Author Spotlight: Kathy Ailles
We are pleased to introduce author Kathy Ailles. Kathy recently published Untarnished, which is now available through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold. We asked Kathy to share a little bit about her writing and her new book. But first, a little bit about her.
Kathy Ailles lives in Bradford, Ontario with her husband of more than forty years and their golden doodle named Sami. They have three adult children and three grandchildren, and are soon to add three bonus grandchildren when their daughter marries this summer.
Kathy loves to read, boat, and travel and she’s an avid Toronto Blue Jays fan. She has volunteered in many facets of her church, including children’s and youth ministries, women’s ministry, the worship team, and organizing a multitude of social events.
She began part-time studies at Tyndale Bible College, now Tyndale University, in 1997. Shortly after her schooling began, she was hired as administrative assistant at Bradford Baptist Church.
Three years later, memories of childhood trauma surfaced. Unfortunately, this put an end to her studies.
It was soon discovered that Kathy suffered from dissociative identity disorder, a coping mechanism young children sometimes develop when their pain and suffering are too great for their minds to process.
Kathy spent many years in counselling seeking healing, freedom, and wholeness. During counselling, she felt the Lord promise her that good would come from her pain. She truly believes that this novel is the fulfillment of that promise.
Although her book, Untarnished, is a work of fiction, it also contains autobiographical elements. It’s set in the time of the Great Depression, World War II, and post-war Ontario, with aspects of the author’s personal story woven in.
It was very important to Kathy to focus on the healing journey rather than the abuse. Her message of hope through difficult times is the catalyst behind this novel. Jesus is our healer, our comforter, and our protector. Kathy believes that these are available for all. Whether the hurt has come at the hands of others, from poor personal choices, or through circumstances of life, Jesus can and will heal. We need only have faith and stay the course. Is it easy? No. Is it worthwhile? Yes! Kathy is proof of that.
Q: Why did you decide to write a fictionalized version of your childhood, instead of writing a memoir?
A: First of all, I wanted to protect my family. There were hurts in my life that my family had no idea about. Adding fiction to fact adds a protective layer.
I truly believe that the Lord led me to write this story. He began giving me ideas months before the writing began. I never planned to write a novel. I knew my story would come out in some way, and that it would be used to help others, but I had no idea what that would look like.
As I began to write, I also realized that a fictionalized version softened the story without watering it down. I didn’t want to bring up painful memories in my readers who had suffered by providing details of the abuse. At the same time, I didn’t want to turn away readers who would think the story implausible.
As the story began to flow, I was amazed at how intriguing the plot was, how endearing the characters were. I laughed and cried along the way. My hope and prayer is that this novel will touch those who need healing, encouraging them to find that healing for themselves.
Q: What is the biggest thing that the average person may not understand about dissociative identity disorder?
A: I think the biggest misconception is that those with DID are crazy, or the condition is non-existent. That is likely why I kept my DID quiet for so long. Because I didn’t want to upset or hurt my family, only a small group of people were aware of the full extent of what I was going through.
DID is a disorder, not an illness. It’s a coping mechanism for children who are hurt at such a young age that their little minds cannot fathom what is happening to them. Alternate personalities are formed to protect the child so they can live an otherwise normal life. These “alters” come forward to take the pain and abuse, blocking the reality of their suffering from the child while they carry on with life.
I had no idea of the abuse until I was forty years old. I had a husband who’d loved me for twenty-five years. My children were mostly grown and I was settled into a career I loved. When the memories began to surface, the Lord must have decided I was ready to face them, though at times I certainly doubted that.
Eventually I was able to embrace the fact that DID was a gift from God to protect me during my childhood trauma. Over time I found complete integration, healing, and freedom.
Q: What role did your faith play in your healing journey?
A: Without my faith in Jesus, I don’t know where I would be today. I cannot fathom how I would have dealt with the pain and trauma from my childhood without Him.
For my healing journey, I chose Christian prayer counselling. Jesus led the sessions while my prayer counsellor facilitated and encouraged me. Jesus also encouraged, strengthened, and comforted me every step of the way. When I asked in prayer where He was during the abuse, He clearly showed me a picture of little Kathy being hurt, Jesus weeping by my side. Why didn’t He stop it? Because He gives mankind free will, He gives choice, and unfortunately some choose evil.
Together we experienced the lows but also the highs, as one by one my alters were integrated back into me and I was made whole.
Q: What advice do you have for those who may be looking to write about painful and traumatic experiences?
A: Be real. Be honest. But also be compassionate. Don’t put ideas into the minds of the hurting. Don’t glorify those who deal out the hurt. And focus on how to heal. Encourage your readers to live a full life despite their painful pasts. Doing so doesn’t gloss over the hurt. Pain is real. And above all else, pray. With Jesus by our side, we can carry on. As we deal with our past hurts, we can look forward to where God is leading and not get stuck in the past.
Q: Who do you hope your story reaches?
A: My prayer is that my story reaches those who need hope and healing. Whether they’ve been hurt at the hands of others, through poor choices of their own or through life’s difficult circumstances, healing is available to all through Jesus. If my story helps one person, it was worthwhile. I pray it will help others, but one is sufficient.
Q: Could you describe your writing process/style?
A: Wow! Tough question. I spent years journaling, even before my memories surfaced. It was my way of connecting with Jesus during the ups and downs of life—to ask questions and write out my prayers. During this time my husband would jokingly ask, “How’s the novel coming?”
But writing a novel is very different from journaling. Again, I truly believe that Jesus led my writing. At times the story flowed. At other times I would have no idea what to write. I would pray. I would wait. Then I would awaken early in the morning with the next chapter, or several chapters, bursting forth. Hours later I would realize that I was still writing. And eventually it would stop.
I enjoyed researching the era of my novel, the setting where the characters lived. But mostly I enjoyed the words flowing from my brain to the keyboard via my fingertips.
Q: What advice would you offer to new writers? Any helpful hints?
A: If you have a story inside you that needs to come out, go for it! Sit down, turn on your laptop, and prayerfully begin writing. Don’t be discouraged when there’s a block. If your story is meant to be told, the block will lift. Be thorough with your research. Keep track of your characters and their lives, so the story is consistent throughout. Ask some trusted friends to be your beta readers.
Join a writer’s group. I found great support with fellow writers in my area. And get professional editing. My husband and I took much time praying through the cost of editing and publishing, but so far every penny has been worth it. When I was told my 400+ page novel was too long and would be cut down during editing, I said, “No way. It has to stay as is.” However, my novel is now 280 pages long and reads so much better. Fluff has been cut out, phrases and sentences changed. Let the professionals lead and guide you. They know their stuff.
But first and foremost, pray. Let the Lord lead you. He knows your story better than you do, so let Him help you out.
Join Kathy at these events:
Book Launch: Saturday, June 4, 10:30 a.m. at the Bradford Public Library
Speaking Engagement: Monday, August 15, 2:00 p.m. at the Fair Havens Ladies Weekly Garden Party in Beaverton, ON.