Q. Welcome to The Bookshelf, Allison! Before we start talking about you as a writer, let’s discuss who you are away from your desk. Tell us a little about Allison Pittman, the lady next door.
A. Well, the people who actually live next door to me would probably describe me as the lady who never met a flower she couldn’t kill! Other than that I’m just the woman who’s a constant blurry motion between the front door and the mini-van, going to baseball games and the grocery store and school programs and church…usually carrying a big Diet Coke.
Q. That said…you have a book being released in May—how exciting! Tell us about With Endless Sight.
A. This is the story of Belinda—my readers know her as “Biddy” from my first two novels, Ten Thousand Charms and Speak Through the Wind. She arrives in those stories under tragic circumstances, and her future is uncertain at the end of Wind. This is the story of her past…and a glimpse into her future.
Q. What was your inspiration for this book?
A. In a sense I’ve known the high points of this story for years, as the character was conceived years ago when I was working on Charms. But there were some nuances of it that came to light during the intervening years. During that time my brother went home to be with the Lord, and I wanted to spend some time there exploring the brother-sister bond. That’s where the character Chester came from, and I just love him. (He’s nothing like my own brother, by the way…that’ll be important to know when you read the book J.) Belinda’s also such a philosophical and spiritual opposite to Kassandra (Speak Through the Wind). Her entire character and conflict stems from her final scene in that book.
Q. If I’m not mistaken, this is your third novel—the third in the Crossroads of Grace series. You’ve been busy the last couple of years! How long does it take you (on average) to write a book, from first word to putting it in the publisher’s hands?
A. The whole process takes about 9 months—sound like a familiar time frame? But really, in my case at least, if we could take that year and put it in a space bag and suck out all the time spent staring at a blank screen and a quick game of Spider Solitaire between paragraphs, it would probably come out to a lot less.
Q. What’s next? Can you talk about what you’re working on now?
A. I just finished my first work of nonfiction! The book’s called Saturdays with Stella: How God Taught Me to Sit, Stay, and Come when He Calls. It’s the story of the spiritual lessons I learned when I took my dog, Stella, to a six-week obedience course. I had a blast writing it, and I think it’ll strike a chord with just about anyone who’s ever loved a dog. And, of course, I’m hard at work on my next novel. This is my first step outside of the Crossroads series, but it is another historical.
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?
A. I promise this is true…earlier today my youngest son, Charlie, came home from school and I was finishing a chapter. He sat down next to me in my office (a.k.a. the couch) and said, “It must be fun being a writer because you get to hold all the secrets.” Is that a great answer or what! So, like any good writer, I’m totally stealing it (ha!). Seriously, though, love everything about writing. I love that moment when the perfect sentence or word comes into your head and lights a way out of the corner I just wrote myself into. And even though it’s often cringe-worthy, I love going through the editing process and seeing the product a good editor creates with my raw material. What do I like least? That feeling I get about six weeks before deadline when it seems the end is nowhere in sight and I don’t have enough money in my off-shore bank account to support my disappearance!
Q. You’re probably tired of answering this question, and I apologize for asking it yet again but…inquiring minds still want to know. Where do you get your ideas?
A. The good Christian writer answer is that my ideas come from the Lord, and of course that’s true. The idea for Saturdays with Stella was a pure gift—tied up in a bow and left in my stocking. In terms of fiction, I guess the more specific answer is to talk about how He reveals ideas to me. My ideas always start as a character. I’ll spend forever thinking about who this person is and where he or she comes from…and then at some point I’ll decide which part of their lives to tell. I’ve gotten some great ideas from looking at photographs, and entire story elements have grown from snippets I read in the captions for those photos. The essence of Gloria’s faith journey in Ten Thousand Charms came from a scene in the soap opera All My Children, circa 1991. See? I think it’s a great thing to be asked that question frequently, because my answer is so scattered, it could be different every time!
Q. What books are on your nightstand right now?
A. Well, first of all, we have to remember that, given my housekeeping skills, “nightstand” is a relative term which extends to include the surrounding floor area, a corner of the bookshelf next to it, and occasionally the rim of the bathtub. That said, it’s quite a collection including The Book Thief (which I’ve just started…) and Grisham’s The Chamber (which I’ve officially given up on—I’m Netflixing it next week…) Jesus for President (which is one of those books you need to hold in your hand, flip through and smell—a true multisensory experience) Ken Burns’ Baseball (it weighs about 9 pounds); Praying the Names of Jesus; The Message; and LaVyrle Spencer’s Then Came Heaven (which I’ve read a hundred times, but love to just open to a random page and enjoy). I also have a copy of Pride and Prejudice which makes me sound really smart, but I’m not reading it. I just finished re-watching the BBC miniseries on Masterpiece Theater and I’ve been obsessively hi-lighting all the actual lines of text that made it into the screenplay. Yeah, you might have guessed that I didn’t date a lot in high school.
Q. What do you do when you’re not reading or writing?
A. If it’s springtime, I’m very likely to be at a baseball field. Both of my twins play, and I love the whole ballpark experience. I love planning vacations (hubby and I are obsessive vacation planners…). Ours is a family of avowed Disney-philes—we try to go every other year—and we also like just about any venue where we can get funnel cakes and ride roller coasters.
Q. I know that interviewers often don’t ask the questions an author would really like to talk about. What would you like to say that I haven’t touched on?
A. I want to be sure to let all of my readers know how very, very grateful I am that I’m able to do this. I thank God every day that He has made it possible for me to pursue this passion of mine, and I hope I’m being a good steward of the gift He’s given me and the trust the readers put in my books. I want to invite everybody to drop by my website (www.allisonpittman.com) or my page at www.shoutlife.com/pittman and leave me a note! Or sign up for my newsletter so we can keep this chat going!
In the spring of 2006, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Allison Pittman left a teaching career to pursue writing full time. So far, God has blessed that obedience by granting success to her Crossroads of Grace series.
She serves as the co-president of the Christian Writers Group of the Greater San Antonio Area and leads her church’s Theater Arts Group.
Allison lives in Universal City, Texas (NE San Antonio) with her husband Mike and their three sons.