Staci Stallings’ interview

» Posted on Aug 6, 2008 in Blog | 6 comments


If you want to enter Staci’s drawing for Dreams by Starlight, please leave a comment with your email address or email me at margaretdaley@gmail.com. The drawing ends Sunday evening.

Staci Stallings’ interview:
What made you start writing?

I taught high school English for 3 years, and then I quit to have my family. After my daughter was born, I realized I had gone from planning 6 classes a day, grading papers and tests, and dealing with 100 problems a day. To me. With a baby. In a house. By myself. For hours and hours and hours at a time… I had to do something or I would go crazy. Sooo… I turned to my first love. Reading. I got the BIGGEST book I could find at the store. Anthony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within for two reasons. One, it was like 400 pages long (more than 2 days of reading). Two, it was about self-improvement, which has always been a big draw for me. One of the things that he kept talking about was doing what you love. So I did. I started writing one book, then got another idea in a dream. Twenty-four novels later, here I am.

How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

I’ve been writing novels seriously for 12 years now; however, I finished my first book (handwritten) in junior high, so I’ve been writing awhile. Writing to me is like breathing. It’s what keeps me sane with three kids and a husband! My first book was published in 2001. Unfortunately my editor (who did help me on several points) completely obliterated my voice and style. That was a good lesson but not the most pleasant.

How do you handle rejections?

I’ve learned to keep my arms open and not judge an experience by the outcome. For example, I entered a contest and the outcome was not what I had hoped. I wrote to my writer’s group lamenting some of the comments I’d gotten. A fellow member, who I didn’t know at the time wrote back. I wrote back. He wrote back, and we developed a friendship. That friendship grew to the point that in March my company (Spirit Light Books) published his first novel. At the time, I saw the contest results as a “rejection,” a “failure.” But truly what Satan meant to tear me down and discourage me, God used to send a direct messenger to who encourages, supports, and challenges me to get out of my comfort zone and go for it…even when I really don’t want to.

But I will say that the HARDEST thing to do when you have been shot down is to keep your arms open. Our instinct is to close up, to close off our heart and ourselves. God did not mean for us to live closed, and only through Him do I have the courage to keep my arms open for the next experience no matter what the outcome of this experience happens to be.

Why do you write?

To stay sane!

Writing helps me to open my heart to new experiences. It helps keep me grounded and at the same time reach for the stars. I don’t just write novels either. I write scripts and skits. I write music and poems and short devotionals. I love how you can take 26 letters and express something in a way that it goes from my mind, allowing me to create pictures that go into your mind and become part of your experience. That is so cool to me!

What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

Free time? What’s that? I don’t so much write in my free time as I carve out slivers of time that must be mine. If it weren’t for writing, I would probably watch a lot of TV and be really bored. I’d like to say I’d clean my house, but I’d be lying. I’d probably spend a mint on new books (which I already do, so what would be new there?). I would try to do something productive, but I’m not at all sure what that would be especially right now with my kids at home. Writing is nice because I can do that on the edges of homework and school plays and sports and everything else that goes along with kids.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m preparing an ms for publication in September, proofreading, cover design, and formatting. I have a book signing coming up in August that I’m getting publicity things ready to go for. I’m keeping up with my blog. Then I’m writing three books that are about as divergent as is possible. One is a historical, which is odd because I don’t even like historical, but that’s how this one came. One is a sequel to one I finished in March. It’s contemporary and very country. The third is one that’s just for me—to wind out and let whatever God wants to say come out.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

My characters are not me, but they are all me. That probably makes no sense, but it’s the truth. They each have and see the world from their perspective. The most frustrating thing is when that is NOT how I would handle the situation, but they are adamant that that’s how they are going to handle it. However, as I get to know the characters, there are pieces of me that emerge, lessons I need to learn, things I needed to understand but didn’t before I wrote out their story. I really feel like many of my characters are like spirits who never got the chance to come here, so they work out their “things” through the stories they tell me. I don’t conjure them up or manufacture their story. They tell it to me, and I just transcribe what they tell me and put it into words. Weird, I know. But that’s the way I feel.

Tell us about the book you have out right now.

“Dreams by Starlight” is one of those books that taught me so much about myself. It’s a good story, but if you listen to it on a personal level, it can show you that keeping your talents to yourself because you don’t believe in yourself or because you are trying to project this image, this mask to the world because you are too scared to show the world the real you—is not fair to you or to the world. Camille hides behind her books. Jaylon hides behind his image. Both are scared to be who they were meant to be, and through the love of the other, they come to a place where they understand it’s okay to be who they are, they can stretch and grow and be without apologizing for it all the time.

In September, the sequel to “Dreams by Starlight,” “Reunion” will come out. It goes even further with this theme of just stepping into who you are and tuning out all those who insist you have to be something you are not to gain love or to have any worth. It’s not true. I think these two books point that out very well.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes. Get really good at listening to God.

It is very easy to write about God and religion. It is much more difficult to cultivate an everyday, all the time, personal relationship with Him—not because that’s hard, but because the world goes so fast that it’s easy to forget. Other things seem more immediately important: deadlines and sales, marketing strategies and the rules.

There was a time that I was so busy serving Him, trying to please Him, trying to impress Him, that I was a mess. I see now He was sitting there going, “Well, that’s nice, Staci but…” And I’d say, “Oh, and look what else I did! Did you know I wrote this great article.” “Yes, Staci, I know… I was thinking about it, and…” “Oh, and did you see what I did at church…?” I was constantly trying to impress Him, and I felt like an absolute failure at everything.

What I see now is that He was and is already impressed… not because of me or anything I’ve ever done but just because He loves me. He sees me as your grandmother’s gravy boat. It has chips. It’s far from perfect, but you love it because you love her, because it reminds you of how much you love her. Unfortunately too often we think He will only love us if we are like a perfect crystal vase that you sit on a shelf and never touch because you’re afraid you’ll decrease its value, so we desperately try to cover up our flaws and show Him why He should be impressed with us. It’s a horrible way to live.

For writers, I say forget all that impressing people stuff. Write the stories God gives you, the best way you know how. Let Him guide your writing journey, showing you, teaching you, not just about writing but about life. Let Him bring in the people you need and those who need you, and never EVER let completed books or sales or whatever take greater precedence than the relationships you are cultivating with God and with others. You do that, and wherever you get, you will be a success. Guaranteed.

How important is faith in your books?

Faith is one of those things you cannot manufacture in life or in a book. It has to come from your heart and your own life. It grows most in the little moments of being obedient and trusting even if you don’t know how it can work out. If faith does not come from this place, it sounds like you’re preaching. It’s hollow. You know it, and they know it.

One way that my faith is manifest in the books is that I don’t have a strict, “It has to be like this” or “I want this message to come out of this book.” I let God write the book, trusting it will go and do and be what He wants it to be. That is not easy, but over and over, He shows me how great it becomes when I just back up, back off my agenda, and let Him totally take over. I’ve had characters who said something or did something early on in the book that I didn’t understand at all. “Why would you do that?” Then as the pieces come together, I begin to understand. When I go back and re-read, I am often dumbfounded by how perfectly the pieces fit—not because I planned that, but because He did. It’s critical however that I could get off my agenda long enough to let Him work through me.

What themes do you like to write about?

Growth. I like characters who really get it on a different level at the end than they did at the beginning. I’ve written about music stars and lawyers, waitresses and kids in high school; fire fighters and college students. I’ve written some very lost characters and some that have many things figured out. What I’ve learned is that if I’m open to it, every character can teach me something. When I write, I grow. It’s what keeps me going back.

What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

That’s like saying which is your favorite kid! They are each important to me and special in their own ways because they each taught me something. I’m different because of each one. I think whichever one I’m reading or writing at the time is the best because it’s the closest at that moment. I started writing to try to capture the dreams I was having, so they wouldn’t get away when a new one came in, and I think they all do that very well. I can read about Camille and remember that lesson and love it. Then I can pick up another and read about Jeff and Lisa and remember not to let my past mistakes keep me from being now. Or I visit Robyn and Sean and remember that standing up for what you believe in and what’s right is important enough to withstand those times that it’s not easy.

As my friend who has read many of my books said today, “I always think this is my favorite. And then I think about ‘Dreams by Starlight’ and ‘Princess’ and ‘The Price of Silence’ and ‘Cowboy’ and I think okay, it’s at the top with the other ten I’ve read!”

How do you juggle writing for different houses?
(Since this question doesn’t pertain to me, I will suggest a different one.)

Why did you decide to go a non-traditional route with your books? How has that worked out for you?

At first I really didn’t choose this so much as it chose me. My first publisher was POD when no one (including me) knew what that meant. That was before all the doom and gloom about POD came out. Although it wasn’t wine and roses, that experience taught me a lot, and the most important thing it taught me was to learn to have a solidness in holding onto my voice and my style rather than selling out for a few dollars. I also learned that POD and self-pubbing is not necessarily the horror show everyone makes it out to be. It might not be for everyone, but it is definitely where I fit until God decides to move me!

In fact, I learned very quickly that I would prefer a small audience and fewer sales to signing a book that wasn’t even really me because some supposed “rule” said that’s the way it was done. That just wasn’t me at all! Now I have a VERY loyal readership (sometimes too loyal… they don’t let me rest very long before they’re clamoring for more!). I have found that anonymous sales don’t compare to having relationships with my readers. That’s not always possible because of distance, but the most rewarding thing about writing is the relationships and connections God has brought into my life because of it.

What is your writing schedule like?

Like the “free time” question, I have to say, “What schedule?” I don’t honestly know when I write. I don’t. One book I wrote in the ten minutes that my girls were getting ready for school every morning. I would go back to my room, boot up the laptop and write whatever came to me until they came saying, “Mom, come on. It’s time to go!” And all of my books are like that to some extent. I write when I have time and when I don’t. I let God direct my schedule, and let me tell you, He’s the BEST secretary EVER. He will make the right call come in at the right time or the right promotion or the right idea…. I can’t explain that, but I can tell you it’s true.

For Love Inspired you write for both the regular line and the suspense line. Which one do you like to do the most and why?
(Again this question is not mine so I’ll propose a different one.)
If readers wanted to get a little more taste of your work, how might they do that?

I have a blog that I do through my publishing company at www.spiritlightbooks.com . We do that 4 days a week. But if you’re more interested in the novels, you can read the first three chapters of any of my books at…

http://www.stacistallings.com/Previews.htm

I’m very conscious of the decision to trust a new author with hard earned dollars. I know I’ve gotten books I thought I would love, got them home, and “Meh.” I don’t want anyone to do that with a Staci Stallings book. So you can read the first three chapters. If you don’t care what happens to them by that point, no need to do any more. But I’ve got readers betting that you will just HAVE to know…

Thank you for this opportunity, Margaret! I really appreciate it!

6 Comments

  1. Hi Staci! A few years back I used to be on your mailing list. You would send out a chapter at a time. I was amazed that you were able to write so much.

    The story I remember was about an athlete, I think a basketball player.

    Glad to see you’re still writing, and now even helping others to publish.

    I’d love to read your new release so Margaret, please add me to the drawing.

  2. Hi Staci,

    Your a new to me author. I enjoyed your interview and enjoyed learning more about you. Would love to be entered in the drawing.

    cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. learned of a new author again today. seems like a good one. please enter me in the draw.
    thanks,
    sarahwoll at hotmail dot com

  4. I really enjoyed your interview with Staci. It is always fun to learn about an author that is new to me and one I think sounds very interesting. I like her “growth” of characters she talks about. I think that is what life is all about here. Again, enjoyed this post. Cindi
    jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

  5. Just so you know, you can ALL get a free e-book, “Deep in the Heart” written by me by subscribing to my publishing blog at: http://www.spiritlightbooks.com

    And yes, Patricia, the book you’re referring to is called “Princess,” and he did play basketball. I love that one!

    Staci

  6. WOW!! Twenty-four novels? I love it when God does the work, then He is what shines through. I’ve never read a Staci Stallings book, please enter me. Thanks.
    Pam Williams
    cepjwms at yahoo dot com

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