We have a special guest with us this month at CWO: Allison Bottke! Allison is an inspirational writer, speaker, and novelist who shares her story of triumph over tragedy to encourage others to embrace the life-transforming power of God. She’s the founder of the God Allows U-Turns series, which now includes 21 books, and this year she published her first novel, A Stitch in Time. She’s one busy woman, and we’re blessed to have caught up with her for an interview.
Allison, I loved your debut novel, A Stitch in Time–I couldn’t put it down. Can you tell us about that lovable Dee Decker and what this story is all about?
Gosh, thank you! I had so much fun writing this book! It’s contemporary women’s fiction in the “Lady-Lit” genre (older chick-lit). Dee is a successful fundraising executive in southern California, who’s out to prove that a middle-aged Christian woman can be faithful, fashionable, and fabulous. She works in a world populated by highly competitive, impossibly thin, perfectly coiffed, and designer outfitted women. Dee has never felt like she fits in, but nonetheless enjoys a well-earned reputation as being cool, calm, collected, and in control. When she discovers that her husband is having an affair, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery that transforms her inside and out.
Tell us a little about Dee’s transformational journey.
In the course of one year, Dee has gastric bypass surgery and loses 150 pounds; separates from her husband; flourishes in her glamorous Hollywood fundraiser job; has plastic surgery; buys a whole new wardrobe; and becomes a Christian! She’s a new person inside and out, and the future looks bright. But then a job offer sends her life in a direction she hadn’t expected. Her past and present collide in a major way.
Is your main character Dee anything like you? Are there similarities between her life and yours? How so?
That’s the million dollar question these days–how much of A Stitch in Time is reality and how much is fiction? 🙂 After I had lost 120 pounds from having gastric bypass weight loss surgery (WLS), I had the idea that it might be interesting to write a novel with a character that also had WLS. Plus, all the writers’ conferences I ever attended stressed that we should “write what we know.” I know a lot about fundraising and fashion and special events, so I figured I’d incorporate that into the book as well. Making Dee a relatively new Christian was easy to do because I came to know the Lord later in life and although it’s been over 15 years, I still recall the drastic difference in how I viewed the world. Most novelists will tell you that real life experiences pop up from time to time in everything they write. But I guess I’d have to say that while A Stitch in Time is most definitely fictional, it is probably imbued with more reality than most novels. I can tell you this–I had to work much harder on novel number two because I used up
everything “real” I knew about in my debut novel! 🙂
Ah! So, we can look forward to another novel from you?
Yes! One Little Secret releases in 2007. It’s not a sequel to A Stitch in Time, but it does feature one of the characters we met in Stitch–remember Ursula? I had a blast writing this book and her “little secret” is amazing! If I could write one novel every year along with editing the God Allows U-Turns compilation series, I’d be one happy gal!
I know you tell this story often but some of our readers may not have heard how you came up with the God Allows U-Turns series and how it turned into the ministry it is today.
In my early walk as a new Christian, I found myself pouring out my life story in an epic memoir that never did get published. I mean really, who would want to read it? 🙂 But one day I was inspired to make my testimony part of a larger group of testimonies that shared how new life could be lived as a Christian…how God allowed us to turn around no matter how many mistakes we made, or how lost we were! “God Allows U-Turns” had been the name of my memoir, and I retained it as the name of my book series. I wrote a book proposal and sent it to a list of agents. Within one month it was picked up by one of the most respected Christian literary agencies in the country–and the rest is history. Today there are 21 books under the recognized God Allows U-Turns “brand.”
Okay, speaking of history…Allison, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Akron, Ohio and raised by a single parent in Cleveland. I spent most of my adult years in southern California where I moved in the late 70’s. I have one son who will be 35 years old this October and three step kids ranging in age from 25 to 30. I’ve been married to Kevin for 11 years, and we live on a 25-acre hobby farm in southern Minnesota. That’s a pretty brief sketch, isn’t it? A lot of living went on during those years, yes sirree!
Your testimony of how you came to Christ is amazing. Would you share it with us?
I came to know the Lord at the age of 35 after living a spiritually empty life. The first 35-years of my life were filled with extreme trials and tribulation. My background includes early childhood molestation, extreme domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, abortion, divorce, and more ups and down than humanly imaginable. I know I’m not alone in having a past that wasn’t the least bit pretty-there are a lot of us out here, and it’s a good thing that God allows u-turns or else a whole bunch of us would be lost on the highway of life! 🙂
Do you find it difficult to share so many personal details about your life?
Not any more. At first, many years ago, it was painful to discuss being molested as a child, and then years later the extreme abuse I endured at the hands of a violent husband. Sharing that you are a survivor of childhood abuse and domestic violence is never easy, but the more I talked to others about it, the less painful it became. Plus–and this is the big thing–I began to see how God used my transparency to help others through the same issues. His plan is far greater than any I could ever imagine.
You are a remarkable woman whom God has brought out of great suffering. How does your experience with suffering permeate your writing?
Bless your heart, but I’m not so remarkable. It’s God’s grace and forgiveness that is remarkable. Because I’ve walked a difficult life journey, I think this sometimes enables me to understand the heart of someone who is hurting.
It’s clear you have a passion to tell readers about the before and after life of someone who undergoes physical (outward) change. Have you gotten feedback from readers who have lost weight, either through surgery or other means, who could relate to Dee?
Yes, since making a drastic U-Turn toward faith, my passion has been sharing my “before” and “after” faith journey all over the country. Now, with the subject of weight loss surgery being such a major part of my debut novel, I’m finding the ability to share my 120 pound weight loss “before” and “after” story more and more. This has opened a lot of doors for me to speak to secular audiences and what a joy this is! I get letters and email from folks who have had WLS or are considering WLS or who know someone who has had WLS. People who used to think that having weight loss surgery was the “easy way out,” no longer say that, after reading A Stitch in Time. I never thought I’d get fan mail–and I’m like a kid every time one comes in. 🙂
What’s it like to publish your first novel?
It’s like giving birth to a child you’ve waited your whole life for. Seriously. I’m still thanking God and praising His name for making this happen!
I’ve noticed you’re one of the writers on the Christian Authors Network (CAN) site. What is this organization about?
The Christian Authors Network (CAN) is a professional organization of authors who are working collectively to market our books to bookstores and readers. Along with our web site, we also have the CAN blog. The blog is written by a group of twelve writers who belong to CAN, who are passionate about writing. As published authors, we long to share our victories and struggles with regards to marketing and promotion. I’m one of the twelve CAN bloggers and my day to post is Tuesday. Stop by and check out the CAN blog! For that matter, stop by and check out the God Allows U-Turns blog, too!
Do you enjoy blogging? How do you maintain your blog while staying so busy?
While I love talking with folks, I must admit that to maintain fresh daily postings on my blog is hard for me. That’s why I’ve utilized guest bloggers from time to time-friends and family who love to share thoughts, opinions and viewpoints. I am in awe of my fellow authors like Angie Hunt and Brandilynn Collins who manage to write something fresh each and every day. God bless ‘em!
What do you like to do for fun?
I garden. We have 25 acres and I grow lilies–I love lilies! My husband and I also like to entertain outdoors on our patio, we have BBQ’s all summer long. Come on by!
Thanks. Sounds like a great idea, and I just might take you up on it! Are you planning more volumes in the God Allows U-Turns series? If so, which ones?
Yes, God willing. We have literally thousands of true short stories in our files. We’re currently reading, reviewing and rating stories to decide on the topics for future volumes. Submissions are now closed but we anticipate placing a new call for stories later in 2007. We encourage readers to visit our web site for ongoing updates regarding future story needs and deadlines.
What are your future plans and dreams? Do you have any long-term goals that you’re working on now?
Oh my, yes. My longtime goal has always been to write for the Big Screen. I grew up at the Saturday afternoon matinees in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. I watched old RKO films on the TV every chance I could get growing up. Romantic comedy is my favorite genre, and I would love to see A Stitch in Time, as well as my second novel, translated into films. In fact, One Little Secret started its life as a screenplay. I had an actress in mind (Meryl Streep for those who want to know) and wrote the outline for the movie and began dialogue on this project many, many years ago. Now, I’ve picked it up, dusted it off, and I’m writing it as my second novel. Say, if any of your readers know Ms. Streep, I sure would appreciate an introduction! ~ (big smile)
Do you have one piece of advice for all of us women who have dreams of our own? Is it possible to be faithful, fashionable and fabulous?
I know it sounds so easy to say, “Never give up,” and yet that is first and foremost the advice I give when asked. I’m fifty-one years old! I’ve wanted to write fiction since I was a kid. It’s never too late to have your dreams come true! You asked for one piece of advice, but may I give two? The second bit of advice I share is to never judge yourself by what others have done or are doing. We set ourselves up for failure when we do this. There’s always going to be someone better, someone different, someone yada-yada-yada…we must look at our individual talents as gifts from God and forge ahead! If we’ve heard it once we’ve heard it a ga-zillion times–but it’s true–be yourself! And if that self is faithful, fashionable and fabulous–bravo!
Any parting words for our readers?
My friend Michelle says; “Every test is a testimony and every mess is a ministry.” I love that thought. Many of us have traveled rough roads. Yet God is doing a work through it all. We might not always see it when we’re going through it-but if we hang on long enough there really is light at the end of the tunnel! God’s light and love and peace. I know. I found it after 35 years.
Allison, it’s been great having you with us. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your heart. We love you!
Bless your heart! Thanks for having me as a guest. Love you, too!