Thoughts on “Flight 259″

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by Staci Stallings

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 1996, there was no such thing as contemporary Christian romance as a genre.  Seriously. I had people laugh at me when I told them that’s what I was writing. A guy at a bookstore kept insisting that the only way you could have a Christian romance was if it was historical.

“Flight 259” was born during this time—when people talked about writing “marketable.”  The first writing group I got into that was an emerging Christian contemporary group. Around 2001, they posted a question of if you should write marketable or what was on your heart.  Most of the others said marketable, but I already knew better.  Because if I had written marketable when I started, I would never have written Christian contemporary because that wasn’t even a THING!

Now, all these years later, it’s difficult to adequately explain how challenging this was because although I loved writing and loved my stories, knowing that the world thought I was crazy for writing this way was not easy.  After finishing “Flight 259, which was my first novel, someone told me I should have it professionally edited, so I bundled it up and sent it to New York with a $3,000 check.  When it came back, it was marked up something awful, but the one comment that I remember went something like this:

“Okay, so she lost her husband. Get over it already. This is a romance. What is she waiting for?”

Squaring my upbringing with this attitude about love and romance was impossible. They didn’t get it, and I knew they never would.  Honestly, they still don’t, but now I know that there are a lot of readers who think like I do—they just couldn’t have gotten my books through the bottleneck that was the romance industry at the time.

And so, “Flight 259” got buried in what amounted to a computer drawer for a VERY long time. Every so often, I would take it out, ‘dust it off’ and revise it based on whatever it was I had learned since the last time I had revised it.  Some of those revisions were easier than others—taking a book that was written in omniscient point of view and converting it into deep third POV took about four tries, and even then, there were still things that felt “missing” because I remembered what it was before.

Then, last year in 2016, 20 years after I wrote it, I had the chance to put it into a collection with several other authors.  Ironically, it was “Flight 259”—the first romance novel I wrote that hit the USA Today Best Sellers list.  But there was one more revision that I hadn’t seen coming. 

As I was getting it ready to go into that collection, I had a friend read it who has read most of my other books (both those I have published and those I haven’t).  She came back and said it was okay, but it didn’t really have the Staci Stallings’ feel to it.  Okay, that was a bit depressing, but as we talked more, she said that it felt too much like the formula romances—like a fantasy—where my books “feel” more real.  They have real people with real issues.

I tried to explain that while that was true, this book was written at a time that even putting a little bit of God or Jesus in it, prayer or talk about God, was truly groundbreaking.  I was chopping down jungles, making a path for those who would follow at the time.

She understood that, but then she made a suggestion I thought she had to be crazy to make:  I should write a sequel about what happened after the “fantasy” part of it.  I can’t say I latched onto that suggestion right away, but eventually I did see what she meant.  So I revised the ending and dovetailed it into a sequel.

Now, here we are 20 years + 1 in the future, and this year 2017 I will release both “Flight 259” and the sequel to it, “A Time to Love.” The crazy thing is, as I was writing “A Time,” I realized this series was not just supposed to be two books but three.  So now, I have a trilogy, The Hope Series—Flight 259, A Time to Love, and Some Say Love.  And while this series starts out in the romancey-formula way, it definitely takes a detour into REAL LIFE.

I have to say, one thing this writing thing has taught me is that God works on a very long story arc, and He has things planned a long way down the road that we really can’t see when we’re taking those first steps.  “A Time to Love” was my 39th book to write, and “Some Say Love” will be #40. Lotta words across a lot of pages since I first wrote “The End” to that very first book—“Flight 259” all those years ago, but I guess that goes to show you, what we think of as the end might just be an opening chapter from God’s perspective.

So here I am, 21 years later learning all kinds of things I never knew about these two characters when I first wrote their story.  Honestly, I’m really liking this chance to get to revisit them and learn more lessons from them and through them.  I’m just hoping my readers will be able to do the same!

Flight 259

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.

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