Sunday, December 4, 2011

Interview with Staci Stallings

Tell us about you.
I love stories.  I always have. I think it started when my grandma used to read Cinderella to me at nap time. My love of stories continued into middle school and high school when I found the Sweet Dreams Romance series. Now as a mother of three, wife of a fantastic guy, and an adult, I find myself writing the stories instead of reading them.  Oh, I have other interests too--like playing the guitar and piano, but my first love will always be the stories.

What genre do you write?
Mostly I write Contemporary Christian Romance, but I've recently branched out into doing Bible Studies and non-fiction short story collections. However, my romance novels run the gamut from adult to YA, inspirational, motivational, and full-on Christian.  I don't write one genre.  I write whatever God gives me when He gives it to me.

Tell us about your book.

If You Believed in Love is an Adult Christian Contemporary Romance that weaves God and Jane Austen in the lives of these two people who have been broken by the world. Elizabeth, the heroine, works as an English professor at a community college.  She loves the stories of Jane Austen and her class focuses on that time period.  Jonathon, the hero, has been unwillingly signed up to take the class because his sister fears for his sanity if he stays locked in his little apartment for one more day.  His plan is to show up a couple of times and then drop the class.  But sometimes God has other plans...

What inspired you to write this particular story?
Every so often my husband takes my three kids either skiing or camping and I get a whole movie weekend to myself (there's those stories again!).  This book was born out of one of those weekends.  I watched the new "Pride and Prejudice" with Keira Knightly (I'd never read it nor seen it, but I have a friend who kept bugging me that I just HAD to see it). I liked it the first go-round, but fell in love with it the second time through.  After that, I watched "Martian Child" with John Cusack. That night my mind put the two together in a dream.  When I woke up, "If You Believed in Love" showed up in my life.

What can readers expect when they open your book?  Give us something that isn’t on the book blurb.  (If you’ve listed a few novels above, pick one book.)
I write about broken people who often don't even realize they are broken.  In this instance, Jonathon is extremely bitter toward the world, the universe, and God if there is One, which he's seriously doubts even exists.  Then he runs into this headstrong English teacher who challenges him on his view of the world. At first that really frustrates him.  He can't see the point of the reading, and he's ready to drop the class.  And then Elizabeth begins to open worlds to him that he never imagined.  They discuss life and God and our part in the whole thing that can seem so meaningless but in reality means everything.  Then it gets really deep.

How old were you when you started writing?
Second grade was my first real taste of what writing could do for me.  That year we wrote stories, and I wrote one about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for Christmas.  My teacher wrote, "Wonderful story! You are going to be a writer!"  Now, I adored this teacher, and if she said it, it had to be true! I recently got the chance to see her again. I had sent her my first book, and she read it several times.  When I saw her again, she nearly crushed me in a hug.  :)  I feel very honored to have given her the joy of seeing one of her kids make a real mark on the world because of the spark she lit all those years ago.

Do you stick with one genre, or have you branched out to others?  Which ones?
I write the story God gives me to write.  Sometimes that means suspense (The Price of Silence). Sometimes it's YA (Dreams by Starlight).  Sometimes it's Romance-Drama (Coming Undone). And sometimes I mix and match all of them!  Whatever He gives me, I write.

Where do you get your ideas?
Many of my ideas come from dreams.  Most of the original ideas start there, but many of the sequels are simply natural extensions of where the story has taken me.  In the sequels often we start following different characters who maybe were secondary in the first book(s).  I never know where we're going when I sit down to write an idea out.  One book I started took 7 YEARS to finish.  Then I wrote the two sequels in 3 months!

Who is your greatest inspiration?
Writing-wise, John Grisham.  His writing gave me the permission to write the way I do now. I don't stick with one person's point of view and drill it into the ground.  I like to think of it as laying pieces on the ground.  A piece.  A piece.  A piece.  And at first, you may not see the puzzle I'm building, but then, the pieces begin to come together until all of a sudden you have something really amazing.

What are you reading right now?
I mostly read Christian non-fiction.  So I'm reading "How People Change" and "Being an Instrument in the Hands of God."  I'm fascinated by how life experience brings out our weakness so we can learn not to hide it or be ashamed of it, but give it to God so He can heal us.  Those are the kinds of books I read.

What is your current project?
Right now, I'm working on a novel about a dyslexic writer.  It's been quite a challenge!

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
My work with other writers. I often mentor others--helping them find their own voice and navigate the waters of publishing.  It wasn't anything I started out doing, but I'm a natural teacher.  I "get" how to help someone else learn to do something and learn to do it well.

Now I'm watching that teaching ability manifest itself in helping other Christian writers learn to market on the social media.  I've founded a group of authors "Grace & Faith 4U," and our primary objective is to learn to market ourselves and each other via Twitter and Facebook, etc.  That is the thing I am most honored that God has given me in the writing world--the deep connection of working with others to build their dreams.

Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way?  If so, will you share with us.
One step forward, two steps back.  It's like dancing the girl's part!  Yes.  Setbacks are part of the journey. However, I've learned that setbacks aren't there to hold you back but to help you learn.  Here are some of the things I've learned.  #1 Your voice is important. Never let anyone rewrite your voice. #2 Rights are easier to retain than to get back.  #3 YOU are responsible for your book.  No one will ever know the editor's name.  #4 Be careful burning bridges.  You may have to cross back over them sometime.  #5 Writing is about making friends with other writers and with readers.  Do that, and you will be a success!

Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe in God's timing, and sometimes His timing is different than mine. I used to fight writer's block.  Now I recognize that when I get stopped, there's a reason, and if I let go of having to have it my way, God will send me the exact next piece I need.  Writer's block is about learning to surrender and not force.  Of course, forcing is always what feels most natural, but the more you force, the worse the writer's block will get. Learn to relax.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Breathe.  Put your fingers on the keyboard, and listen to what God tells you to write. Then write that.

What is the best advice you have for other writers?
Be yourself.  Don't try to be anyone else.  Learn from them.  Take their writing advice into consideration, but this is YOUR book... not theirs.

What is more important to you, plot or character?
Character.  Give me a character--even a boring one--and the plot will happen to them because life happens to all of us whether we like it or not.

Are you a panster or a plotter?
Pantser.  I like discovering the book and the characters and learning as I write it.

Preferred POV to write.
I really and truly like both the hero and the heroine. I think they are both fascinating.

Preferred POV to read.
Someone who can teach me something--about people, about myself, or about life.

Tell us 5 random things about you the person not the author.
1) I built my own house with my husband--drew up the plans myself, pulled electrical wiring, the whole thing!
2) I'm super unorganized.  In fact, my desk may avalanche at any moment.
3)  I like 3 Musketeer bars and Milky Ways but I'm not fond of Snickers.
4)  I would rather stay home than go out.
5)  I'm a much better friend than an acquaintance. I like to really get to know people, not just to chit-chat about the weather.

Where can people connect with you online?

What format does your book(s) come in?
7 are in print
11 are in ebook (Kindle and Nook)

Where can people buy your book(s)?

Staci Stallings Bookshelf has all the books (Kindle/Nook/In print):

Thank you for taking part in the Author Interview for Celebrating Authors.

Thank you for having me!