Friday, February 4, 2011

with Staci Stallings

People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?
Before I started writing in 1996, I taught middle school and high school English. Ironic to your question, it was the children coming that first started my writing career. I quit teaching to stay home with them and quickly found life at home extremely boring. For awhile I watched soap operas and read, but both of those got old too. Then one day I thought I would start writing, which was something I had loved before college, teaching, and the kids happened. About twenty pages into my first story, I had a dream one night, and one snippet from that dream was still with me when I woke the next morning. That story became my first full-length novel.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Having enough time to write is by far my biggest obstacle, and the fact is, right now, I don’t really overcome it so much as I live with it. I have three kids in school, a husband, two businesses, and a house and yard to keep. I do all the finances for our family and both businesses. I volunteer at the schools, teach Sunday School, and I also try to keep three blogs going while marketing for current books I have out there, as well as publishing of the new books I put out in print, on Kindle, and on my Spirit Light Works blog. I also edit a couple of other friends’ books when they are on deadline, which means my stuff gets pushed further back.

Writing is a haven for me. It lets me forget the world as it is and imagine the world as it could be. Unfortunately, right now, I get time to write in blocks of sometimes as little as 10 minutes or less spread out sometimes even months apart. Somehow through all of that I’ve managed to accumulate a total of 29 completed full-length novels and two collections of short-story, non-fiction works.

If all of this sounds like chaos to you, yep, you pretty much get the picture!

So your next question is: How do you do it? Doesn’t that make you crazy? Well, yes. It does sometimes, but I have learned a very important lesson that has kept me sane—I’m not in control. God is. If I tried to be in control and get all of this (or any of this) done, I would have given up a long time ago. But about six years ago, God took me by the collar and taught me that relying on myself was a one-way ticket to misery and that I had to surrender and let Him do things through me.

So now obstacles are more just opportunities to remember that I’m not in charge—God is and to breathe and learn to rely on Him even deeper.

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
Uh, boy. Well, here I should mention that I tend not to write like any author would ever suggest to write. At any given time I have between 3 and 7 stories (novels) that I’m writing (yes, at the same time!).

I’m the same way with reading. VERY RARELY do I ever read a book cover-to-cover without reading something else in between those covers. That is even more true since a friend gave me a Kindle. The ability to pull up a different book and read two or three (or six) different books at one time is just too tempting.

So, since I started making healthy living a priority at the end of last year, queued up on my Kindle right now are two books by Chantel Hobbs which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you’re going to stop dieting and start living healthy. “Never Say Diet” and “The One-Day Way.”

I’m also reading “The Winner’s Manual” by a college football coach and “SparkPeople”—both are about healthy living.

I don’t read much fiction beyond what I either write or what I edit for my friends.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
Good question. I think for different reasons the hero and the heroine both interested me in “A Little Piece of Heaven.” In the first book of this series (“A Work in Progress”), Jeremy Straton, the hero of ALPH was a big JERK to the heroine of that one. He had a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Everest, and he didn’t care who he hurt. In fact, it surprised me when the Holy Spirit showed me that HE was going to be my hero for this one. “WHAT?! HIM?!” But the Holy Spirit knows what He’s doing. The thing that really got me about Jeremy in this book was how he really was trying to do things right. It was just that his version of “right” was over-the-top trying to impress everybody and turning them way off in the process. He was a guy in great need of someone with either a lot of patience or a lot of faith or both.

The good thing is he finds just such a person in sweet, kind Emily. Emily also made an appearance in the first book (“A Work in Progress”), where she came off as this very nice, kind of naïve girl. In “A Little Piece of Heaven,” you learn that Emily’s innocence is not so much farce or façade but more hard-fought and won. She didn’t come to it because her life’s been a breeze. She found peace because she turned several very bad life experiences over to God. She’s still struggling with some of them and trying to get it right, but it’s her reliance on faith to show her the next step that I find particularly inspiring.

Further, it is this faith to keep taking the steps God asks her to take even when she doesn’t understand them or want to that ultimately reaches into Jeremy’s life and saves him from the destruction he’s headed toward. To me, that is inspiring because it’s one thing to say you’re going to let God do it, but it’s another to keep believing God knows what He’s doing with someone who is really, really off-track—especially if you have a soft place in your heart for that person and they keep letting you down as they are learning.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Some Kind of Upside-down Surprise—because you never quite know what you’re going to get around me!

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
Well, let’s see. This shouldn’t be too hard since I currently have a six-foot tall, purple gorilla with arms the size of large tree trunks standing in my living room behind my couch. When he showed up at my door, I was at first surprised and then wondered where in the world I would put him, and then after a week or so, he just became one of the family and though I might think about getting rid of him every so often, my kids beg and plead for my mercy not to do so, and I don’t have the heart to pitch him out now.

So, I suppose the purple-polka-dotted monster would surely wind up becoming just one of the family as well. In fact, he could probably come to Christmas just like the purple gorilla did this year—Santa hat and all!

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
Favorite memories all center around my family and in particular my kids. I just love watching them grow up, remembering how far they have come, and seeing how far they are going. My oldest getting here three months early—weighing a whopping 2 pounds and all she struggled through in those early months, and now she’s this beautiful 15-year-old who’s starting to drive and loves photography and making movies for and of her friends. My middle child who’s been a 1,000-watts of love and activity ever since she burst into our world. She’s just so full of life—wanting me to come play football or basketball or volleyball with her in the yard, or maybe it’s wanting me to play a second instrument to her piano, violin, guitar or drums. There’s never a dull moment with her! And then there’s the baby who’s growing into such a handsome, respectful, wonderful young man. He and I have gotten particularly close since first grade last year when he was having a terrible time with reading and spelling. (God really does have an interesting sense of humor.) Lots of time spent sitting on my bedroom floor trying to get him to “get it” only to find out that it was dyslexia holding him back. That began the journey I’m on now with him to both learn to teach him the way he can learn, and to teach him how he can learn the best. But what a joy to see how hard he’s worked, how hard he’s working, and how awesome he’s doing at tackling such a monumental struggle. All of those and more…

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
LAUNDRY! In fact, if you know of any laundry-elves that might be needing employment, please send them my way. I’m drowning in the stuff! And the second the “last load” is done, someone’s gone and worn something else! WHAT were they thinking?!

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I write about spiritual themes constantly, but they are never my choice. Most of the time the Holy Spirit only gives me glimpses and glimmers of the story I’m to write—even while I’m writing it. I think that’s on purpose to keep me honest about relying on Him. If He gave me too much, well, I’d probably try to do it on my own, and that never works out very well. So, He’s pretty good at keeping me humble about MY ability to write anything.

So, themes the Holy Spirit has woven into my books include: trusting God, letting go, forgiveness, mercy and kindness, grace, peace, wisdom, power, second chances, first chances, bravery, giving your all, dreaming, not judging other people, giving others a chance, holding hands with someone who desperately needs that, going to God, going to God, and going to God….

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
The profound lesson of how easy it is when you surrender to Him and just follow and how incredibly hard it is when you try to do it on your own. Last Sunday in my 4th grade Sunday school class, my oldest daughter laid out a path of patterns that the kids had to try to walk on getting every step right on their own. There was a correct pattern, but only my daughter, who was playing Jesus knew it. Now every kid got a chance to try to get this pattern right on their own, but the path went all the way around the room, and there was one spot that was just impossible to figure out. One after another after another was sent back to their seat because they didn’t get the pattern right.

Then I told one child that she could choose someone in the room to help her. “Anyone?” “Anyone.” She chose another classmate. Well, that didn’t help because the classmate didn’t know the path any better than she did. But as they were going around, one of the kids in the seats suddenly looked at me and said, “Wait. Could she have chosen Jesus to lead her?” To which I said, “I said anyone in the room.” Jesus, in the form of my daughter, was standing right there ready to help. All the kids had to do was ask. When the last child stepped up, he chose Jesus to lead him around, and it was awe-inspiring to see the other kids on their own volition get up and start following both of them around!

What a profound lesson for me as I walk through this life. How often do I try to do it on my own, never remembering that Jesus KNOWS the path because He IS the Way? And all I ever have to do is to remember to ask Him to show me the steps I’m supposed to take.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My next book is called “A Little Piece of Heaven.” It is Book 2 in the three-part series called The Faith Series and will start on my Spirit Light Works blog Feb. 3 (I publish 2 chapters of it at a time for free!).

Book 2 picks up where Book 1 (“A Work in Progress”) left off but retrains our focus to different characters. Both of these characters, Jeremy and Emily, were supporting characters in the first one, and from the moment they step on the stage, every reader from “A Work in Progress” will be saying, “THESE TWO? You’re going to put these two together? How is that ever going to work?” I know they will be saying that because that’s what I was saying!

Jeremy lives to impress the world. Success, via the right education and money, is his one-and-only goal. It’s what he’s grown up with and how he’s oriented his life. However, the image of perfect has recently been shattered for him, and he’s not at all sure how to pick up the pieces and go on from here. He’s down, but he’s trying for all the world to make everyone believe he’s not. But that pain is real, and it’s not going away. To make matters worse, Jeremy is four-square-and-ready-to-fight that there is absolutely no need for God anywhere in his life. The fact that his best friend just found God is not a comfort but a challenge and threat to him, and his defenses are up and on the ready against anyone who thinks believing in God is a smart idea.

Emily, on the other hand, knows God, believes in God, and trusts God for every, single step she takes. In fact, she has no intention of ever even questioning that because she knows it was God Who got her through the worst time in her life. Unfortunately, she’s best friends with Jeremy’s best friend’s girlfriend, and so she keeps getting “invited along” just like Jeremy does. The only trouble is that Jeremy is into image and what the world thinks, and Emily knows that’s all a no-win game. So the fact that she starts to like him, and he her, doesn’t make any sense to her at all. How can she like someone who is diametrically opposed to what she believes? Unless maybe he needs someone to show him that being opposed to God is simply a way for him to try not to get hurt again…

To read “A Little Piece of Heaven” (and “A Work in Progress”), go to:
http://stacistallings.wordpress.com/

Both are FREE on my blog, or you can get the Kindle versions (not free) from Amazon.com.

You can read A Little Piece of Heaven from Spirit Light Books.

Staci is giving away a copy of . To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

11 comments:

Linda said...

Oh. My. Goodness. You are BUSY! What a schedule. I believe you when you say God is in control. Love the fact that you have Scriptural themes--I look for them in every book I read. Would love your book.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Meredith said...

She's a busy lady! With so much other stuff going on, I can see how writing became her haven!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

She reads like I do, more than one book
at a time.
I'd like to win this book.
Sunny

Charity U said...

Enter me, please!

karenk said...

please count me in...thanks :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

apple blossom said...

please enter me thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

lgm52 said...

Love the book cover..interesting interview.
lgm52@hotmail.com

Maureen said...

If you get any extra elves..could you send them my way?
Neat read...love the cover.


alekee02[at]yahoo[dot]com

windycindy said...

Lovely book cover and delightful
book premise...
Please count me in!
Many thanks, Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

Jordan said...

Great interview! Looks like a great book!

Jordan
lizzielaura17(at)yahoo(dot)com

Charity U said...

Happy birthday, Jim!

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