Q&A With Stacy Willingham

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Q&A With Stacy Willingham 

This afternoon I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with New York Times Bestselling author Stacy Willingham. Stacy is the author of “A Flicker in the Dark,” and her second novel “All The Dangerous Things,” comes out January 10th of 2023. 


Q: So Stacy at what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, it was just a matter of figuring out what kind of writing I liked best. I grew up writing little short stories and screenplays, but when I entered high school, I joined my school newspaper and fell in love with journalism. I majored in magazine journalism in college, but after graduation, I had a hard time finding a job at a magazine, so I eventually found myself working in brand strategy and copywriting while still doing some freelance journalism on the side. However, my editors were always cutting my articles down in length because I was making them too descriptive, so I started wondering if I should try my hand at fiction. I always had a dream of writing a book one day, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. The more I wrote, though, the more I fell in love with it and quickly realized that I wanted to write fiction more than anything.


Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to be a writer, especially those who want to write mystery thrillers like you?

A: I think, in the beginning, it starts with reading. I’m a firm believer that in order to be a writer, you must first be a reader. Read whatever sparks your interest and figure out which authors really speak to you. I have a handful of authors I go back to time and time again because there’s just something about their writing style that I get completely lost in. Reading their work inspires me and pushes me to continue developing my own voice. Then, once you have an idea for a book, force yourself to sit down and write it. It’s tempting to put it off until you feel like you’re “ready,” but I don’t think you ever feel ready. You just have to do it—then, once you have a messy first draft, don’t get discouraged. All first drafts are messy. The first draft is simply the story revealing itself to the author; the final draft is the story revealing itself to the reader. The magic happens in the middle.


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?


A: A Flicker in the Dark has been optioned by Emma Stone’s production company, Fruit Tree, and A24. The plan at this moment is to turn it into a TV series! 


Q: What advice do you give to anyone who struggles with writers block?


A: This is a very timely question considering I, myself, am just now recovering from a lengthy stint of it! Writer’s block is really tough, but I think it’s important to remember that it always ends. When I have it, I try not to force myself to write, even if I’m on deadline, because when I do force it, it usually comes out so bad I just end up going back and deleting everything I wrote during that time anyway. It’s a waste of time. Instead, I work on the story in other ways: I spend a lot of time going on walks, where I think about certain plot points that are bothering me or characters who aren’t living up to their full potential. I get a lot of lightbulb moments on those walks that get me excited about returning to the manuscript. I also read a ton, because for some reason, reading other people’s good writing usually knocks something loose in me, and I suddenly remember how to get back into the flow of it.


Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so what is it about?


A: I am! I’m currently writing my third novel, which will be out in 2024. It’s a dark academia book about a college student who is unexpectedly invited to be housemates with a clique of popular classmates—and then finds herself in the center of an investigation when their ringleader goes missing and their next-door neighbor is murdered. It’s very different than A Flicker in the Dark and All the Dangerous Things, and I am SUPER excited about it!


Q: On your amazon bio it mentioned that before writing full time you worked as a copywriter and brand strategist for various marketing agencies. It’s very impressive. What was it like being a copy writer and brand strategist? What do copy writers and brand strategists do exactly? 




A: Yes, I really enjoyed those jobs! A brand strategist essentially works with other companies to help them hone in on what makes them unique, then creates a communication strategy around that selling point. The copywriter then amplifies that message through various written channels: website copy, advertising copy, internal manifestos, social media copy, etc. I was lucky enough to do all of that, so I started by learning everything I could about the company we were working with, researching their history, products and offerings and interviewing their stakeholders; then, once I developed their strategy, I wrote all their new copy.


Q: What’s your advice to anyone who wants to be copy writers and brand strategists? 


A: There are a lot of transferrable skills that you can use to get into roles like these, so I think my best piece of advice is to figure out what kinds of brands you want to work with (I worked with lots of different ones: lifestyle, food and beverage, technology, etc.), then try to get your foot in the door at a branding, marketing or advertising agency who has those types of brands as their clients. If you wind up getting hired for a different position within the company first, tell your boss you’re interested in working your way up into a brand strategist or copywriter role and see if you can help out on occasion. It’s a good way to learn as you go!