Meet Katie Stanley. At five feet, three inches tall, the petite blonde sitting on the keyboard in the corner probably doesn’t fit your stereotype for a warrior. In fact, if you saw her sipping a coffee and reading through a textbook you might mistake her for your typical college student. But that’s where you’d go wrong. Katie isn’t just a writer. She’s a warrior; a U.S. Army soldier that represents only one half of a percentage of the entire country that is actively serving in the United States Military. In between work, physical training, personal responsibilities, and college classes, Katie somehow finds the time to write. This is what makes her my Hero of the Month and the Writing Warrior for August. I was privileged to sit down with Katie. Below is what I’ve learned from her about her life, her service, and her passion for writing.
First off, let me say what a privilege it is to be interviewing you. Tell me, when did you know you wanted to be a soldier?
Thank you for having me, I’m excited to be here. I would put that around 2nd grade, as I began to avidly read history and realize the legacy and history of the US Army. I put that dream on a back burner after high school, was a certified manager in a Custom Frame Shop (the artwork kind) for a few years. One day I realized I wanted to do something better with my life, affect the bigger picture of the world in a positive way, and get my degree.
That’s such a neat story. I love your tie to history and the legacy of the U.S. Army Soldier. You must be proud to of yourself to have inserted yourself into that history. Tell me, what was your family’s response? Was there any opposition? How have you handled it?
They were a bit surprised, the draft in the Vietnam War was the last military service in our recent and immediate family tree. My grandparents have always been supportive and proud. I’m naturally independent and an introvert, so opposition spurs me to prove people wrong beyond a doubt, and do even better things. One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. That has helped me push through times I was wanting to give up, re-class, or settle for average.
Something tells me you put away “settling for average” a long time ago. One of the pictures you’ve provided shows you skydiving. Tell me about it? Would you do it again?
Skydiving was awesome, totally would jump again! I was the first one out of the plane, and the weightlessness was incredible. What struck me the most was the raw silence up there, with little wind resistance, you could feel the wind but not really hear it. Also, you feel kinda awesome up there, overlooking the terrain, people, and commerce, the adrenaline surging, you’re invincible and a badass, but then realizing how small you actually are in the big picture of the world. What I mean is, you feel like a Marvel superhero, and yet another countless ant all at once. Perhaps I think too hard and deep, but that’s what I wrote in my journal that night. Oh yeah, I’ve been journaling for the last 12 years. It helps with de-stressing and organizing the day and my goals on paper.
We all learn lessons in the military. Can you provide an example of a situation you learned from? How do you apply it to your life outside of the military?
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and overthink everything, looking for the logic in it, how it makes sense and fits. However, in the military, you often have to fall back on your training and let reflex/habit take over, no time for hesitating and overanalyzing. As a result, I have become much better at thinking on my feet, developing a rapid good judgment. I have also developed much better briefing skills, especially with little to no warning.
Were there any particularly hard or stressful situations you’ve found yourself in during your time in service? How does it impact you today?
I can tell many stories from my deployment; one, in particular, we stopped being re-supplied for nearly two months, so rations became very tight and small. Then, when the overdue shipment arrived, albeit moldy and questionable health and safety, chow tent salvaged what they could, but the camp managed to get e-coli. During that time, I was working most of every shift, sleeping in small 3-5 hour blocks when I could, while limping around on a knee injury I’d taken out there. When I returned home, I was under 100lbs. The entire experience showed me how far I could go, what I could do under the stress, pain, and hunger, what I was made of. The impact today, well, I have a more thankful perspective towards clean air, water, and the abundance of food in the States. The deployment experiences haunt me, but I’m working through it every day. Plus, now I have an iron stomach haha.
I don’t think any of us come back from deployments the way we left for them. You aren’t alone and, even when it feels like you might be, you should know you have brothers and sisters that have your back. Thanks for sharing that. In your free time, you find time to write. What genre do you write in and what is the inspiration for your writing?
I write YA and Sci-Fi. I like to write stories that the adventure is just as interesting as the characters, the reader returns for the experience and people. I like to brainstorm on paper, combine a few “What Ifs?”, or turn an idea or common acceptance on its head. It’s also a healthy escape and de-stressor from work.
Between the early mornings for PT, the long hours at work, frequent trips, training rotations, exercises, and deployments, how on earth do you find time to write? What is your method or discipline?
I stick to smaller, more manageable goals, like an hour a day. Instead of playing video games in the evening for a few hours, I write, catch up on homework, meal prep, and network. Make a list of what’s important to you, your goals, and compare it to what you actually spend your time doing. Then reconcile the two. Achieve a balance in work and grinding away at goals, and being human and chilling, reenergizing.
That’s great advice. You are taking action where most people just dream – you’re ACTUALLY writing a novel! What are some tips that you’ve picked up along the way?
Allow yourself to write badly, the first draft will not be perfect, that’s what editing is for. I have a sticky note on my desk, “You are permitted to write badly”. Many people have writing advice, and it can contradict each other, and confuse you. Find what works for you, writing is a blend of art and rules. Lastly, but vital, write. Don’t let social media, salty writers, or the dazzling successes of famous authors make you doubt yourself and never go after your dreams. Writing a book, even if not published, teaches you so much, it’s a good experience.
Talk to me about your work in progress. Can you give us a high-level synopsis for your current work in progress?
A time traveler, Jason Hawkins, stuck in the future and in the middle of a war for control of earth’s last mega-city, must fight with the rebels who took him prisoner and impounded his time machine, if he wishes to repair it and go home. But with the enemy’s secret double agent shadowing his every move in among the rebels, his days are limited as the city’s dictator wants Jason’s impounded time machine to change the tide of the war, and maybe even history itself.
It sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to read the novel! All writers have their own style and boundaries. What should we expect when we pick up a book by Katie Stanley?
An exciting, fresh story that readers return to for both the adventure and the characters. Expect layers of foreshadowing, high stakes and tension story, and characters you’d love to grab a beer with in the modern world.
Okay, side question but I have to ask, which one of your characters would you grab a beer with and what are you drinking? I’m usually the designated driver among my friends, so I could imagine the same outcome with the military personnel of my book. Top of my list would be Led Fire, the wise-cracking guy with a funny name, and an even odder past that he either lies about or is too shadowy and vague to believe.
Five years from now, where do you see yourself realistically? Now take the gloves off… where are you without constraint?
Realistically, finished with my BA and having a job in Business Analytics, my SF trilogy self-published, and a house with land, a corgi, and cat. Dreaming next level, haha, some agent or editor picks up my book from Amazon or general buzz if I dare to dream that big, and just HAS to give it a second life on the traditional publishing side of the house. My day job is interior design, or back to the art world of custom framing and somehow I make enough to live comfortably. Or I land a nice gig to write scripts for video games and movies.
I can’t find anything wrong with that! It sounds like an amazing dream and I wish you all the success in the world. Okay – last question. Whether you planned it or not, you are a role model. There are younger women and girls that will look up to you as a soldier and an author. What would you like to tell them?
You’re beautiful, amazing, and have so much to offer, never sell yourself short or allow others to limit you. Only allow people into your life who want the best for you and will build you up. Don’t apologize for being your authentic, awesome self. Go out there and fearlessly live your best life.
Thank you, Katie. It was a delight to interview you.
Look for Katie’s book to hit the shelves in 2020. In the meantime, follow her on twitter @KTStanley2500 or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/ktstanley2500