Marji Laine: Faith~Driven Fiction

. . . Authentic and Intense

Interview with Author, Staci Stallings

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Staci Stallings, author of The Harmony Series books Cowboy and Lucky, is the founder of a group of authors and bloggers who support and promote each other on blogs and social media. A couple of months ago, I “met” Staci and did a character interview about her book Cowboy. The story intrigued me and I soaked it in over a weekend. I’ve since done a review of the delightful book and now Staci is back to share a little about herself.

Staci – Since
second grade, I have always loved to write.
In fact, even before that I loved words.
When I was four, I told 
my grandpa that we had gone to town. I hadn’t
bought anything, but I was “anticipating” getting a ring.  And then when we were playing baseball, I
caught the ball (which in and of itself is a miracle) and I excitedly said,
“I did it! I captured the ball.”
I still get razed about that one.
 
Marji – A wordsmith at heart! I’m so jealous. I fight over every one.
Staci – When
I was 26, I quit teaching to have my first child, and at first, I was
fine.  But going from 100 kids and their
problems every day to one child who slept a lot and a big empty house all day
long by myself quickly got very old. 
 
Marji – I can relate. I did the same, but with my second as an infant and my first in school all day. Lots of time for reflection.
 
Staci – At
first I read, and then I got a book by Anthony Robbins that talked about doing
what you love.  Well, what I loved was
writing and I’d always loved romance.
And since I couldn’t read the romances that were out at the time because
they were just too physical, I started writing my own.
 
Marji – I’m so glad you did. Love romance; don’t like the extraneous details that often get confused with romance! So what is the ultimate purpose of writing for you.
Staci – To
tell as many people as possible that God loves them no matter what. The truth
is these books are no longer “mine” if they ever were.  They are God’s.  And He can do what He wants to with them. 
I
was just sharing with my husband last night that it’s so funny because for 16
years I have written with very few people reading what I wrote.  Oh, I had loyal readers, but for an
indie-author, selling in-print books is really difficult if you can’t get out
and do the book fairs and trade shows. It’s hard to physically take the books
to get them in the hands of readers. The Internet helped, but it was still a
big challenge.  However, that didn’t stop
me from writing. I have 30 finished full-length novels, six Bible Studies, and
literally hundreds of articles. Only now are all of the pieces falling into
place that God has been building my whole life–including all of the website
and marketing work He had me do. That is really interesting to me because if I
was going on my goals, I probably would have quit a long time ago.  Good thing that wasn’t the case!

Marji – So how does Cowboy fit into your goal – besides being an excellent book!

Staci – Cowboy is like an old friend.  In 2001, I put
out a book through a publisher.  They gave
me an editor and a publicist. The editor edited the book to death, and the
publicist seemed to think it was now her duty to run my life. I quickly
realized that was not for me. So with Cowboy two years later, I decided to put
it out myself through my own publishing company. I was told that I had
“grown so much as a writer” even though I wrote the first published
book AFTER Cowboy.  (It’s kind of hard to
grow… backwards!)  So I knew I was on
the right track.
 
Marji – What a great confirmation!
 
Staci – In
2006/2007 God nudged me to enter the script for Cowboy into the Kairos Contest
for uplifting movie screenplays, which I did.
Cowboy placed in the top 34 out of over 500 scripts. Then my kids and
life took over for awhile.  In 2011 when
I decided to go big into Kindle and Nook, Cowboy was the first one I put out,
and it’s still my top-seller.  I love the
story–the down-on-her-luck waitress, Beth, who has such a big heart she helps the
stranger she knows she will never meet again, not realizing that stranger is
America’s biggest country music superstar.  Every time I read it, that book makes me want
to open my heart and be a little kinder to others–not for what I will get out
of it but because everyone, no matter what they look like on the outside, has
hurts they think no one would ever care about. I hope this books inspires
people to start caring about others who are hurting.
 
Marji – It certainly inspired me. And I agree, we’re supposed to do kindness for the sake of others, not what we can benefit. But where did Cowboy come from?
 
Staci – I
had a dream one night.  There is a scene
in the book after the concert when they go out driving.  That was part of the dream. I was trying to
help this guy who was very famous but no one knew how much he was hurting.  That was about all I remember of the
dream.  When I woke up, I started piecing
things together–like why I felt I knew him without knowing him, etc.  Shortly thereafter, I started writing it.
Marji – I loved the way you added songs and titles to Cowboy. The lyrics seem so real. Have you written music before?
Staci – I learned to play guitar in the fifth grade. My dad was taking lessons and I said I wanted to as well.  Because he was working and didn’t have time to practice, I quickly got better than he was. He had his own choir in our church and he needed help–writing chords to songs and playing. So I stepped in. I learned to put chords to songs, and thus, to hear how songs were put together. I think I wrote my first song in about 7th grade.  Since then, I’ve written several for our choir (even though I no longer live in my hometown, I still go back to sing and play when I can).  When I was a junior in high school, I taught myself to play the piano.  I was already playing the clarinet in band.
 
Marji – I can’t play the piano worth a flip and I took 9 years of lessons!
Staci – Well all of that music just kind of combined for these two books.  When I first started writing Cowboy, I didn’t realize I would have to write the music for it.  But when I got to the first song, I was like, “Well, I can’t use someone else’s lyrics. What am I going to do?” So I went in my music room and started writing. I think I wrote about 7 songs (and yes, they are actual songs with music to them) for Cowboy and 3 or 4 for Lucky.
Marji – I’m so impressed! I hope you get the chance to have them published some day! So, what type of research did you need to do for the books? Back stage passes??
Staci – I wish!  No, the most research I did was trying to figure out what the names of the venues Ashton would play as he went to each city would be (and I had to map out a tour schedule, which was interesting). As far as the backstage stuff, that was pretty much in my brain.  I have this “movie screen” in my brain that I can push “play” on and it shows me the movie.  It’s been doing that since I was VERY young. I always thought everyone could do that. I mean, how does anyone else ever get to sleep without it?  But that’s what I do.  I sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, push play, and whatever it shows me is what I type.
 
Marji – You mean everyone’s brain doesn’t work like that? Lol!
 
Staci – The amazing thing is, on this one, I got the chance after it was written and before it was published to make that drive–the one Ashton makes in the rain, and there was only one tiny difference in what I wrote and what was there.  The Exit goes down off of I-70 instead of up like I had written.  Weird. I know because I’d never actually been there before…
Marji – Since Ashton is a CMA star in Cowboy, I’m assuming you’re a country music fan, but what other types of music do you listen to? Is there anything special that you listen to while you write?
Staci – Mostly now I listen to Christian music.  Love Chris Tomlin and Matt Maher.  
 
Marji – Oh, Me too!
 
Staci – When I write, I actually make a soundtrack for each book.  For example, I have a book called, “If You Believed in Love.” The soundtrack for that one was very “New York” because that’s where it was set.  For “Lucky,” I had a lot of Keith Urban songs on loop because Kalin’s music is the type that Keith plays.  For “A Light in the Darkness,” I had a lot of haunting type music playing because that was a very dark story for most of it.  I can’t explain how I find the music I find (other than God sends it to me), but I always find a song or six that fit the story and the mood of the story.  Like the one I’m working on now. I took my kids to see Dolphin Tale, and the song at the end was PERFECT for this story.  So I went home figuring it was on the soundtrack. It was not, so I searched and asked and searched some more. Finally a friend of mine posted, “Isn’t it called Safe by Westlife?”  Sure enough, that’s the song, and it’s become the theme song for this new book.
Marji – Music can so affect the mood of a book as the author writes. And speaking of the writing, what is story-turning line from Cowboy, setting the tone or summing something up?

Staci – “You’ll never guess who’s coming to
Denver!”  It’s the opening line of
the book, and every time I read it, I just get the excitement from Lynn (Beth’s
best friend).  And it’s so funny to me
how that one line changes everything in Beth’s life although she won’t know it
for like two months.

Marji – So let me guess, you lounge around in pajamas, eating chocolate all day as you dally with writing projects here and there? No?
Staci – Well …
my regular life is pretty much chaos ordered only by God. I have three kids in two
different schools and a husband with his own business that I keep all the books
for. I have my own business. I’m now the founder of an author’s group online
which is a VERY busy group. I have my own blog and two blogs for the
group.  I’m doing interviews, reviews,
and guest blogs for those. I’m also doing interviews, reviews, and guest blogs
for myself. I’m on Twitter and Facebook, connecting and keeping up with friends
there.  I have two very large and
well-connected families who get together for birthdays and anniversaries, etc.  I volunteer at both of my kids’ schools, I teach
Sunday School, and I’m the director for the VBS plays in the summer.  So, honestly, I have no idea where I find
time to write. I just know I do–in snippets of time around doing laundry and
dishes and vacuuming and doing the finances …
 
Marji – Oh my gosh! I mean I knew you didn’t sit around all day, of course, but my goodness! When do you breath? I’m so flattered that you were willing to share some of your valuable time with us!
 
Staci – Thanks so much for having me!  This has been a lot of fun!
 
Find Staci on Facebook and follow her on Twitter!
Your turn! Whose your favorite celebrity right now? And if you were talking to them, what would you want to know? 
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Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a homeschooling mom with teenage twins left in the nest. She spends her days transporting to and from volleyball, teaching writing classes at a local coop, and directing the children’s music program at her church. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Author, Staci Stallings

  1. LOL! That's a hoot. It's also my favorite part of preparation for stories! My current story has Isla Fischer and David Beckham.

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  2. Right now my new hero is Jake Gyllendaal. So I get to research pics of him. I have such a difficult job… 🙂

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