Kristi Stalder is an author, book coach, wife, and mom of three. She lives and works out of her home in the little farm town of Tonasket, Washington. She is author of the Amazon-bestselling guide, Navigating Assisted Living: The Transition into Senior Living, and her beautifully illustrated children’s book, I Love You More. Most recently, she helped a ministry team of twelve women publish their first book, Transfigured: Scrolls from Heaven, as their book coach, editor, and publisher. Kristi is a member of local writing groups and a regular participant—and official content contributor—to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a nonprofit community that helps aspiring authors write and get published. She is a senior expert, content editor, and contributor for the online magazine, Pensions Week. Kristi continues to grow her business and is developing a mini-series of online writing workshops, launching in 2021.
Interview with Kristi Stalder
TTJ: How long have you been writing?
Kristi: I’ve been writing since the 4th grade when I completed my first sloppy, hand-written, 10-page-story called ”The Christmas Horse.” I began taking my writing seriously in 2011. I wrote my first complete fiction manuscript during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I officially quit my job and became a full-time author in 2017.
TTJ: What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
Kristi: If you’re writing fiction, I have two essential pieces of advice for new writers. The first, is that every project should begin with an outline. In the same sense that you can’t build a house without a blueprint, you’ve got to have a clear direction where you want your story to go. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and avoid a lot of frustration. The second piece of advice is one that I’d learned fairly recently, and it’s been a game-changer for me, and that is to write in scenes, not chapters. This is because a story is broken into parts with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s much easier to figure out how many scenes are needed for each part to move the story along. I highly recommend reading The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne, which explains this in greater detail.
TTJ: How do you handle writer’s block?
Kristi: The best way to beat writer’s block is to write a dialogue scene. It can be anything at all; an argument about the correct way to pronounce a word, or if Coca-Cola is better than Pepsi, or a conversation about what your characters want for dinner. I’ve discovered that this trick will get my mind immersed in my story’s world, and I’ll begin to visualize facial expressions, body language, and the tone. Once I’m in my character’s head, I can take him or her wherever the story needs to go!
TTJ: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Kristi: Good writing must have a combination of narrative drive to push the story along, well-rounded and relatable characters with flaws, and, most importantly, conflict with high stakes. If your character is stuck in a tree, you must set the tree on fire and place seven hungry lions at the bottom. With lasers. And a tornado heading that way. Also, the ground is lava. You get my drift!
TTJ: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Kristi: In the beginning, I never considered giving myself the title of a ”writer” because I used to believe it was only for those who published a book. It wasn’t until I completed my first fiction manuscript that I embraced the notion; I’m just a dreamer who creates worlds and characters, and that means I’m a writer!
TTJ: Describe your writing space.
Kristi: I have an odd obsession with aesthetic desk decor, and so my office is beautifully decorated with marbled surfaces, rose gold accessories, books, and twinkle lights. It’s my favorite place to be in the whole house! By creating a comfortable space, we enter a state of tranquility, allowing our minds to slip into a dream-like state where we can write peacefully.
TTJ: How do you handle literary criticism?
Kristi: Oof. It’s hard! There’s no way to soften the blow of the first 1-star-review. Nearly one year after my book had been out and I’d been getting 5-star-reviews, I saw that a customer had given me a 1-star rating without leaving any feedback. It felt like a punch to the gut and, I’m not gonna lie, I sulked for a bit. As writers, we are putting our hearts on our sleeves, but we must condition our minds to accept that not everyone will like our work. No matter how hard we try, we can never please everyone. Now, I view negative feedback as opportunities to grow and improve my craft!
TTJ: What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?
Kristi: My least favorite part was, and is, editing. It’s fun to write the first draft and to celebrate the victory of completing it, but the real work begins when it’s time to edit and revise, and revise again...and again...and again. My favorite part? I’d say that finalizing the cover design, uploading the files to KDP, and clicking that button that says ”publish your paperback” was nothing short of euphoric. Opening the Amazon package containing my published book was the most thrilling and emotional part of the journey.
TTJ: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
Kristi: I have several projects in the pipeline, and I’m not sure which one I’m more excited about! I’ve got plans to publish my second children’s book, When the Last Leaf Falls, my adventure-fiction novel, Wrath, and my (yet-to-be-announced!) self-development book, The Success Challenge.
TTJ: What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? And why?
Kristi: It stems back to the years when I was reading under my covers with a flashlight until my eyes burned. I can honestly say that I’ve read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe series by CS Lewis about 5 times, and Harry Potter at least 6 times. Louis Sachar, who wrote Wayside School is Falling Down, has been another all-time-favorite, specifically for the uniqueness of the storyline. I remember getting lost in those worlds, and they’ve always stuck with me. More recently, I’d discovered a love for paranormal romance after getting lost in Gena Showalter’s dreamy characters, and Jennifer Armentrout’s frustrating ability to leave me with an ache in my heart. The author’s ability to tap into a reader’s emotions is what drives me to create stories and characters that feel so real and almost tangible.
TTJ: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
Kristi: After I wrote and published my first book, I was surprised to find that the publishing process wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. With the click of a button on the computer, I had transitioned from a writer to a published author! Of course, there was a lot that went into it, but I had navigated the publishing process fairly quickly and easily. The next surprise came after I realized the amount of work that goes into marketing the book...it’s arguably just as challenging as writing the darn thing.
TTJ: How do you come up with the titles to your books?
Kristi: I put a lot of thought into the titles of my books. It’s like picking out a name for my child! The book title must have several elements, all of which have a depth to the meaning. For example, my book Wrath got its title from the destructive behavior of the protagonist and antagonist, of which they can ultimately lose everything by feeding this emotion. If a title resonates with a potential reader, they’d be compelled to pick it up for a closer look.
TTJ: How do you do research for your books?
Kristi: It depends on which genre I’m writing, and if it’s fiction, then I begin with the setting. It’s often overlooked, and settings are vital for providing opportunities for conflict and personal tragedy and growth. I use Google to research locations and study the demographic details while taking notes in my Book Binder (1” binder with dividers to log my story details.) Character creation is done in a similar fashion; it’s helpful to look at an image of a celebrity or influencer and describe what the person looks like. All notes are documented and organized in my Book Binder so I can remain consistent while writing my manuscript.
TTJ: Do you have a favorite character that you have written?
Kristi: In Wrath, my protagonist, Wes, and his best friend, Beau, are my favorites. Wes had been dealt a terrible hand since he lost his mom, so he was forced to grow up faster than normal, but he views life with a dark sense of humor. He has a lot to learn, and he struggles with anger issues, so his decisions get him into trouble a lot. Beau is such a loyal friend! He’s a critical-thinker, so he’s always finding creative ways to get them out of trouble. He’s got his own set of faults, and it’s fun to write out scenes where they both work through their struggles.
TTJ: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Kristi: I hope that the takeaway will be a different perspective into handling situations out of their control, and self-discovery to find that spark of adventure. The legendary lost treasure of Atahualpa is still out there...maybe one of my readers will be inspired to go on an expedition and find it (and toss me a gold coin or two if they succeed!)
TTJ: Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
Kristi: I had been scrolling through Facebook a couple of years ago, and I came across the image mockup by a cover designer. She had been advertising some of her available covers, and when I saw this one, I swear I stopped breathing. I sent her a message claiming it as my own, she sent me an invoice through PayPal, and I received the downloadable files in my email.
TTJ: What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?
Kristi: It’s quite possible there may be a sequel. Without revealing too much, some loose ends need to be tied, and some of the characters have more growth to experience.
TTJ: Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?
Kristi: I listen to music when I write all the time. I can listen to the ”chillstep” artist, Blackmill, on repeat for hours. I also listen to scores by the movie music composer, Hans Zimmer. The theatrical sounds of Hans Zimmer most definitely inspire Wrath!
TTJ: If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
Kristi: Theo James as Wes, and Dylan O’Brien as Beau. (This question took me 0.003 seconds to answer! Ha!)
TTJ: What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
Kristi: This book is centered around a historical event in the 1500s when the last Inca Emperor was executed by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. The biggest challenge was translating historical documents and maps because they were all in Spanish! It was also a fun challenge...translating and discovering significant meanings made it more interesting.