My (brief) take on Eugene Woodbury’s Angel Falling Softly

Here’s the blurb I provided Zarahemla Books for Eugene Woodbury’s vampire/Mormon novel Angel Falling Softly:

In melding the vampire genre with Mormon literary fiction, Eugene Woodbury has created a hybrid that is startling, fresh, insightful and heartbreaking. When I first heard of this audacious project, I was both skeptical and excited. What’s remarkable about Angel Falling Softly isn’t just that Eugene does something new with vampire tropes (that in this case also involve the worlds of bio-tech and high finance) or that he provides a complex, touching portrait of a Mormon mother desperately trying to save her terminally ill child. It’s that he weaves these elements together with well-deployed literary (often Biblical) allusions and quotations that add substance to the questions raised about belief, redemption, desire, sin and death. The novel is insistently literary while being solidly genre-based. Sounds pretty cool, right? And yet what most amazed me is that he pulls it all off without violating the supernatural and metaphysical boundaries of
Mormonism or of the vampire genre. Which is not to say that the story is believable — it’s fantasy — but rather that by enforcing (and pushing against) these boundaries, he plays the two worlds against each other in way that maximizes reading pleasure and says something new about the Mormon experience

Angel Falling Softly is available from Zarahemla Books. Also be sure to check out Eugene Woodbury’s Web site.

Content Warning: AMV draws readers from a fairly wide spectrum of the Mormon audience. Thus, I think it’s only fair to warn that Angel Falling Softly contains a couple of scenes of foreplayish but not at all sexy vampire seductions (that end in feedings  — not sex) and one scene of marital sex that is sort of graphic but more with metaphorical than descriptive terms. None of the scenes are gratuitous — meaning they add to the story and the development of characters and the consequences of the story would be lessened without them. Nor are they particularly arousing. And really, parts of the Bible are much more sexy than what’s found in the novel.

The Mormon market and the passion/pop gulf

Last month, Seth Godin wrote a post that both illuminates and complicates the realities for Mormon arts and culture. He outlines what he calls the passion/pop curve (make sure you click on the figure in the post to make it bigger so you can actually read it). The curves live on two axes — the first is the number of users/customers/fans. The second relates to content and brand. One one end you have edgy/obsessed and on the other you have vapid/trite. As Godin explains:

That bell curve to the left represents acceptance by the focused/excited/tastemaking community. Those are the people who love microbeers and haute couture and Civil War memorabilia. Like all market curves, there’s a sweet spot. Go too nutsy on us ($90,000 turntables, for example) and even the committed will flee. Go too pop, though, and we’ll avoid you as well.

And…

The bell curve on the right, you’ll notice, is bigger. This is a second market, a bigger market, the market of pop. These are the folks who go to the Olive Garden for a nice Italian meal instead of the authentic place down the street. They too want something that’s not too edgy and not too (in their opinion) trite.

And here’s the kicker

The reason you need to care is that gap in the middle. Every day, millions of businesses get stuck in that gap. They either move to the right in search of the masses or move to the left in search of authenticity, but they compromise. And they get stuck with neither.

One of the issues for the Mormon market is that we layer on a limiter to the graph — that is, not only do you have to deal with the passion/pop curve, but that the number of users is limited to those who buy into the Mormonism of a product (or of the product’s creator) as a viable category. Or in other words, the numbers on the y-axis go down. You have the same edgy/vapid issues that come with the x-axis, but it’s harder to hit the target because the y-axis has shrunk. This is less of an issue for those hitting for the pop curve because it’s always bigger, and this is definitely true of the Mormon market, e.g. Deseret Book. But even there, you still have to make the case to the consumer: you need this particular product because it appeals to your tastes AND it’s Mormon.  You have to sell them (and reassure them) on both aspects of the product. Continue reading “The Mormon market and the passion/pop gulf”

Eugene Woodbury’s new novel — published by Zarahemla, serialized for free

Mormon author Eugene Woodbury is continuing the experiment with giving away his work for free that he and I discussed in an April 20 Q&A. His new novel Angel Falling Softly will be published by Zarahemla Books this fall, but starting next month Eugene will begin posting a chapter of the novel each week.

Here is the description of the novel from Eugene and Zarahemla Books:

Over the past six months, Rachel Forsythe’s perfect life has descended from the ideal to the tragic. The younger of her two daughters is dying of cancer. Despite her standing as the wife of a respected
Mormon bishop, neither God nor medical science has blessed her with a cure.

Or has He?

Milada Daranyi, chief investment officer at Daranyi Enterprises International, has come to Utah to finalize the takeover of a Salt Lake City-based medical technology company. Bored with her downtown hotel accommodations, she rents a house in the Sandy suburbs.

And then the welcome wagon shows up. Her neighbors perceive her to be a beautiful, intelligent, and daunting young woman. But Rachel senses something about Milada that leads her in a completely different–and very dangerous–direction.

Rachel’s suspicions are right: Milada is homo lamia. A vampire. Fallen. And possibly the only person in the world who can save Rachel’s daughter.

As Rachel uncovers Milada’s secrets, she becomes convinced that, as Milton writes, “all this good of evil shall produce.” As the two women push against every moral boundary in order to protect their families,
the price of redemption will prove higher than either of them could have possibly imagined.

A Mormon middlebrow-literary, domestic drama, mystery, vampire novel. And one that quotes Milton. If that sounds interesting to you, check out Eugene’s other work. This is exactly the kind of thing one expects from him. Or to put it another way — the novel description didn’t cause me to raise my eyebrows because it had Eugene’s name attached to it. I look forward to reading it.