Interviewed by Andi, March 6, 2007
Stacey Ballis is the author of four novels including the newly published The Spinster Sisters. Stacey lives in Chicago, Illinois and in addition to her writing, she regularly contributes lifestyle and entertaining tips on the Rachael Ray Show.
AM: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals or unbreakable habits? An unhealthy obsession with pacing or staring blankly into the fridge, for example?
SB: I try to write mostly when the inspiration hits…although when I get in a deadline crunch I do force myself to keep a more regular schedule. I write in chronological order, and try to focus in the moment, where the characters are and what they are feeling without looking too far ahead in the story. I do try to break once an hour to walk around and get the blood moving, and I usually write with a small pot of tea nearby. The only real ritual I have kept up is after the first draft is finished, I open a bottle of pink champagne, take a hot bubble bath, and order a pizza to eat in my bathrobe.
AM: How do you decide on names for your characters?
SB: Sometimes I take names I like from people I have met, but for this book, many of the names have specific meanings behind them. There is a website that lists hundreds of names and what they mean, and that can be very inspirational…finding a quality to a character and reinforcing it with their name.
AM: Do you show your work to anyone, in order to get feedback, while you’re working on a novel?
SB: My sister Deborah, who is also my best friend, is the only one who gets to see it while it is in progress, when she approves, I send it to my editor.
AM: How do you know when a novel is finished? Is it hard to let go?
SB: The book tells me when it is done. And it is impossible to let go. I wish I could go back to all of my books and do just one more rewrite! Plus I miss the characters.
AM: How do you feel about the oft-criticized “chick-lit” label?
SB: I think it is frustrating that we feel the need for so many different labels, but it doesn’t offend me. I wish the books could just be ‘fiction’. But if placing it in context with other books that may have some of the same themes brings appropriate readers into the fold, I’m pleased.
AM: Do you read for pleasure? What do you like to read?
SB: I read everything, some favorite authors include Anne LaMott, Jodi Picoult, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Berg…and tons of classics!
AM: Do you have a favorite character in all of literature?
SB: Eloise from the children’s books by Kay Thompson.
AM: What issues are you passionate about?
SB: Body-image issues for women, living your best life, education, funding for the arts.
AM: Now that The Spinster Sisters has hit the shelves, what is on the horizon? Rest, relaxation, breakneck book touring, or maybe even planning the next project?
SB: I’m hoping that this book will be the first in a series, so for the moment I am promoting the book as much as possible so that I can secure a deal to continue writing the story of these women!
Visit Stacey Ballis at her website, http://www.staceyballis.com/, or her MySpace blog at http://www.myspace.com/staceyballis.