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Utah author's 'Once I was a Beehive' book goes beyond the movie's girls camp drama

SALT LAKE CITY — Carol Lynch Williams, a Utah-based award-winning author of more than 30 novels, including "The Chosen One," knows a thing or two about writing a book. But her most recent, a novelization of the Utah-based film "Once I Was a Beehive," proved unchartered territory.

“I had never done anything like this. … It was far more difficult than I supposed,” Williams said in a recent interview with the Deseret News.

The 2015 film, written and directed by Maclain Nelson, tells the story of 16-year-old Lane Speer, who struggles to cope with the recent passing of her father. A year after his death, Lane's mom remarried a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and while the newlyweds honeymoon, Lane goes to a church-run girls camp with her new step-cousin. In this original, coming-of-age story, Lane tries to navigate new surroundings and friendships while seeking to find peace with her loss and life changes.

After hearing the buzz surrounding Nelson's new movie and meeting the writer-director at an event, Williams found herself involved in the story's next iteration.

“(Nelson was talking with me and said), ‘I’m kind of interested in possibly having this movie made into a book. … Do you know anybody who might be willing to do that?’ and I said, ‘I do: I might be willing to do that,’” Williams said.

Nelson quickly sent her the script, but suggested that she watch the movie first to see if she even liked it.

Liked it she did and Williams went to work on the book straightaway.

Although it’s common for a book to made into a movie, writing a book based on a movie is a different process, one a seasoned writer like Williams found to be more challenging than she anticipated. But it also gave her the opportunity to flesh out established characters, digging into their past and highlighting their emotional stories.

Carol Lynch Williams (left) pictured with her five daughters and grandchild.
Carol Lynch Williams (left) pictured with her five daughters and grandchild.
Provided by Carol Lynch Williams

"(For example), how would (Lane) really react if her father was gone, explore their relationship before the father dies … and try to make each character have a back story," Williams said. "… I just wanted it to be a complete story. … I tend to write darker novels true to life, (so) I explored a girl that lost her dad — a little girl who is terrified about everything.”

While Williams admits that as a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she isn’t too familiar with the church-run girls camp and all of its traditions, she has raised five daughters, which helped her infuse authenticity into the characters in “Once I was a Beehive.”

“I do know about girls,” Williams said. “I do know about their emotions and the up and downs of girls. … I also know about loss and losing somebody that you love. … (In life,) we have these beautiful relationships and we give our all to them, the ache we feel with loss means that we loved. I wanted to show that.”

Williams, who has run a successful writer's workshop for 20 years, has mastered the art of writing character-driven novels and strives to always ensures that each one is uniquely complex. While she strives to write characters that are real and raw, the message Williams hopes readers glean from “Once I was a Beehive” is a simple one.

“I just want (people) to think, ‘Oh that was fun, I really enjoyed that.’”