Friday, September 13, 2013

An interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams

Note from Alexis: Who would have thought that only two years after discovering one of my favorite books, I would have the opportunity to interview its author? Stacy Hawkins Adams is an author/columnist/speaker with a background in Journalism and a heart for touching people through her words. 

Without further ado, here’s the interview:

Alexis: Stacy, I am so honored to be able to interview you for my blog! Two years ago when I first picked up your book (Worth A Thousand Words) from the Christian fiction shelves at Barnes & Noble, I had no idea that I would, in the future, have the opportunity to talk with you and write an interview for my blog, “God is Love”! Tell me, how does it feel for you as a published author who has done many book signings, to connect with your readers?

Stacy: Well, first of all, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m really honored that you’ve read my work and that you patiently pursued me because I know I had a couple of deadlines that preceded our interview.

But for me, I guess connecting with my readers is so exciting. The exciting part is I love hearing firsthand how a particular reader has been impacted or has enjoyed a book or several books. It means a lot to know that my writing is making a difference. And then I guess I’m humbled because a lot of times, readers will tell me that the book did not just entertain them, but it changed them for the better so that really reminds me that I’m a vessel for the written word and that inspires me.

Alexis: So I see that you are not only an author, but a columnist and speaker. Tell me about how you got started and which you were first (author, columnist or speaker). Please tell me about the journey.

Stacy: Well, I would say columnist first. I’m one of those writers who knew as a child that I loved writing and wanted to one day write books and when I started researching careers, I discovered Journalism and decided to have a steady career. I worked in the newspaper industry for about 14 years. I spent my last six years working at the daily newspaper here in Richmond, Va.
Around early 2000 I started working on my first novel, because while I loved journalism, I still had this desire to write fiction, to write creatively.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your background. Tell me about your family, heritage and your history.

Stacy: I grew up in Arkansas in a town called Pine Bluff and I knew from about age five or six years that I loved writing. When I learned how to read, I developed a deep love for writing and everyone in my family recognized it and championed me. My teachers cheered me on…All these people along my journey inspired me as a writer, telling me I could do it, really receiving what I wrote well, so I could even see as a child the impact that my words had on people.

I went on to Jackson State University and received a full scholarship there. I majored in Mass Communications and minored in Political Science. I was the Editor-in-Chief of the campus newspaper there for two years before I graduated.

I really loved Journalism and was sure that I had chosen the right path, which I had for that season, but about five years into it, that’s kind of when I started getting the bug to return to writing the fiction in addition to writing the nonfiction. I started talking about writing my first novel. But it took me about three years to actually get it finished.

My work as a journalist actually opened the door for me to get my first book published. I remember like it was yesterday I had written the third draft of my first novel, but the agent who was tentatively interested still thought it wasn’t ready. So I put the manuscript on a shelf in my closet and issued this challenge to God that if he wanted it to be published, to let me know. So I had done the work and then I had set it aside and surrendered it to Him and in His own time, in His time, He brought it back to life. In February 2003 I received a call from an acquisitions editor who had connected with a woman I had previously featured in my newspaper column. He wanted me to help her write a book proposal, and also offered to look at anything I had written.

Alexis: How did you get a literary agent? What advice do you have for aspiring writers who want to be published authors?

Stacy: I was extremely fortunate that I had the book deal first, which made it easier to land an agent. However, I encourage most aspiring authors to get the latest edition of the Writers Market Guide— they publish one every year—research the different genres and find the agent for the genre that you’re interested in. At this point, you can Google them, you can get on their Twitter feeds, you can find out if they have blogs and Facebook pages and kind of follow them and see what they’re saying to their audiences and make sure that this is a person you’d want to represent (your work).

E-mailing and querying— I don’t say not to do that, I think that sometimes that is the best route, but if you can attend a writer’s conference where the agent you’re interested in will be presenting, or begin communicating with them online, that gives you a personal connection that always helps.

Alexis: What year did you creative writing career begin?

Stacy: My first novel was published in 2004.

Alexis: As a writer, what’s your greatest challenge?

Stacy: One of the challenges is making sure I keep the writing priority, that I put it on my schedule and that I honor the time and the second thing is to find ways to avoid distraction. You have to really prioritize and I tell myself this, When I do this I’m doing it for a season, so I call it going into my “writer’s cave” and all my friends and family know when I’m going into my writer’s cave so they know I probably won’t be calling or seeing them much for a period of time.

Alexis: Who’s your publisher?

Stacy: I’ve been published by two different companies. My first publisher was Revell Books, which is part of Baker Publishing Group. They published my first five books, and then my last four books have been published by Zondervan which is a division of HarperCollins. So I have written 8 novels and one nonfiction, spiritual devotional book. My first book was called Speak to My Heart and I developed a speech around that called “Who Speaks to Your Heart?”

Alexis: How did you prepare for that (opening the door and to hear God clearly)?

Stacy: I don’t think there’s a one-time preparation process for learning to hear God clearly. It is ongoing, and ebbs and flows based on how our relationship with God sometimes ebbs and flows – if we get too busy to pray, or for some reason pull away from God, maybe we won’t hear Him as clearly as we once did – just like with any relationship. I think it’s a process and when we do take the time to meditate and study the Word, we hear Him. Sometimes we do have to sit quietly and they’ll be a quiet thought that He drops into our spirit. Sometimes there’s a question to ponder or an answer we’re seeking and it will come from another person—someone will say just the right thing—and you think, “How did that person know I needed to hear that?” Or you’ll hear a song, or it’ll be a book you read or you open the Bible and you’ll land on just the Scripture you need to read…He speaks to us in different ways but if we’re not open to that, and we’re not ready for it, we don’t always recognize that it’s Him speaking.

Alexis: You’ve said that like me, your need to write is as strong as your need to breathe. Tell me more of what that means to you.

Stacy: Writing is such a huge part of who I am, it's the thing that gives me life. If I weren’t able to write, I’d feel like a limb was missing almost because that’s just the way I communicate best with people. I know it’s a gift because I see the impact that it has on other people. So for me, not being able to write would be like not having that gift of touching other people.

Alexis: Your characters sometimes struggle with their faith and face situations that challenge their faith in God. As a creative writer, I’m sure you know the rule of creative fiction is to “write what you know”. Have any of your characters’ stories been inspired by your own life experience?

Stacy: No. And people ask me that all the time. People think I’m every one of my characters—they think I’m Rachelle, they think I’m Indigo—I think probably a little bit of me is in each character, probably a seed of me is in every character that I write. For me, because I started out writing an inspirational newspaper column first…it was inspiring to hear from readers saying, “I don’t even go to church but I’m reading your column.” It helped me figure out that I wanted to speak to that person in my books – the person unsure of the role faith should play in his or her life, or the person angry with God, or who thinks you have to be perfect to be a Christian. That’s my ministry as a novelist. And when I’m writing my novels, I have at least one character struggling with faith and one character who deeply believes, but there’s a question like, “Wait a minute God, where are you in this?”

I feel like a lot of people reading my column when I worked for the daily newspaper, even though they didn’t want to do the “church thing” or the “God thing”, they were searching for Him in their own way, and I think a lot of people are in that place in their lives even today.

Alexis: Remembering all of the books you’ve written thus far, do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why are they your favorite?

Stacy: I think I love all of my characters so it’s hard to say if I have a favorite character. But I think my favorite book has been Watercolored Pearls which was published in 2007. I wrote the draft for that book in three weeks and that book is really about these women who are striving, striving, striving to do everything right and finally this older woman sits them down and says, “You know what? You’re okay right where you are. You’re going to be fine. You’ve got to work through these challenges because you’re going to be a pearl at the end of this journey.”

Alexis: Do you feel God speaks to you through your writing?

Stacy: I think He definitely speaks through my writing. 
I try to make myself open so he can speak through my writing and then there are times when I will go back and read something I’ve written and then He’s speaking to me.

Alexis: What would you say to someone who is about to give up on their dreams? When they’re at that place when they’re like, “Yeah, this is my dream but these are my practical needs—I’ve got to pay my bills and support my family.”

Stacy: I would say that life comes in seasons and in some seasons we have to surrender our dreams…Sometimes we have to surrender our dreams but that doesn’t mean that we stop praying about it, we never stop looking for avenues to revise and get back on the path. If there’s a desperate dream in your heart, and it’s good and purposeful, then God planted it there for a reason. Sometimes the things we want most can be the most challenging to obtain. But then when we do receive it, the challenges make us cherish it even more.

Alexis: Okay, we’re almost done! Thanks for your patience in this interview process. As we close this interview, I’d like for you to complete the following fragments (Words by Alexis in bold font, words by Stacy not in bold):

My greatest hope is that my life and my writing encourage everyone else to walk in hope and joy and faith and live their dreams.

My biggest fear is that I will not live a life that is pleasing to God. No one is perfect, but I want to be called a woman after God’s own heart, just as David in the Bible was called a man’s after God’s own heart.

My quietest dreams are simple and pure, and ones that I savor between me and God, since He is in divine control. I leave it to Him to decide whether they should become reality. When He brings them to pass, my responsibility then is to share the testimony!

As an author, I want my readers to laugh, cry and grow with my characters.

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Author biography: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, freelance columnist and inspirational speaker. Her eight nationally-published women's fiction novels and one nonfiction book entertain and transform readers with plots and themes that highlight matters of faith, personal growth, and relevant social issues. 

Stacy’s most recent novels include Coming Home, a Library of Virginia fiction award nominee and a 2012 Target stores “Recommended Read,” and Lead Me Home, which was released in July 2013.

Stacy, a former staff writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, currently pens a freelance parenting column for the newspaper twice a month. She regularly speaks to corporate, civic and faith-based groups about purpose and relevance, and occasionally teaches writing classes at the University of Richmond and through book coaching teleseminars via www.AuthorInYou.com.

To learn more about Stacy or read excerpts of her books, visit www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, www.Facebook.com/BooksByStacy, or www.Twitter.com/SHAdams.

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