The Road to Publication with Women's Fiction Author Christa Allan

Christa Allan is a National Board Certified English teacher who has taught high school for over twenty years. Her debut novel, Walking on Broken Glass, released February 1 from Abingdon Press. She has also written for Chicken Soup anthologies, Cup of Comfort and The Ultimate Teacher. Presently, she is a contributor to Afictionado, the ezine of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Exemplify. You can visit her website at

We interviewed Christa to find out what path she took on the road to publication.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Christa. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

With the exception of having spent some years in Texas, I’ve been a lifelong Louisiana girl. 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. My husband Ken and I have been married for almost nineteen years (and, yes, he married me knowing I had five children!). We spend our time with our three neurotic cats, play golf, dodge hurricanes, and look forward to retiring.

I started writing in high school after I discovered I couldn’t sing, dance, paint, play sports or act. When I started writing for a newspaper after my second child was born, it was the first time I saw my name in print. My own byline. I was hooked. The line and sinkers came later when my husband bought me a laptop several years ago, and I actually began writing my novel.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

My debut novel tells the story of Leah Thornton, a woman whose life looks pretty from the outside; she seems to “have it all.” But appearances can be deceiving because she’s a mess. She drinks to numb her pain and, until her friend confronts her with the truth, she thinks no one else has noticed. Leah admits herself to rehab, and the novel-told from Leah’s point of view-follows her through her recovery as she attempts to discover who she really is and what she’s willing to sacrifice to find out.

I wanted to reassure women struggling with addiction that they’re not alone, that there’s a loving and compassionate God who cares about them, and His grace will be sufficient. 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. 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. 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 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.

What kind of research was involved in writing Walking on Broken Glass?

Because I’m such a fashion nightmare, I depended on one of my daughters to help me know the difference between Marc Jacobs and Mark Twain. My oldest daughter helped me with fact checking. I truly didn’t require intensive research since it’s a contemporary novel. Because I’m a recovering alcoholic, I have first-hand experience with Leah’s struggle on both sides of the bottle.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Since Walking on Broken Glass, the first novel I’d ever written, sold less than a year after I signed with Rachelle, it seems a story of smooth sailing. But there were a number of times when the wind died and left the boat languishing or an unexpected storm hit and blew me off course. Eventually, I learned to tack and head into the wind, going back and forth to make my way through.

For me, the journey started with my decision to attend my first conference.

After the decision, 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 weeks. Then, I moved into our former house, slept on a mattress on the floor, had a few kitchen utensils, a chair, and my clothes. I didn’t have internet, 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, 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. She started shopping the novel and visions of auctions danced in my head. I was sure at least one publisher out of that long list would leap at the opportunity.

In May, Rachelle told me the response from editors was the novel was “too issue-driven.” And my being a first-time novelist didn’t help either. She said she’d continue to look for a home for it, but I may want to start considering some ideas for another book. So, I spent my summer working on proposals for my editor appointments at the September ACFW Conference.

Then, at ICRS in July, Rachelle met Barbara Scott, the editor of Abingdon Press, a Methodist publishing house launching fiction for the first time. She pitched my novel, Barbara asked to see it, but it took two weeks to get it to her because Barbara’s email kept spamming it! After weeks of being on “nins and peedles” (as my children used to say), Rachelle called at 11:43 am on October 30 to tell me that Abingdon bought my novel.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Almost fifteen months passed between contract signing and release. I signed the contract in 2008. At the time, 2010 publication date seemed a frightfully long time to wait. But, as the publishing wheels began to turn, keeping me busy in different aspects of the process, so did the time.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary is my agent. Her blog, Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent, has won the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Blogs for Writers award for two years. She provides a wealth of information about writing and publishing on her blog.

In today’s publishing environment, more and more houses won’t accept manuscripts without agent representation. And with more and more agents having blogs or on Twitter, it’s easier to find out who and what they represent, their personalities, and their sales. Choose carefully!

Do you plan subsequent books?

Absolutely. I’m hoping to write a sequel one day for Broken Glass; I’ve tentatively titled it Picking up the Pieces. I’ve been offered a contract for a second novel (not the sequel), but I can’t say too much about it yet. When two of my daughters and my son were in town for my first booksigning, we plotted a three-book series. I’m not sure how much money they may ask for if there’s ever a contract!

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

On a lanai in Maui overlooking the ocean? In the meantime, I write either at the kitchen table or in a wing-back chair in my family room. We’re blessed to live on a golf course, so I can amuse myself by watching golfers approach the tee box and swing.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I’m not sure this would be a promotion, but I’d love to be able to place a copy in every women’s rehab unit around the country. Otherwise, a billboard on Times Square would be nice.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is ultimately book promotion, and it’s crucial. Some writers are starting blogs early, before they’re even ready to query an agent. While a consistently healthy blog following isn’t going to sell a weak book, it’s absolutely a plus when the wheels start turning.

I joined Facebook years ago, initially to annoy my own children, but it’s been an amazingly effective marketing tool for me. Having taught in the same parish for over seventeen years, I’m finding former students from sea to shining sea. They’ve reached out as influencers to read my book and promote it in book clubs, churches, their social circles. This year, I started a Readers Group Page on Facebook to post updates and events directly related to my novel.

Last year, I joined the ranks of Twitter-devotees. My Twitter updates automatically post to my Facebook account. What I appreciate about Twitter is that I can merge different roles in my life—teacher, writer, news junkie—in one place, and quickly scroll through for information.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

I gave up several times a day. Just walking through a bookstore, as a published or unpublished writer, is cause for hand wringing and teeth gnashing. I’ve read that about 100,000 novels are published annually. It’s probably easier to find the fountain if youth than to find an exact number, especially of new novels. If new writers focus on the summit, they may miss the steps along the way. Plus, some new writers fall prey to dream stealers, even the ones who are “telling you this for your own good.” You know…the people who are quick to remind you that their Aunt Thelma’s cousin twice-removed tried writing a book ten years ago, and she just ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Be teachable. Read the classics. Read authors whose novels challenge you to be a better writer. Don’t give up. If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t matter.

Thank you for your interview, Christa. I wish you much success!

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and my novel.

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