Local author’s debut novel tells a love story
A former Texas A&M communications major, Beth Stifflemire is happy with a career in human resources, but three years ago she decided to try her hand at writing a novel. “I love to daydream and put those thoughts on paper,” she says. She had never before considered writing a book, but she says that one day, as she was driving in the car with her young son, “The idea [for the book] just hit me like lightning.”
Set in Austin, Waiting Hearts is the story of Kayla Parker, a young elementary school teacher with a rare heart condition who lives a simple, quiet existence until she meets musician Gabe Sanderson, who brings love into her life. A Nicholas Sparks’ fan since college, Beth admits to being a sucker for a good romance. “I like [to read] everything, but romance is my favorite. . . . It really appeals to me, I think because it resonates to me in some way.”
In the novel’s foreword, Beth’s childhood friend Traci Miller writes, “I know Beth’s life experiences have helped shape the love story in these pages,” she says, “and the results are beautiful. The strength and courage of Kayla and Gabe in this story remind me of traits I saw Beth and her husband, Hank, display early in their relationship.”
“My husband and I have a really interesting story of how we met and got together,” Beth elaborates. “We met very young, he was the first person I went on a date with, we parted ways, and then we came back together later in college. He had some unfortunate events occur in his life that really brought us close together, and I feel really lucky and maybe that’s why I do read [romance].”
Not content with sitting back and reading a romance, Beth determinedly set out to write one, too. It took her just one year. “It was an experience,” she says. “Everything was from scratch.” She started with her story line, plot line, and characters. “Then I just went with it and started writing and writing and writing. Slowly, you get into your own jive and you . . . figure out your process.”
Beth also felt it was important to incorporate local places and Texas scenery into her story. “I wanted to share a piece of what I grew up with . . . and I hope people enjoy that. I think it’s a great thing. It makes the story become real.”
Beth then didn’t know what to do with her book. She wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about it. “I had self-doubt. I did that, I wrote it, but ‘What now?’ I didn’t know if I wanted to self-publish it. I didn’t know if I wanted to find a [traditional] publisher.” So Waiting Hearts waited in a drawer for three years until a chance meeting set the next phase of Beth’s writing in motion.
“We moved, and everything about the move almost felt like it was meant to be,” Beth says. She met a neighbor who shared her love of writing, and the neighbor mentioned knowing a woman at a new Texas publishing company. “Within a week of this conversation, I felt confident enough in [my book] that I sent it off, and [the publisher] liked it, and it went from there.”
The experience Beth had with her publisher reignited her desire to write. Now hard at work on a second book, with plans for third and fourth books to follow, Beth says, “This go-around it’s so much easier, and I just feel like it clicked. I get it and I enjoy it. I enjoy writing it more than anything else. It’s kind of therapeutic.”
Which doesn’t mean it’s easy. Beth has to balance her writing time around a full-time job, her husband, and their six-year old son. She writes in the evenings, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. “I do this whenever I can because right now that’s the way it has to work to make my life work.” Beth believes she’s demonstrating to her son if there’s something he wants to do, he can do it. “You have to start it, you have to finish it, you have to put in the hard work and the effort, but . . . when you have a passion for something, you find a way to make it happen, to make it work.”
Beth felt that the biggest reward of this whole experience, however, was when her mom read Waiting Hearts. “To have her read it and enjoy it meant the most to me,” Beth says. “And I made her cry! Which was my point at the end of the book. I hope there are some tears.”
It wouldn’t be a true romance without a few.
Waiting Hearts can be found in paperback and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.