The Call to Mastery with Jordan Raynor

Kelli Stuart (Author of Like a River From Its Course and A Silver Willow by the Shore) + Cory Carlson (Author of Win at Home First)

Episode Summary

Jordan Raynor sits down with Kelli Stuart, the award-winning author of Like a River From Its Course and A Silver Willow by the Shore, to talk about how Jordan’s epic dinner with C.S. Lewis’s stepson caused him to become one of Kelli’s biggest fans, how Kelli goes about writing exceptional fiction, and what John Grisham had to say to Kelli’s class at Baylor about why he doesn’t write “Christian fiction.” This episode also includes a bonus conversation with Cory Carlson, author of Win at Home First.

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Kelli Stuart, the award-winning author of Like a River From Its Course and A Silver Willow by the Shore, to talk about how Jordan’s epic dinner with C.S. Lewis’s stepson caused him to become one of Kelli’s biggest fans, how Kelli goes about writing exceptional fiction, and what John Grisham had to say to Kelli’s class at Baylor about why he doesn’t write “Christian fiction.” This episode also includes a bonus conversation with Cory Carlson, author of Win at Home First.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey everyone, welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Reiner. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work, for the glory of God and the good of others. Every single week, I’m hosting a conversation with somebody who is following Jesus Christ, apprenticing themselves to Jesus Christ and who is also pursuing world class mastery of their vocation, of their jobs. We talk about each guest’s path to mastering their thing, we talk about their daily habits and routines and we talk about how their faith influences the work that they do.


 

Today, I’m going to share a conversation I recently had with one of my closest friends, Kelli Stuart, and also one of the most masterful writers I know. Now, Kelli writes fiction so you shouldn’t take my opinion on who is a masterful fiction writer or not.


 

Since I don’t read much of it. But, that claim of being a masterful fiction writer comes from Kelli and I’s mutual friend, Doug Gresham, CS Lewis’ stepson and the producer of the most recent Narnia movies with Disney and Doug’s now working on this Narnia series with Netflix. Doug read Kelly’s book and devoured it, has loved everything that she’s written and if that’s not a great endorsement for fiction, I don’t know what is. I could think of a few people more qualified to judge great fiction than the heir to the Lewis estate. Kelli and I, had a very fun conversation that you’re about to hear.


 

We talked about the epic dinner I had with Doug Grisham in London and a couple of buddies of mine that led to him loving Kelli’s work in her book. We talked about Kelli’s process for writing great fiction and we talked about what John Gresham had to say to Kelly’s class of Baylor about why he doesn’t write “Christian fiction”. I thought this was a really interesting part of the conversation so without further ado, here is my conversation with my good friend, a masterful writer, Kelli Stuart.


 

[INTERVIEW]


 

[0:02:11.7] JR: Kelli Stuart, how are you?


 

[0:02:13.0] KS: I’m good, thanks.


 

[0:02:15.2] JR: I want to start here because I mentioned this in the introduction. We were hanging out at your house last week, two weeks ago, with a bunch of people form church and you mentioned the endorsement, the unsolicited endorsement that you just received form our mutual friend Doug Gresham, CS Lewis’ step son, producer of thee Narnia movies with Disney and he is executive producing the Netflix series, right?


 

[0:02:39.2] KS: That’s what I hear, yeah.


 

[0:02:40.3] JR: Wherever that project is in development.


 

[0:02:42.6] KS: Right.


 

[0:02:43.1] JR: How did that endorsement come about for this most recent book, like you sent him the eBook and he’s like hey, here’s some kind words about the book?


 

[0:02:50.6] KS: Basically. He had read my first novel and he and I had just kind of had some back and forth emails about writing and the writer life and he was just very encouraging to me. Just as a thank you, I had sent him this second novel, A Silver Willow by the Shore which is just released October 23rd.


 

I sent it to him just to say thank you and you know, I’d love for you to read it and give me your thoughts, some feedback on it, if there’s anything I need to fix because I still had some time. He just sent me this email with this wonderful endorsement and I was just, I was floored.


 

[0:03:24.5] JR: You didn’t ask?


 

[0:03:25.8] KS: I didn’t, I was not expecting it and –


 

[0:03:28.0] JR: What did he say?


 

[0:03:29.0] KS: You know, he just said, Kelli’s a very talented writer, I really enjoyed her first book, one could always wonder if someone writes a good first book, if they’ll be able to follow it up and she did, she kept me glued to the page, this is wonderful. I mean, just things that kind of make you feel warm and fuzzy because any time you write a book, especially a novel and you put it out there, there’s always this thing of does it suck?


 

Are people just being nice to me? To have the unsolicited feedback from someone whose opinion I do really admire was wonderful because he’s very well read and he’s very honest about books.


 

[0:04:01.8] JR: He’s extremely well read and he’s CS Lewis’ stepson. I mean, he spent his life steeped in the best fiction ever written in global history, right? I mean, you know, there’s that. But he’s also like – Doug’s like the most generous person in the world.


 

[0:04:19.2] KS: Yes, he’s very kind, very warm hearted, very encouraging so value his opinion very much because I know he’s not blowing smoke, he’s not just trying to be nice. One, I didn’t even ask him to and two, because if he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t have said anything.


 

[0:04:35.4] JR: No, he’s pretty critical, when he doesn’t like something, he’s pretty critical. Can I take at least partial credit for the Doug, Kelli friendship?


 

[0:04:43.5] KS: I feel like you probably should because it basically is because of you that we know each other.


 

[0:04:49.2] JR: Well, it’s really because of your husband.


 

[0:04:50.5] KS: My husband.


 

[0:04:51.4] JR: And the dinner.


 

[0:04:53.4] KS: It is, yes.


 

[0:04:54.0] JR: The dinner.


 

[0:04:55.2] KS: The dinner that my husband says, goes down in history as one of the greatest nights of his life.


 

[0:04:59.5] JR: It is, I was just telling my producer Chris that it is what like top five greatest nights of my life. I guess we can bring everybody up to speed. For those of you listening, if you were following my content back in 2017 when I released Called to Create. You know we gave away a trip to Europe for two people to do a bunch of things and then the trip culminated with dinner with Doug Gresham, CS Lewis’ stepson and myself at the Goring hotel in London.


 

We gave away the trip to this, actually like super talented entrepreneur in South Carolina named Erica who I’m actually hoping will come on the podcast but I kind of took like author privileges and decided that I would bring two of my best friends along with me to dinner. I didn’t want to go to London by myself.


 

[0:05:46.3] KS: I don’t know if they gave you a choice either.


 

[0:05:47.5] JR: Well, that’s true.


 

[0:05:48.6] KS: Pretty sure that my husband invited himself and said I’ll be there.


 

[0:05:52.2] JR: I was taking, I was going to take my best friend Clay and then one day, Kelli. Kelli’s husband Lee gives me a call, he’s like hey, I booked the ticket to London. I’m coming to dinner. Lee’s a massive CS Lewis fan. I was like okay, I guess we’re going to Europe together. This night’s amazing. We get to London, we got to London a little bit early and we’re like all right, let’s just show up early and maybe Doug’s like hanging out and we can have some time with him alone before the winners of the sweepstakes get there.


 

We show up, and sure enough, Doug is hanging out on the stoop of this hotel. This hotel is incredible, it’s called the Goring hotel, it’s right behind Buckingham palace, it’s where the queen brings her staff for dinner every Christmas. Sure enough, Doug’s there, he’s like hey Jordan, he’s like, are these the winners?  I was like no, these are my buddies.


 

[0:06:37.3] KS: Tag alongs.


 

[0:06:37.9] JR: Yeah, these are like – this is my plus two. He’s like cool, do you guys want to hang out? Sure. Go to this back room, we have this like amazing 45-minute-long conversation. About halfway through it, Clay, my buddy asked Doug, he just like, went straight for the CS Lewis questions. He asked Doug, why Susan didn’t make it to Narnia.


 

[0:07:00.0] KS: What happened to Susan?


 

[0:07:00.9] JR: What happened to Susan.


 

[0:07:01.0] KS: Please tell us.


 

[0:07:02.6] JR: Literally started crying. Sitting there with my two grown men friends, Clay’s not 13 and he’s balling. Talking about Susan not making it into the afterlife with Dough Gresham.


 

[0:07:14.4] KS: This was for them, this was like their One Direction NSYNC, this was their boyband moment.


 

[0:07:19.8] JR: It’s incredible. We go to dinner, dinner’s amazing. One of the best meals I’ve had in my life. It was really long too, I mean, I think we were at dinner for like two hours, two and a half hours, whatever. As we’re leaving, the winners of the sweepstakes left, they had something else to get to but me and Clay and Lee hung back and we’re talking to Doug and your husband Lee, pulls out your book.


 

He pulls out your first book, Like a River from Its Course. He’s like hey, I’m sure you get asked this all the time but would you mind giving this a read and like letting – it was really just a gift, it was like hey, this is my wife’s book. What happened after that?


 

[0:07:53.3] KS: Well, what Doug told him was, I’ll read it on the airplane and if I while I’m reading, if I don’t like it, I’ll leave it on the airplane, that’s what I do with books that I don’t like. Lee came home and he said, okay, either he’s going to read the whole thing and like it or your book’s on an airplane somewhere over the Mediterranean.


 

I fully anticipated that my book was somewhere on an airplane over the Mediterranean and then I guess Doug reached out to you and said you know, please forward this to the author of the novel and it was just this wonderful email that again, made me very emotional and he very much enjoyed the book, he loved it, he had wonderful things to say about it.


 

I just wrote back and it just kind of started this friendship where we were writing back and before I knew it, he was sending me short stories that he had written for my opinion and I was sending him some of my writing for his opinion and we were talking about writing and what it was like to work as a writer and next thing I knew, we were pals.


 

[0:08:51.5] JR: That’s awesome. Two more minutes on the Goring story. Because it does get better. This is what makes it like one of the greatest nights of my life. Lee gives him the book, we take pictures, we all took – we’re like schoolgirls hanging out with this – it was like – he’s our Justin Bieber. Doug is our Justin Bieber and so we’re about to leave and he’s like, where are you guys going?


 

We’re leaving, we just had dinner with you for three and a half hours and he’s like no, come with me. We go back into the hotel and he just like doesn’t ask permission, walked behind the bar of the hotel, he knows all the staff, he basically owns that hotel and just opens up a drawer and gets this box of cigars out and turns around.


 

He’s like, you guys smoke cigars? We’re like, we do tonight, absolutely. I’m not a big cigar smoker, Clay’s a big one but I’m like, whatever. We hung out for like another hour like on the stoop of this hotel, talking about growing up with Jack as he calls CS Lewis, talking about kangaroo fighting.


 

I remember that was a pretty hot topic of conversation because Doug grew up in Australia and smoking cigars and I just showed Chris before you got here, there’s this epic picture of me and Doug smoking cigars on the stoop of the hotel with your book in his hand, you can see it right there.


 

[0:10:06.6] KS: Yes.


 

[0:10:07.1] JR: Like a River from its Course. Kelli Stuart.


 

[0:10:08.4] KS: Yeah, it’s tucked under his arm, yes, it’s very cool.


 

[0:10:12.9] JR: You guys will have to wait and see what the giveaway is for the next book, Master of One, we’ll be talking about that in December. All right, let’s talk about you. You're a master of your craft, we’ve established that with seven minutes of rambling about Doug Gresham’s endorsements of you but you’re also an award-winning author, I mean, you won awards for Like a River from its Course.


 

This is like a dream for a lot of people, right? I think most people – yeah, I’ll say most, I’m not going to say many. I think most people want to write a book, a lot of them fiction and you had this dream, years before it was a reality. Can you talk about your story in the path that kind of led you to the work that you're able to do today as a writer?


 

[0:10:49.6] KS: I was always a writer. I mean, even just as a kid, that was just sort of what I did but I never thought of it as a career until probably my junior year of college when a professor just submitted a paper without even asking me to a contest and it won and he was like hey, we have this major called professional writing, you might want to consider it and I think at that point, I was on my fifth major anyway, I was like sure, why not?


 

[0:11:10.4] JR: What’s one more?


 

[0:11:10.4] KS: I’m learning everything. I majored in professional writing and so I set out to become a writer from college, I wasn’t an accidental writer, it wasn’t one of those where I was blogging for a little while and someone reached out to me, it was this was what I wanted to do and I had studied – I also minored in Russian, I studied in Ukraine and I met this woman who survived Nazi slave labor camp in World War II and one of my classes, my senior year at Baylor was to write a novel.


 

That was the only assignment for the entire year, to write a novel. I decided to fictionalize her book. At the end of the year, my professor told me, you know, I really think you’re on to something with this but you need more information, you didn’t do more research and so that just sort of set me on this path.


 

I graduated in 2000. In 2003, I had a publisher that was interested in the idea, I was pregnant with my first child and I thought, if I’m ever going to write this book, I have to go to Ukraine now and get the information. Five months pregnant, hopped on a plane –


 

[0:12:07.0] JR: I didn’t know this.


 

[0:12:07.7] KS: Yes, it was not maybe the smartest thing I’ve ever done. My mom did go with me because that was like the contingent. Yes, you may gallivant of to Ukraine for a month while you’re pregnant but you will have a chaperone.


 

Here I am, just 24-year-old pregnant girl with her mom going around Ukraine. Talking to veterans and I just happened to be able to meet with several veteran’s groups around different parts of Ukraine and I got all these firsthand accounts of the war and I happened to land the exact same day that we bombed Afghanistan and also, the exact same day that the news of the SARS virus broke out.


 

I land and I call my husband and I’m like hey, it’s really crazy here, people don’t really like us Americans right now and also, I have this cough and I’m running a fever. My husband and my dad are freaking out but it just ended up being an amazing month, I got these amazing stories and I came back with all these stories and then you know, life happens, babies come along, things get slowed down, was trying to figure out how to best tell the story.


 

It was 2013 I think before I finally finished the book and I just – I couldn’t give it up. I kept thinking maybe this is ridiculous. In the meantime, I started this blog and blogging was sort of taking off for me and I was getting to travel all around the world for blogging assignments but I didn’t want to be a blogger, I wanted to be an author and I wanted to write fiction and so I just couldn’t let go of this one idea.


 

Finally, I finished it in 2013, started pitching it around and got – I believe I counted up my rejections at one point. I think it was 63 rejections.


 

[0:13:41.9] JR: That’s intense, that’s a big number.


 

[0:13:42.7] KS: Right. Before I finally met someone face to face and I have found that meeting agents face to face is better than sending the cold query letter. I met this agent face to face and she was like well, we’ll see. Fiction’s a tough sell which is what everyone would tell me, it drove me nuts. But I gave her the manuscript, she loved it, she took off with it, so the book was published in 2016 and then in 2017 it went on to – won the Carol award for the best historical fiction. Nominated for two Christy awards.


 

It was a long process, but it was worth it. It was the story I needed to tell.


 

[0:14:17.8] JR: 10-year story in the making.


 

[0:14:19.8] KS: Yes.


 

[0:14:20.3] JR: It’s incredible and so that book Like a River from Its Course, that was the one, I mean, we weren’t super close friends back then when it was released. I mean, we knew each other, I was at your launch party here in Tampa but I had so many friends come to me. In fact, this is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve ever read and I took their opinions pretty seriously because they’re serious fiction people, I am not, I read no fiction.


 

Almost no fiction but I did add your book to my reading list and I am going to read it all the way through, I promise. Speaking of my inability to understand fiction, I want to talk about the writing process and I just have no idea how you write fiction at all, right? Can you talk through the process and let’s – how about a book that didn’t take 10 years, let’s go with – because by the way, Kelli’s written more – how many books have you written in the last two years? Two? Three?


 

[0:15:13.5] KS: I have finished two, I’m halfway through a third.


 

[0:15:15.4] JR: Yeah, she writes at a frenetic pace that we’ll talk about in a minute. I’ll see her on Sunday morning, she’ll tell me how many words she wrote.


 

[0:15:21.4] KS: Like Alexander Hamilton.


 

[0:15:22.6] JR: Like Alexander Hamilton.


 

[0:15:23.3] KS: I write like I’m running out of time.


 

[0:15:24.2] JR: That’s exactly right. Talk us through the process. Let’s use this new book that’s coming out. It just came out, A Silver Willow by the Shore as an example. How do you go from the genesis of that idea to a completed manuscript?


 

[0:15:36.1] KS: You know, when I finished Like a River from Its Course, I almost had this panic like I’m going to be a one hit wonder, the movie from the 90s, I don’t want to be oh needer. Don’t be an oh needer. I didn’t want to be just a one hit wonder.


 

[0:15:52.1] KS: That’s amazing.


 

[0:15:52.6] JR: One of my all-time favorites. That Thing You Do.


 

[0:15:54.5] KS: That Thing You Do.


 

[0:15:55.4] JR: Ladies and gentlemen the Oh needers. That’s the Wonders.


 

[0:15:59.2] KS: I did not want to be an oh needer. But I didn’t have any more ideas. I started to sort of panic a little and I was having conversations with my editor or with my agent and she was saying things like well, you know, people need to know what to expect from you. You should stick with the same genre and I was thinking, what does that mean, I have to stick with historical fiction, does it have to be soviet historical fiction? I don’t know.


 

I just started reading a lot and I came across this book called The Whisperers and it was all about – because I am interested in soviet history, there’s a lot of stories to tell and it was about an entire generation of people who survived under Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and you know, people would just disappear in the middle of the night and be sent to Siberia in the Gulags and it could be for something as inane as telling a joke that their neighbor didn’t like and they’d be reported and they’d disappear.


 

This whole generation of people became known as the whisperers because they were terrified to say anything because they didn’t know what could send them away and there was terrible prosecution and racism and – I just got this idea of what would it be like to be raised by someone who had survived that and who was so terrified to say where she came from, who she was, that she never told you? She changed her name, she changed her identity because that happened.


 

Because they wanted to protect themselves. Kids would betray their families, change their names and never tell future generations where they came from and I wanted to explore, how would that affect future generations if they were raised by someone who was terrified to tell you who they really were and so it was just this genesis of an idea that turned into this sort of generational tale of three women.


 

The matriarch, her daughter, her granddaughter and most of it is set in modern day America, the granddaughter is a 17-year-old girl who at the beginning of the novel finds out she’s pregnant. And you know, a teen pregnancy is bound to throw some turmoil into a home and here you have this home full of secrets, full of people that don’t tell one another what’s going on in their lives and so how would this one moment of finding out this pregnancy and what this almost feel like a devastation.


 

How would then that bring these three women together and so it was just sort of this genesis of an idea that started from reading a book called The Whisperers and it turned into A Silver Willow by the Shore.


 

[0:18:15.8] JR: You left that a lot there. How does that turn into A Silver Willow by the Shore? It’s like, you get this idea, all right, when I write nonfiction, when I wrote Master of One or Called to Create. I built out chapter summaries, right? I know generally where the book is going and then went actually sit down to write the chapter, I build a very detailed outline. Basically, it’s so detailed to where once I start writing in paragraph form, I know it’s time to write, its kind of my rule.


 

Do you outline the book like how does – do you just sit down and write sequentially until you feel like it’s done?


 

[0:18:48.8] KS: That’s sort of kind of what I do, there’s different rules of thought for a fiction writer, some people really feel strongly about outlining. I typically have – when I start a book, I typically know who my characters are, I know the beginning of the story really well and I almost always know the end of the story. I almost always know where they’re going to end up. The middle gets muddy for me. If I try and think about it too long, I get paralyzed and I don’t start.


 

For me, the best thing to do is just start writing and see what happens and be surprised by the story and so there was actually – there was one moment in writing and I’m not going to tell what it is because it will spoil the surprise for the reader but there was one moment in A Silver Willow by the Shore, when the grandmother was telling her story and I was sort of messing with format a little bit with Silver Willow.


 

Where the grandmother is telling her story in first person. But the rest of the book is written in typical third person format. Because I wanted the reader to be able to get into the grandmother’s head because the reader is going to know all the secrets that the daughter and the granddaughter don’t know.


 

I wanted them to be inside the grandmother’s head and there was one moment when I was just writing and then the grandmother’s name is Elizaviata and she said something and I was just like, wow. I didn’t know that’s where this is going and then it just opened up this whole new rabbit trail and so, for me, that heaviest editing that has to be done in my book is usually the middle section because you can tell, it’s where I was getting – I was having to force the story out a little bit because I was trying to get to the part that I knew.


 

Maybe outlining would help with that but for the most part, that just doesn’t seem to work for me, it’s just better for me to start and then see where the story leads me.


 

[0:20:31.8] JR: Knowing where you’re going? Knowing – having the end in mind.


 

[0:20:34.7] KS: Having the end in mind. I mean, this other book that I finished that I’m sort of sitting on for a little while, I hope to do something with it at some point but I actually sort of wrote myself in a hole at one point with one of the characters, I was like shoot, I don’t know what I’m doing here. That one, I had to unweave a little bit so sometimes it gets me in trouble. I actually just started a new book that I’m super excited about and for the first time, I feel like I know, I have a pretty good handle of the whole story.


 

[0:21:04.5] JR: That’s awesome. This is fun because I’ve never really written that way before.


 

[0:21:08.9] KS: Yeah.


 

[0:21:09.7] JR: I know we can’t talk about that next book yet. Super excited about that book. Yeah, more than any of the others. When I was writing Master of One, I don’t know if you remember this but I was writing this chapter on you know, okay, once you found the one vocational thing that you’re going to commit to, once you’re focused on it and you’ve said this is the thing I’m going to master.


 

How do people become world-class masters of their craft, right?  I read tons and tons of business literature, I did lots of interviews where one of the things that kept coming up over and over again, one of the keys to mastery that I outlined in Master of One are apprenticeships, right? That’s a pretty – sounds like an ancient term, right? But this idea of once you know what you want to get great at, humbly submitting yourself to the authorities of people who have come before you and have already mastered that craft.


 

That can be done directly in a traditional mentor prodigy type relationship. Or it can be that indirectly. I think a lot of authors, I don’t know what that mentorship relationship looks like if you're outside of the university setting, that’s really hard. I think a lot of authors have – this like indirect apprenticeships. People that they look up to and they just study their writings and they analyze everything that they do, maybe they email them and ask them for advice.


 

Have you had indirect sort of mentors that you’ve looked to really study how they write in structure story?


 

[0:22:32.5] KS: Yes. I mean, I’ve had very extremely indirect mentors in that I would even, he doesn’t know it, he’s my best friend and he’s my mentor. Stephen King. But I pretty much will read anything he writes, even if it scares the pants off me. It’s not my favorite genre that he writes but he is so brilliant at his craft. Every single one of his novels is basically a case study in character development and dialogue.


 

And then, his book on writing, that’s the title of the book On Writing. Is basically for me, I believe it is the bible for writers. I feel like every writer should read it, I re-read it about every 18 months. Just because it’s so motivating and it’s just so practical. Just from a very practical standpoint. I do consider him a mentor because he’s taught me the art of writing well.


 

And then, there are some more that are maybe a little bit more direct like people that I’ve met at conferences that are maybe a step ahead of me in the, you know, they’ve written, they published five or six or seven or more books and they have an understanding. Because it’s – the fiction world is different from the nonfiction world. It’s much harder to navigate as far as marketing and launching a book, it’s very different. You know, there’s less of a need for platform but there’s still a need for platform and how do you build a platform and you know, how do you build a platform and still write?


 

I do have some people that I reach out to for that and even Doug Gresham became one of those for me, you know? When I shared with him just some of my frustration of I want to, people say I’m a good writer but I don’t have a platform so they aren’t offering me the good deals and you know, he was very good about – you don’t need a platform, you do what you're good at doing and go with it.


 

[0:24:24.3] JR: Let’s talk about this. In the vernacular of Master of One, your one thing is s upper clear. You're an exceptional writer. But, in order to be successful at that craft. I think a lot of people struggle with this, right? I know what I’m great at but in order for that greatness to be seen by many people, I also have to figure out how to do these other things well, does that makes sense at all? I know you like – we’ve talked a little bit about that.


 

That’s got to be frustrating that you want to be doing, you’d be happy if you were just writing and not worrying about marketing. How have you pushed through that frustration in order to continue down this path of writing books or have you largely ignored it? Have you basically just said you know what? I’m just going to write, and the right publisher will market the wright book or are you trying to get great at the marketing side of things?


 

[0:25:17.1] KS: I’ve let go of it just a little bit because it becomes so frustrating to me because I am not good at the marketing. I know that I’m not good at it and at this phase in my life, I don’t have time to become good at marketing. I have five children, the only time that I have to do anything is basically between the hours of five and 6:30 AM and you know, maybe the occasional weekend away that I’m lucky to grab.


 

There’s no time for me to figure out how to market in that time. If I want to write good books, I can write good books and then some day, you know, maybe I’ll do better at marketing but right now, the best I can do is just give the best offering that I have and the best offering that I have is to write good stories.


 

[0:25:59.8] JR: Yeah, that’s well said.


 

[0:26:01.2] KS: I recognized the importance of playing the game to a degree and I believe that it’s important to – I mean, I worked hard on these books, I want people to read them so I have to do some things but I can’t do all the things and that’s largely why I don’t’ write nonfiction, too, because it is much more important to have that platform relationship with nonfiction.


 

I have a nonfiction story idea that I’m sitting on right now that I just can’t do anything with because I’m just not willing to worry about the platform piece.


 

[0:26:30.6] JR: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of wisdom in like recognizing that, right? Also recognizing one, you can always find partners to help on those things, be it a publisher or somebody else. But two, you know, at the end of the day, you’re not responsible for the results of your work. The Lord is the one who blesses and multiplies and produces results. I just respect you for like remaining focused on getting great at the craft that you’re great at and like doubling down on that.


 

[0:26:58.8] KS: I don’t’ always do it at a good attitude. There are times where I just feel like when’s it going to be my turn, when are we going to get the big break but I mean, what you said is spot on really truly, if I believe that this gift that I have is from the Lord and I want to offer it back to him 100% then I really shouldn’t be so focused on the results as I am on just him getting the glory for what I’m doing.


 

[0:27:23.6] JR: Yeah. How much time are you spending writing? I mean, an hour and a half a day, basically 90 minutes?


 

[0:27:30.0] KS: Basically, it boils down to that.


 

[0:27:33.3] JR: What is that – this used to me by the way, five to 6:30 AM, I love it. What did that 90 minutes look like? Do you know the day prior like before you sit down, do you know what you’re going to write and where you’re going to pick back up in the story?


 

[0:27:46.3] KS: Some days I do. I mean, some mornings, I will wake up and I’m ready to go. In an hour and a half, I can punch out 2,500 words easily. Then some mornings, I wake up and I stare at a blank screen for 30 minutes and then I decide there’s other things I should probably be doing with my time.


 

That’s why I say, not every single morning ends up being a writing morning. And again, it’s when I reach those hard points in the story where I wasn’t really sure where I was going, those are the ones that I’ve slogged through and so those are the days where in an hour and a half, I might get 500 words written.


 

I’m just – you can tell when you read that first draft like, you are not feeling it today, were you? Then you can tell when there was one weekend with Silver Willow actually. I got away for the weekend and I hadn’t had time to write in maybe three weeks. I just been thinking about the story and that’s when – when I’m simmering on a story but don’t’ have time to write. I told my husband one night, I was like, I need to get a hotel room and get away because I’m going to explode.


 

I got a hotel room and in 24 hours, I wrote 23 000 words. I mean, I basically wrote a quarter of the book in 24 hours because I’d been thinking about it. So much of my finger’s almost couldn’t keep up with my brain.


 

[0:29:03.9] JR: I think this is true with nonfiction writing too. I think that time of not sitting in front of the laptop and just letting that idea simmer, I think that is writing. I think that’s where writing happens, it’s when you have the white space mentally, to make creative connections between ideas, right? I mean, is that true for you?


 

How do you – are you intentional about that? Do you have intentional time where you’re like okay, I’m going for a run so that I could think up a story or does it kind of happen accidentally?


 

[0:29:34.8] KS: It usually happens accidentally but when I find that I’ve had several days in a row of it being very difficult to write, that’s when I know I need a break and so, I’ll either maybe sleep in or you know, I mean. Sometimes, like right now, our youngest child is having very difficult time sleeping and so we have not had a lot of good sleeping nights which means I’ve had fewer writing work.


 

Because I just can’t get out of bed that early. I can feel the story sort of – those are the – like the bubbling times or it’s almost frustrating that I can’t write but it’s good too because I know when I have that time that I’m going to be able to get something done. Sometimes it’s accidental and sometimes I know I need it and I take it. I take that white space time.


 

[0:30:13.4] JR: Yeah, I’ve started, I’m not a big exerciser, right? For the sake of exercise itself. But I’ve started running almost every day for 30, 45 minutes right before the last 90-minute block of my day. I found that time is magic for making creative connections between ideas when I was working downtown, I would frequently go on walks around downtown and I would just like walk aimlessly. I would end up at a mile away from my office just trying to unpack ideas.


 

I think there’s a lot of wisdom there.


 

[0:30:45.5] KS: Well, and a fun little running/writing story for you. Last year, I was sort of in between projects again and it was the same thing. I went for a run and I wasn’t even really going for a run to think about writing. I was just more, you know, I just needed to get out of the house. I was running and as I was running, this squirrel ran in front of me on the side walk and stopped and stared at me and I stopped and we both stared at each other for a second and I thought the squirrel was going to start singing and dancing like he is looking at me so intently and then he turned and ran off and I mean immediately, I had this idea and so I finished the run and then by the time I got home from the run, I had a character. I had the idea of a YA book that this is the one I’m halfway through.


 

That I am sort of sitting on right now, but it was just this delightful character who sees the world in a different way and there is an incident in the book where she and a squirrel have a moment. So it was like sometimes and this is – you know my husband always shakes his head at me because he thinks I am a weirdo because this is part of the problem of having an overactive imagination is like squirrels sing and dance but it is fine because sometimes it’s fun and maybe that book will end up just being a creative writing exercise. I don’t know but it was just a fun little moment that happened.


 

[0:31:54.5] JR: Yeah, I am such a fan of this idea of solitude and mental like space and trying to be proactive in creating that. I think it is really important, where is your favorite place you’ve physical space you have ever written?


 

[0:32:06.2] KS: Ooh that’s a good question. My friend, Wendy Speake, she is also a writer. Yes, she is an amazing writer and she is getting ready to publish a great book called The Sugar Fast but she and I used to do, for five years she and I did creative retreats where we would invite different creatives together and there were a couple of photographers. There was a teacher who would teach Shakespeare and do big Shakespeare in a week thing every year and then a couple of us were writers.


 

And we would go to her lake house in Northern California every year for a week and that is where a good portion of Like a River from its Course was written and that is probably one of my favorite places. It was beautiful, the scenery was beautiful. It was very quiet during the day, we just all went to our corners of the house to do our work and then we would come together at the end and share what we’d worked on and so that maybe one of my favorite places that I have written.


 

I just this summer went on a little writer’s expedition journey to London for a week and I spent a day in the little town where Jane Austin lived and I now have a very big dream to go back there and write because you can stay in these little guest quarters where her brother used to own a house and so that is my new dream in a few years down the road to maybe apply to stay there and work on a book.


 

[0:33:24.8] JR: That’s super cool. I’ve always wanted to write a book at The Kilns, Lewis’s home, which is incredible, and his little study and his desk is just –


 

[0:33:35.0] KS: That was my second favorite place that I visited on this trip that was –


 

[0:33:38.0] JR: Yeah, when you were writing do you – I think this is interesting to ask people of all professions whether or not they are writers. I am just super interested in this. Do you talk out ideas or are you pretty reclusive like you work that out in your head, or do you have to collaborate with other people and talking stuff out?


 

[0:33:53.8] KS: I have a couple of people that I do talk stuff out with. It is not that I don’t trust other people, but I know sometimes that what I am saying sounds weird. You know just the idea of talking about these characters like they are real and so I do have a couple of friends who they get the process, they are not fiction writers themselves but they are appreciators of the written word and one of them is actually like she is my dearest friend.


 

My editor, I don’t put anything into the world if she hasn’t read it first and she is really good at listening to me bat around ideas and not making me feel silly about them because some people when you’re talking, I know it sounds funny what I’m saying, you know? So I don’t like to talk about and I am not very good at expounding on ideas or books until I am sure about them unless it is with one of these people that can let me talk in circles a little bit.


 

[0:34:47.0] JR: Yeah, all right, so we talked about your writing habits, your routines as you put together fiction, what are some of your spiritual habits and disciplines?


 

[0:34:55.5] KS: Well that’s tricky because you know, I try to set aside those morning times for writing. Sometimes if the writing is not coming that is when I pick up my Bible. I try – you know sometimes it is just a matter of fitting that in where there’s space and I hate to say that because it’s like, “Oh you’re fitting God into the leftovers?” it sounds so – it doesn’t sound like a good Christian but I do believe it is the way that the Lord created me.


 

And I also feel like he gets honor when I work on my writing and so I do feel like I am having a spiritual moment when I am working on a book as much as I do when I am reading the word and when I am praying and so you know I wouldn’t say that I have your “daily devotional” but you know, finding time to make sure that I am spending time with the Lord and again, I’ve got five children, I pray a lot. I’ve got one child that doesn’t sleep so I pray a lot at 2 AM.


 

So you know the Lord and I are always talking but as far as just spiritual disciplines I would say I am always working to be more disciplined but part of my discipline is honoring him with the gifts that he has given me and right now in the time that I have that’s the way that I feel like I am probably going to do that.


 

[0:36:14.3] JR: So you and Lee, I love you guys both very dearly, you guys are two of the most devoted followers of Christ I know and yet, you are not overtly evangelical at all about your faith in your writing, right? I think of you anytime I hear that C.S. Lewis quote of – man, we are talking a lot about Lewis today. I know we both love Lewis, we don’t need more Christian books. We need more Christians writing great books, right? The gist of the quote.


 

I think about you a lot with that like you focus first and foremost on just creating great works of art and great books. Was that a conscious choice to take that approach or has it become conscious as you gotten into this career or writing?


 

[0:36:53.9] KS: I would say it was a conscious choice. You know my senior year at Baylor, I was about to graduate. I was this professional writing major. I knew I wanted to write books and John Grisham came to Bailer to speak and he packed out our big – what do we call it, the theater?


 

[0:37:10.8] JR: Auditorium is that?


 

[0:37:12.7] KS: Yes, I am a writer of all the words. Anyways, we packed it out and so you know, Baylor in the 90s was a very known good Christian school and there was a lot of the good Christian kids that went there. So one girl marched up to the microphone at the end when he was doing a Q&A and she said, “Mr. Grisham. You say that you are a Christian but you don’t write Christian books. So what do you have to say for yourself?” And you could hear the whole auditorium –


 

Auditorium that was the word I was looking for, you could hear the whole auditorium go, “ugh” and I loved his response and it has always stuck with me. He leaned into the microphone, he looked her right in the eye and he said, “I am a Christian who writes books. I am not a Christian writer. Next question” and I just remembered thinking that is what I want to be. I want to be a Christian who writes books. I never set out to be an inspirational fiction writer, Christian fiction writer.


 

Now, that is the category that Like a River from its Course ended up in partly because that is just where I got my foot in the door. I met –


 

[0:38:11.2] JR: That was the publisher, right?


 

[0:38:12.3] KS: Right, I met an agent who worked in the CBA.


 

[0:38:15.3] JR: What is CBA for those who don’t know?


 

[0:38:16.1] KS: Christian Book Association and so it wasn’t general market but after 63 rejections, I mean you go with who is excited and passionate about your project and she was excited and passionate about it and the publisher was, and so it was not my intention to become a Christian fiction author. It is just where I ended up and so there’s always been a little tension.


 

[0:38:37.4] JR: But you’re not. I mean that book, again I haven’t read it from cover to cover yet but there are redemptive themes to it.


 

[0:38:43.8] KS: There are themes and that is – and I will say that the Christian fiction world is heading that direction anyway.


 

[0:38:51.5] JR: Okay just so I understand the difference, right? So Christian fiction as we would typically define it is the character wakes up, does her quiet time every day or her lost friend prays the prayer in chapter 12, right?


 

[0:39:04.4] KS: Like I said Christian fiction, I would venture to guess that most people immediately would think Amish. I mean that is basically what has been for a long time.


 

[0:39:12.1] JR: Which is oddly dominated Christian fiction market.


 

[0:39:14.5] KS: For a long time.


 

[0:39:15.6] JR: We could talk about that on another day so –


 

[0:39:17.1] KS: It is changing. The market is changing now you have to – we are working to change the perception of Christian fiction. They don’t even call it Christian fiction anymore. It is called inspirational fiction but even that you know, there are still readers though that long for that sort of and that’s okay. Everybody has their own preference, they long for that innocent – but that is not who I set out to be and so there’s always been this tension of how do I continue to write in a way that honors what I want to make the Lord’s name known.


 

I want him to get the glory, but I don’t want to get my characters to have to pray in order to do that and so just working to include like you said themes of redemption, themes of grace. In Silver Willow, there is one character who she is a woman of faith. None of the other characters really come to share her faith but there is one character that by the end, maybe it is like Susan. You question what happened but there is, there is forgiveness and there is love and there is brokenness and healing and being made whole because that is all real life.


 

So that is what I want to bring to fiction novels is I want it to be real and I want people to feel like they can identify on any level whether they are a person of faith or not.


 

[0:40:33.2] JR: Yeah, I love the Grisham quote. I am going to come back to that. I mean that is gold, very similar to the Lewis quote. We are going to have John Grisham on the show. Grisham is still writing, right?


 

[0:40:42.8] KS: Yeah, I think he’s got a new book out.


 

[0:40:44.4] JR: Pretty fanatically, yeah, he produces at an unbelievable speed. So let me ask you this, how as an author of fiction, you’ve got this tremendous power and influence and you create these worlds, these characters, these plots, these tension and as you are building that world how does your faith inform that process. I mean you just touched on that but how do you think about my characters aren’t going to go to church necessarily. They’re not going to pray necessarily but how does your faith influence the building of those worlds?


 

[0:41:14.1] KS: Well I think all of us who have lived any amount of time, we have experienced heartache and joy right and we have experienced high highs and low lows and so pain and suffering is universal and how do we come out of that and one thing that I will say that has become typical in a lot of popular general market fiction, you know the stuff that makes the Oprah’s list and all of that stuff is very dark and I will use this book as an example: The Girl on the Train.


 

I read that book a couple of years ago. Now it was a greatly written book. I was about to say it was a great book. I don’t think it was a great book. I think it was a super well-written book. I read it in a couple of days. I couldn’t put it down, but I remember at the beginning thinking, “Man this is really sad and dark” and then at the end thinking, “That was really sad and dark”. There was no redemption and that is a problem in a lot of general market fiction is there is the problem of pain.


 

That we all can identify with but there is not the redemption and so I don’t want all my books to be tied up with a perfectly neat little bow because that is not real life either but there needs to be some redemption to where when the reader puts the book down, they feel hope and so I want to tell stories of hope that still reveal the brokenness that we can all identify with.


 

[0:42:40.0] JR: I love that, yeah and I think that is a lesson for all of us regardless of what our vocations are, right? We may not preach the gospel explicitly at work but all of us have opportunities to tell stories of hope in the products that we create and the way that we serve our customers and that hope for us Christians is fueled by the work of Jesus Christ, right? That is the ultimate secure hope.


 

All right three questions I’d like to ask every guest. I am really interested here in what you say about this first one, which book or books do you gift the most?


 

[0:43:13.3] KS: Well to writers, Stephen King’s On Writing.


 

[0:43:17.2] JR: I have never read it.


 

[0:43:18.0] KS: Oh, Jordan.


 

[0:43:18.9] JR: I know but isn’t it like all it is all fiction focused right?


 

[0:43:22.6] KS: Well the first half of the book is basically his memoir, which is so fascinating and then the second half of the book is on writing and it is a lot of fiction focused but you would like it.


 

[0:43:31.2] JR: Okay, all right I will read it.


 

[0:43:32.5] KS: Okay, I am going to give it to you.


 

[0:43:34.1] JR: You are going to gift it? Yeah.


 

[0:43:35.4] KS: Yeah, I am going to gift it. The three that I gift the most, you know it is funny that I think I mostly gift none-fiction books even though I am a fiction writer because I gift – well I did write a non-fiction. I co-authored a non-fiction book with Wendy Speak called Life Creative. So I do gift that one quite a bit to other moms who feel like they’re drowning that feel like they have these creative gifts but they are drowning in motherhood and so this one is one that I like to gift just as an encouragement.


 

And my favorite novel, I wouldn’t say I gift it a lot, but it is my most recommended. There is two, whenever people ask me what books should I read, my two favorite are Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and Anna Karenina.


 

[0:44:17.1] JR: And what?


 

[0:44:18.0] KS: Anna Karenina.


 

[0:44:19.2] JR: Huh, interesting.


 

[0:44:20.4] KS: Tolstoy, it is another one I read it every two years. It is my favorite book of all time.


 

[0:44:24.4] JR: Really? Interesting. Tolstoy, okay I like it. All right what one person would you most like to hear talk about this intersection of their faith and their work on this podcast?


 

[0:44:35.9] KS: On this podcast, well John Grisham would be amazing.


 

[0:44:41.2] JR: Let’s get Grisham, seriously that would be great.


 

[0:44:42.8] KS: And if you get him, I want to ask him some questions.


 

[0:44:47.0] JR: Absolutely, did he go to Bailer?


 

[0:44:47.9] KS: No, I don’t think so. I don’t know, I don’t think he did. He just came as a speaker.


 

[0:44:51.3] JR: Interesting.


 

[0:44:51.6] KS: I think Doug Grisham would be fascinating to talk with.


 

[0:44:54.2] JR: Yeah, Doug’s already said he is going to be on the show. We are working to schedule it so that would be great okay.


 

[0:44:58.5] KS: Yeah, I think those would be the two that would be interesting.


 

[0:45:00.8] JR: What about one of our friends? So we know so many of the same people like who in our group of friends you’re like, “Yeah that person loves Jesus and they are exceptional at what they do.”


 

[0:45:09.3] KS: Ooh who, well you know my husband would actually be a really good on this podcast.


 

[0:45:15.5] JR: I know so your husband and I are going to be on another trip together here really soon. So I told him if we had some extra time we’ll think about it. So Kelli’s husband Lee is a truly exceptional sales executive and that could be –


 

[0:45:29.8] KS: You know who else would be really excellent to talk to is Sean Groves.


 

[0:45:33.0] JR: Yeah, Lee mentioned that one wants to know about Sean. All right last question, one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is pursuing mastery of the art of writing, if they are just getting started but they really envisioned being a writer, what would you say to that person?


 

[0:45:48.3] KS: I would just say you have to believe in your ability to craft something well and in order to believe in your ability to craft something well you need to study the craft and so you need to learn to write well. You need to know just even the basics like don’t write in the passive voice and know basics of grammar and that sort of thing. I mean you don’t have to know all. Listen, I am the queen of overusing the comma. I use it and my editor, it drives her nuts.


 

I use commas way too much, I know I do. I am sorry, I can’t figure out when you are supposed to use it and when you are not but you don’t need to perfect at grammar but just the basics of grammar you know, when to use a semicolon and when to use the past tense and the present perfect and all of that and then once you feel like I can do this then believe it and do it. I think for a long time, I didn’t consider myself a writer because I wasn’t published and so people would ask me what I do.


 

And I’d be like, “I am a stay at home mom, sometimes I blog and I hope to write a book someday” and now when people ask I say, “I am a writer” “What have you published?” “Well, okay I only had one fiction book come out and well now two” I wouldn’t call myself a prolific writer but I am a writer it is what I do and I know I am good at it so I am going to own that and be confident in it and so I think once you feel like you’ve mastered the craft, you understand it and you’re practicing the craft daily it doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re published or if you self-publish versus traditional publish.


 

That doesn’t matter, what matters is you studied something you worked hard at it and you are offering it back as just a sacrifice of this is what I did.


 

[0:47:30.3] JR: Yeah, I love that. That is great advice for anyone and any vocation that if there is something we want to get masterful at, study the heck out of it and go submit yourself humbly to people who have already mastered the craft. Kelli, I just want to commend you I am such a big fan of yours. I am grateful for our friendship. I am grateful for your commitment to the ministry of excellence and just creating really great art that tells these redemptive themes that implicitly points to the gospel.


 

I think again, I haven’t read Like a River From Its Course cover to cover yet but so many of my friends say yes, Jesus’s name isn’t paramount and scream from the rooftops in this book but the gospel is, the themes of the gospel are. So I am just so grateful for you. Your work is important and I am thankful that you make space for it in the midst of five kids and I understand a little bit of how difficult that is. I have been in your house when all five kids are going nuts.


 

So thank you very much. Hey, the book is A Silver Willow by the Shore by Kelli Stuart. It just came out, you could pick up a copy right now on Amazon. Kelli, thanks for hanging out.


 

[0:48:36.3] KS: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I appreciate what you do as well so thanks for encouraging others.


 

[END OF INTERVIEW]


 

[0:48:42.4] JR: What a great conversation with my friend, Kelli Stuart. I hope you guys enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. I learned so much. I really don’t understand fiction. I think you guys are learning this about me. I wish I did. It is something I wish I loved, I just don’t get it and I certainly wouldn’t even know where to start to write it. I am so glad I have the ability to sit down with a world-class fiction writer like Kelli and just pick her brain.


 

Hey, if you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to Call to Mastery so you never miss an episode in the future and if you are already subscribed, do you know what I am going to ask you to do? Please review the podcast, take 30 seconds to go review the podcast on the podcast app of your choice. If you have no idea how to do either of those things, head to jordanrayner.com/podcast where we have made it really, really simple for you to do both of those things.


 

Hey before you guys go, I’ve got another conversation with another author that I want to share. As you guys know, I am a big reader. A couple of months ago, I started sharing some of the books that I have added to my personal reading list and my weekly devotional email. By the way, if you don’t receive that weekly faith and work devotional, sign up for free right now at jordanraynor.com. Anyways, I have started adding these books to the end of those devotional showing you guys what I am adding to my reading list.


 

And I recently sat down with the author of one of those books that I actually recommended a while back. It is a book called Win at Home First. It is written by this guy named Cory Carlson who’s based in Cincinnati. This is a great book, I really enjoyed it, super practical tips for being exceptional both at work and at home. Kara, my wife and I we were at dinner with our best friend’s Clay and Bethany a few weeks ago and Bethany who is an avid reader was saying that she saw my recommendation, bought the book and devoured it and absolutely loved the book.


 

That is a big endorsement coming from Bethany who is quite the critical reader. I hope she is listening to this episode. So anyways, I recently sat down to talk to Cory Carlson about Win at Home First, what the book is all about. So without further ado, here is my conversation with Cory Carlson.


 

[INTERVIEW]


 

[0:50:54.6] JR: Cory Carlson, thanks for joining me, buddy.


 

[0:50:56.9] CC: Well thank you very much Jordan for having me on, I greatly appreciate it.


 

[0:51:00.8] JR: Yes, so I am really excited to talk about this book. I mentioned in my introduction that I was at dinner with some friends recently. One of whom is an avid reader and she saw my endorsement of your book, Win at Home First, read it and loved it. We spent, I don’t know, like a quarter of dinner talking about this thing. So found the book to be really, really helpful. So let us just dive in. Talk to me a little bit about what the book is about Cory.


 

[0:51:28.2] CC: Yeah, great. Well that is fun to hear about the dinner party and someone enjoying the book, good to hear. You never know when you write a book who is going to impact and how it is going to impact so that’s fun to hear. You know the book is about is – or you know some background on the book is I do executive coaching. I used to be corporate America. I hired an executive coach about six years ago, used the executive coach for those three years and then eventually decided I wanted to go and do this for myself.


 

And you know the reason for this, as I was learning the content, a lot of the content, which was in the book I was using all of my direct reports at the time I was president of sales for a national contractor. I had 30 people who are reporting to me, some of which believed in Jesus, some of which did not and so the ones that did I said, “Hey, Jesus said here is a tool to shape the idea” and I saw a growth in transformation but what was crazy is even the ones that didn’t believe, I’d find another quote.


 

Maybe a quote by Steve Jobs or somebody else and here is the same tool, shape or idea and I started to see transformation. I started to see people dating their spouses again, people starting to be intentional with their kids and it became purpose over profits but yet our bottom line also increased. So as I was doing these in my particular job, I was like, “Man I want to do this for other clients not just my direct reports” and there is nothing wrong obviously with staying inside corporate America.


 

But I just felt God calling on me to go outside. So I get hired by clients to help for the vision values or how do I improve my profit and loss statement, how do I improve the culture of the company. So those are the reasons I get hired as an executive coach but what was interesting as I was having these one on one type discussions, what was really keeping the business owner, the executive up at night wasn’t even really business related. It was, how did they connect to their spouse more?


 

How are they more intentional with their kids, how to lose 10 pounds? How do they drink less? All of these different things and so I kept finding myself saying, “You have to win at home first in order to have extra capacity to be well at work” in order to have margin in your life to be creative or strategic, in order to sit down and be empathetic with someone and so that is what we started to work on and after this continuing saying that one phrase, win at home first then during some of my quiet times I think God would nudge me, “Hey you need to write a book.”


 

But I would ignore it because I have never thought of myself as an author, you know civil engineering by degree who are known not to be able to be write but then client started saying, “You need to write a book” and so I began the journey and published a book just a couple of months ago. So, it has been a wild ride.


 

[0:54:14.5] JR: Yeah and we talked about this, so when I was running Threshold 360 as CEO one of our core values was be exceptional at work and at home but I like the lens that you are coming at this topic with that you have to win at home first in order to win at work, I love that. All right Cory, who is this book for? So obviously this is for people where for the people that you started teaching this content, to people on corporate America but is it broader than that? What is the audience for this book?


 

[0:54:41.0] CC: The audience for the book, when I wrote the book it was for business leaders and owners and executives. I can relate most to them, I then myself was that individual, someone who is married, someone who has kids, they can pull from different pieces in the book but what I will tell you Jordan is I’ve had people who don’t fit that who are loving the book and they are finding pieces out of it and so my heart when I wrote it was, “Hey this is what I think is going to go for” but it’s gone to others.


 

And I think one reason it does is because all of us want to live a life to the full. All of us want to have life and have it abundantly as Jesus talks about it in John 10:10 but we don’t. It’s chaotic, we are running from meeting to meeting, email to email and so there’s a couple of things that go through this book that anybody, no matter what they do, a stay at home mom or high level executive that they can pull out of it and the first part has a lot to do with identity.


 

Where are we taking our questions of our identity like who are we? And understanding our identity. So it has some great content that really helped me that I learned that I share in the book and then the other is a way to live a prioritized life so that we are intentional. So you know we are controlling our schedule and our schedule is not controlling us so we are making the decisions. There is a quote that is in the book that I absolutely love that was given to me. It was “the quantity of our no’s will drive the quality of our yeses.”


 

[0:56:11.9] JR: I love that.


 

[0:56:12.9] CC: And by using a framework that it is in the book called the five capitals, it actually allows you to have a framework that you can make decisions do I say yes or no to that. Does it align with who I am and what I’m going after and so we are not reactionary.


 

[0:56:26.9] JR: I love that, the quantity of your no’s impact the quality of your yes that is really good. I mean that is the heart of Master of One, my newest book.


 

So all right, last question for you. So you are actually a member of my audience. You’re subscribed to my weekly faith and work devotional and I would argue, you’re a pretty good profile through my audiences, right? The people listening to this podcast are high-achieving Christians who are seeking to do really exceptional work for the glory of God and for the good of others. How is this book going to serve that audience well?


 

[0:57:00.1] CC: You know a great question and you know part of it is helping out line out the five capitals. So there is a framework that you have a structure to think through and make this decision so you get greater impact and so you can do some of those other pieces and so that is part one and there is some different pieces in part one about pruning, understanding the things that you say no to, to have the greater impact but then the rest of the book is the idea of hey, how do I manage both responsibility.


 

The execution of getting things done with the retention of I also need to have relationship. I can’t just be going all about results. There has to be relationship in there and so there’s different frameworks that will help you think through. It is both relationship and responsibility. It is not just a – we got to crank out the creative work all day long and so it is finding that tension between responsibility and relationship and so that is provided in there as well.


 

And as I work with clients, a lot of their missteps are not winning at home is their marriage. So provide some tools that have helped me and help clients whether it is dating your spouse. That is like the number one thing, if anyone could get anything out of this, I would love for them to buy the book. I love to get more but date your spouse.


 

[0:58:17.6] JR: So can I ask a follow up question there? How do you date your spouse? Like you specifically.


 

[0:58:21.2] CC: Well, me specifically we make sure we go on at least two dates a month where we get away and we just go have dinner and you know sometimes it is a variety of different things. Maybe we go to a nice restaurant, maybe we are going to a cheaper casual restaurant but it is to get away where her and I are looking eye to eye, there is no kids around, there is also no other friends around. It is just her and I. Holly and I where we got tripped up early in our marriage was we thought we’re together.


 

But what was the reality was we were all these other people all the time. We were going on double dates, we are having parties at our house, we were going to parties and we just lost sight of, “Hey, what is really going on in your life? How is your heart? What are you going after this season” and so it is so critical and the pushback I always give is well it costs a lot of money. Well, it is a lot less money than marriage counseling and it is a heck of a lot cheaper than divorce.


 

[0:59:16.1] JR: Yeah that is exactly right. You know Kara and I were actually talking about this idea of like just being alone on date nights instead of being alone with friends. We’d love going out with friends but that is not really dating your spouse and you see the things come out of your spouse when they’re with friends than you don’t when you are alone and that is a beautiful thing but that alone time is really, really critical and we are also big believers in date nights don’t need to be fancy.


 

I mean quality time does not need to be expensive time to hit your bank account really hard. Hey Cory, thanks for taking a couple of minutes to talk about this book. Like I said, I have loved the book. I found it to be super practical. I know a couple of my friends have as well. So thank you for writing it. I just commend you for writing an excellent book and sharing your story and sharing this advice with the world. So thanks for being here buddy.


 

[1:00:02.7] CC: No man, thank you very much Jordan. Thanks for the support and kind words, I appreciate it.


 

[END OF INTERVIEW]


 

[1:00:08.2] JR: Again, the book is Win at Home First by Cory Carlson. Go pick up a copy today. Hey, that’s it for today’s episode. Again, if you enjoyed this episode, if you are enjoying the Call to Mastery in general, go subscribe to the show and if you haven’t already, please leave a review so that we can ensure that more people discover this podcast and that more people can more deeply connect their faith and their work and be exceptional both at work and at home.


 

So, hey guys, thank you so much for listening this week. I’ll see you next time.


 

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