I liked Stacy Juba from the moment I met her — last week, at the public library in Medway, Massachusetts, for an author session set up by the NE branch of Sisters in Crime. What I liked about Stacy was that she said right off the bat that she pursues “whatever story ideas won’t leave her alone.” This has led her to write adult mystery novels, such as Sink or Swim and Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, the children’s picture books The Flag Keeper and the Teddy Bear Town Children’s Bundle (Three Complete Picture Books), and the young adult novels
Face-Off and Dark Before Dawn. She is also the editor of the essay anthology 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror: 52 Authors Look Back.
Vicki Doudera here, with a few questions for this multi-faceted New England author.
Vicki: What inspired you to become a writer and when did you begin writing?
Stacy: I wrote my first story, The Curse of the White Witch, when I was in third grade. By fifth grade, I was writing a mystery series about an amateur sleuth named Cathy Summers. Since I was introverted, writing became a way for me to express myself. I was also an avid reader and became hooked on mystery series such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Writing my own mysteries was a natural progression.
Vicki: Which matters more, plot, character, or something else?
Stacy: I always start with a basic plot or premise and then I brainstorm as to what characters would best fit into this story. I fill out character charts and answer all sorts of questions from my protagonist’s point of view, and I’ll also fill out charts for the most important secondary characters. This gets me past the fear of the blank page and then the characters take over once I get deeper into the book.
Vicki: How are you like/different from your characters?
Stacy: Kris Langley from Twenty-Five Years Ago Today works as a newspaper editorial assistant and is an aspiring reporter. I once had her job, and even used the microfilm to compile a 25 Years Ago Today column like she does. Kris and I are both on the quiet side, but she has a lot of emotional baggage which drives her story. Cassidy from Sink or Swim also has a similar job to one that I once had as she works in a health club and majored in exercise science. I have an exercise science degree and worked briefly in a health club in college. We share an interest in health and we’re both quite ambitious, but Cassidy acts sassier than I do. I would never go on a reality TV show, as she does!
Vicki: How much planning/outlining do you do before you actually write?
Stacy: I do an extensive outline, generally at least 10 typed pages. It’s a road map to keep me on track, but it’s by no means complete. Sometimes I write a scene that I didn’t intend to write and sometimes I realize that I overlooked something and need to fix a plot hole. But I always know what’s going to happen at the end. I tend to revise and edit as I go along and then do a bigger edit at the end.
Vicki: What research do you do, and how much?
Stacy: For Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, I interviewed a police officer about what penalty the killer would face 25 years later. For Sink or Swim, I sat in on a firearms class and even shot on the firing range so that I could give this experience to my character Cassidy. And for Dark Before Dawn, my paranormal teen thriller, I took an on-line class in writing about psychics. I weave in just enough research to make the story authentic.
Vicki: What is currently coming up for you, or what are you working on now?
Stacy: All of my books are now available as audiobooks, or will be in the near future. I’ve been learning the ropes of promoting audiobooks and working with my narrators to finish up the editing process. I’m also writing a romantic comedy for adults and will soon be working on Offsides, the sequel to my young adult hockey novel Face-Off.
Vicki: How much promotion do you do? Describe your “typical” week or month?
Stacy: A typical week depends on the book I’m promoting the most at the moment. For example, I’ve been doing a #WhoKilledDianaFerguson campaign for my book Twenty-Five Years Ago Today which involved a series of paid ads, blog posts, and a great deal of social networking. I was on Twitter, Facebook, and working on blog posts for hours and hours in March. The campaign led to the book hitting #5 on Nook and #30 on Kindle, and making two GalleyCat bestseller lists, so it was worth the hard work. I’ll promote certain books at certain times of year – for example I’ll do a lot of tweeting for my patriotic kids book The Flag Keeper between May and July 4th as it’s a great book for Flag Day and Independence Day, and I’ll use hashtags such as #militaryfamily #Flags and #FlagDay.