Ten Thousand Charms, Crossroads of Grace Series #1Ten Thousand Charms, Crossroads of Grace Series #1
Allison K. Pittman
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Life on the western frontier held little promise for women alone! Born into a life of prostitution, Gloria longs for family of her own. Agreeing to nurse widowed John MacGregan's baby in exchange for John raising her son, she pretends her dreams have come true. When fantasy turns to fear, where will Gloria and John turn? 320 pages, softcover from Multnomah.
     

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Allison Pittman
Lamentations 3:22-23 -"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

 Our Interview with Allison Pittman

How did you decide to become a CBA Author?

I’ve always wanted to write but I never really knew what I wanted to do. I dabbled in quite a few ideas, including short humor pieces but I was really bad about getting them sent out. I started going to the Glorieta Christian Writer’s conference. Over the course of two years I had written three chapters of “Ten Thousand Charms.” (None of those first three chapters exist anymore.) I just kind of laid it out to God and said this was what I wanted to do with my life. This is what I wanted to do with my gift. This is where I want my ministry to be. As soon as I got really serious about it and said that I would actually devote some time to developing this craft and see this through. He just blessed me with it all the way. It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve just known that I’ve had to.

Do you go to writing conferences consistently?

I’ve been going since 2000. I went for several years and about four years ago I had probably 2/3 of the book finished and I went to a session with Rob Morris with Multnomah and he gave a session on dialogue and he said whenever he gets a manuscript on his desk, forget about the whole “let’s get hooked on the first paragraph”, he flips through the pages and tries to find a page full of dialogue. If a writer can handle dialogue he can assume that the rest of the book is pretty good. I had an editor appointment with him later on that day and showed him a page of dialogue from this book. I had broken about eight of his ten rules because his session was about the 10 commandments of writing. But he liked story. He told me if I could get the story done, send the manuscript. The rest of the year I did very little with the book because I was just riding high at the fact that he liked the story. The next year he was at the conference and I said that I’d written about 2/3 of it. He read a few pages and gave me a proposal and said to finish it up and send it to him. I went home and over the course of the year I wrote two or three more chapters and then decided that I really had to get serious but didn’t send it in. The next year, 2004, I asked if he still liked it, and he said yes, please send it to me. During that previous year I had to say, “Lord, I have to finish this project.” It was just really hardfor me even with an editor saying he really liked the idea and send it to him. I still wasn’t getting it done. I was letting so many other things get in the way. It was like God paving the way and giving me this major publisher who wanted the story, something that so many people try to write and never get that kind of acceptance and encouragement. Who was I to take that and say that I really don’t have the time to get it done?

Are you still an English teacher?

I teach 9th grade this year at Judson High school. I’ve taught 9th, 10th and 11th grade.

This year I went down to freshman because I knew I had editing to do, the second book to write and it’s just a much easier grade level. I absolutely love to teach. The day that I got the final go ahead that Multnomah was going to publish the book, the whole series, I was doing the CLASS speaker training and my final graduation speech was about how much I love teaching. You would think that I was thrilled about getting a book contract? I cried all day. The thought of leaving teaching had never been a reality until then, even a possibility of how I could ever leave this?

Do you have children of your own?

I have twin boys who are eleven and a seven year old. There again, God gave me the perfect husband to be father of boys because I spend a lot of time back in my room thumping away at my computer while they’re at baseball practice or soccer practice. “Ten Thousand Charms” would never have been written if they didn’t go on lots of camping trips.

How did you choose the setting?

I wish I could say that there was some fantastic reason. I’ve never lived in Oregon. My family is from Utah and Wyoming so when I had the original setting in Wyoming. They had to leave Wyoming and go somewhere and that was just a matter of looking at a map and looking at the Oregon Trail and they can hop right on here and go to Oregon I didn’t want to go late into the late 1800’s. I wanted it to be at a time where there wouldn’t have been massive amounts of people going.

There’s a scene in the book where Gloria’s doing dishes at the house. The man says, “Tut, tut, love, you look tired why don’t you go to bed?” There’s that moment where you think he’s going to say that and he doesn’t. That is the absolute first scene. The whole book started with that scene. I had that conversation in my head for months. I had that little exchange. I thought that was the cleverest exchange in the world. Then I was trying to think who were these people, how did they get here, why is this her first home and the story really built back from that scene? That scene almost didn’t make it in the book. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it or not because it doesn’t do much to move the story forward.

How did you choose the story line?

The whole thing about the babies and everything worked backward from that scene in the kitchen. I had to think, “Why did these people happen to be together?

How did you choose a prostitute?

I love all western frontier things. I was at my in-laws house and there was nothing to do and they have the whole Time Life Western book series so I read the one called “The Women.” I was looking at the prostitutes and I thought they all looked so sad. Just reading about them I realized that they aren’t that much different from women who fall into that lifestyle today, that sort of emptiness. All they wanted is what women want now. They wanted homes, they wanted husbands, they wanted love, they wanted a place to be and I just kept thinking what a rotten life that would be

I knew for this book that I needed a woman who basically had no idea there was a better life. Not somebody who had been rejecting God or hated God, but somebody who absolutely had no idea that he was there and what he could be. That’s what I realized that those who were born into that life knew absolutely nothing else

Do you prefer writing in the historical genre?

Not necessarily. I do have a couple of book ideas for contemporary pieces once I have this series well under way. What I like about the historical time period is that you can keep your characters so much more isolated and focus on the characters and their stories more so than you can in contemporary settings.

In modern time, there’s no way to ever get away from civilization unless you pay a whole lot of money and make a lot of arrangements to get yourself away from all the influences of everything that going on in society all around us. But if you go to a historical setting, all you really have to do is walk a little and there you were; the trappings of civilization were completely gone. That what I needed to happen with Gloria was to get her away to where she had only people who loved her and made her world very small.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author? Time, because I’m still teaching, I’m still working and I have a family. When you’re married to somebody who’s really not an author, they don’t understand why you can’t continue working while he’s watching whatever. It’s hard not comparing especially teaching English. (to other writers) My students and I are reading “Great Expectations” and I can hardly finish writing my own sentence without thinking that I am so not as good as Charles Dickens. This just sounds so pedestrian next to Jane Austen or somebody like that. That’s where I have to stop, though and say, God has given me the gift that I have and he will bless it according to what He wants me to have. I do the best that I can and I have to just keep remembering that at some point it is just so out of my control.

How long did it take you to write Ten Thousand Charms?

In terms of its first little germ of an idea, close to five years which is far too long. It’s been a huge challenge to get the next one done when I don’t have the luxury of time.

What is the title of the second book in the Crossroads of Grace series?

I’d like it to be Give to the Wind. In Ten Thousand Charms, the title and the hymn, Come You Sinners Poor and Needy, played a huge role in coming up with the story. It has that one lyric in there that says if you tarry till you’re ready you will never come at all. That’s another part of her personality that she would never come to God because she would never feel that worthiness.

The second book is Sadie’s story and there’s another old hymn called Give to the Wind .

How many books will be in the series?

Right now there’s just three. There’s Sadie’s story and Biddy’s story. They’re not sequential because Give to the Wind is Sadie’s story back when Sadie is a very little child in New York City and how she got to Jewelle’s. There’s a part in the second book where we’re revisiting the same scenes from “Ten Thousand Charms” though it’s from Sadie’s point of view.

When will the third book be released?

The original contract said May of 2008 so we’re just looking at one a year.

Do you have a favorite character? Why?

It has to be Gloria. I just love her. She came out so fun and so frustrating.

Who is the person who most influenced your life?

I have to say, I’ve often said, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve always loved the fact that she was 65 years old when she started writing. That concept spurred me on and got me onto writing historical fiction.

I also have a fantastic writing critique group here in San Antonio. We meet every week. I have a little group of six people who read every single page of “Ten Thousand Charms’ every Monday night for years as it was getting on its way to getting published. It’s wonderful to have that kind of prayer support system, because we pray for each other and they are people who will catch things.

What were your favorite books as a child?

I completely remember reading Christy. That was my first big book. I loved that story.

What message would you like your readers to take from Ten Thousand Charms?

The message I want them to take away is that God is there. There’s a line that one of the characters says where Gloria said, “If God loved me, why would he let me have this kind of life?” Maureen said to her that just because that’s the life you had, doesn’t mean that’s the life He wanted for you. God wants so much more for us. It’s not like He wants more of us, but he wants us to have more in our lives. He wants us to have a blessed and beautiful life. It’s never ever too late to have that. And it’s just a matter of knowing that you want it.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

First and foremost is that I want my readers to be entertained by my stories. I think that the spiritual side is impacting and important but I want them to enjoy the reading experience. Way too often, back in the day, it was like reading a Sunday school lesson. I want them to enjoy my stories and enjoy my characters and love the characters and reading experience and not feel like they’ve been smacked in the head with the message. I want first them to say “Well Gloria came to see a need for God, maybe I need God too.” I’d love them to experience whatever my characters experience spiritually. I want them to get it through the characters first then see it for themselves.

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