What inspired you to write Lulu’s Café?
The story of Lulu’s Café came from me trying to wrap my mind around why a close loved one wouldn’t leave her abuser. I sat down with my mother, who was a survivor of domestic abuse in her second marriage, to discuss why a woman wouldn’t leave an abusive situation. This was during her battle with cancer, and we had long conversations about the topic of abuse during her chemo treatments. The most profound bit she shared with me was, “You can’t fully understand unless you’ve been there.” First, I thanked God that I hadn’t been there, and then I prayed for those who were to find the strength to get out. The story developed from me wanting to understand, and it also became a creative outlet during the hardest days of my life as I could do nothing but watch my mother slowly succumb to the disease. Leah helped me to better grasp the mind-set of an abused woman who had been so beaten down and brainwashed that she truly did not see any way out. Plus, it was such a gift to be able to create for her a happily ever after! It was near the end of my mother’s battle and I needed that gift of hope myself.
How do you expect the novel to resonate with your audience? What are you most excited for your readers to experience through reading this story?
Leah SURVIVES! Praise God, she survives. Even in a devastating situation, there is a way out. A popular highlighted passage from the book is a quote from Lulu. “I know the bad can’t be ignored. It’s everywhere, and I have no doubt that you have survived something horribly bad, but don’t overlook the good. Please remember good is like treasure. You have to seek it out. And remember how rewarding it is when you find it.”
What role does faith play in this story?
The story displays other characters’ faith and how that eventually draws Leah to discover her own faith in God. I hope it will be a reminder to readers to be a light and share their faith with others.
What lessons or truths do you hope people take away from Lulu’s Café?
-It’s never okay to be mistreated in any way, whatsoever.
-We need to understand and be empathetic to others and their situations, leaving judgment out of our thoughts.
As an author, what did you particularly enjoy about writing this story?
I loved the opportunity to spotlight small-town culture. Southerners have a more laid-back approach to living, and we love to love on people with food! It was fun to also showcase the lighter moments of life, and I hope readers had a laugh or two while reading this story.
Can you tell us about your inspiration for the main character in this book, Leah Allen?
Leah represents every abandoned child and every abused woman. She has a big role to fill, yes, but it was such an important one to take on. The world can feel hopeless in these situations, so Leah has to show readers to never give up and to seek help. To lean on those who cross your path and offer support.
This story is about leaving a past of pain and hurt and starting over. How do you hope this encourages your readers?
I hope if someone is in an unhealthy situation that they will seek help after reading this book. I also want readers who are untouched by domestic abuse to be more aware and to be willing to reach out to those in need. We need to take off our blinders.
You say that because Leah is accustomed to cruelty, the kindness she meets in her new life is overwhelming. Can you talk more about that?
We are comfortable with what we know. In Leah’s case, a life of cruelty and setbacks is all she knew before landing in Rivertown. Like a skittish animal, she takes a while to trust, and rightfully so after what she endured. I hope readers will be encouraged to do the same after surviving difficult times.
What was your inspiration for the setting of this book? Can you tell us more about your inspiration for Lulu’s Café itself?
I’m from a small town in the country where family and friendship are important. I wanted Leah to discover this and to show her there was a better, simpler way of living than what she’d experienced. Southern charm and hospitality is like butter melting on a warm, fluffy biscuit. Who wouldn’t be drawn to it?
What can you tell us about the love connection that develops between Leah and Crowley? What difficulties do they face, given Leah’s past?
It was a slow progression for them to get to that love connection, but Leah needed quite a bit of time to heal, both physically and emotionally, before even considering another relationship with a man. A friendship was formed first, so their relationship had a firm foundation to build upon. However, Leah struggled with opening up to Crowley and he struggled to understand why, but the Southern gentleman didn’t give up on her. The patience and compassion he so freely gave to Leah was exactly what the fragile woman needed.
In what ways do you hope this story connects with contemporary Christian women?
I’ve had several readers contact me or leave reviews, sharing how my books were relatable. Many shared their personal stories (devastating stories in some cases) with me and how they fell away from their faith during those dark times. It never ceases to make my heart warm and give me goose bumps when they say through my stories, they have found their way back to God. Redemption and transformation are front and center in Lulu’s Café. The understanding of forgiving yourself is important as well.