Why write a novel about rape? For me the reason was personal. While attending college, I was sexually assaulted. I became a statistic. Today, one out of every six women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Like 80% of those victims, I never went to the police. Why? I believed they would have blamed me. I was on a date with a sweet-faced farm boy who played for my university’s football team. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly followed him into his dorm room. What did I expect would happen? So, I said nothing.
Years later, I became a teacher at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, a position I held for 20 years. It was during this time I came to understand another sad statistic: Four out of five rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. I kept meeting young girls who’d been sexually assaulted, always by a family member or friend. Sadly, many of these teens were ostracized by their loved ones when they came forward, told they were lying, or that the assault was their fault.
This prompted me to investigate the behavior and psychology of rapists, the profile of a victim, and the ways sexual assault survivors can heal. The end result was the story of Maggie, a national park ranger who works at Montezuma Castle in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie is recovering from the gang rape she suffered in the Coast Guard. We follow her through her depression, anger, and ultimate healing.
What’s your typical writing day like?
Until I retired from teaching, I only wrote during school breaks, so most of my books were produced during the summer. Now, I generally get some work done every morning and sometimes in the late afternoon, depending on what else I have going on.
What are the challenges you found when writing your novel?
I find the writing is the easy part. I like to tell stories, perhaps a hangover from my previous life as a reporter. The real challenges come when an author tries to convince others—agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, readers—to like their books.
Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?
I find Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt rather appealing. Not only is he pretty hot, but he’s a scuba diver. I am as well. I would love to tag along on some of his underwater adventures.
What elements make up a good story?
The setting is especially important. I consider locale as another character. Most of my stories, for example, take place in Arizona in and around the Sonoran Desert, a magical area filled with rugged, wild terrain and plants and animals that live nowhere else. The land is both magnificently beautiful and horribly treacherous, if one is not careful. Of course, a good story rides on its characters, who must be engaging, interesting, and relatable.
Which authors do you admire?
I don’t have any favorite authors. I read stories that look interesting, whether the author is a well-known for best-sellers or a first-time Indie author.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Favorite word? I don’t know. I like lots of words, but mostly ones that sound funny when you say them, like absorb and nudibranch. (The latter are strange Seussical-like creatures who live in the sea. As I mentioned, I’m a scuba diver.)
Any other advice for aspiring writers?
Oh, my, yes! Do not even think about quitting your day job to become a writer. It is extremely difficult in our web-based world to make a profitable living as an author. Also, if you’ve written a book and no one seems interested in it, pop it in a drawer and write another one. Publishers are not looking for one-hit wonders. They want authors who can write lots of books. Also, the more you write the better you get, so if you only have one idea for a book, maybe you should pick another field. And authors must be tough. We get rejected constantly by agents and editors and publishers and review bloggers and media outlets. If you tend to get your feelings hurt easil, DO NOT become an author.
They believe they will instantly become best-selling authors and that others will do the grunt work for them: editing, marketing, public relations, social media outreach. Today, authors must wear lots of hats. Writing your book is the easy part. All the other stuff, not so much.
Which comes first for you, plot or characters?
Definitely characters. I’m what’s called a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. This is opposed to a planner, those authors who create elaborate story boards about who their characters are and what they’re going to do. I generally have no idea where a story might lead. I allow my characters to take me along with them and I discover plot twists as they do.
Do you have any particular writing quirks or rituals?
Not really, though a low-level dyslexic, I need quiet and no distractions. If my kids are talking loudly or playing music, I have to make them stop. Luckily, all but one of them are grown and out of the house. I even have to deposit the cats outside my office, if I want to write a coherent sentence.
What are you currently working on?
The Castle has just been released so that promotional work is in full swing. I have another book called Wolf Catcher, an historical fiction novel based in Arizona which is in the pipeline with TouchPoint Press. My agent is pitching my World War II novel Forgotten Sons, based on the true story of a soldier who worked in a graves unit and died mysteriously in France at the end of the war. And I’ve just started a romance novel—my first—based in the US Virgin Islands on the island of St. Croix.
Which book have you read that you wish you could forget, just so you could discover it again?
I will go old-school here and pick T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, the tale of Arthur’s England. It was the first book that ever mesmerized me. As I mentioned, I’m a bit dyslexic and hated reading when I was young. Eventually, I worked my way through it and the book about Arthur and Camelot was the first I totally enjoyed.
What type of scene do you find it hardest to write?
That’s easy. Love scenes. I have friends who write romance books. They kind of make me squirm sometimes, so whether I complete that romance novel is anybody’s guess.
About Anne Montgomery:
Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, and amateur sports official.
Her first TV job came at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter. She finished her on‐camera broadcasting career with a two‐year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
Her novels include The Castle, The Scent of Rain, A Light in the Desert, and Wild Horses on the Salt.
Montgomery taught high school journalism for 20 years and was an amateur sports official for four decades, a time during which she called baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games and served as a high school football referee and crew chief.
Montgomery is a foster mom to three sons. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, musical theater, scuba diving, and playing her guitar.
My verdict on The Castle:
Maggie, a National Park Ranger, is back at the Castle – an ancient Native American pueblo carved into the face of a limestone cliff in Arizona. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt. As part of her therapy Maggie volunteers at the local rape crisis clinic.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, always greets her with a warm smile and fills pink boxes with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver, is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses a deep spring filled with strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Then there’s Dave, with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
I am not going to lie, The Castle is a hard read and there were parts where I did struggle to get through it, not because it’s a bad novel but because the characters are going through something very traumatic. It tackles an extremely difficult subject matter in a way that I’ve not known a novel I’ve read to do before. You can tell that so much emotion has gone into this novel.
Based in Arizona, the setting and its description is very vivid. I could imagine myself in this area around Montezuma Castle. It sounds beautiful and Anne gives wonderful attention to detail throughout the novel.
Told from the point of view of Maggie, it also occasionally gives the reader a quick glimpse into the mind of the villain, without giving away who it is. Immediately, you get the sense of menace from him and his chapters did make me angry which was the point and it was done well.
Maggie is so much stronger than she realises, despite what she’s been through. It isn’t long before you’re rooting for her, Lily and Jess.
Anne Montgomery also does a really good job of threading threat, tension and suspense. Despite the fact that I struggled through some parts, I read it in one sitting as I needed to know how it was going to end, who the villain was and whether the other characters were going to be OK. I couldn’t guess who this predator was and the story has you guessing right up to the end.
Overall, The Castle is a well written thriller where the author doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects. I am still thinking about this story and the characters despite the fact that I’ve finished reading it. When you read statistics regarding this issue, you realise how important books like this are – books that shine a light on the issue of sexual assault, rape, how it’s often legally and socially badly handled and how that needs to change.