When you're "in labor" writing a novel, that novel always feels like it's the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your whole life—outside of standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles without screaming or setting yourself in fire. You’re creating worlds where none existed, and what that requires is HUGE amounts of concentration.
The hardest part of writing, I find, isn't writing; it's focus.
The creative, world-building part of you is very child-like and, frankly, irresponsible. Forcing it to sit down and pay attention can be a daunting, joyless process akin to getting stuck at a school desk for eight hours a day. The playful, child-like part of you wants to watch cute animal videos on YouTube. The meticulous, deadline-meeting part of you—often with a whip and a chair--makes sure the job you're doing gets done right.
Having said that, SWEET DREAMS was the hardest book in the Dreams Come True series for me to write--although, oddly enough, it is also one of my favorites. Why? Because I have a nice middle-class girl's deep suspicion of billionaires. It's why I worked so hard to make Jake human. Money didn't make Jake Sutton the man he is today. Jake Sutton’s the man he is because he refused to settle for less. He’s the ultimate alpha male.
Can you give us a short synopsis of your book?
I’m from Texas, so writing about a two-stoplight town like Cuervo was easy for me. Quirky, gossipy Cuervo is like another character in the book.
Cuervo, Texas, is where Maggie Roby lives with her two sisters, Cassidy and April. Cassidy’s story is detailed in DREAM ON (available now) and April’s is in DREAM LOVER (available this July).
Maggie owns a bakery called Sweet Dreams. On any given day, she has cake batter on her sleeve, flour where the blush supposedly goes, and sore feet from standing since dawn. For her sister’s wedding day, she’s added a side of heartache. Maggie’s failed marriage taught her that love is a lie and commitment a mistake. But with her bakery thriving and her life simplified to work, family, and knitting ridiculous sweaters for her pug, Gus, Maggie think she’s bought some peace. Until Jake Sutton walks in and she realizes she isn’t safe from desire at all.
Jake has model-perfect looks and about a billion dollars to throw around, but Maggie also sees the same never-say-die grit she prizes in herself. The attraction between them is hotter than her oven in July. But when Jake decides to restore the old Art Deco movie theater right around the corner from her bakery, she worries that temptation is a little too close for comfort. And the added ingredient of a man from her past only complicates the mix. Maggie’s life lesson is learning how to listen to her heart. If she does, she just may be able to have her cake and eat it too …
What inspired you to write this book?
Italy inspired me to write this book—the whole series, in fact. Four years ago, I sold all my earthly belongings and moved to a place called Civita Castellana, which is about seventy kilometers outside of Rome. I live in a 16th century palazzo overlooking a 12th century church, La Chiesa di San Gregorio. What’s great about San Gregorio is that it sits empty. Except for the occasional village cat or two, I have my run of the place. It’s a terrific spot for dreaming up new book ideas like SWEET DREAMS, DREAM ON, and DREAM LOVER.
I'm a librarian, so I'm always curious about libraries. Do you have a favorite library? If so, please tell us about it.
The first twelve years of my strange and unconventional life were spent in Pasadena, California—truly one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. My mother, a rock musician and single parent, worked constantly, so I was mostly raised by my godmother. Every Friday night, my godmother would take me to the library and then we’re go out for Chinese food. I really looked forward to it. And I’m pretty sure I can remember every single book I read there. As you can see, it’s a beautiful building, even though the library sign looks like a tombstone.
To this day, it remains one of my fondest memories. Unfortunately, all that reading combined with very little socializing gave me an annoyingly pretentious vocabulary for a ten-year-old and didn’t earn me many friends. I’ve always been a bit of an outcast.
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
A LOT. I’m a compulsive workaholic. One of the hardest things about being a professional writer is the lull between contracts. There are always a few weeks where you’re supposed to take a breather before diving into your next series—you know, relax, have fun, enjoy yourself. I HATE IT. If I’m not killing myself writing, I’m just not happy. And that’s why I always say writing isn’t a choice; it’s a compulsion.
If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t even stop to eat. Eating is annoying. So is showering. You can always tell I’m gunning for a deadline when my unwashed hair has enough grease in it to cook up a batch of fries.
Name your top five favorite books?
Not possible! It’s like favoring one child over another or liking one friend out of a dozen equally wonderful friends. But … there are books I’ve read 20-25 times or more. And Edith Wharton’s SUMMER is one of them.
The first time I read SUMMER, the hair on the back of my neck stood up because I couldn't believe I was witnessing something so powerful. Like D.H. Lawrence's LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, Wharton's SUMMER is about so much more than sexual awakening. It’s about socioeconomic class, identity, gender inequality--and in the end, the differences between passion and love. Real love.
Edith Wharton is the most exquisite writer America has ever produced. Despite her wealth, hers is a tragic story, which may be one reason why she became an exceptional artist. Such was the fate of Gilded Age society women. But emotional deprivation never kept her from writing magnificent stories like SUMMER. The fact that it honestly portrayed female desire is the only reason it was never as famous as its companion book, ETHAN FROME. Wharton herself said that out of everything she’d written, SUMMER was her favorite story.
I’ve read GONE WITH THE WIND about 23 times. In fact, I named my daughter Katie Scarlett in honor of Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable heroine. I also love every single one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories (especially “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”.)
Jane Austen is my spirit animal. PRIDE & PREJUDICE? I’ve read it 25 times. So, too, Kathleen Windsor’s FOREVER AMBER, which is the best piece of historical fiction ever written about a Restoration heroine. I highly recommend it.
And, of course, Kate Chopin’s THE AWAKENING and Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Those were game changers.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new romance trilogy called La Dolce Vita that takes place in Italy. I thought it would be fun to write about three hunky Italian brothers growing up on a vineyard in Tuscany who find love with three very different American women.
For me, Italy is the birthplace of love, beauty and the Renaissance (I found the love of my life here.) How could I not share this magical experience with everyone? As an immigrant viewing Italy through American eyes, I get to salt in all the idiosyncrasies that make Italy a veritable pasta bowl of beautiful traditions, maddening contradictions, and amusing superstitions.
Title: Sweet Dreams
Author: Stacey Keith
In a little town in the heart of Texas, the same old story can turn into happily ever after . . .
On any given day, Maggie Roby has cake batter on her sleeve, flour where the blush supposedly goes, and sore feet from standing since dawn. For her sister’s wedding day, she’s added a side of heartache. Maggie’s failed marriage taught her that love is a lie and commitment a mistake, and it was an expensive lesson. But with her bakery thriving and her life simplified to work, family, and knitting for her pug, Maggie thinks she’s bought some peace. Until Jake Sutton walks in and she realizes she isn’t safe from desire at all . . .
Jake has model-perfect looks and about a billion dollars to throw around, but Maggie also sees the same never-say-die grit she prizes in herself. The attraction between them is hotter than her oven in July. But when Jake decides to restore the old Art Deco movie theater right around the corner from her bakery, she worries that temptation is a little too close for comfort. And the added ingredient of a man from her past only complicates the mix. This time nothing less than true love will do. If she can learn to listen to her heart, she just may be able to have her cake and eat it too.
Award-winning author Stacey Keith doesn’t own a television, but reads compulsively—and would, in fact, go stark raving bonkers without books, most of which are crammed into every corner of the house. She lives with her jazz musician boyfriend in Civita Castellana, a medieval village in Italy that sits atop a cliff, and she spends her days writing in a nearby abandoned 12th century church. But the two things she is most proud of are her ability to cook pasta alla matriciana without burning down the kitchen, and swearing volubly in Italian with all the appropriate hand gestures.