
Tara: Who is the screenplay writer and what kind of screenplays?

M&M: Michelle has written several screenplays in the past, and they were primarily urban fantasies. We’re currently collaborating on an urban fantasy based on mythology.
Tara: Did you make a visit to Utah while researching this book? If so, where to? What kinds of people did you talk to?

M&M: We’ve been to Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas several times, but while we were researching the book, we corresponded long distance with three women who had escaped polygamy; one of those women, Vicky Prunty, started Tapestry Against Polygamy, a non-profit group in Utah dedicated to supporting women and children who need help as they transition out of polygamy. We also spoke extensively to Andrea Moore-Emmett, also affiliated with Tapestry Against Polygamy, who wrote the book “God’s Brothel.” That book tells the personal stories of many victims who have escaped polygamy.
A website related to the above for those interested:
Tara: Are the two of you planning to collaborate on another novel together? If so, what subject inspires the both of you?

M&M: We are currently in final revisions of another novel dealing with a woman who raises a child for 12 years assuming the girl is her biological daughter. When the child gets sick, she finds out the girl could not possibly be her biological child. We like subjects that deal with difficult, serious issues, especially those dealing with emotional trauma. And we like to do it in a way that hopefully educates the reader about something he or she may not have been familiar with because it’s such an unusual topic, but we also hope that the story has emotional resonance for the reader, as well. We try to have our characters deal with, and maybe even triumph over, almost impossible odds.

***Tara takes a brief moment to squeal with excitement upon receiving word that another book is in the works.***

Tara: Rachel and Sara at times feel jealousy towards each other, namely when Luke first enters the picture. Did you, as sisters, have similar problems growing up?

M&M: Yes! It seems like most sisters have some kind of jealousy towards each other growing up, especially if they’re very close in age, as we are. During adolescence, when boys became involved, it was a problem for awhile. But ultimately, we stopped that, knowing all along that we always had each other to rely on, no matter what.

Tara: Did one of you write Rachel's parts and the other write Sara's?

M&M: We initially intended to each take a character and write primarily on her. But we found that we were getting too attached to our own character and becoming territorial and losing objectivity. In other words, it wasn’t working. So we started over. We divided up the chapters, with both of us writing on each character, and as each first draft of a chapter was written, it was then handed off to the other person for rewrite or a complete overhaul, depending on what was needed.

Tara: I'm a dog mom so anytime I meet someone I ask them, "Do you have pets?"

M&M: We both love dogs and have three big ones between us: a Golden Retriever and two Siberian Huskies-who happened to be sisters, as well.

And that concludes Ten Questions From Tara. I want to thank Claire Avery (M&M) for taking the time to answer these. If any of you readers have any questions yourself, please feel free to post them on here. If you haven't yet read the book, enter my contest ending July 15th or go buy a copy ASAP cause you are SO missing out!


  1. Great questions! I wanted to know more about M&M's background after reading Hidden Wives.

  2. Thank you to all three of you for such a terrific interview -- thoughtful questions and thoughtful answers. I'm still waiting for my copy of Hidden Wives, and this is making me impatient. Ummmm, more impatient than usual.