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Interview With Christa Allan

Abingdon Press is doing it again... they are pushing the envelope and stepping outside the regular bounds of Christian fiction. Here we have one of their newest releases with Walking on Broken Glass by Christa Allan. It is the story of Leah who comes to the realization that she is an alcoholic and checks herself into a rehab center. It is the journey of her going through rehab and re-entering her regular world after her month is up. She has to deal with her husband and his demands on her, her baby girl that died at 6 weeks from SIDS and a new surprise that she discovers while in rehab. It is a sobering look at a person walking through a difficult time. Seeing the confrontation with her best friend who finally flat out tells her that she is an alcoholic, to the conversation with her husband when she says she is going into rehab. Continuing all the way through Leah working on the first steps as she takes her recovery seriously. I thought that overall this book was very realistic and eye-opening for me. I was a little surprised that it ended so abruptly without a lot of closure for the reader, but I think that was part of the realism as well... not all stories are wrapped up neatly and tied with a bow... and even fewer stories can really play out before our eyes all the way through the epilogue. So while I would have loved to see more at the end, I think it was probably the way to go. Good book, heavy subjects, a strong women's fiction story.

Lead question...
Walking on Broken Glass is your debut novel isn’t it, Christa? What made you decide to choose this subject matter for your opening book?

Quite a number of people suggested that an “in your face” novel about alcoholism might not be the best first approach for a debut novelist. But, borrowing a word from my editor Barbara Scott, I continued to experience this “niggling” feeling that the Christian fiction market was ready for Leah’s story. Plus, as much as my heart plummeted every time I thought about the possibility of readers never meeting Leah, I knew that if I truly turned the novel over to God, then I had to stop whining and worrying.

My tagline is “stories of unscripted grace” and that grew from my realization that our lives don’t always follow the scripts we’ve expected and, as a result, we sometimes find ourselves frustrated, lonely, confused, angry. We think God’s abandoned us, when-ironically-we may be following God’s script for our lives, and His grace will sustain us. 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 façade 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.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Walking on Broken Glass was written over a period of three years. Hurricane Katrina accounted for a lapse of two years between starting and finishing it. Our family, though truly blessed with no home damage, was displaced because of my husband losing his job. The business he had worked for ended up mostly in the Gulf of Mexico! For two years we lived in a city about three hours away from our home, and looking back, I realized God placed us exactly where we needed to be. It was during those two years that I connected with Jessica Ferguson, an ACFW member and now president of The Bayou Writers’ Group in Lake Charles. She and I had actually “met” online through ACFW before I even moved. She encouraged (challenged?) me when she told me that if I was serious about writing, I needed to attend a conference. Never doubt that God places people in our paths for a reason!

Between the decision to attend the conference and the actual conference date, everything that could go awry, 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 late and, what should have been a five hour drive to meet my daughter who would eventually drive me to meet Jess, 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. Again, looking back, 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.

Had I not attended that conference, I would not have met a writer whose critique eventually led me to Rachelle Gardner my agent who sold Walking on Broken Glass eight months after she sent it to editors.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
At this time, the greatest challenge is that I’m teaching high school full time. So much of my emotional energy is spent during the school day that my reserves are depleted by the time I arrive home. That means going into overdrive during holidays and summer.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I think my faith and spiritual life are the picture in my writing. My struggles in faith, including my boomerang relationship with God over the years, resonate in my stories and characters. I pray that readers who may be engaged in their own lapses of faith open their hearts to idea that God loves them and can meet them exactly where they are.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
My novel released February 1, so just when I think I’ve experienced a “greatest” moment, another one vies for the title! Seeing my Advanced Reader Copy was one of those moments because it was the first time I saw all those words between covers. Then, another moment was when the book started popping up on .com sites like Cokesbury, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Lately, the most surreal moment was actually seeing my novel on the shelf in B & N. Looking at myself looking back at me…excitingly weird!

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
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.

Finish this question. My goal with writing for an audience is them discover God’s grace on the other side of brokenness.

Any parting words?
Don’t ever give up on your dreams!

Thanks for sharing with us, Christa!

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