Allison Bottke is stopping at Potpourri of Writing on her international blog tour. Today, she will share information about her latest book, One Little Secret, as well as give you encouragement in your own writing. I first met Allison when she published one of my essays, Uncle Al's Flag, in the American Moments edition of her God Allows U-Turns series.
Now Allison has turned to fiction. One Little Secret is her second novel. (You can read an overview here: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/boomernovels.html#onelittle )
MEA: You describe your latest novel, One Little Secret, and your previous one, A Stitch in Time, as "Boomer-Lit." Would you explain to Potpourri visitors what you mean by this term and how your novels fit into it?
ALLISON: Typical “chick-lit” is written for a 20-30 year old target market. The protagonist is usually single, and struggling with her faith, career, family, love-life and things young women often struggle with. In my books, I wanted to approach the issues that baby boomers are dealing with, (women born between 1946-1964) things like the empty nest syndrome, aging parents, a change in career, retirement, menopause, and other health issues. I wanted to look at women in the prime of their life who were suddenly stepping out in faith to achieve the dreams of their heart. Women who weren’t afraid to take risks—who had the chutzpah to dare to dream big. That’s how “Boomer-Lit” was born.
MEA: One of the questions I'm frequently asked as an author, "Where did you get the idea for your book?" This always interests me, too. So I'll ask you, "How did the idea for One Little Secret come about?"
ALLISON: The idea actually germinated from a television interview I saw with Meryl Streep well over a dozen years ago. I think maybe it was with Larry King. She said she would love to work on a film where she got to sing. I’ve heard her sing and she has a fabulous voice (Alas, Prairie Home Companion didn’t do her justice.) I’ve always wanted to work in films and from that interview I began to write a script for her…figured I’d create a role she couldn’t refuse. Nothing like starting at the top of the Hollywood food chain, eh? I mean, seriously, Meryl Streep? But the more I though about it, the more the ideas came. I called the screenplay, Just a Housewife, because as the lead character, she would be anything but.
When Bethany House asked me for another novel after A Stitch in Time, I remembered this screenplay gathering dust on my shelf and pitched them the idea. And voila! Just a Housewife became One Little Secret. As an FYI to your readers, because I still dream of Meryl Streep playing the lead of Ursula Rhoades, I’ve developed a Hollywood Casting Call Contest on my web site where folks can vote for their favorite actors and actresses to play Ursula and Nik and some of the other cast of characters from One Little Secret. It’s a whimsical contest but if the book is actually ever adapted to a screenplay, I’m going to award the person who best guesses the actual movie cast with an all expense paid trip to Hollywood. They can check out the contest here: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/onelittlesecret_castingcall.htm
MEA: What an exciting idea, Allison. Do you have a background in the music scene or did you have to do quite a bit of research so this is authentic?
ALLISON: Nope-no background in music, alas…other than I love to listen to it. I’ve always been a big fan of the classic American standard love songs that singing icons such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Harry Bellafonte made famous. I conducted a lot of research online. As writers living in this century, we have an amazing gift…THE INTERNET. You can find just about anything you need online. For instance, I needed to know a great deal about the annual GRAMMY AWARDS, including what categories Nik and Cristoff would have been entered in, and who was nominated in previous years and such. I found everything I needed, including song lyrics, online.
MEA: (Since most Potpourri readers are writers, I find they like to know how an author researches and writes.) Some writers plan their books using a rigid outline. Others say the characters sort of take over and "write" the book. Which applies to your writing? Or do you have another style?
ALLISON: One Little Secret was only my second novel, therefore I’m still learning what works best for me. I’m trying new things on the third novel I’m working on right now. I don’t use a “rigid” outline, but I do have a beginning, middle and end…a three act structure. Because I think in visual pictures, like a screenwriter, I tend to write the same way. I learned about a word count break down early in my writing, the 25-50-25% rule …. If your novel needs to be 100,000 words, then 25,000 words go in part one, 50,000 words go in part two, and 25,000 word go in part three.
I used to think authors were a bit wacky when they’d say things like, “the character took over and I hadn’t planned for her to do what she ended up doing…” but you know what? It’s true! As you write a book, the characters do take on a life of their own and they can frequently dictate how things will go. Sure, we have the power to give them life on the page, but in giving them life, there are often times when a plan you have in your mind (or on your outline) will simply NOT work because of the way a character has grown or changed. It’s a funny world we live in…this “author life.”
MEA: You changed POV’s entirely with One Little Secret …your debut novel, A Stitch in Time was first person and One Little Secret is written in third person. Why did you change and which style do you prefer?
ALLISON: Like a ga-zillion other women, I first fell in love with the genre of “chick-lit” reading the 1996 release of Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding. The intimate first-person POV allowed us to experience Bridget’s angst-filled journey right along with her. I was too green to know that first person POV is one of the most difficult to pull off. With One Little Secret, I wanted to see if I could get inside the head of a male character—as well as have more freedom of description and story telling that third person allows. I had a blast with this style. I’d have to say that while I enjoy reading first person, I enjoy writing third person more. All three books in the Va Va Va Boom series will be in third person.
MEA: What is the Va Va Va Boom series?
ALLISON: I’ve just been contracted by David C. Cook Publishers to write three new Boomer-Lit books in a series I’ve called the Va Va Boom series. All three books will introduce entrepreneurial boomer babes who own their own businesses. Additionally, each woman has a deep dark secret and a deep dream desire. The first book in the series will release in 2009.
MEA: Did you ever get bogged down with One Little Secret or your other writing and find it difficult to keep it going? If so, how did you resolve it?
ALLISON: Are you kidding? Did I ever! As passionate as I am about writing and as much as I love it, life has a way of interrupting the chunks of time I need to stay focused. I have dyslexia and A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) and it’s mighty tough for me to stay on track. It takes a concerted effort and the need to follow a great many systems for me to stay on target. Resolving the challenges I have is a never-ending growth process. I try something new if what I’m doing doesn’t work. I keep revising systems and trying new formats to achieve deadlines. Writing is a very personal thing, and we must do what works best for us. Sure, it’s good to pick the brains of others who are making it work in this industry, but when all is said and done we must figure out what works best for us.
MEA: I think that's very encouraging advice for writers, Allison...learn from others but find their own way and what works for them. And what would you like readers to take away from reading One Little Secret?
ALLISON: I write Christian inspirational fiction—and yet I don’t specifically write only for Christians. Yes, I am a Christian, but I have friends who are not. I frequently meet people who do not share my belief or my politics or my serious addiction to stiletto heels, but that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate. I think too many Christians live in a Christian bubble—how can we shed light on the dark places in the world if we don’t mingle with people who live in the world? I first wanted to write a fun fairy-tale…a dream-come-true adventure about a boomer babe who happened to be a Christian—but many of the people in her drama-rama were not. Yet she saw this as an opportunity to share her faith—not make judgment calls. I guess that would be the take-away, that sometimes God calls us to spend time at work or at school or at play to be around folks who don’t share our faith—and it’s times like that we can shine or sink.
MEA: Writing and publishing is a crazy industry. What advice would you offer unpublished authors to give them hope?
ALLISON: I know it sounds so incredibly droll and simple, but never give up and don’t take “no” for an answer! I kept at it and kept at it and kept at it. Recrafting my proposals and rewriting my first book. I got my start in non-fiction, but always in the back of my mind was the dream of one day writing fiction. However, more important would be to not compare yourself to another writer. There is always going to be someone better, someone smarter, someone more literary, someone more photogenic on the back of their book, and yada, yada, yada. But there is only ever going to be one you!
Some of your readers may know this about me, but for those who don’t, the fact I’ve been published at all boggles my mind. I’m a high school drop out with a ninth grade education and a GED. I quit school after the 9th grade to run away from home and get married. I was going to live happily ever after in my fairy tale dream. But that’s NOT what happened.
That said, writing is not about formal education, or who you know, or how long you’ve been at it. It’s about perseverance and risk and belief in yourself—and knowing that inevitably, God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
MEA: What great advice and encouragement! Is there anything else you'd like to share with us about One Little Secret or about writing in general?
ALLISON: I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about One Little Secret. I really do want to hear reader feedback. I’m working on my next novel to release in summer of 2009 and I take to heart reader comments. They can reach me here: AB@AllisonBottke.com and please, I’d love to invite everyone to participate in the Hollywood Casting Call Contest where a lucky winner can win an all expense paid trip to Hollywood! Visit my web site and select the actors and actresses you think would make the best lead characters in One Little Secret! Check it out here: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/bookcontests.html
And …we have a monthly newsletter that we call a “Dream-Zine.” I’d love to invite your readers to subscribe: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/dreamzine.html
And one final thing, we have a co-authored blog with six best selling authors blogging each and every day – BOOMER BABES WITH BRILLIANT DREAMS: http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/blog/
As for what I’d like to share about writing, if your readers are serious about writing – if they are serious about taking their writing careers to the next level, then I would invite them to log on to my web site and download the MP3 files and handouts for the Teleseminar I conducted with host Randy Ingermanson called: CLEAN UP YOUR ACT. This is a 4-part series starting with organizing your office and files, to developing a mission statement, vision plan and strategic plan. It’s a comprehensive workshop I teach at writers conferences all over the country and your readers can listen to it in the comfort of their home or office. We’re so confident in the tools we have made available in this series that we offer a money-back guarantee.
Mary Emma, I didn’t set out to use your blog as an advertisement for my Teleseminars. However, this particular workshop series is so important for folks who really want to write but find themselves stuck. Thanks for allowing me to suggest it. You can find out more about it here:
I think that’s it – thanks for having me!
MEA: Thanks for joining us at Potpourri of Writing, Allison. It's been fun getting to know you better and to learn all the great advice and encouragement you have for writers. You'll find more information about Allison and her various writing adventures at the web sites below.
International Blog Tour – August Itinerary
Make sure to sign up for Allison’s monthly electronic “Dream-Zine” for all the current updates on writing opportunities, Teleseminars, book releases, and contests. http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/dreamzine.html