Thursday, May 24, 2012

Interview with Staci Stallings

What kind of research did you do for To Protect & Serve?

This one I actually went to a fire station to interview the fire fighters (rough job, I know! ;). That was quite fun. They showed me everything on the truck, walked me through how they would go about fighting different types of fires, and showed me all of their turnout gear.

How did you come up with the plot for To Protect & Serve,

God did. I had no intention of writing this one. I was working on a different story, and when I write, I make a soundtrack and I get pictures from the 'net of my characters. One of the characters in the other book was a guy in a 90's boy band. A friend of mine had recently gotten interested in how I write the books, and so I was showing her all of this. She promptly "fell in love" with one of the other guys in the band!

Then she wouldn't leave me alone saying she wanted me to write his story. Finally, one day, kind of sarcastically, I asked, "Fine. God, if I was going to write his story, what would it be?" And "To Protect & Serve" fell into my lap.

Share a brief blurb about the book.

Houston firefighter, Jeff Taylor is a fireman's fireman. No situation is too dangerous to keep him sidelined if lives are on the line. However, when control freak Lisa Matheson falls for him, she quickly realizes she can't control Jeff or the death wish he seems to have...

What role have your life experiences played in the characters and/or the situations you develop in your books?

I think prior to God getting hold of me and convincing me to relax, I was a lot like Lisa--goal-oriented, success-minded, and focused on all of the wrong things. I hope I was a little more flexible than she is, but probably not by much. I really love how she has to finally confront how little control she really has over things. For me, in my life, that was a real turning point, and I think it is for her as well.

Do you see parallels or do you try to avoid using your own personal life as a source of inspiration?

I don't do either. I don't purposely put them in, and I don't purposely leave them out. Sometimes as I'm writing, I see the parallels. Sometimes I just have to write because none of it is in my experience. I can't explain that other than to say I know that God knows where we're going with each story, and I trust Him implicitly to get me there.

What are your own favorite authors? Genres?

John Grisham really opened the floodgates for how to not be constrained in writing. I love his stories because you're in New York with one character and then you're in Atlanta with someone else, and then you're in France... And as you're reading, you're constantly processing the pieces he's showing you. I always say now the first several chapters of every one of my books is just me throwing the pieces on the table. Then I start putting them together. Grisham taught me that.

How has your passion for reading impacted your writing?

When I was teaching high school English, I had to read A LOT. Many things we read were not things I would have chosen on my own--A Tale of Two Cities, A Farewell to Arms, A Doll House. However, I am so thankful for that experience because it broadened my horizons as to what is out there, the thinking of these other authors, their perspectives of the world and of life.

Now I read mostly non-fiction Christian books, and they are the same way. They open up doors in my mind that show me how people are, why they are that way, and how to help them learn to change. I think all of that experience shapes my writing into something deeper and more profound than just telling a good story.

Describe how you write a book – with your other responsibilities, does it tend to be something you work into your every day, or do you have to “set apart” time to write with open, undesignated blocks of time?

Well, I've now written 31 full-length novels, and no two of them have been written the same way. My "process" is however God decides He wants me to do this one. Some I know a lot of the plot going in; some I know next to nothing. Some I write in a month, some it literally takes years. And I never know which will be which.

What I've finally learned is to just relax and let God be God. He is very good at ordering my days which would be utter chaos without Him. I have 3 kids, a husband, a house, and 2 businesses. I do all of the financial stuff for both businesses. I write, edit, publish, and market all of my own books. I also edit for a couple of friends. I'm on Twitter and Facebook. I have my own author's group, "Grace & Faith Authors." I have four active blogs, and I'm redesigning my website. At the moment, I have 16 ebooks out and 7 in-print. I'm working on 3 more in-prints, and four new ebooks. So as you can see, without God, this would never work. With Him, somehow I get all of that done and still have time to write when He lays it on my heart to do so.
What provides your inspirations during that time – i.e. do you go out in nature, do you seek to be in a busy place with people or in a quiet library, etc.?

Again, this is all God. I have gotten inspiration from church, from books, from conversations with friends. It's come via the Internet, the television and the radio; through songs and movies. I have just learned that God speaks to us in a myriad of ways. The question is, are we listening?

How have social networking sites, even including email, etc. impacted your writing? Do you find the internet to be a helpful or harmful resource in research, advertising, reviewing, etc. your books?

In July of 2011, I sold 2 books. The beginning of August that year, I bought a book about ebooks and Internet marketing. By the end of that month, I had 8 ebooks for sale, I was on Twitter and Facebook. I floundered around on those for another two months. Then on October 26, 2011, I read one tweet that changed my life. It was by another author, Karen Baney, and in it she talked about cross-promoting with several other authors. That idea really resonated with me, so I contacted her.

Within 24 hours, Grace & Faith Author Connection was born. Over the next five months, as a growing team we learned how to USE the social media, and now, just six months later, I'm an Amazon #1 Best Selling author. So, yes, I would say the social media has been a very, very helpful resource.

Do you use these tools such as facebook as a means of observing the behavior of others which could be the basis of a character, or are you of the ‘old school’ that relies more on personal relationships and “human” touches?

I love the personal relationship aspect of both Facebook and Twitter. I really wish I had more time to utilize them that way as I have met some wonderful people on both. Right now, however, I use them more for marketing and connecting with others to market than anything.

What is one time that you really went out of your comfort zone --like me going to interview the firemen?


Nikki Arana said...

Staci, I know you write Transformational Fiction. Could you tell a little about that?

Crystal Kelly said...

Awesome interview Staci!!! I enjoyed getting to know a little more about you and your writing process. For all those readers out there TO PROTECT AND SERVE is an awesome read as usual with Staci's book I tend to loose sleep. If you don't have it then grab it you won't be disappointed.

spiritlightbooks said...

@Nikki, I once heard a speaker say that "transform" means to form over a period of time, in other words, it's not something that happens overnight (although it can). Transformational Fiction calls readers to think about their lives in a different way and to consider rethinking parts that are not working as well as they would like. For example, in To Protect & Serve, Lisa is a firebrand, success-hungry lady. She takes no prisoners and lets no one get very close. And she is very lonely. She knows things aren't working for her the way she would like them to, and she can't figure out why. I was Lisa at one point, and this book is what I have learned that will get you out of that trap -- in story form that you can sit and read and enjoy. :)

spiritlightbooks said...

Thanks Crystal! (Now get some rest. You want to be ready when the sequel "White Knight" comes out in July! :)