Stacy O’Halloran of Briley & Baxter Publications: ” It is impossible to please everyone”

Never worry about the opinions of people who you would not go to for advice. It is impossible to please everyone. Seek wise counsel and ignore the criticisms of people who have not earned your respect or do not have credentials in your field. As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important […]

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Never worry about the opinions of people who you would not go to for advice. It is impossible to please everyone. Seek wise counsel and ignore the criticisms of people who have not earned your respect or do not have credentials in your field.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy O’Halloran.

Stacy O’Halloran is not only a successful author of young-adult novels, but she is an ingenious entrepreneur as well. In addition to her publishing house and Etsy Shop, both named after her adorable Dachshunds, she also owns a tutoring company that specializes in preparing students for college entrance. Stacy incorporates her passions and talents into phenomenal business ventures.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have worked in the field of education for the past twelve years as a tutor, academic coach, and college counselor. However, my greatest passion has always lay in creative writing. I began writing books when I was six years old and never stopped. When I entered high school, I realized that teenagers needed truly realistic books that they could read to prepare them for the social battles they would face — books I wish I had read! Prior to entering high school, I had devoured books on the topic, hoping to prepare myself. Those books did me a disservice because they were idealistic. They did not share the truth about the peer pressure, substance abuse, and bullying that frequently took place. Realizing this, I decided to write the books I wish I had been able to read — books that would prepare kids for tricky situations and educate them on ways to make informed decisions. I was only thirteen years old when I created the characters in my Montgomery Lake High book series. I still write about them today. In high school, I wrote first drafts of three of the books. After college, I edited those books and added in some bits of wisdom I had picked up along the way. Then I wrote two additional books to connect the five books and form the MLH series. In 2009, when it came time to find a publisher, I knew I was in for an upward climb. This was before the time of self-publishing on Amazon. I had to find a literary agent if I wanted a chance of getting any of my books published. I sent out 70+ query letters and received numerous responses that said the agencies were not taking on new authors. Finally, I heard back from one agent who wanted to read my manuscript. After nine months and more rejections that I could keep track of, I landed a publishing deal. My five books were released from August of 2010-April of 2014. In 2017, I began working on a spinoff of the MLH series titled “Gripped.” From February of 2019-May of 2020, I released the first four books in the Gripped series. Also during that time, I began working with a producer in Hollywood, who wants to turn my Gripped series in a TV show. My Gripped series is a huge reason why I opened my own publishing company. After working with the same publisher since 2010, I wanted Gripped #2 to be released a few months after Gripped #1. My publisher was insistent on releasing the books 6 months apart, and since I was traditionally published, I had little say. (Thankfully, I owned all of the right to my books.) Frustrated, I began researching how to work with distributors and how to start a publishing company. I already owned my own college counseling company, so I knew enough about running a business, but publishing would be a new endeavor. However, I knew if I could pull it off, I could not only have my books released quicker, but also help other authors share their stories more easily. In 2019, I founded Briley & Baxter Publications with the intent to donate 10–20% of the proceeds to animal rescues every month. My dachshund, Baxter, is a rescue, and he was a huge inspiration. In 2020, after releasing 19 books through my imprint, I joined forces with NBA coach Brett Gunning to co-author a twelve-part children’s book series that will be published through Briley & Baxter Publications. To raise further funds for animal rescues, I recently decided to launch a product line on Etsy called “The Briley & Baxter Shop” from which I donate 50% of proceeds to animal rescues through Briley & Baxter Publications. The product line includes clothing, home goods, and accessories that feature Briley & Baxter illustrations drawn by my illustrator Maddy Moore. Briley & Baxter have accrued over 5,000 followers on Instagram, and their fans are frequenting the new shop. We have just agreed to sponsor The Tiny Tim on Wheels Foundation for December.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The most interesting story involved getting a phone call from a producer in Hollywood, saying he would like to turn one of my books into a movie. His interest was first in my book “The Aftermath,” so during the summer of 2019, I wrote a screenplay version of it at his request. When the screenplay went to the table read, the actors had a bunch of questions about things that happened before and after “The Aftermath” in my other books. This led my producer, David Gunning, to realize a two-hour movie would not be enough time to do the story justice; rather a TV show would be the way to go. I set to work on writing a pilot script of Gripped with the help of my scriptwriting intern from Emerson College. We submitted the pilot right before Christmas, and it was highly embraced. What I never expected was to learn that Mark Blutman, one of the creators of shows such as Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World, was interested in writing/producing the Gripped show. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, David, Mark, and I had met to discuss the project. Everything is on hold right now because of the pandemic, but I am very excited to see where it leads!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

To get one of my students to focus on his homework, I made a deal with him: I — a girl with a lifelong fear of snakes — would allow him to pick one of his pet snakes for me to hold if he finished everything by 4:30pm. While this motivated him, he and his brothers had a reptile room with over 20 pet snakes. It soon turned into a regular occurrence (me holding a boa constrictor one day, and a carpet python the next). I learned a lot from this mistake, such as how to correctly handle a snake and how to quite quickly get over a lifelong fear!

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

20% of the proceeds from the hardcover versions of my Gripped and Montgomery Lake High books published through Briley & Baxter Publications are donated to a different animal rescue each month. 10% of the publishing proceeds from all other Briley & Baxter Publications books are donated along with 50% of the monthly proceeds from The Briley & Baxter Shop. In addition to the animal rescues, there are many teenagers who have benefitted from the positive and empowering messages in my books. I have given internships to many different teenagers, who have written articles about the impact of my books. Their articles can be read here:

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Recipients of our proceeds have included Last Hope K9 Rescue, WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue, Dachshund Rescue of South Florida, and Freedom Service Dogs of America. For December we are donating to The Tiny Tim on Wheels Foundation, which was just started this month to help animals with IVDD. My dachshund Baxter (the rescue) has IVDD, so I know how expensive treatment can be. It is my joy to help other pet owners and shelters be able to provide precious animals with the care they need to be relieved of pain and illness.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Encourage people to adopt/rescue animals from high-kill shelters, to fight against puppy mills, and to raise awareness of animals in need.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define leadership by one’s ability to identify a problem, devise a way to solve it, and carry out his/her plan in a way that positively impacts others. For example, when I saw the need for realistic books for teens, I decided to write a young adult fiction series on the topics of peer pressure, substance abuse, and bullying. I figured out how to get the books published and carried out my plan in a way that has helped teenagers deal with the stresses and pressures of adolescence.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Never worry about the opinions of people who you would not go to for advice. It is impossible to please everyone. Seek wise counsel and ignore the criticisms of people who have not earned your respect or do not have credentials in your field.

There are people out there who want to see you fail. They do not have the empathy to share in your joys. They will rejoice in your failures and scour at your success. They may even try to hurt your career. They are the problem. Their hate is the problem. Their lack of fulfillment if the problem. Not you. Pray for them. They need it.

Networking is critical, and it goes both ways. Be prepared to help others meet the people you know and seek to be a unifier who builds a collaborative network of professionals. Being a part of the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP of NY, NY) has been a wonderful experience for me.

Elevating others is one of the greatest joys in the professional sector. Coaching interns and mentees is a rewarding way to pass on your passion to others. I currently have 20 interns with an interest in communications who work for my book series.

Pray for God to open the right doors and shut the wrong doors. Give Him permission to do so. In fact, plead with Him to do so. Having the wisdom to know what doors to walk through and what doors to leave shut is crucial for success and happiness.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a Christian evangelist at heart. I would love to inspire a movement that would help people connect with God to discover their own special gifts and talents that can be used to make this world a better place. I believe people are most fulfilled when they are celebrating their gifts and pursuing their passions. The more in tune people are with themselves and their creator, the more productive, inspired, and satisfied they will be.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote “For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity” by CS Lewis inspired my saying, “Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future will only rob you of the present’s joy.” The book “The Screwtape Letters” by CS Lewis changed my life about 13 years ago. The invaluable lessons of “being present” and “living in the present” found in Chapter 15 of the prolific novel impacted my life immensely, as I am an intuitive person prone to pondering on the future. What I did not realize was that I was wasting a ton of mental energy playing out scenarios in my mind, along with how I would respond to these hypothetical situations. Learning to instead focus on what “is” instead of what “could happen” has helped me be not only more productive, but far more appreciative of everything real in the present.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to meet with Jon Foreman, the lead singer and songwriter of Switchfoot, because his songs greatly inspired my book “The Aftermath,” which is my favorite of my Montgomery Lake High series and the one that first caught the eye of Hollywood producers.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @author_stacypadula @two_cuddly_dachshunds


Twitter @thegrippedbooks

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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