Today, I have the pleasure of having Author Stacy Hawkins Adams on my blog. Please welcome Stacy.
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am one of those writers who began creating stories as a child, very soon after I learned to read. Stories have poured out of me since then, and it was my childhood dream to become an author. I wound up starting my career as a newspaper reporter because I wanted a “practical” way to use my writing skills; but eventually, I found my way back to my first love – fiction – and it has been a great journey.
- What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I spend a lot of time attending my son’s athletic events. He will be a senior in high school next year, and he plays varsity football in the fall and runs track in both the winter and spring. In addition, I volunteer in the community and I currently serve on two boards – the YWCA of Richmond and also St. Andrew’s School, which is a small private school that children in the city where I live can attend for free if their parents’ income would otherwise prohibit a private education. I also enjoy spending time with my friends and family, doing routine activities like eating out, going to the movies, bowling or other fun activities.
- Do you have a day job as well?
I do! I left my full-time journalism career in 2006 and begin freelancing for national and local publications in addition to writing books, and I still do this on occasion. However, in my “day job” I served as the Director of Communications for a private school in Richmond, Virginia, and in this role oversees the school’s strategic content, messaging and branding initiatives, with help from a staff of three.
- When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
As I mentioned previously, I started writing as a young child. As I grew older and became more interested in journalism, my creative writing endeavors were placed on the back burner for about a decade. I started trying to pen my first novel in my late 20s and about the fourth or fifth (rewritten) version of that book (“Speak To My Heart”) was finally contracted by a publisher about three years later, in 2004. I worked on that first novel in fits and starts until I finally put myself on a schedule to get up before dawn several mornings a week and write before going to work. I finished that book sometime in early 2003, and through a series of connections related to my then-full-time journalism career, I landed a book deal.
- How did you choose the genre you write in?
I have to honestly say I didn’t choose the genre; the genre chose me. 🙂 I decided to simply write a book featuring characters of color whose experiences reflected those of many of the 20-something African American women and men I knew, and some of those characters just happened to be a person of faith, while others were wrestling with issues related to God. That felt real to me, so that’s what I wrote about. It just so happens (although I don’t believe in coincidences) that Christian fiction was taking off in a big way around that time, and my publisher (Baker Publishing Group) was looking for authors of color to publish. My work, which featured two lead characters struggling with God, was a perfect fit. While I didn’t intentionally set out to write Christian fiction, and I often label my work inspirational fiction instead, so that readers give it a try before writing it off; I don’t shy away from dealing with matters of faith in my book. As a Christian myself, I know that those themes can be rich and entertaining and empowering, so I’m glad I’ve been able to write in this space in a way that also invites readers of all faith backgrounds into the conversation in a more authentic way.
- Where do you get your ideas?
First, I must say, I don’t write about people I know! Lol I shy away from this and instead focus on issues that are universally of interest to women, such as friendship, self-confidence, relationships – romantic and otherwise – and faith, as well as on societal issues that lend themselves to great plots and revelations of truth, such as domestic violence, infidelity, doubting God, disabilities, and more. Reading headlines helps as much as overhearing a juicy conversation in the grocery store line. Lol
- Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes and no! Lol I say yes, because there are times when the words won’t come or the ideas aren’t flowing. But in reality, I know that this is simply me needing to get out of my head and push through to write something – anything – so I’ll have something to clean up and refine later. If I have a deadline , I don’t give in to the “block” – which is also sometimes considered a form of procrastination. I just push through and know that I’ll have to revise or rewrite to make what I’ve “dumped” on the page or computer screen better and ready to be read.
- Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I start with a very loose outline, but allow myself the creative freedom to veer from it a little bit, in order to add some surprise elements to a story or plot. Having some sort of outline helps make sure that I don’t go completely off track with the book’s theme or plot.
- Is there any author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
There are so many authors that I hate to start naming them, for fear that some will be left out, but here are a few that readily come to mind: Maya Angelou, J. California Cooper, Jacqueline Thomas and Anna Quindlen.
- Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I think the biggest challenge was getting it finished! As I mentioned earlier, once I put myself on an early morning writing schedule and stuck to it, I was able to complete the first draft of the manuscript, and that made all of the difference, because from there, I was able to make steady progress, and at the end, I had a complete document to revise. From there, the biggest challenge is landing an agent. My best advice is to get to as many established writing conferences as you can, because that’s where you can register for meetings with editors or agents. Meeting them and being invited to send your manuscript is crucial, in an industry that is crowded with submissions.
- If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
This is a good question! I’m not sure… I think the only thing I would change would be to understand early on the importance of building a good relationship with the marketing department as well as with your editor and agent. If they understand your target audience and you can work with them to build the messaging, it will make the process all the smoother and help you sell more books and connect with more readers. I figured this out quickly and was able to build a great relationship with my first publisher’s marketing team, and it made all the difference.
- How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
This question is hard to answer in this brief space, but my immediate answer would be to focus on building an author brand that authentically reflects who you are and what you want to share with readers. Once you determine how you want to connect with and speak to them, whether through social media or blogging or doing author interviews or all of the above, create a solid plan to do so on a regular basis, knowing that most readers need to hear about or read about your book multiple times before they actually decide to purchase, unless you are an author familiar to them. That’s the beauty of building a brand: Once you have an established following, that makes it easier for them to know what your next book could be about and makes them more willing to give your next book a try.
- Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Thankfully this has not happened! After getting my first book published, I’ve been fortunate enough to have contracts with my publishers to write the others – all except Finding Home, which I self-published in 2016 to learn and understand the independent publishing process.
- Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I don’t have a novel coming out any time soon, because I’ve been on a novel-writing “sabbatical” for the past four years. But with my son now entering his senior year of high school and my preparing for an empty nest, I’m sure another book won’t be too far out on the horizon. In the meantime, I’ve been focusing on my nonfiction writing and mentoring aspiring authors. I maintain a blog at www.LifeUntapped.com and I also have a small book of my original inspirational quotes called Abound being released in late August or early September. So visit my website (StacyHawkinsAdams.com) for details and stay tuned! 🙂
- Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
I have written one nonfiction devotional book that is based on my personal experiences. It is called Who Speaks to Your Heart? Tuning in to Hear God’s Whispers. It’s a memoir-like journey through my growth and maturity in faith and offers encouragement to women readers who are seeking to hear more clearly from God. Other than that, all of my novels are truly fiction and not based on my life or the lives of those I know. Once you open yourself up to brainstorming and exploring all kinds of possibilities for your characters, the ideas will begin to flow!
- What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The hardest part to write is the beginning, because I’m trying to make it compelling, engaging and creative. I’d have to say my favorite chapter is the very last one. Not just because it’s “The End” but also because it’s the place where I can wrap up things for readers enough to give them a sense of satisfaction and in essence, reward them for going on this journey with my characters.
- How did you come up with the title?
I often come up with the titles for my books after fully immersing myself in the themes of each book and what I want readers to take away. The titles somehow speak to something that the characters – and the readers – will learn. For example, my novel “Worth a Thousand Words” means that not only is the main character Indigo’s photography worth a thousand words, so are the truths that she has tucked deep in her heart that she is afraid to share. She learns that the truth is the best way forward, for her and those she loves most.
- What project are you working on now?
As I mentioned above, I’m working a compilation of my original inspirational quotes for a book called Abound. It will be released in late August or early September. Stay tuned!
- How can your readers find you?
Readers can find me on social media by looking up my name – Stacy Hawkins Adams – or my social media handle @stacyinspires:
Facebook.com/Stacyinspires or Stacy Hawkins Adams
They also can visit my website, StacyHawkinsAdams.com or visit my blog,
Thanks again for the interview opportunity, Queenie, and for your patience! Books can be purchased on my website, at the reader’s favorite book retailer and on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/stacystories.