Find a Christian store

Interview with Kelli Stuart

“I didn’t just imagine this history—I spoke to it.” How many historical fiction authors can claim that accomplishment when speaking of the research they did for their novel?

Kelli Stuart can. Her debut novel, Like A River From Its Course, involved more than 20 years of research in the Ukraine and Soviet Russia, more than a decade of writing, and a manila envelope full of rejections from agents or potential publishers before it was finally ready for publication. But Kelli didn’t give up.

“I’ve learned I am more tenacious than I thought I could be,” Kelli said. Tenacity is important when pursuing your dreams. If you lack the determination necessary to reach your goals, you may quit right before those goals and dreams are realized.

“Sometimes dreams take time for a reason.”

Kelli said she couldn’t have written this book the way she did before having children—and that was when she began her research. As she progressed through the book, Kelli realized she needed to experience the emotions of motherhood in order to delve into the emotions of her characters. She needed to live through grief and heartache before she could write about those emotions in a believable way.

“Though I was impatient for significant portions of this path, looking back on it now I see the waiting was, perhaps, the most active part of the journey.” As she researched, Kelli spoke with more than 100 veterans from WWII in Ukraine. This is where the active aspect of the waiting took place. It’s impossible to have a conversation with someone who’s seen the worst humanity had to offer the world and walk away unchanged. To hear those men and women tell their stories taught Kelli what bravery truly looks like.

A primary reason her characters resonate so deeply with readers is that they are based on the true stories she received from those veterans. She ate meals with them. They kissed her cheeks and called her darling. She handed them tissues so they could dry their tears while speaking about their brothers, sisters, parents, and friends who didn’t survive the long war years.

When Kelli finally tapped into the characters for this book, “their words dripped from my fingertips because I could still hear the voices of those men and women in my mind. These aren’t just stories, they’re real people, and readers are feeling that.”

Feeling inspired

Readers are also tapping into the creative inspiration that drives Kelli to write. If she doesn’t feel inspired, she finds it difficult to write well. Sometimes, an author can drum up the inspiration through the pressure of a looming deadline, but Kelli didn’t want to power through on ambition alone. She wanted to tell the right stories in the right way. Once she realized that writing inspired was the key, the story flowed faster and she knew she’d end up with a finished product she could be proud of.

Our world was created by a creative God, and He created us in His image, so as Kelli said, “we all are knit with some creativity woven into our very fibers. Even the most analytical of minds will be taken in by a vibrant sunset. My husband, who laughs when I place the label of ‘creative’ upon him, melts when our two-year-old daughter giggles.”

For Kelli, creativity includes conveying a new perspective of World War II from the vantage point of Ukraine—a country whose mostly unknown history is fraught with heartache, beauty, and inspiration. She hopes readers finish the book in awe of the human spirit and the innate ability to thrive in spite of the harshest of circumstances. “We’re all a little braver than we think, and these characters prove the tenacity of mankind to survive,” Kelli said.

Let bravery move you--and break you

Being brave is what led to Kelli to visit the former Soviet Union on a mission trip with an organization called Student Venture. She instantly fell in love with that area of the world. Years later, that bravery continued when she took her passion for the area and pursued adoption of a Russian child, only to have Russia shut down American adoptions. Kelli’s heart was shattered.

Yet, even that heartbreak didn’t stop her. In 2013, her family hosted a young woman from Ukraine—too old to adopt but in definite need of support. Three years later, they continue to pray for and support her and believe she’ll graduate from the university, breaking the cycle of devastation under which she was raised.

A cyclical pattern also exists in the journey of Kelli’s debut novel. She was pregnant with her son in 2003 when she traveled to Ukraine and began conducting interviews. That little boy spent many mornings lying in a chair beside her as she typed. She started and restarted the story several times with her son by her side.

So, it was a beautiful moment the day the box of books arrived on her doorstep. She opened the box while her now 13-year-old son filmed her. “It felt right to have him there in that moment. I’ve never felt a deeper accomplishment.”

Whether it’s encouraging mothers to never give up on their dreams, especially when they often feel lost in their mothering tasks, or sharing stories through her writing and speaking, Kelli’s passion rings clear and true. Embrace your innate creativity and stay the course—no matter what happens.


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who lives with her husband and author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and son, and a Retriever-mix named Roxie. She has sold 20 books so far, three of which have won annual reader’s choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.