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Mormon authors support openly gay author after publisher cancels his book deal

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of Mormon authors is criticizing a Springville publisher for canceling a book deal with an openly gay author.

The president of Cedar Fort Publishing, Bryce Mortimer, said last week that he believed certain LDS retailers would not want the book. However, the authors, like Abel Keogh, said he is wrong.

“I just don't think that’s true,” Keogh said. “I think that most LDS readers wouldn’t care.”

He and 52 Mormon authors from around the country signed a letter expressing their disappointment in Cedar Fort’s decision. The letter can be read in its entirety here.

“You might find one or two that are offended, but I think that most LDS readers, they go in, when they buy the book, they want a good story,” Keogh said. “And from what I understand of the book, it was kind of a G-rated children’s story, so I don’t think most people would have cared about the author’s biography.”

The letter, which was originally written by an LDS author from Tennessee, showed support for the authors of the fantasy novel, “Woven.” Cedar Fort opted not to publish the book after one of the authors refused to remove a line from his biography, which stated he lived in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend.

Marilyn Bunderson also signed the letter.

“I was surprised and a little disappointed,” she said of Cedar Fort Publishing’s decision. “They have the right to take any book they want to take, based on what they think they can market. I think they should have handled it differently.”

Both Keogh and Bunderson are former Cedar Fort authors who disagree with the company`s view that retailers like Deseret Book and Seagull Book wouldn’t want to sell a story written by an openly gay author.

“Just because it’s in Deseret Book doesn’t mean it reflects the values of the LDS church,” Keogh said. “Obviously, Deseret Book, they have their audience, but, again, I don’t see readers going in there and seeing that and making a big deal about that.”

But according to Salt Lake City public relations executive Angie Welling, the public perception of the retailers could suggest otherwise.

“Certainly, ownership could be an issue,” she said. “We see that in Utah a lot of times. If it is a perception problem, Deseret Book could look at their internal and external messaging. What are they saying? What are they telling their partners like Cedar Fort? What are they telling their customers? Through their business decisions, what are they telling people about what their values are?”

Officials with Deseret Book said Monday that they choose books based on their merit and content and nothing else. Seagull Book did not return our calls, last week an official told FOX 13 News that Cedar Fort’s decision was based on the company’s own speculation.

While the company’s decision disappointed some, the authors behind the letter hope it can bring about a different ending to a similar story in the future.

“I think that’s an assumption that could be made realistically,” Bunderson said. “I would hope that’s not the case, and discussions like this, hopefully, will change that.”