Teen Girl With a Satchel – an interview with Christa Black

Christa Black is a violinist who toured with the Jonas Brothers and penned the awesome girl-anthem God Loves Ugly made popular by Jordin Sparks. But since I started following her on Twitter and reading her Tumblr religiously, I've discovered I love her for who she is more than her (enviable) job description. She has a book for girls due out next year, based on what she's shared on her blog – overcoming obstacles to get to where God wants you: forgiven, loving, thriving. Here she talks about leaving the past behind and bringing her book to life... 

TGWAS: What was the key factor in deciding to turn your blog into a book?
Christa: The emails, Facebook and MySpace messages asking me for one! I had so many girls telling me they’d printed out my entire blog and how much of a drag it was to carry around. Hearing so many stories of healing, and weeping with so many stories of pain, made me realize… I’ve got to do this. And I’ve got to do it now. There’s too much brokenness in the hearts of everyday people not to.  And if I can just help one, then everything I’ve been through has been worth it.

How long did it take to write? It took about a year, give or take. I’d write for a bit, then put it down, then scrap the whole thing and start all over again. I was used to sitting down and spitting out a blog in about half an hour, or maybe a song in a couple of hours. Writing a book is DEFINITELY different than writing a song or a blog, and it takes a lot of meticulous planning and time. (Neither one are my strong suits). It was definitely a stretch to discipline myself every day to write, but it was so rewarding. Once I got the creative waters trickling, it wasn’t before long until they turned into a gushing waterfall. I set a goal, and didn’t stop until I reached my goal.

What was the process involved from thinking, “I am going to write a book”, to having the final product in your hands? Well, most people sit down and create an outline. I had been warned to do this, but in my carefree, ‘Oh, whatever, I just want to start and see what comes out’, I didn’t plan.  This was a BIG mistake, and one I won’t be making for future books. There’s something whimsical and romantic about just starting your train and building the track as you go, but you might end up in the middle of a swamp. Then you have to end up backtracking and going back to the beginning.

Once I finally got a vision for where I was going, it was much easier to write every day. And it got easier as I went along. I must have re-written the intro 50 times, knowing it wasn’t as strong as the rest of the book. But I never gave up, and kept going back to the beginning until I knew it would hook people and make them want more. And, apparently, I succeeded (wipe sweat from brow).

Which chapter was your favourite? Depends on what season I’m in. Sometimes, I need to go back and remind myself of all my great advice! [But] I love "Chapter 2: Sticks and Stones... the power of words". I’ve observed that most people pay absolutely no attention to the words that are coming out of their mouth and how destructive most of those words are. Words create, plain and simple. The words that we speak over our lives or that we allow others to speak usually creates the manifestation of those words. I love the idea of changing your destiny because you change what you speak over your life.  Powerful. I also love Chapter 8 on relationships. I’ll definitely be expanding this chapter into a book in the future. 

What made you decide to include the ‘Your Turn’ sections at the end of each chapter? I know from personal experience that just reading something will make you feel good for about 2 seconds, and then unfortunately, you’ll go right back to the same behaviours. We HAVE to take responsibility for the patterns in our lives and actively pursue change. Otherwise, nothing changes. I’ve had a lot of girls who have told me that the book lit a spark and changed their lives, and then, sadly, I get emails saying they see so many old patterns of destruction creeping back in. I always ask, ‘Did you do the ‘Your Turn’ sections?’ and every single time, they hadn’t. We can’t expect our lives to change because we had a moment of revelation. There has to be action behind that revelation to keep the ball rolling… otherwise, we slip right back into old patterns of thinking and behaving.

Were there any moments during writing that you stopped and thought “this is getting too personal”? No way. I loved pouring out my story… but, I must say, it took years to get to that point.  The further I got away from the reality of those things happening to me, the less it became my identity. My identity is in freedom, hope, the power and love of a God who adores me, so the past is just a story, a distant memory. It does take some time to get there, but telling you I have an eating disorder is about as far away from my identity as me telling you I’m a boy. I’m not a boy. I don’t have an eating disorder. Neither of them are true and they’re definitely not my identity… so the past gets really easy to write about. And it’s freeing. It’s freeing when you see how far you’ve really come.

What was the main thing you hoped readers would get out of the book? I don’t want them to think I’m awesome. I don’t want them to walk away with a quick warm, fuzzy feeling. I want them to be inspired to change. I want them to get fed-up with the patterns of their lives that are destructive. I want them to be resolved not to settle with apathy anymore. I want them to take the reigns of their lives and begin actively pointing their path towards a different future. A future of FREEDOM. A future of HOPE. I want them to realize that everything can change from this moment forward, and finally have the tools to see it come to reality.

What message were you aiming to spread by writing a book? Freedom from eating disorders.  Freedom from sexual abuse. Freedom from shame and self-hatred. Practical steps in the journey.  Inspiration for their lives. Hope, hope, hope, hope, hope.

What’s the best feedback/response you’ve received about it?
The responses have been overwhelming. I love hearing the news that someone has tapped into places of their heart that they’ve fought to ignore, that they’re seeing freedom from eating disorders or cutting, that they’re beginning to see their own worth, loving themselves, or just climbing out of the pit of hopelessness and depression. I’ve heard stories of girls who were going to kill themselves who didn’t because they read the book and found a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve got girls who admitted themselves into eating disorder clinics to get the help they needed. I’ve got people who have finally forgiven their abusers, and others who have moved towards relationships because they began to see themselves as someone worthy of love. The stories keep coming… and make all the work worth it.

Have you always enjoyed writing?
Always. To some capacity. It wasn’t always writing books, blogs or stories, but even writing songs for years released that creative outlet inside. As long as I’m creating with words, I’m happy.

Do you have any plans to write more books in the future? Absolutely. I’m in the final stages of signing a publishing deal with a big publishing house, so, unfortunately, God Loves Ugly won’t be available for about a year (they like big lead times to release first-time authors). But, this way, the book will be available worldwide and in every bookstore! Very exciting. I’m already starting on my next book, so by the time GLU is released next year, I’ll have another book finished as my follow-up.

If you had just one piece of advice to give teen girls, what would it be? Be careful with your heart. Be so careful. It’s so fragile and so delicate, and the choices you make right now in your teens WILL determine the path you take later in life. Don’t you dare give yourself away to anyone who will take you. Find out what a treasure you are, and be extremely selective when you give a piece of your heart.  I don’t care what the world tells you…you absolutely CAN’T give your body without giving a piece of your heart. You might give your body so much that your heart becomes numb, but who wants that?

Guard your heart.  Put up a fortress around it.  Know that the man who has to fight for your heart will be the one who will protect your heart and value it as a treasure. 

You can read an earlier interview with Christa, which focuses on her faith and career, at Georgie's blog. Meanwhile, Georgie is heading to Vietnam/Cambodia for a three week excursion with her History class. She'll be back to the blog next month.