Author Interview – Bianca Olthoff

Bianca3Hi Bianca! Welcome to the blog! I love that I get to interview authors here and think it’s even better when I get to help promote a book before it comes out, so thanks for making time for me!

First, I always ask for the 2-minute intro and a little-known fact about you (your favorite song to turn up REALLY loud in the car, the best food to eat on a winter evening, some weird human trick you don’t share with anyone except those close to you). Tell us about Bianca!

I’m a writer and teacher in love with two men: Jesus and my husband, Matt. [You might not find this funny, but I laugh at myself, so it all balances out.]

I didn’t learn how to read until I was eleven, but now I can’t put down books. I ask questions, but most times I don’t want the answer unless it’s something I want to hear. I believe in a faithful God, even when I’m faithless. I’m a woman who loves God and is committed to speaking truth when it hurts, loving when it’s hard, and living life out loud.

I spend most of my time working as Chief Storyteller for The A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organization. By day I’m a freedom writer who advocates for justice, but at night I’m a step-mom who loves to have dance parties with Parker, Ryen, and Ricci [aka The Cutest Dog In The World].

Passionate about God’s word, I teach around the globe and blog about life, love, and the pursuit of Jesus. Whether discussing topics from justice to pop culture, I’ve spent ten years building the Church and mobilizing God’s people to action alongside Matt, Lead Outreach Pastor at Mariners Church in Irvine, California.

I LOVE hot yoga. Like, obsessed. And if you are thinking I’m all New Age and whatnot, I promise you I’m not. I have injured my back over ten times and this stretching and praying routine has changed my health and relationship with God. 🙂

3 - Play with FireAlright, let’s dive in to Play With Fire first: your debut book, set to hit bookstore shelves on August 30th ! Since this is your first book, I’d love to ask a few of those “writerly” questions that help us see how you crafted this baby of yours. How long did it take you to write this out? The book is much more memoir than how-to guide, so I’m curious as to what that writing process was like for you since you had to get so vulnerable in the pages. Does it look the way you expected it to when you first started thinking about a book?

Well, technically the book took ten years to write because I had to live it before I could write about it. 🙂 But overall, the book took a year to write. I had some complications with my “baby” and it was on life support for about two months (I accidentally deleted my entire edited manuscript two days before it was due. I can’t….)

I don’t really have a method to writing, other than I really wanted a narrative arc that didn’t TELL people what God can do, but rather SHOW them what God has done… and can do.

Next, I first saw you this year as a speaker at If:Gathering and my best friend and I just LIT UP after you delivered your message about Mary and Martha and Lazarus. We spent WEEKS quoting you afterward because your personality just shines on stage. I was so excited to see that humor and wit come through in your written words as well! You seem to be speaking at various events all the time and then writing blog posts constantly for various outlets. How do you keep your stories new and fresh and exciting? I feel like straddling that Bible-scholar/Comedienne line has to be difficult, but you pull it off with grace!

Pull it off with grace? Oh Lawd have mercy, can I hug you?! I think I walk off the platform most times and think, “DID I REALLY SAY THAT?!” Or worse, “Mom will be so mortified I told that story!” But in all honesty, I really pray hard. As in, on my knees and sometimes even with leaking eyes and ask God to show up. No amount of study, prep, exegesis, and notes can do what the Holy Spirit can do through a person who is willing to be God’s mouthpiece.

a21-share-whiteThe other HUGE part of your life is the A21 campaign, where you serve as Chief Storyteller. Tell us a bit more about A21, and how that became such a passion for you (especially since this must have happened after the point in which you decided to end the book, since you don’t go into it in the pages). You also have this series of training videos on RightNow Media (subscription required), the most pivotal of which for me talks about moving from Awareness to Advocacy to Action. It’s a big world out there, fraught with so many problems. How do you recommend that people find the right “niche” passion to pursue and enact the steps you give for moving from awareness to action? I feel an almost decision paralysis on this issue and feel like picking ONE issue means giving up the rest of them! But by not choosing one to focus on, I’m not making progress on any of them!

Oh my word, I can’t believe you found that video. First of all, WHY was my makeup so bad?! Jesus, take the wheel! But secondly, this is a great topic. Passion is often birthed from compassion. The word for compassion is a hybrid of two Latin words, con (meaning with) and passion (meaning burden, or broken heart). So what breaks your heart? What keeps you up at night? What are you so angry or shocked about that you have to talk about it? Once you identify that, you can ask God to give you spiritual wisdom on how to move at a solution.

One of the realms that I feel like I found a lot about you and where you seem to have ministered/written quite a bit is in the area of Christian singleness and waiting for the person God has in store for you. You’ve got these great articles about “It’s Just Coffee” and the “Lonely Hearts Club” in which you speak directly to the single women in the church. How did that become a sort of hot button issue for you?

Well, I was the 30 year-old virgin so I felt like I could speak with authority on singleness. 🙂 But in all seriousness, I love cultural commentary and how the Church responds to issues not clearly defined in scripture. We don’t offer camels for commitments nor are we betrothed at birth, so how do we as 21 st century Christians respond? I don’t like to give prescriptions, but moreso, offer up dialogue so we can rightly divide the Bible and also work out our beliefs (like Paul tells us).

Finally, just a few weeks ago, you published on your own blog about reading The Hunger Games for the first time two years ago. In your signature style, you let us know immediately that even though it seemed silly to read YA at first, within a few chapters you wanted to “change my name to Katniss, date Peeta, and stand in a three finger pose while whistling like a Mockingjay.” Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! 😉 But then you pull it around and remind us that “the attraction to Katniss Everdeen is the reality that she could be you, she could be me. At the core of us is a desire to do what is right, good, true, and just. The sacrifice is big. The risks are daunting. But reward is worth it.” I feel like this is a great reminder for what we need to hear RIGHT NOW with the political, racial, and societal divides in our country. If we do something big and daunting, but aim for good, true, and just, we are maybe going to be able to change the world. Is that something that you’re hoping people take away from your book as well? You have to walk into the fire in order to experience it, and not just admire it from the outside. Our good, true, and just God wants to meet us there, where it burns. Thanks for writing your story, Bianca!

ABSOLUTELY! Change is inevitable, but transformation is a choice. We must CHOSE to do good, CHOOSE to walk into the fire, and CHOOSE to let God have full reign in our lives. My hope is that an ember of transformative faith spark in the hearts of all readers



Oh, Bianca, you are just so much fun! I knew you would be, since I’ve enjoyed your humor ever since seeing you on that big screen in February! But I just LOVE that I got the time to write back and forth with you in person. Thank you so much for your time!


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