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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spotlight on Staci Stallings and Reunion

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

STACI STALLINGS is a stay-at-home mom with three kids, a husband, and a writing addiction. She has been featured in God's Way for Mothers; Soul Matters for Teens; From the Heart: Stories of Love and Friendship; and Chicken Soup for the Body and Soul. With her sixth novel coming out in print, four full-length e-novels, and two collections of short stories, Staci's writing addiction has reached epic proportions. She lives in Amarillo, Texas and owns her own publishing company, Spirit Light Books.

REUNION
by Staci Stallings
Published by Spirit Light Publishing

ABOUT THE BOOK

Camille Wright and Jaylon Quinn met in high school and fell in love, but their dreams under the stars took them in two different directions. Now an aerospace engineer, Camille is successful in her career but struggling in life. Jaylon's life had taken him where he never expected to be, and now he's building a life that looks perfect—from the outside. Both remember the love they shared but understand that love once lost hardly ever comes back around…

Ten years later. Lives have changed. Dreams have changed. Or have they?

Buy Your Copy of Reunion today!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

"Reunion" had a strange path into my life. I got the idea for this story in 1999 but didn't start writing it right away (which is odd for me). It played around in my head with faceless characters for nearly three years. That, too, is odd because normally when a book comes this well-defined to me, I've got characters and details and everything. This one didn't. I knew it was about a high school reunion. I knew the main two characters had fallen in love in high school and then lost touch. I knew several pieces, but nothing really concrete formed in my soul around it. Meanwhile, I was busy writing other stories.

Along came "Dreams by Starlight." This story was one I'd had a dream about. The dream scene is featured in that book as Camille Wright stands on an empty stage in an empty auditorium, repeating lines she has long-ago memorized—only the point of view was not her but someone who had happened to walk in before school and saw her up there. That someone became Jaylon Quinn, Camille's love interest in "Dreams." The end of "Dreams" has had several readers in spasms because they have to find out what happened to the characters because "Dreams" ends with them deciding to follow their separate dreams even though they really care about each other.

Shortly after finishing "Dreams," all of a sudden "Reunion" came on full-force. I knew the characters, I could see them in the story, all the details fell into place. It was written in under six weeks. That's how I got the inspiration for "Reunion."

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that are theirs and theirs alone?

This book and the one before are probably some of the closest characters to me I've ever written. Camille is a studious bookworm who keeps her nose in books so she doesn't have to make too many friends or put herself out there too much. That was a lot my experience in high school. Because our school was so small and I enjoyed doing a lot of things, I was not someone who melted into the woodwork very easily. But in a bigger school, like Camille goes to, I totally would have. What Camille learns in "Dreams" and fully steps into in "Reunion" is to not apologize for who you are. Be who God made you to be. Others are naturally attracted to that. Camille is the part of me that writes my books—perfectly happy sitting at home, out of the limelight, using, but in a way, hiding my gifts and talents.

Jaylon Quinn is the part of me that publicizes my books. In truth, he's more an image than a person. He's the flashy guy who all the guys want to be and all the girls want to date—at least on the outside. On the inside is a very different story. He's been hurt by the loss of very close loved ones, and he even leads something of a parallel life to his at school image. Camille really forces him to stop trying to be someone he's not and start learning to be himself—which is a really cool person but not in a limelight kind of way. I think that's the person I am when I'm out doing signings and events. I try not to do that, but it's hard. The natural inclination is to "be impressive." Learning to be yourself and letting people judge that for themselves is really scary.

Each had traits that are theirs alone. Camille likes math. Enough said. Jaylon's family is a mess. His father is overbearing, and Jaylon really buys into the whole "impressive" thing. I don't so much—at least I see the trap and try not to.

3. If one of your characters were an ice cream flavor, what he/she be and why?

Camille would be vanilla. Plain vanilla that's kind of melted. Jaylon would be chocolate-pecan with hot fudge, caramel, nuts, whipped cream, and two cherries… yeah, he's THAT good.

4. Are there any themes in Reunion that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

BE YOURSELF. If you don’t know how, learn to be yourself. And never apologize for it or try to change because someone else thinks the real you is not good enough.

Actually this book and "Dreams" have inspired many people to go for dreams they thought were out of their reach or long gone. My good friend tells me every time the topic of one of these books comes up: "Those should be mandatory reading in every high school. I wish someone had told me that when I was growing up. It would have made so much difference."

5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

The most difficult part to write was actually not finished (though the book was) for about five years. The day I wrote it the first time, something had happened to me personally that just threw me under the table and threatened to keep me there. I had given my all to a project that wasn't even mine to help two people I really cared about out, and instead of getting any thanks, they first said I didn't do it right and then they said it wasn't a big deal anyway. I was SO MAD and FRUSTRATED because (Alert: recurring theme in my life to that point!): "I can never do enough to make them happy! No matter how much I do, they always want MORE!"

I remember that night I typed out my frustrations to a young friend of mine at midnight, and she, at the age of 15, came back the next morning with some of the most profound wisdom I've ever heard. "If someone requires you to be something other than who you really are in order to love you, they don't really love you at all. The people who really love you will love you no matter what you ever accomplish, and anything you accomplish can never add to their love because they already love you totally."

The gist of the conversation centered on the fact that the people who really love you, love you no matter what. If they don't, the love is not real in the first place. They will never be 'impressed" into loving you, and nothing you do can ever make them love you more.

That day I sat down and wrote that scene so fast that for five years it frustrated me because it was so abbreviated that I couldn't see the characters in the scene, I could just hear her words to me, and I wasn't sure it translated right. The words were right, but the emotional and physical layers were not there. When I got into understanding layers in writing, that was when that scene finally came together.

My favorite scene might be my favorite in all of my books. It literally makes me smile and melt when I think about it. It takes place on a bridge (thus the cover), and it has a very Cinderella feel to it, though it has no outright references or implications to that story. In that scene for the first time since they’ve been apart, Jaylon and Camille really connect again. Jaylon remembers how to make others important, and Camille remembers how to be honest about who she really is and knows once again that who she is, is okay.

6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

Oh, boy! The next story will be out sometime in the first four months of '09 if God can find a place to put it on my schedule. This one is so intense, it will leave you breathless places. The book is called "To Protect & Serve," and it's about fire fighters who put their lives on the line, and the women they leave every day to protect us. Because fire fighting is something I've never really done (I'm terrified of fire, ironically), I did a lot of research and then sent the entire book to a friend of mine who is a professional fire fighter. He called me one night demanding to know how I could've been so crazy as to go to fires! (He's a little on the over-protective side.) When I assured him I hadn't, he couldn't believe it. "I don't know how you go it so real. It's like I was right there in those fires, in those situations. I don't know how you could write it that real without ever having been there."

Trust me, my readers will not be disappointed!

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Thank you, Staci, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Reunion.

If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname dot.com/net). Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

And if you want to make certain you don't miss anything, check the box that says 'email follow-up comments to:' when you leave a comment and they'll be sent to the email address associated with your blogging account. That way you'll be notified of any comments and will know when I announce the winner.

This week, the contest is open to anyone worldwide.

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14 comments:

windycindy said...

Sounds like a cute story with a meaning behind it! Please add my name in your drawing. I appreciate it!
Thanks, Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

Ruth Dell said...

What an interesting tale behind your book, Staci, I was fascinated.

Please enter me in the drawing and thank you for opening this competition worldwide.

Best wishes

Ruth Dell
ruthdell[at]mweb[dot]co[dot]za

Carole said...

I would definitely like to read Reunion - and what a beautiful cover! Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

quiltingreader said...

Sounds like a great book.

13rubberducks [at] gmail.com

Staci Stallings said...

Hi, everyone! It's definitely a great book. My daughter's teacher just read it, and she told me she picked it up before going to school to read a few pages and then was almost late to school! haha. I love my readers--they come up with the funniest stories about reading!

Dennis said...

I have read it, and it is one of my favorites so far. Of course, I have a real soft spot for Staci stories even though our writing styles are nothing alike. Our themes, on the other hand are so similar sometimes it's scary. The next one is awesome also. Read it too. Staci has helped my writing so much that I can't say enough about her stories.

Dennis Bates

"Under the Burr Oak Tree"
"Sharon's Song"

Debra Ullrick said...

Fabulous story. I've read almost all of Staci's stories and each one is fresh and unique. Each one has a tangible lesson. As I said on another blog, Dreams By Starlight, Reunion, The Price of Silence, and Princess should all be mandatory junior high and high school material.

You don't have to add my name to the drawing because I've already read it. Let someone else have a chance. I just wanted to stop by and tell everyone how amazing Reunion and Staci's other stories are.

Debra Ullrick
The Bride Wore Coveralls
Déjà vu Bride
Dixie Hearts
www.debraullrick.com

Cherie J said...

Wonderful spotlight! Would love to be entered in the drawing.

cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

Michelle Sutton said...

I love Staci Stallings's books!

Pamela J said...

Boy, do I IDENTIFY with Camille! I keeptmy nose in books so I didn't have to make too many friends. I've always been myself and not try to be what someone else wants me to be. I actually think that is from staying to myself rather than having many friends. I've never read a book by Staci. Please enter me. Thanks.
Pam W
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

ChristyJan said...

I enjoyed reading this spotlight with Staci and would love to be entered to win a copy of Reunion.

hawkes(at)citlink.net

lisa said...

I love "rekindled" love stories!

Thanks for a chance to win!

ldneuhof at hotmail dot com

Martha A. said...

Please enter me!
martha(at)lclink(dot)com

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

We have a winner from this drawing and that is:

RUTH DELL!

Congratulations! I've emailed you for your mailing information so we can send out your book.

As always, thanks to everyone for your continued support.