By Staci Stallings
One of the most interesting things I’ve witnessed as an author is that not only does each story have an internal story–what it’s about, who the characters are, what happens, but each story also has its own “life story.” The story of how it came to be and its journey in this world after it’s written.
Some stories are written and for whatever reason never leave my computer. Others have a life outside in the “real world.” Sometimes my stories get written about on blogs or reviewed. Sometimes they are brought to booksignings or produced as blog books or sold as ebooks.
They are all different books and they each, kind of like children, have their own lives that are not within my ability to control or sometimes even determine.
One of the stories that has traveled with me lo these many roads is called, “Cowboy.” This story was the fifth full-length novel I finished. I wrote The End on the last page in 1998. What I didn’t know then was that was just the beginning for this book.
The story is simple enough: heartbroken singer-songwriter superstar meets struggling waitress who doesn’t know who he is but only wants to help.
To be honest, I love this story. I really do. The message is so great–be kind, help each other out, and everybody needs a helping hand no matter how “successful” they might seem to be on the outside.
Weird things began happening with this book almost from its inception. In early 2000, I had printed a full copy of it and put it into a notebook/binder. One night, although we hardly ever do such a thing, my husband took me to a local concert by a very well-known country music star. As I sat in the audience that night, it suddenly occurred to me that this was Ashton Raines, the hero of my book!
The white cowboy hat. The wranglers. The crowd. The venue. It all fit. I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was literally trying to tell me something… something real about what He had planned for my story.
That night after we got home, at about two in the morning, I woke up and started thinking about how weird it was that I had now seen “Ashton Raines” in concert. I started thinking about the book and decided to get up and read a little of the story. As I read, I literally got goosebumps at how close the two concerts had been.
Then I heard it… raindrops. That means nothing to you but I about freaked out. I looked at the clock and it was exactly the time in the book that Ashton had driven through the rain that night after his concert! Weird, right?
A few years later I got the opportunity to make that drive through those mountains that he made and the weirdest thing was how close it was to the drive I had pictured in my head. There was only one slight difference and I got to fix it in the book before it went into print.
What I didn’t count on after “Cowboy” was released was how deeply this story would touch others or how far it would go. I put it out in print in 2004. It was my third in-print novel and the first by my new company, Spirit Light Publishing. The first comment I remember having about it was that I had grown so much as a writer from my first one published (weird because the first one was actually the sixth I had written–after I wrote Cowboy! But by then I knew that one had been edited to death on the way to readers’ bookshelves so…).
Then the stories about “Cowboy” started coming in… I remember the mom who came up and said she was blown away by how I knew what to write in that book. In a hurry at the time, I didn’t grasp what she was telling me until later. She had lost her own husband to cancer–the very thing Ashton deals so poignantly with in the book. She was in shock at how many things I had gotten “exactly right” about the emotions after the loss of a spouse.
In late 2006 I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write the screenplay for Cowboy and enter it into the Kairos Prize Script Contest. The day I mailed it off, we were going to the post office and I noticed a bus traveling just behind me on the Interstate. That was strange because the closer it got, the more I knew… it was a tour bus! The same kind Ashton rode around in during the book. It had to be a sign, right?
Cowboy finished that contest among the top 34 semifinalists out of over 500 scripts, and I thought maybe that was it for this book. End of the road. But I’m learning that what we think of as the end is always just the beginning with God. In 2011, I was given the opportunity to relaunch into eBooks, and upon the advice of someone who had already traveled that road, I chose what I considered to be the book that most represented me as an author. The book that would be the leader for my publishing company and me in this new venue. The book that would introduce my writing to audiences I’d never before dreamed about reaching.
That book was “Cowboy.”
Sure enough, that new venue opened the door for many new readers, like the young woman who contacted me on Facebook to thank me for “Cowboy.” Because of one of the storylines in the book, she had taken the impossible step of reestablishing contact with her estranged father. The relationship had been restored!
So as Ashton and Beth continue their journey into the hearts of a whole new “generation” of readers, I wonder where Cowboy will go next because I’m pretty sure this isn’t the end for this book. In fact, it’s probably just the beginning.
Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side. She is a #1 Best Selling Christian author and the founder of both Grace & Faith Author Connection and CrossReads–a site where Christian readers and authors can connect.
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