Rep.-elect Chris Stewart, R-Utah, met Elizabeth Smart almost two years ago. Not long after, she tapped him to write her memoir.
“I met her father at an event,” Stewart told HOH. He doesn’t think that Elizabeth’s father, Ed, had read his work, but Elizabeth certainly had.
Smart chose Stewart, a 52-year-old former Air Force pilot and business owner, to ghostwrite her long-awaited memoir, after having read some of his work and taking some time to consider other authors. She settled on Stewart, and it didn’t seem to matter much that he was a man, 30 years her senior, who would be tasked with writing in the voice of a young woman who was kidnapped, traumatized, freed and somehow emerged triumphant.
Stewart is a father of six, the owner of a consulting business and the author of more than a dozen books, including several novels. He is a soft-spoken man who seems to naturally gravitate toward challenge.
In the mid-1990s, for example, Stewart helped set a world record for fastest nonstop flight around the world, serving as project officer for the B-1 bomber mission that lasted 36 hours and 13 minutes.
After leaving the Air Force, he began penning “military tactical thrillers.” Later he moved from fiction thrillers to nonfiction books examining the effect of what he believes are miracles on American and world history.
Finally, for a year and a half, Stewart and Smart delved into, explored and wrestled with telling her famous story.
“The part of it is, she has never told her story,” Stewart says, explaining why he was excited to take on the job. “There are very interesting elements that have never been shared. There are remarkable experiences that sustained her [through her ordeal].”
The book, he promises, “is not salacious at all.”
He says Smart’s story is one of hope and of faith; of tragedy redeemed.
For the past 18 months, the middle-aged author and the young woman talked for hours. The two traveled together, visiting the site where Smart was held for four years.
“It’s me taking her words and kind of arranging them,” Stewart explains.
It was critical that Smart’s story be true to her own voice — and the book is in the first person — but it was up to Stewart to draft the tale.
This type of closeness between author and subject required that Stewart consult Smart, along with his family, before announcing his decision to run for office. But even while campaigning, he worked on the book.
“Obviously we worked on it some days more intensely than others,” he said.
He paused. “You know, I like being busy.”
Stewart hopes to get the manuscript to the publishers before he is sworn into office in January. He just wants some time to get his head around his new job. Smart’s memoir is to be released in September.