Welcome back, Christa. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
Because when you’re the once-divorced, twice-married, recovering alcoholic Christian wife of a Jewish husband, and mother of five with a daughter with Down’s Syndrome and another in an inter-racial marriage, and the sister of a gay brother…well, there it is.
I never intended to write about issues. They found me first. And when I first discovered Christian fiction, I wanted, needed, characters with whom I could identify. Sure, I found some novels with characters that were alcoholics, or gay, or parents of special-needs children. But, generally, they weren’t the protagonists or their situations didn’t mirror life as I saw it.
What I hope readers will take away from my novels is that we never know, just by looking at people, what’s going on in their lives. So many people look bright-faced, happy, and pretty on the outside that we’re duped into believing they lead charmed lives. Like those families in the picture frames sold in stores (who ARE those people, by the way?!). But turn those pictures over, and what’s there…nothing. That’s not the life God planned for us. He wants our lives to be framed by His love. We called to compassion, and to consider that all those “pretty people” might just be waiting for someone to take them out of their frames.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
I’m hoping I haven’t lived it yet! Truly, the Lord has blessed me with more than I could ever have imagined, and I’ve been grateful to experience an abundance of happy days.
How has being published changed your life?
Yipes…that’s a loaded question! In many ways, it hasn’t in terms of my day-to-day life. I’m still teaching high school full time, still coming home to cooking and cleaning and grading…The difference is that now I have another full-time career, which is writing. So, publication is now one more ingredient added to the gumbo of my life. In some ways, it’s increased the pressure and stress because of deadlines, editing, marketing and all the assorted collateral issues related to being a writer. But it’s also opened me to a new world of writers and books and readers I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
What are you reading right now?
Since I’m in the final writing/editing stages of a manuscript, that’s the extent of my reading right now. Oh, with the exception of the stack of student papers waiting to be graded (any one reading can feel free to help with these!).
What is your current work in progress?
My manuscript, which will be submitted March 1, is one of the novels in Abingdon’s Quilts of Love Series. It’s entitled Threads of Hope: A career-driven magazine writer brazenly pursues meetings with HIV-affected families in search of the career-boosting article she's been needing, only to find something she wasn't looking for - a complete change of heart after meeting a selfless man and the HIV-positive daughter he adopted from Ethiopia.
What would be your dream vacation?
A month in
by another month in ,
and to be able to share it with all my children and grandchildren. Greece
How do you choose your settings for each book?
I’m such a Southern girl that I just stay with what I know. So, New Orleans and Houston have been the primary settings for my novels.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Just one…honestly, I’d have to say my husband because between his job and mine, plus the time I spend writing, our conversations are sometimes limited to a dozen words or less…and when I’m on deadline, the poor man makes himself invisible. I’d love to spend an evening together knowing there’s nothing or no one else demanding our attention.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I’m not sure this qualifies as a hobby, but I find pulling weeds in my garden quite therapeutic! Drinking Coke Zero and eating Blue Bell, I’m certain, do not qualify. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I enter a cheesecake-baking frenzy and buy cream cheese by the case. So, I suppose that’s a hobby, of sorts.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I’m my most difficult obstacle. My little ADD self can hop down all manners of bunny trails, and at the end, I’m exhausted from going nowhere fast. Lately, I’ve been using something I’d heard about years ago, and Mary DeMuth recently tweeted (or maybe Facebooked) about it. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s made a tremendous difference in my ability to stay focused. Here’s the stripped down version from their website:
The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique® can be split in five simple steps:
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Read books that make you wish you’d have written them. Be teachable. Read books about the craft. Joining American Christian Fiction Writers and attending their conferences opened doors to writing and publishing that I didn’t even know existed.
Don’t be afraid to write awful stuff. The awful is far easier to rewrite or edit than a blank page.
And as for that adage about writing what you know…Well, I don’t think Stephen King personally knew a high school girl with tele-kenetic power who wreaked a bloody revenge. But he did know high school girls who were bullied and teased, who had weird mothers, and he wondered, “what if…” Stephenie Meyer had no personal experience with vampire love. Write what you know doesn’t mean you’re limited to the 21st century and characters who look like your siblings and live in
or Tickfaw. You know about betrayal and envy and joy and hope and fear. You
know how your mother bites her lower lip when she’s thinking or your daughter
twirls her hair when she’s nervous. These are the “knows” you bring to the
Know that only you can write the story God placed in your heart.
Tell us about the featured book.
Raised by her grandparents in 19th-century
knows little about her long-lost parents. Now facing an arranged marriage to a
suitor she dreads, she finds herself attracted to somebody else: a young Creole
man named Gabriel Girod. Meanwhile, her grandparents harbor a family secret.
Will the truth set everybody free---especially Charlotte? Charlotte
Please give us the first page of the book.
Grand-mere and Abram were due home from the French Market at any moment, and
could not convince Henri to leave
her bedroom. Charlotte
“You know Abram will throw you out the door, and after grandmother is finished with me, I may never leave this bedroom. Forever a prisoner of this house.” Well, forever until the day of her coming out party. Lottie knew there would be no missing that event, even if she wanted to. And most days she felt exactly that way.
Henri yawned and stared back at her.
“If your belly wasn’t so full, you wouldn’t be so content.”
He stretched and blinked a few times as if to say, “Whose fault is that?”
Of course, he was right. Lottie reached for her mattress and pulled herself up from crouching on the floor to have her one-way conversation with the calico cat that eluded capture under her four-poster bed. She started feeding Henri the day she spotted him wobbling after the milk lady’s cart. Miss Margaret delivered milk to Grand-mere, but the cat with the pleading grey eyes stayed behind. Her grandmother begrudgingly relented when Lottie promised he would never, ever cross the threshold into their house.
Still wearing her nightgown, all she could do was peek through the muslin curtains. “Only two houses away,” she whispered, as if the words might alarm Henri. She turned around just as the cinnamon-striped cat started to make his escape and, in a movement so swift she almost toppled into her armoir, she snatched him.
Even before Grand-mere made her entrance through the wrought iron gate at the rear of the house, her basket sprouting colorful vegetables, Lottie had deposited the cat on the front steps. She hurried through the library and the parlor up to her bedroom, just in time to see Agnes pick up the china saucer left under the bed.
Agnes looked over Lottie’s shoulder and then behind to the gallery where Marie LeClerc could be heard already discussing dinner with the cook. “Now, Miss Genevieve Charlotte,” Agnes lowered her voice from its usual trumpet blast and set her chestnut eyes right on Lottie’s guilty face. “You forget your cup this morning when you fount the coffee?”
Without waiting for an answer, which they both knew would be one step away from the truth, Agnes slipped the saucer into the wide front pocket of her white apron. “I’m taking care this,” she patted her pocket, “while you taking care of getting dressed for the day.”
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Website: http://www.christaallan.com (I have a contact page there, so please feel free to use it!)
Facebook (My author page)
Thank you, Christa, for the very interesting interview.
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