Sept. 5, 2014
Investigative journalism comes naturally for Nancy Stancill
Josh Whitener in The Charlotte Weekly
Her dad was an editor and publisher of a small paper in Virginia, and Stancill spent more than 30 years as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Charlotte Observer, with much of her time spent covering investigative beats. Now her goal is to use her experiences and writing skills to tell suspenseful and insightful stories through her first novel, “Saving Texas.”
“I had so many interesting experiences working (as an investigative journalist) … I thought I really would like to write a book about what it’s really like to be an investigative reporter,” Stancill said. “I’ve always seen investigative reporters as today’s detectives, (so) I wanted to make the reporter the focus of the action in the book.”
Stancill will visit the Morrison Library, located at 7015 Morrison Blvd., for a reading on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 6:30 p.m. She will be on hand to answer questions and discuss “Saving Texas,” a thriller centered on a 36-year-old newspaper reporter, Annie Price, who is investigating a corrupt political campaign in Texas involving secession from the U.S.
Part of Stancill’s inspiration came from her experience working on a story about a community college in Texas that “turned out to be very corrupt,” she said. She also drew from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s comments about Texas possibly seceding from the U.S.
“That got a lot of publicity, and I thought, ‘What if?’” Stancill said.
Stancill began writing the novel after moving to London, England, in 2009. She spent about a year writing the book and had a “pretty good draft” when she and her husband moved back to Charlotte in late 2012. Stancill spent about another year-and-a-half polishing and editing the book, which included eliminating extraneous characters and trimming the plot at the suggestion of a writer friend.
The toughest part, Stancill said, was actually sitting down and writing the draft.
“I think it’s just the discipline you need – making yourself sit down and write every day for a couple of hours at least,” she said. “You just have to decide what you want to do and try to do a little bit every day.”
A self-proclaimed “avid reader” and a fan of mysteries and suspense thrillers, Stancill drew inspiration from some of her favorite authors – including Elizabeth George and British writer P.D. James – while penning “Saving Texas.”
“I’ve always loved things that were really plot-driven, so I think you just try to emulate the writers you like,” she said.
The best part about writing the novel, Stancill said, was reliving some of the “wonderful experiences” she had as an investigative journalist. She said her book hearkens back to her own “heyday in the 1990s” as a reporter.
“It was wonderful for me to kind of relive some of the golden days of journalism,” Stancill said. “The heroine, Annie Price, is in a newsroom that’s really struggling in the current day, downsizing in different ways, but still able to do good journalism, and I think it was the ‘good journalism’ part that really fascinated me.”
But “Saving Texas” isn’t just a throwback novel – Stancill also crafted a present-day story aimed at being relevant to current events. She also wrote the novel as a cautionary tale to “kind of put out a warning that this … kind of journalism that exposes corruption and wrongdoing is really imperiled by today’s journalism world (and its) problems.”
Stancill is currently working on a master’s degree in creative writing and plans to use her education to write a sequel to “Saving Texas.” In the meantime, she’s excited her book has received positive feedback since being released in October 2013 and hopes to use the novel not only to create awareness of the threat to investigative journalism, but also to financially support the industry, as she’s donating some of the proceeds to a fellowship that helps send journalists to the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Conference each year.
“I really believe in the power of investigative reporting and want to support that,” Stancill said.
Find more information including a link to purchase the book at www.nancystancill.com.