I've been uncertain as to how I was going to open WB and I've also been worried about my MC's motivation for going undercover in this cult. Knowing Sevin as I do, it couldn't just be about someone telling her to. She'd need some deeper reason of her own and the motivation from the last book, while powerful, shouldn't be overplayed in this one. Yesterday, while reading the book I mention below, a light came on. I saw the opening scene and another motivator became clear. That helps a lot. The funny thing is, it had nothing to do with what I was reading. 'Guess all the poetry and flash fiction is beginning to pay off.
My oldest son picked up a discarded book at his school library about three weeks ago and brought it home saying he thought it might be useful to my research. When I first looked at it, I had my doubts. It wasn't about cults per se. However "Extremist Groups in America" by Susan S Lang (co. 1990) has turned out to be quite helpful. Even though, I'm fairly sure the original intent of the author wasn't to help someone writing about a very fictional extremist Wiccan-inspired cult. What I want is an understanding of the minds that produce groups like this, the delusions and how they structure their lies and twist the truth. While the KKK and groups like it aren't really what I had in mind as inspiration, their basic messages of paranoia and hysteria have proven useful in structuring my own fictional world.
The book is especially interesting reading as a couple of the groups they've discussed are actually headquartered in NW Arkansas, just a few miles from here, and one of them is in the small town I lived out a fair amount of my adolescence in. My friends and I used to ride our horses across the property that now headquarters the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the KKK aka the Identity Church, run by Thomas Robb and Rachel Robb Pendergraft . I went to school with Rachel, though she was a couple of years behind me. We rode the same school bus and sometimes made small talk during the hour and a half ride home. In those days she wanted to be a fashion designer. I guess she must have changed her mind.
For the "fun of it", I visited their site and was at once struck by the benign message offered up on the surface. If I hadn't dug beyond the first few pages or articles posted, if I didn't already have some idea as to what they were really all about, I would have bought into the family friendly Christian messages confirming what we already suspect--that our government is corrupt, that we're downtrodden and broke because of the government,that the public schools are dumbed down and that our children are suffering both spiritually and educationally. But there's hope, they say, God loves his people and he sees our struggles and he's inspired Thomas Robb to bring us a way to change all of that. They offer a chance to be a part of something greater than ourselves and connect with others who are sympathetic to the challenges of raising a Christian family in a corrupt world.
Because I'm me and my still swollen ankle gave me lots of extra time for lengthy searches, I read further. About ten articles down the page I discovered articles about the "Jewish conspiracy of the media" with long diatribes about how the Jews (who are apparently pro-homosexuality?) have made sure that all the messages which are received by the American people from television and the news are twisted to suit their purposes. I read articles about the objectionable messages put out by shows on the Disney Channel that encourage children to invite children from other races into their homes and show as normal interracial dating. They accused the media of covering up the "truth" about the KKK--that they weren't about suppressing other races, how they only wanted separate but equal societies among the races, that the media has even twisted the purposes of their burning crosses.
That was bad enough. Conspiracy theories abound in these groups.
And then I read even further.
According to them, African Americans (my word not theirs) aren't as intelligent as whites, are more violence prone, and (my favorite bit of fiction) how they were actually treated really well as slaves. Guess the slave ships they brought them over on must have been a misunderstood attempt to provide for their comfort and safety.
The final clencher:
They twisted Christ's messages to mean that it was a sin to mix the races (And that takes some twisting, believe me). That God promises punishment to those who partake of this. I guess they missed the day in Sunday School when God chastised Peter for refusing to take the Word to the Gentiles who he saw as unclean animals.
The author of my book, Lang, stated that the KKK had shed the robes and put on suits, that Thom Robb himself challenged followers to make their organization more appealing to outsiders by being less about hate and more about God's message. This was confirmed by their own site. Interesting how window dressing doesn't really change the facts. Of further interest is how very little has really changed about this group in the eighteen years since the book was published.
I think I was most surprised to find this organization alive in well in this day and age. I suppose there will always be a few people who "need" this kind of organization.
(Side note: I strongly suspect Rowling drew heavily on the KKK movement to create the Death Eaters who believed that blood purity measured a wizard's magical ability. They called anyone who wasn't of "pure" wizard blood a "mudblood". White supremacists call anyone who isn't white or is of mixed descent "mud people". I mentioned this to my oldest last night who pointed out the likeness of the traditional KKK costume to the costume worn by the Death Eaters.)