Journalism graduate publishes her first novel


Stacy Willingham’s new thriller was an instant bestseller

Stacy Willingham credits her time at the University of Georgia for learning how to develop characters.

“Studying journalism has helped me realize that everyone has a story to tell, and it’s usually not the one we expect,” she said. “Learning to interview is a skill I still use, even though I don’t interview anyone anymore. Understanding how to overcome surface-level responses taught me how to find the real meat of a story, which now influences how I create my characters.

Willingham’s first published novel, “A Flicker in the Dark,” was released in January. And on January 30, her novel landed on the New York Times bestseller list, the same day she turned 31. Set in Louisiana, the novel’s main character explores a tumultuous and sordid family history to uncover new secrets that threaten his happiness.

For the 2013 graduate who now lives in Charleston, the process to becoming a published author was a whirlwind affair, one that began on the UGA campus more than a decade ago.

“My sister attended UGA in the class of 2010,” Willingham said. “When I was deciding between schools, I spent a weekend with her in Athens and was sold.”

While on campus, Willingham majored in magazines at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and studied abroad twice.

“The first time was in Cortona, Italy. The second time was in London, where I interned at a marketing and PR company called Bespoke Banter. I still think about both experiences often and never take them for granted.

But it was his Grady lessons that laid the groundwork for turning his writing hobby into a career.

After graduating, Willingham moved to Atlanta and worked for a local marketing agency, Havas Sports & Entertainment. Even with some occasional freelance work on the side, she yearned for more opportunities to write. She began to dabble in fiction, noting that while she dreamed of being published, she primarily viewed writing as a creative outlet. After a few months, however, she realized she loved writing fiction more than anything, so she decided to pursue an MFA in writing from Savannah College of Art and Design while continuing to work. full time.

By 2019, she had finished graduate school, was back home in Charleston, and had two finished novels under her belt. She unsuccessfully bought the first book from publishers for five years, but it was her second novel that catapulted her into the high-stakes world of book publishing.

“I found a literary agent about two weeks after I finished ‘A Flicker in the Dark’; we spent about six months putting it together,” Willingham said. “Then we sent it out for submission in June 2020, which ultimately led to my book deal. The path from book deal to publication took another 18 months, during which time I was able to peek under the hood of the publishing process.

On January 30, Willingham’s thriller hit the New York Times bestseller list and was being developed into an HBO Max series by Fruit Tree and actress Emma Stone’s A24.

After years of hard work, Willingham celebrated with an array of supporters, including her husband, a UGA Britt alumnus, whom she met through a mutual friend during her freshman year. .

His advice to new graduates?

“Entering the world of work is great in many ways, but don’t forget to take time for yourself and your passions. Your job is important, but so are your hobbies and free time,” Willingham said. “A lot of figuring out what you want to do with your life is through trial and error and giving yourself the space to explore. It’s hard to do that when you’re glued to your desk.

Willingham’s second book, All the Dangerous Things, will be released on January 10, 2023.


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