After several of Bret Lott's books met with critical success, Oprah Winfrey made his latest, Jewel, one of her book club selections. That's a big break for any writer. Bret, a college professor, and his wife, Melanie, who works at home as Bret's assistant, have been married 19 years. They have two sons, Zebulun, 16, and Jacob, 13.
We met when: I showed up in Bret's college-career Sunday school class in Huntington Beach, California, after moving from New Jersey.
We were drawn to each other because: we both loved going to the movies and playing volleyball. Bret was so friendly and such a gentlemen. And he thought I was different from the California girls he had been dating—more confident and fun-loving.
What I appreciate about Bret is: he is totally straightforward, a real straight-shooter. You always know where you stand with him.
What I appreciate about Melanie is: she's sensible and she keeps things organized when everything is nuts.
Our biggest argument was over: finances. We almost declared bankruptcy a few years ago, and we had to sell our dream house. We got debt-free and put our financial life in order, and then Oprah Winfrey called.
Which leads to our biggest surprise: the telephone call from Oprah telling us she had chosen Jewel for her book club. I'm a professor, and the success of that book has eased a lot of financial pressure. It has been a great blessing and allowed us to be a blessing to other people.
No one would ever guess that: our arguments are really loud. We are both headstrong and believe that love means going to the mat and communicating when you have a problem. Good always comes out of it.
The hardest thing we have faced was: when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in 1989 and did $35,000 worth of damage to our house. We spent 12 days without electricity, and it took five months to repair the damage. We did learn how to cook just about anything on a gas grill, though.
The best marriage advice we got was: to get married. We were in love and still had some years in college left. We went to our pastor for advice on how to wait, and he told us to go ahead and tie the knot.
Our advice for other couples is: always be willing to work things out. Don't be afraid to argue.
Our marriage works because: we talk a lot, we hash things out. We are friends, and we love to be together.
Interviewed by Cindy Crosby
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.