It is my very distinct pleasure to welcome acclaimed author Staci Stallings — wife, and stay-at-home mom of three with what she calls “a writing addiction on the side.” Staci has penned no less than 30 works that include Bible studies, young adult romance, historical romance, short non-fiction stories. You are sure to enjoy this fascinating individual.
Tell us about your latest product, Staci.
“Well, it’s not my ‘latest.’ It’s just the one that happens to be a good jumping off place for most people. The book is called ‘Cowboy,’ and although the numbers get a bit confusing, it was the 5th book I finished, the 3rd one I published, and the 1st I put out on Kindle and Nook. This book is like an old friend to me. We’ve traveled many miles together–both literally and figuratively, since I wrote it over ten years ago.
“‘Cowboy’ is the story of Beth, a waitress in a little run-down diner on the edge of nowhere. She’s raising her young daughter alone because of a tragic accident that killed her husband. One night she’s called in to work, and needing the money, she goes in. During her shift, a stranger comes in. Beth quickly realizes the guy is in trouble, so she gives him some food and a listening ear. Afraid that if he leaves with nothing to hang onto, he might do something stupid, she gives him her telephone number. Honestly, she thinks she will never hear from him again, but when he calls a few nights later, they strike up a conversation and then a friendship. Little does she know that her new friend is Country Music’s biggest star.“
What draws you to your genre? Why is this type of story compelling to you?
“Mostly I write Contemporary Christian Romance, but I don’t stay solely in that genre. I also write YA (young adult) romance, historical romance, as well as Bible Studies and short non-fiction collections. I jumped into Contemporary Christian Romance because I’ve always been a romantic at heart — ever since I was a young girl and read the Sweet Dreams romances, and even earlier when my grandma read me Cinderella when I was three and four years-old. There is something that fascinates me about two people finding each other and falling in love.“
What is your writing process? Do you map the entire product out first or do you just let it unfold?
“Chaos! How’s that for an answer?
“I’ve written 30 full-length novels and no two were written in the same way. There is no ‘process’ unless you count listening to God and going when He says to go, and stopping when He says to stop. One of my books was written in just over 3 weeks, and another took 7 years; I’ve been writing on another for nearly 15 years and it’s still not finished.
“In general, I’ve found there really is a season for everything and every book. There is a time for ‘Cowboy’ and a time for ‘Coming Undone,’ a time for ‘The Price of Silence,’ and a time for ‘A Light in the Darkness.’ I never know where I’m going with any of it, but I’ve learned to trust God and let Him work it all out to my good.”
How much of YOU is found in your characters?
“LOL! I stopped trying to do that a LONG time ago!
“Here’s a very small glimpse into my life: I have a husband (who sometimes works out of town), three kids in two different schools — and I volunteer at both schools setting up and running fundraisers. I write and direct the VBS plays at my church every year and I teach Sunday school. I run all of the finances for my husband’s company and mine and the families’ personal finances. I’m Mom in Chief, running everybody everywhere–drum lessons, gymnastics, choir, etc.; we have two very large and well-connected families to keep up with. If that isn’t enough, I’m the founder of an online author group that is very active, I have two blogs with that group and my own personal blog, and in addition to all that, I’m currently revamping my out-dated website. I’m on Twitter and Facebook. Oh, and I do the laundry, dishes, and house cleaning while publishing books and writing new ones.
“What balance? GOD is my balance. Literally. I have learned to rest in Him and let Him work out the details of everything. If I tried to do all of this and schedule it and make it work, I would go crazy within the week. So I don’t. I go when God says Go on a project and I stop when He says stop. I can’t explain how He gets it all to work like He does, but then again, He’s God. He’s good at miracles!“
What breaks you out of a creative slump?
“God saying, ‘Go!’ I might go for a month or more between novel writing sessions and then all of a sudden, God sets a piece into my life and BAM! — 50 pages or more. My biggest issue is being patient enough to wait for the pieces.”
Do you ever censor your writing to avoid offending or displeasing people?
“I have certain ‘lines’ in my own life that I will not cross. Those are the same lines my characters either won’t cross, don’t cross, or know they’ve messed up and need forgiveness when they do cross them. Otherwise, I pretty much put other people’s opinions in God’s hands because I don’t write for them. I write for Him.”
Is there a story you want to tell but avoid because it would be too controversial?
“I do have one story that will probably never see the light of day, because the characters don’t just cross lines, they obliterate them. When I wrote it, I had a very trusted writing partner. I told him about the idea, and that it wouldn’t leave me alone. He told me to just write it even if it was just for me to get it out of my system. He was right. I needed to get it out to be able to go on with other things. But that’s not to say my others are always completely tame. I have characters who deal with alcoholism and suicide, promiscuousness and the death of close loved ones; others deal with recovering from drug abuse, relationship abuse, and family issues that don’t just go away because they want they did.”
How can you write an honest autobiography without offending people who recognize themselves?
“The short bios are pretty easy. I focus on myself and my writing. However, I do have another book that I wrote after my brother’s suicide that again probably will never see the light of day because I don’t want to hurt anyone in the family by bringing up memories that will never go away. I’ve started putting that one out as guest blogs here and there that don’t focus on him or them but more on what I learned throughout his battle with bi-polar. Do I think the whole thing could help? Yes. I just haven’t come to a place of peace that doing so would be more helpful than hurtful.”
How do YOU build or create an effective platform to reach your audience?
“This is one I’m working on with that group I founded, Grace & Faith 4U (http://graceandfaith4u.com). For me, it’s a combination of getting reviews, doing interviews and guest blogs, and connecting with other authors to cross-promote. I haven’t found a single magic bullet yet, but I’m working on one.”
What would be the top thing you would tell aspiring authors?
“Don’t ever let anyone talk you out of being yourself or the calling God’s laid on your heart.
“When I first started writing Christian romance, there was no such thing. I had more people ask, ‘Christian romance? What’s that?!’ Most of the time they would laugh in case I didn’t get the point the first time. But I knew that’s what God was calling me to write whether it made sense to anyone else or not. Later, I knew God was asking me to independently publish my work. Lots of people questioned that, going all the way to criticize and question my commitment to God and His will for my life. What I learned is that the world is ALWAYS going to try to talk you out of doing what God is asking you to do. So take the advice that sets your heart at peace. If what they are saying equals no peace in your soul, don’t do it. Whether that’s changing a scene or your voice or your story to suit them. Rely on GOD and God alone. If He says, ‘Peace,’ go for it. If He doesn’t, all the money and acclaim in the world will never be worth it.”
Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:
Spirit Light Books–The Blog http://spiritlightbooks.wordpress.com/
Facebook Author Page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spirit-Light-Author-Staci-Stallings/266593276699576
Staci’s Bookshelf: http://stacistallings.wordpress.com/
Follow Staci on Twitter @StaciStallings