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Congratulations to Jenny LM who won Susanne Dietze's My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho Prize pack!



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interview and Giveaway with Debut Author Christa Allan



Jen here. It's my pleasure to introduce you to debut novelist (and fellow Abingdon Press author) Christa Allan. Please join our virtual chat where she tells us all about her new book, Walking on Broken Glass, including how she came up with the musical title.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A:  I’m a recovering alcoholic, and by God’s grace, have not had a drink for over twenty years. I invited God back into my life because of AA, not in spite of it. As I grew in my faith and in my recovery, I realized that so many Christian families suffer in silence. Alcoholism, drug, sex, or food addiction, lifestyles are all the big elephants in the room we don’t talk about. But we all know they exist. So, what’s someone to do who’s immersed in these challenges? I wanted to reassure women struggling with addiction that they’re not alone, that there’s a loving and compassion God who cares about them and His grace will be sufficient for them. I wanted to remove the fa├žade that often hinders real recovery. “Good” Christian families aren’t immune to the world, but once we admit we have a problem, we can be healed by God.

The title of my book is taken from Annie Lennox’s song with the same name. My original title was Going Nowhere Fast , but it just didn’t evoke the right feel about the novel. Listening to my iPod on a walk [an unfortunately rare happening], I heard the song and trotted home to change the title. It captured exactly what I’d wanted and, as I continued writing, found a moment to even use it in the novel.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A:  In high school, I was always the chick everyone wanted on the other team in P.E. I couldn’t dance, sing, draw, play music or flirt. I had short hair when long hair was in, curly hair when Cher-hair was popular, and a “fluffy” body when Twiggy appeared. I had enough teen angst to market it in bottles as a new perfume. One day, after watching my friend across the street get picked up by my ex-boyfriend for a date, I put pen to paper and felt healed. That’s when I started writing. Thinking of myself as a writer is something I’ve only recently come to recognize.

Q:  How do you come up with your story ideas?
A:  Honestly, I drive my family crazy with the “What if” syndrome. For example, “What if a woman walked to her mailbox and disappears?” is the one they’re all ready to choke me over. But I jot down things I read, hear, see…That’s the best part about being a writer. The entire world is your scratch pad of ideas.

Hey, I like the woman-at-the-mailbox idea. If you write it, I will definitely read it!
Q:  How does your faith impact your writing?
A:  For all of us who write “inspirational” novels, the primary difference to me is that there’s always hope. That regardless of the events in our character’s lives, they come to a sense of or, if they’re already believers, a greater sense of God being active in our lives. One universal message, I think, is that nothing is impossible with God.

Q:  How do you deal with writer’s block?
A:  Well, sometimes I use “weed therapy,” which, when I said that to my students, caused them to raise their eyebrows. One of those language/generational gap issues. What I really mean is that I’ll wander outside and start pulling weeds out of the garden. Often, I use journaling a la Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones where I just pick a topic, a word, an idea and just write for 10-15 minutes without any thought to spelling, grammar, punctuation, or even sentences. I just write. Eventually, something will break out of my brain. And, if all else fails, chocolate and/or Blue Bell.

Q:  How long does it take to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
A:  I’ve completed only one novel, which is Walking on Broken Glass, I’m not sure I have a track record yet. Hurricane Katrina happened in the middle of Broken Glass, so I didn’t write for the two years we were displaced. So, eliminating Katrina from the equation, I’d say a year. Drafts? I don’t do drafts, at least not of the entire novel all at once. I’ll review what I’ve written in chapter chunks along the way. My oldest daughter, Erin, proofreads/critiques for me, so I’ll send her chapters to review. She’ll let me know if I need to pay more attention to or change something. Erin’s also great at telling me I’ve use the word “so” fifty times on a page… For now, the chunk method words.

Q:  Do you plot out your story ahead of time, or do you dream it up as you go?
A:  Is making order out of chaos a choice? I’m a plotter-wanna be. I’m totally seduced by the idea of it, but totally terrible at it. I have an idea of where the story is going, and I just go with it until I have absolute brain rot. Then, after I’ve consumed pounds of chocolate and a dozen Coke Zeros, I call on my writer friends whose opinions I value [hint], and whine for help. Usually this happens about five chapters in, then I rewind, pay attention to my synopsis, and forge ahead. Some times I’m surprised. For instance, a character showed up in WOBG that I did not plan on and still have no idea where he came from. I do, though, as I draw closer to the end, start sketching out chapters to make sure I’ve not dropped a thread somewhere.

Q:  Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?
A:  Sleep? No, completing it is my reward.

Q:  What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a fledgling writer?
A:  Be teachable, be willing to spend money before you make money, and be persistent. Also, it’s easy to justify not reading as much because I’m writing. But I think that’s a fatal mistake to my growth as a writer. I need to absorb other books by writers whose works I admire to learn, almost by osmosis, how they work plot angles, use words, and create characters, for example.

Of course, spend money with discretion. For me, spending money on attending my first ACFW conference was the single most important investment I made that year. It’s tempting to spend money on a shelf full of “how to” writing books. Before doing that, I’d suggest asking for recommendations from other writers who are where you want to be.

Here’s my defining moment of persistence: Between the decision to attend that first conference and the actual conference date, everything that could go awry absolutely did. My husband’s job opened up again, so I returned to my former job, but he had to work for two more months before leaving. I came back and lived with a friend for two weeks. I didn’t have an internet connection, so all of my work had to be finished at school. And since funds were tight, I attempted to print my own business cards. The school web blocker wouldn’t allow me on the site, then-when I finally found a site it wouldn’t block-my printer died! I left school two hours late and, what should have been a five hour drive to meet my daughter who would eventually drive me to meet my ride, ended up being almost seven hours because of an accident. My cell phone died in the process, so I had to make the last few miles on a prayer because I’d never been to my daughter’s new apartment. And, because I couldn’t call her, I didn’t have the code to enter the apartment complex’s gate. I believe that the one who doesn’t want us to succeed is always on the sidelines waiting for us to give in to despair.

Q:  What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
A:  A robotic housekeeper and chef.

MORE ABOUT CHRISTA

With the exception of having spent some years in Texas, I’ve been a lifelong Louisiana girl. After college, I started teaching high school until the mommy years. I have five children, who are now 32, 29, 26, 26, and 24, a son-in-law, and two precious grandgirls ages 4 and 2. Twenty plus years ago I returned to teaching high school, and I’m hoping to graduate in the next five or so years! My husband Ken and I spend our time with our three neurotic cats, play golf, and dodge hurricanes.

Visit Christa at her website - http://christaallan.com/

WIN THE BOOK
For a chance to win a copy of Walking on Broken Glass, just comment on this blog. Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner (include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc, can't phish your address). I'll pick a winner at random on February 28th. Good luck!

24 comments:

  1. Welcome to Inktropolis, Christa!
    This is one of those cases where I'd like to use a pseudonym and comment --and win your book. Someone is going to get a nice freebie!!

    Thanks Jen for a great interview.

    Christa, are you back in the New Orleans area?

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  2. Dear Christa, thanks for stopping at The Well!

    Y'all, Christa is a marvelous writer with a voice both edgy and humorous.

    What I love about Christa is her commitment to education--yep, she teaches full-time, then opens her heart for her stories and her writing.

    Blessings, Christa!

    Patti

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  3. Holy smoke, Christa! You don't look nearly old enough for that passel of grown kids! Seriously though, thanks for gathering around the inkwell with us today. We're glad you're here. I've been hearing great things about WoBG and I truly believe that it could help change lives.

    Blessings!

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  4. I was thinking the same thing as Lisa. You're my hero Christa: I want to look like you when my daughter is 32.

    I love the title of your book. I've heard the name tossed around in ACFW circles and wondered if it was inspired by the song. Very evocative.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    Dina

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  5. Great interview, thanks for sharing it! Like the title of the book; it sounds interesting. Thanks also for offering the giveaway.
    Blessings,
    Karen
    klange61(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  6. Great interview! Being transparent enough to write this book is appreciated. Please enter me. Thank you.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

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  7. Christa, thanks so much for visiting us today and answering Jen's wonderful interview questions. I really enjoyed reading your story. I totally agree about the one who doesn't want us to succeed and is always stirring things up for us. I'm so glad you didn't give up. I'll be watching for your book.

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  8. Christa, thanks for visiting us today at the Inkwell. I wish I were eligible for the giveaway too! This book sounds fabulous and I've heard so many good things about it.

    Your picture is lovely, btw. And your story gives me hope and encouragement as a mom, wife, and writer. Thanks!

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  9. Welcome, Christa. My kids range from 32 all the way down to 11. Maybe you found the secret - have them all at once so you don't have to drag out the worry? Heh. If only it were that simple, eh? Because we worry about them regardless.

    I really like the interveiw and your answers. I'll keep an eye out for your book.

    Thanks for joining us today.

    Anita.

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  10. Hey All! I've read Christa's book and I can tell you, it's just great. And yes, it's going to change some lives.

    Christa, I'm joining the we-can't-believe-you're-old-enough-to-have-grown-kids chorus. Must be those youthful southern genes of yours :+} Thanks so much for visiting with us today.

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  11. Yeah, Christa. Can you share beauty secrets the next time you guest blog somewhere?

    Don't include me in the drawing. I've already read and been touched by Walking on Broken Glass. Looking forward to the next Christa Allen book.

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  12. Jen, Thanks for letting us get to know Christa a bit better. Like others, I'm looking forward to more Christa Allan books. (And I'm also looking forward to the day when she and her neighbors learn that "go" isn't spelled "geaux.")
    Congratulations to you both from a fellow Abingdon writer.

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  13. Hi--Taking a little break during my "planning period" (right....) here at school to say thanks for all of your kind words and encouragement.

    And, for the record, perhaps it is the suffocating humidity in the South that makes a differebce. But, honestly, it's a great photographer and Photoshop!!!

    I'd read years ago that spending money on professional pictures was worth the investment. I almost didn't do it when I saw the fee, but now I'm thrilled I did. I plan on using those pics for the next 20 years!!!

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  14. Good advice about the photos, Christa. Ha ha. My husband took mine, but he's a professional videographer, and we took about 100 shots. My picture here takes off at least 10 pounds, but actually, I was going for older because in the author picture I was using before, people said I looked 25 and not mature enough to write a book.

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  15. Richard--We're Geauxing to spell it that way just to annoy everyone who ISN'T in the WHO DAT nation or an LSU Tiger!!!

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  16. Christa, thanks for joining us today :-) I love the title of your book. The Annie Lennox song is now playing in my head, which I guess is appropriate since it is 'Sing, Sing a Song' week here at the inkwell :-)
    Your book sounds interesting and I'm going to find out if Abingdon books will be available here in Australia, or if I'll need to order from CBD or Amazon.

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  17. LOVE this interview! I had the pleasure of meeting Christa at the conference in Denver and I heard all about her novel. I've looked forward to reading it ever since. Please enter me!

    LyndaSchab at gmail dot com

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  18. Great interview Jen and Christa! I admire your honesty and willingness to address this subject. Love the title and the song. Don't you love the way God drops those little morsels in our brains?

    I'm a wanna be plotter too, Christa. Jim Scott Bell's book on Plotting works well for me, but I have to read it through again as I plot my next book. Thanks for visiting us.

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  19. I couldn't believe how much Christa and I have in common! We'll have to meet at the conference in Indy for sure. I have kids 36, 32 and 26. My dad was an alcoholic, all my extended family except for one brother live in N'Awlins and lived in FEMA trailers for 18 months after Katrina, and I'm a retired teacher. So, please enter me in the drawing for Walking On Broken Glass! thanks! crmcc at setel dot com

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  20. You're so right, Anita. Some times I wish for the days when I could bring my kids to play days.

    Narelle...I do hope you can find a copy of my novel!

    Lynda...great to see you here!

    Jill...I have Jim's book; it's great. Just wish there were Cliff Notes!


    Looking forward to meeting you, Rose. So cool to know someone in the trenches!

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  21. Great interview. Please enter me. Book sounds great.
    tarenn98[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  22. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and entered. The winner of Christa's book is.... Lynda Schab! Congrats to you, Lynda! I'll be emailing you for your snail-mail address.

    Be blessed, y'all!

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  23. I absolutely cannot wait to read this novel. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

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