In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy interview Lisa Boucher, who has trained polo horses, worked as a flight attendant, hairdresser and bartender, and then reconstructed her life as a registered nurse. Lisa’s books help women overcome alcoholism, and she draws from her rich life experience to encourage readers to stop micromanaging and surrender to God.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, writing and publishing blogger at smallbluedog.com, and Gracewriters founder
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Lisa Boucher, award-winning author of non-fiction and fiction
Topics covered in this episode:
- Developing your own writing method, amid all the advice.
- Managing the emotional impact of writing from your own life.
- Rather than a battle plan having a “pray plan”.
- Finding your own writer’s voice by reading and writing.
Find Lisa online:
More about Lisa Boucher at https://lisaboucherauthor.com/
A selection of Lisa’s books
Find stockists for Lisa’s books on her website, or click the covers below to view her books on Amazon (associate links that help earn a few cents for Gracewriters).
Please use the sharing buttons at top and bottom of this post to share on social media or directly with Christian writers you know.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, award winning non-fiction author, Lisa Boucher.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. I blog for writers at smallbluedog.com and you can find links to all my blogs, books and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher living in south-east Queensland. I have four adult children and I write romance under the pen name, Alison Joy. You can find all my information at alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years, I’ve been using my theology degree to underpin my preaching and more recently, to inspire my urban-fantasy series, Armour of Light. You can find out more about that, me and all my other projects at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: After years of training polo horses and working as a flight attendant, hairdresser and bartender, Lisa Boucher reconstructed her life and settled in as a registered nurse. For the past 27 years she’s worked with hundreds of women to help them overcome alcoholism, live better lives and become better parents.
The award-winning author of six books, she is the mother of twin sons and lives in Ohio with her husband. Welcome, Lisa.
Lisa Boucher: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Donita Bundy: It is great to have you join us on the podcast today. We were wondering, before we kick off with the other questions, would you mind letting the listeners get to know you a little bit better by undergoing the rapid-fire five?
Lisa Boucher: Go for it!
Donita Bundy: Lisa, who is your target audience?
Lisa Boucher: Probably women and Christians.
Donita Bundy: Okay. And what is your main genre?
Lisa Boucher: Self-help.
Donita Bundy: When is your optimum time for writing?
Lisa Boucher: The morning, early.
Donita Bundy: And do you have a favourite place to write?
Lisa Boucher: Right where I’m sitting. I have a glitch. It means I can’t work unless I’m sitting at my desk.
Donita Bundy: And how did you get into writing in the first place?
Lisa Boucher: It was a God story. Literally, very quickly, I had just graduated nursing school, I’m cleaning up. I got home from work, I’m cleaning up the kitchen and I heard a voice, “Now, I want you to write a book,” and that was 1994.
Donita Bundy: Wow!
Alison Joy: Wow! So, Lisa your first two books were novels and they were published within a few months of each other. What was the writing and publishing process like for you?
Lisa Boucher: Well, I had no idea what I was doing so, for my first book, truly, I feel like I was telling Marianne, a friend, I said, “I feel like the first four books taught me how to write. I found my voice.”
So, it was a lot of mistakes and errors and I went to writers conferences and all those things that writers like to do and everybody has certain ways. They would say, “Do an outline.” I never did outlines and for fiction that worked very well except for one of the books is such a mess because I didn’t do an outline and it’s in the computer and I still love the story but it’s a mess. So, I’d have to go back and literally dissect it and rewrite it.
So, it was much different, though, with the non-fiction. I think for Raising the Bottom, I knew the subject of alcoholism so well, having grown up with an alcoholic mother and then getting into my own addiction, that book was not hard to write. And then I also interviewed 10 women for the back of it because I wanted other voices beside mine. The hardest part was to keep their voice authentic to them and not change it too much.
And then with my most recent book, it’s a little different too but I wanted to focus on the prayer of Jehoshaphat and I wanted to focus on bite-size pieces instead of something that was going to be, you know, people have a lot of anxiety lately so, I wanted something a little lighter.
So, that process was just when thoughts came. I had notes all over in my car, in the kitchen, wherever I was and I would jot down these thoughts like, “Oh, I want that in there!” and then I compiled it later.
Alison Joy: So, you’ve gone from writing fiction books to, what would you call, self-help books. Now, Raising the Bottom, as you’ve already mentioned, deals with alcoholism and it’s quite a change in direction for you, what actually prompted that book?
Lisa Boucher: Well, Raising the Bottom, was, my mother had passed in 2011 and when she used to call me, because she had finally found recovery after this horrendous slide down to demoralisation for 25 years. She would call though and she was in recovery and she would say, “Well, what are you working on?” because I was always writing something and it was always fiction and she said, “Why don’t you write about women and alcohol?”
And I said, “Well, there are so many avenues that I could go down,” and I really just couldn’t grab onto one that could make a thesis for a book.
So, I didn’t do it and then she passed away and maybe a year or two later, literally, I woke up one day and it was just in my head and I went, “That’s it.”
And I knew I wanted to focus on women and that you don’t have to hit these low horrendous bottoms.
I didn’t really have a bottom. Nobody thought I had a drinking problem and I just could see in my own life that the progression was there, it was escalating so I chose to nip it in the bud and get some help before it got, I think I would have had 15 – 20 years of drama that people associate with alcoholism, but I saved myself that 20 years of complete drama.
Alison Joy: How did you find the actual process? I’m assuming part of that is your mother’s story in that.
Lisa Boucher: Well, it was. So, yes. So, that process was very emotional. I didn’t think it would be. I wrote early in the book it’s a lot… it’s not a memoir but there are some childhood memories and things and I remember writing that and I’m laughing and then I’m crying and then I’m sitting there going, “I cannot believe that I’m not completely looney tune because this is craziness, what it was like.”
So, that was very hard, those first few chapters, to write my mother’s story and then it was another God wink that my sister was in rehab. I mean, the whole family is just this big alcoholic mess, especially the women it seems, not my father. But my sister was in rehab and someone took her to Youngstown. She was in Cleveland. She went three hours.
There was this CD of my mother’s voice telling her stories. So, for that, I wanted it in the book after that was found and I thought it was just so unbelievable that my mother is now passed away and so, that was very emotional but I transcribed that for her story because I wanted her story in the book. So, that was very emotional.
And then, the rest of it, because I am a nurse and I have that background and that peace and marrying all of the experiences that I saw working in emergency rooms and psych wards have been my two main areas.
There was a lot of just my own experience. I didn’t do a lot of scientific… I didn’t want it to be scientific and heavy but I was able to offer a lot, I feel, in what I saw and what reality was coming through the hospital doors.
Those kinds of chapters were not that hard to write because I went on experience of what I had been through and seeing it for 20 years.
I feel like my nursing career, 20 years of it, at least, went by before I wrote that book so, I had a lot of material just in the back of my mind of what I was seeing. Over years, we start to see patterns and so, I wanted to include those patterns that just could not be denied.
Belinda Pollard: Did you end up outlining those parts of those books or where they written more organically, as well?
Lisa Boucher: Most of it was organic but there were a few chapters, I did have to play with the chapters and did a lot of moving them around and things like that.
Then when my editor got involved after the point where it was enough to send it to her, we moved some more again and decided that.
And that’s when I wanted the women’s ten stories in the back because I wanted to give you the bulk of information about what is alcoholism, what does it look like in everyday people.
My mother was a nurse. A mom of four children. She was married to a businessman. Very normal picture and then there was this other side of her that was just like a monster. It was unbelievable how it was taking over her life and it started for her with prescription drugs from a doctor. So, these are the things that I wanted to portray because I think it speaks to millions of people.
I know there’s a lot of people that go to work and they come home and they drink and they think this is normal but they’re losing. I always say this, I think about the brilliance we’re losing because I know the women that I’ve worked with that have gotten sober, they’ve all gone on to become writers or painters or they go back to school and get theology degrees like some of you have and they do really wonderful things where they start giving back to society.
So, I wanted to portray: this is what it looks like early. I’ve got doctors and nurses and moms, in the book.
It was kind of funny because I said, “No one will ever want to go to the hospital again!” I didn’t realise I had so many medical people!
There’s a huge problem in the medical profession. Average population is 10%, doctors are 14% possibly because of their stress level.
And I can tell you from my own experience, I’ve yet to work on a nursing unit where we didn’t have a nurse literally in the throes of addiction and nobody seems to be able to recognise it.
And it shows up as poor attendance, poor judgment, things like that that can be very dangerous if you’re working in a high acuity area like when I was in the emergency room. It was a Level 1 trauma centre so, we were getting the helicopters coming in and we were getting some really serious trauma.
So, you cannot be compromised, under the influence or hungover and make good, quick, sound decisions.
So, it’s a problem.
Donita Bundy: What was your publishing process? Where you able to find someone who wanted to publish the books for you or are you self-published?
Lisa Boucher: The first four were. I just threw them up, kind of, on Amazon and really didn’t do anything with them. Like I said, I don’t know that I was really wanting, I don’t know what I was wanting out of it.
I think I needed to learn to write and I didn’t know a better way because at every conference I got to, they said you learn to write by writing and reading and so that’s what I did. I read a lot and I kept writing and I do think I found my voice.
These last two, it’s a hybrid publisher and it’s worked great because I did learn with the first three, it doesn’t matter who publishes your book, you need distribution. So, I have traditional distribution.
Alison Joy: So, do you think you’ll go back and write more novels or do you think it’s going to be more self-help books now?
Lisa Boucher: Well, I don’t know. I do know Jesus, Mo & Cheese Puffs that I wrote, it’s a darling story, and I did get a lot of people that wanted me to write a sequel because they fell in love with the characters, Mo and Flo. They’re this adorable old couple and just if you can picture white bread and mayonnaise, I mean, that’s Mo and Flo and she’s addicted to cheese puffs. She’s got to have them.
That was just a really sweet book and I don’t know, maybe, I have another book in mind that’s in the vein of this last one, Pray. Trust. Ride.
Another one that I’m thinking that’s a little shorter. I wanted to do it again around one of the prayers from the bible, kind of thing, and I wanted to tackle issues of waiting and suffering. Not very upbeat but the joy that comes after it, though.
I think because we are such an instantaneous society, right? Everybody wants everything yesterday and that’s just not how it works and that’s not how God works and that’s been my biggest spiritual struggle in my writing.
I don’t know if it’s been a writing journey or a spiritual journey and that’s probably going to be a book some day when I figure that out. I feel very strongly that there’s been some really maddening times and there were three years where I walked away from writing. I was just sick of it. I don’t have time for this. I’m raising my twins and I told God, “I’m just done with this. I’m done.”
I didn’t write for three years and then it pulled me back. And after six books, I guess, I’m a writer! I feel like I’ve earned the title.
Belinda Pollard: I think some people write for a purpose and a season at a particular time in their life and other people are just always coming back to it and they’re just writers to the core.
Donita Bundy: It’s who they are.
Belinda Pollard: Even though there are times when they can’t write or don’t write or life is just too hectic and I think there’s just all these different ways to write, isn’t there?
It’s interesting how you talked about everybody says you’ve got to use an outline. Well, no, you don’t have to use an outline!
Donita Bundy: Yay!
Lisa Boucher: I stopped going to conferences because I always felt like they were telling me I was doing it wrong and I’m left-handed too so, I don’t have an analytical bone in my brain or neural pathway in my brain and all of that outlining and that is just exhausting to me. It’s just not fun. I can’t do it. So, I do better just doing it organically.
Like I said, maybe a very faint outline but I think it stifles it, I tried it. Especially when I was writing fiction, because that was half the fun. Characters would pop up that wanted to be born and I’m like, “Oh, I love that. I’m going to keep them and I’m going to kill that one!”
I just really enjoyed the whole process of that, of being surprised. But then the downfall is I do have a 300 page book that is such a hot mess!
Belinda Pollard: You may want to resurrect that manuscript. You may want to pull it out again and can I tell you, if it’s a hot mess, one of the best things you can do with it, if you’ve got a laser printer at home or you can go to a local office supplies store, is get it printed out and then start laying the pieces out somewhere and look at it that way.
That can help you to find how you want to make those pieces move together.
There’s so many people wanting to make rules for how other people should write and I think we need to just get off each other’s back and just explore.
I’m similar to you, Lisa. The idea of writing a detailed outline for a novel takes all the joy out of it for me.
Everybody’s different though. Some people find that beautiful and perfect and clarifying.
I write kind of a mixture. I have an arc in my head of where we’re heading. I write crime so it’s who is going to be alive at the end and who did what.
But some of them surprise me along the way and then I’m forward outlining as I go for just the next few scenes or maybe a little bit further on. It works for me. We’re all different.
I found it also really interesting, the way you talked about how some of the emotions affected you while writing because that can be a really strong thing. There is a thing called narrative therapy and it’s a real thing. As people write, emotions happen, stuff gets worked through and I think it’s also valuable for the Gracewriters out there to hear you talking about that, Lisa, because some of them are finding themselves surprisingly emotionally moved or tangled by what they’re writing.
Whether they’re writing fiction and it somehow echoes back to things that happened to them or whether they’re writing about real life and their own experiences or other experiences that resonate with them.
I’ve done some work with a Domestic Violence charity and when the writers in those anthologies are putting their stories together, the charity is really rigorous about making sure they have psychological support as they work through it because going back into those times, your mind and your heart are back in those times even though you’ve moved on from certain things. It’s a really good issue that you raise there.
Would you have felt that when you worked through some of those difficult things in your writing, did you feel any sense of healing or resolution from coming out the other end or is it still much the same?
Lisa Boucher: No. I did think about this whole thing. I don’t know that I could have written Raising the Bottom five years prior. I was so much more detached from all of it now as an adult and had worked through so much of it on my own through my own recovery.
So, I was at a place where I was, I guess, taken aback by how it did. I didn’t think I was going to react the way I did when I was writing and, like I said, there were scenes where I’m laughing and then there’s scenes, the tears were just pouring down. Oh my God, how did we survive this?
So, it was that kind of thing but it’s like, “Wow! This was difficult to not just me but my siblings and my mother.”
She died with 30 years of sobriety but I don’t think she ever forgave herself and that was heartbreaking and that probably needs to be visited in a book or a chapter or a page because I’ve seen that with working with all these women that I do. That guilt. They really struggle when it comes to their children to let it go.
Like I tell them, as a child of an alcoholic, my mother did not sober up until I was 21 and I can honestly say, she was completely forgiven. We were just so excited to have our mom back.
She would say, “Do you have any resentment?” We were like, “No!” We really didn’t. I try to tell people, “Your kids, they’re your easiest ones because for the most part, they’re going to forgive you.”
My mother was not a mean women so there wasn’t any of that kind of stuff. She just was emotionally unavailable because she was always loopy or passed out.
There’s so many situations like you’re saying with the domestic violence. I think it really depends on what that person went through because if they do have PTSD or things, sometimes that can really be triggered and even though there’s decades, if they haven’t really worked through it and moved on, I think it can be a huge trigger. Sometimes, maybe the book stops then because it’s too painful.
So I would encourage writers, if you are going to write something heavily emotional, make sure that you are, at least, healthy enough and detached enough that you can get through your book and be able to give that wisdom that you have but without getting so broken up again that you can’t finish it.
Belinda Pollard: And care for yourself. Yes.
You’ve got a new book out, Lisa, can you tell us what’s the title and what’s it about and how did it come about?
Lisa Boucher: So, this one is Pray. Trust. Ride. Lessons on Surrender from a Cowgirl and a King. I am a cowgirl. I like to go on cattle drives because I love horses and I live in Dayton, Ohio and we don’t have a lot of horse country here. So, I like the western kind of riding so I go out to Montana and Wyoming and I’ve been going on cattle drives.
I grew up with a horse and that is one thing, I think, I’ve connected with probably better than people is this horse was my one true love. I really loved my horse. And so, I didn’t want to give that up completely.
After my sons were raised and all that, I thought, “I need to reconnect with that.” So, I went out west and I found this ranch that was a real working ranch and they needed help in this coalition of ranchers. So, that sort of started it. I didn’t know I was going to write about that because that was probably five-six years ago.
And then I went to several other ranches and then the story started to come because when you’re on the horse, there are times when I literally had to let go of the reins.
The book opens with this particular ride that I had as a child, at 15, in this vicious thunderstorm and it was so scary. I knew my horse would get us back. I had to hunker down because I was blinded by the sheets of rain. I literally let go of the rein and just gave him a nudge and we flew home.
With all of the stuff that’s been going on in the world the last couple of years and there’s a lot of fear and anxiety and I said, “You know, this letting go concept is huge in recovery. We have to let go and let God. Find your higher power.”
So, I wanted to marry the two things that I loved the most, God and horses, and so that’s what I put together in this book.
And I think people like the lure of the west and this was a real cowboy experience. It was not a dude ranch. We worked long days.
In fact, there was one quick, funny story because it was June, I write in June and June is usually a warm month here in the States, and so I’m up in the mountains though, I think, 8,000 elevation or something like that and I’m in this cosy river camp and I open the door and it’s like 4 in the morning because we were doing a big ride and helping other ranches that day, and there were huge snowflakes. They are wet and the wind is blowing. It’s howling like a blizzard and I slam the door and I think, “Oh, there’s no way I have to do this. I’m going to go back to bed.” And then I was like, “No! You came out here to help these ranchers. You’re going to cowgirl up and get dressed and go.”
Well, I go down to the barn and there were two other cowboys and these were hard-riding, hard-drinking cowboys and I’m here and I get down and “Where’s my horse?” because they leave them out in these big pastures and then they go round them up in the morning. My horse was not in the barn or in the corral area. I said, “Well, where’s my horse?” Well, they didn’t think Ms Suburbia would get out of bed! So, they had to go get my horse because I’m like, “I’m going!”
It was like a ten hour day, maybe longer. It was freezing. It was miserable. But I did it and some of those stories are now in the book because I really had to draw on my inner strength.
There were rushing rivers that I didn’t want to cross and I had to let go of the reins because it was steep going down, steep coming up and I thought, “This horse doesn’t need my help.” Some of it was a little scary. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. It was interesting, to say the least!
Belinda Pollard: Sounds like an amazing metaphor for life.
Lisa Boucher: Well, I think it is. I put that around the prayer of Jehoshaphat that’s in 2 Chronicles because when the people of Judah and all these armies are encroaching on them, his plan was, “Well, we’re going to pray.” The people must have thought what kind of a king doesn’t have a battle plan? Instead, he has a pray plan. Right. That was his plan.
He just told them, “We have to let go. Right. And we’re going to let God and we’re going to pray,” and it all worked out. I thought that’s perfect for this metaphor. That’s why I wanted to give people the visual, literally, of letting go of the reins.
That’s what we need to do in life because people, I think, really want to control and micromanage everything and that just causes more anxiety and stress.
Donita Bundy: So, Lisa, we’re hearing how your life and your journey of faith and your relationship with God is driving a lot of going into the books and the stories are going into the books but has the writing process itself had an impact on your faith and relationship with God?
Lisa Boucher: Yes. But here again, I almost feel like maybe I’m the one who’s adversarial because I’m mad at Him most of the time. I really am. I’m just, like I said, if I don’t want to write, I feel drawn back to it and then I’m like, “Here we go again!”
And the waiting, like I said, those first four books, “What am I doing?” I would sit there and sometimes I would think, “I must be nuts. Is this who I am?”
Especially when my kids where little, they’re “Well, aren’t you coming out?” “No. I’m going to write,” and maybe because I was sober, too, maybe God gave me that because it was an outlet for me and it gave me an excuse to not go do other things. It’s complex for me. I don’t think it’s been a black and white issue and then, like I said, I’ve been in these droughts. It’s like, well, what is this all about?
I think I did see a little sunshine now with Raising the Bottom because I know it did touch people and I know from social media when I got lots of messages. One woman got sober. She found it in a library in Tennessee. So, when I would hear these and I’m like, “Well, this is good.” If you save one life, it’s worth it. But here I am talking to you ladies.
I’m sure there’s other writers that are like, “What am I doing?” and I think, you know what? If it’s in you and you want to write, just keep writing because if nothing else, it is very cathartic and people do heal through stories.
Donita Bundy: And I think you, basically, touched on what it is to be a Gracewriter, changing popular culture through your work and wanting to help people and God is giving you a very strong message. Now, we just really want to thank you for joining us and sharing that and you’re doing what you’re doing obediently, if not necessarily always agreeing with it, but you are obedient to the call to write and so, thank you.
Lisa Boucher: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Belinda Pollard: Lisa, where can people find you online?
Belinda Pollard: Excellent, and we’ll put links to those on the website at gracewriters.com.
How about I pray for you and the Gracewriters, Lisa?
Lisa Boucher: Thank you, yes.
Belinda Pollard: Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for Lisa. For the rich and often difficult life that she has led and yet the way that You have always been there and present and You are redeeming the difficult times and empowering the good times and You are bringing a message of truth and hope out of that.
I pray that You will bless Lisa as she goes on to continue writing and I pray for all the other Gracewriters out there who are wondering, who sometimes think they’re kidding themselves, that they’re not really a writer or there’s all kinds of rules and regulations that are being pushed upon them. We pray that You will give them a freedom and open up the way for them to write in the unique way that You have designed them to write, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Donita Bundy: Amen.
Alison Joy: Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Lisa Boucher, thank you so much for joining us today, wonderful stories. Donita Bundy, thank you, and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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