Stacey Kade is author of the novel Starlight Nights, a tale of Calista Beckett, Hollywood actor, leaving it all behind to start a new, normal chapter – college. Unfortunately, her on-screen older brother has other plans in store.
We devoured this book at PageHabit and Stacey was kind enough to not only answer our burning questions but also send along her Starlight Nights playlist and further book recommendations! If you loved Starlight Nights, you will want to keep reading.
Hi, Stacey! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been interested in telling stories. It wasn’t writing necessarily. My parents would be quick to tell you that I was an “inventive” kid—meaning I lied and got caught…a lot! We moved every few years, so I was frequently the new kid. And I found out that making up interesting stories about my past—ones that could not be easily verified—was the quickest way to make friends. Did I mention I’m a pastor’s kid? Yeah. Big trouble.
As for writing, when I was little, I asked my parents to write a story down for me—based on a dream I’d had—when we were on vacation in Wisconsin. I must have only been four or five at the time because I couldn’t write it myself. I just remember it was really important to me to get these words—these pictures in my head—out. So, my mom wrote it on the back of a paper bag, the only paper available at the cabin.
This sounds strange, but I didn’t know that I could be a writer. I loved books, but I didn’t understand that anyone could just…write one. I don’t know if I thought there was a lottery process or what? In any case, I didn’t start writing seriously until after college.
How long did it take to finish your book? How has it changed since you first began writing it?
I finished the first draft in about three months. This book, though, was very different from any other I’ve written. It felt like the story already existed, and I just needed to write it down. And, as it turned out, that first draft was pretty close to on target. In my whole writing life—this is my tenth published book—that has rarely, if ever, happened before! Starlight Nights was a sheer joy to write, honestly.
The most significant changes were to Calista’s mother, toning her down to be more realistic and less of a flat, shrill character. Also, the prologue didn’t exist when I first started writing. But as I wrote the story, I found I wanted to “see” that scene where Eric and Calista first met.
Do you have any specific or strange writing rituals that get you into a groove?
I try not to have too many specific rituals because the more rituals you have, the more reasons you have not to write if conditions aren’t ideal (e.g. “I can’t write because I don’t have my special pen!”) And sometimes, when I’m tired, I’m just looking for that excuse! That being said, I think rituals and routines are a huge part of training your brain into understanding that this is “writing time.”
For me, the best writing days start with my “morning pages,” per The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s just three pages of whatever’s on your mind. It helps clear my head. That’s also usually where I work out the details of what happens next in the story. Then, I need a hot beverage, my noise-cancelling headphones, and my Spotify. I also make sure I’m clear on my daily word count goal. Then I’m off!
And I do prefer purple gel pens! (Get me started, and I’ll wax rhapsodic about my favorites.)
Which three books would you bring with you to a deserted island?
This is a hard question for me. First, I have questions of my own. What’s the climate on this island? Do I have to worry about staying warm? Are these books in danger of being burned for fuel? Am I on this deserted island by my choice or is it more of a crash-landing-Castaway type situation?
If it’s a crash-landing scenario, it’ll probably be the three books I’m currently reading and carrying around in my bag. Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas, The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz, and, ironically enough, A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor.
If it’s my choice to be on the island, then that’s tougher. Much to the consternation of my sister—also an avid reader and an editor—I don’t reread books. The only exception to that rule is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I reread that book—or parts of it—pretty much every year. So that’s one. Beyond that, I don’t know! I think it would have to be two books I haven’t read yet.
In your opinion, has there ever been a movie adaptation better than the original book?
Generally, no. I enjoy getting to hear what characters are thinking, which you don’t have in movies. Unless there’s a voiceover. I LOVE voiceovers!
I do like some of the choices different adaptations of Pride and Prejudice have made (I always forget that Bingley has two sisters, so leaving out Mrs. Hurst has never bothered me), but I wouldn’t consider them to be better than the book.
That being said, I have the vague recollection of liking the end of The Firm, the movie, better than book version. But I don’t really remember why!
Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Lisa Kleypas and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I want to know how they do it, how they make me care about their characters so much and so quickly. For my third guest, Stephen King. I devoured his books, probably when I was too young to be reading them! And his book, On Writing, continues to be a huge inspiration to me. I had the privilege of hearing him speak this past fall, when he was on tour with his son for Sleeping Beauties, and I’d love to hear more!
Do you have any advice for young writers?
Yes! Here are two things I wish I’d known earlier:
- Write all the way to the end. I used to start projects and stop when it got hard, thinking that meant it was irredeemably flawed. As it turns out, EVERY story is difficult at some point. And you learn so much more if you write all the way to the end, even if those pages are absolutely horrible. Plus, you have no objective perspective on your own writing, especially when you’re in the middle of it. So something you haaaaaaate right now may turn out to be not so bad later. Check out Anne Lamott’s chapter on “Shitty First Drafts” in her book Bird by Bird for more on this idea. That book changed how I write.
- Your main character needs to have a goal. When I write, I see the images in my head like a movie. But when I began writing, I didn’t understand that I needed to know why the characters were doing what they were doing. That they needed to have a plan. I just wrote down the pictures as I saw them. Consequently, I ended up with a tangled mess of a story that went nowhere. That changed when I read Debra Dixon’s book Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Your main character can’t just wander around; they have to want That made an enormous difference in my writing!
What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?
Oh, I’m torn. I have two answers. First, 2017 was tough for a variety of reasons, and my parents sent me a surprise card in the mail that said exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it. It means so much to me. The card sits on my desk in my office.
Second, a reader sent me an amazing piece of fan art, replicating the (very complicated) cover For This Life Only in an intricate series of paper cut-outs. So beautiful! That also sits on my desk.
Starlight Nights Playlist
If you like celebrity memoirs or hearing juicy secrets from the world’s most famous stars (Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations by Peter Evans or Unsinkable by Debbie Reynolds), you’ll love The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This was my favorite read of 2017. It’s the (fictional) story of the last great movie star of the Golden Age who has decided to finally write her memoirs and hold nothing back. To help her, however, she’s chosen a virtually unknown and struggling journalist. The journalist, Monique, is suspicious of Evelyn’s motives, but she can hardly say no. She’s in the middle of a divorce, and her career has completely stalled. But there’s a reason why Evelyn has chosen her…
The story is split between Monique’s journey and Evelyn’s memories. It is powerful, heartbreaking, and just wonderful. I did not want it to end.
All right, Outlander fans suffering through the #Droughtlander, you need to check out The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer. A modern-day, accomplished neurologist leaves her home in the United States to pack up her brother’s things after his unexpected death in Italy. While visiting Italy, she is astonished to see her face in an old painting. Investigating that mystery—along with the secret work her brother was involved in—eventually lands her in Siena, Italy…in 1347. The Plague is coming, and there’s no cure. She needs to find a way back to her own time. And yet, she finds herself falling for medieval life and one person—an artist—in particular.
If you liked Firefly (okay, it’s a show, not a book, but still…) and you’re missing Captain Mal and crew, then you must check out The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I love science fiction, but I’m picky. I want a story that welcomes me in, one that focuses on the people (human or not) more than the tech or some long-ranging war between distant and unknowable galaxies. If you ever longed to be on Serenity (or, I suppose, on a larger scale, the Enterprise), you’ll want to see if you can hire on as crew aboard The Wayfarer.
If you liked The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and you fancy a walk on the historical side, try All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue by Sophie Jordan. Enemies to lovers is my favorite romance trope. I will read it over and over again. And Sophie Jordan, who is an amazing writer in all capacities, takes it to the next level with the love-hate relationship between Aurelia and Max. You can practically feel the yearning and fury pulsing off the page. And—let’s be real—the love scenes are super hot. 🙂
If you liked The Shining by Stephen King (and if you’ve ever wondered how much of “Jack Torrance” was based on “Stephen King”), then check out The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter. Meg Ashley’s mother wrote one best-selling horror novel decades ago and has spent the intervening years being famous for it. Meg, a formerly spoiled party girl, is trying to turn her life around, but she can’t seem to escape her mother’s shadow. Finally, with few other options, Meg accepts an offer to write a salacious memoir about her life with her mother. But doing so will involve going back to the (creepy) island and the (creepy) hotel that inspired her mother all those years ago and learning the truth about what really went on there.
I honestly thought I had this one figured out. But I was wrong and delighted to be surprised.
If you love Jane Austen, anything written by Jane Austen, or the prospect of meeting Jane Austen (or living in her world, as in Austenland by Shannon Hale), then The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn is for you. Yes, it’s time travel (again). But it’s well done and via science, not magic, with all the consequences that entail. This book is for everyone who wishes they could have tea with Jane.
If you’ve read all the “Girl” books (The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, The Luckiest Girl Alive, etc.) you’ll love Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith for a refreshing take on the psychological thriller. Mia Haas has worked very hard to escape the crappy North Dakota town where she grew up. But when her twin brother, now a teacher in that same crappy town, vanishes on the same day a student turns up dead, Mia is pulled back in. She’s desperate to find her brother and prove his innocence.
Mia’s voice in this book is what makes it so good. Here’s a line near the beginning: “I’d just spent the last slow hour helping a prostitute pick out hair dye (Midnight Vixen by L’ Oréal seemed a professionally sound choice)…”
If you liked the Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott (I LOVED THEM), then you’ll love Idol by Kristin Callihan and, on the YA side, When It’s Real by Erin Watt. I’ll be honest, actors are more my thing than rock stars, but oh, these books were a lot of fun! I listened to the audiobook of When It’s Real and found myself sitting in my car in the driveway, unable to tear myself away to go inside.
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