How did you start out your writing career? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Well, hummmm career? I like that. I wrote my first novel when I was 12. I'll no doubt have to answer for that when I go before God on judgment day, heaven knows how bad it was.
I wrote my first novel when my youngest child went to kindergarten. I look back on it now and wonder what was going on in my head. But I know what prompted me to start. My daughter (I've got four) was probably 10 or 11 and she wrote a book. A pretty good book really. I'm not telling you what it was about and of course it was too short and weak in all the writing rules, but she told a good story. I still think it's a good story. I've been wrangling with her for years to let me steal it. The brat. It was probably ten pages long. I thought, "If Wendy can do it, I can do it." So I did. I've never sold that first book but I sold the second. Ten years after I first typed, "It was a dark and stormy night" for the first time.
You'll note that Petticoat Ranch begins on a 'dark and stormy night'. :)
How did you get the idea for Petticoat Ranch? Did you come up with that title? If not, what was your working title name?
I hate to tell you the working title. It was all wrong. In fact, the book sold about four months after I submitted it for the first time under the title Petticoat Ranch. My agent and I brainstormed titles and decided this caught the cowboy and comedy of the book. But it won so many contests under it's old, awful title. One of the continuing comment's I'd get was, "Your title sounds non-fiction."
It was originally titled, "Room for God's Wrath" which is from the Bible verse that begins, "Avenge not yourself, but leave room for God's wrath because vengeance is mind says the Lord." There's a lot about vengeance in my quirky, lighthearted romantic comedy.
How did you prepare to write about this time period and about ranches?
I had nearly twenty books finished, sitting on my computer when I got my first contract. Included in those books is every genre, every time period, anything and everything that appealed to me. I decided…oh…about fifteen books in, that if no one was going to publish me I might as well write to entertain myself so I wrote anything that appealed to me.
Well, no vampires, but other than that, I've written everything. I've got a really cool demon possessed serial killer novel I hope someone will publish someday. Still, I can see how that might shock readers looking for Petticoat Ranch II so for now, no one's going for it. Big shock. I love that book though, it's one of my most fiercely Christian books, I think. But mean, really mean. Also a romantic comedy. Call me versatile.
Some writers plot out what they are going to write step by step and others say they write by the seat-of-their- pants, which style of writing best describes your writing? What inspires you to write?
I can do both plotting and winging it. To write for Heartsong Presents, a book club which has bought four book from me now, they want a chapter by chapter synopsis. So I had to learn to do that. I like HAVING the detailed synopsis but I don't like DOING the synopsis, so left to my own devices, I take the easy way out and wing it.
Did you find it difficult to write from a man's POV? What research did you to get inside their head for their thoughts and reactions? It was so good.
I hope it was well done. So much of Clay is my husband. My husband grew up in a family of all boys, seven of them. (I dedicated Calico Canyon to my mother-in-law) He is so clueless around the girls, sometimes he just watches them as if they completely don't compute. But honestly, can a woman ever know what's going on inside a man's head?
My husband says men think things through and woman talk things through, so I used that a bit in the book. Clay is very literal. The silly man believes what Sophie says, even when, to her it's impossible for him to miss her sarcasm. And he tends to think quietly then announce his decision, where as Sophie likes to bat ideas around, discuss the pros and cons. I wanted Clay to come off as clueless but not unkind, not a jerk. I hope I accomplished that.
And seriously, how can any of us really know if I got it right, and maybe it's an unfair generalization that men think differently than women. People are all different. So the rest is probably too broad and vague to have truth to it. Still, they do seem to think kinda funny….
Is being an author everything you thought it would be? If not, what has been surprising to you?
It is wonderful. I like to say, "I was a spinster for too long to be real picky when someone finally proposed." You're not going to find me complaining about an editor or a publicist or a book cover. To me it's a pure MIRACLE that I have any contact with any of them. I think they're wonderful and I am completely obedient to them because Barbour's got a terrific, professional, experienced team to work with.
What was your favorite scene in "Petticoat Ranch"? Which one did you have the most fun writing? Why?
I loved the fight they had before they got married. I loved the kids in church when the parson was yelling his sermons. I loved Sophie and her girls fighting the bad guys at the end. I think my favorite scene, both to read and to write, is a trip home from church in the wagon, when Clay is yelling about Sophie setting up the booby traps and he tells Sophie she's pretty. I liked the kids interrupting and Sophie trying so HARD to be obedient and humble, even though it really didn't suit her.
Can you tell me of 2 "Wow" moments you have had on your journey to being published and now afterwards? What made them a "Wow "moments for you?
There is no greater 'Wow' moment than the day I got my first contract. Every year Barbour gives out one contract at the ACFW conference. (American Christian Fiction Writers). In 2005 I knew I had a chance. They had been in touch several times about revisions to a book, which is very, very encouraging. Then, when the moment came, they called someone else's name. Okay, FINE! I've been rejected before. I can handle it.
Then, after Kathy Kovack got her contract, Tracie Peterson says, "And this year we're giving two. We're offering a contract to Mary Connealy." I got to go up in front, on stage, in front of 350 writings, all clapping, people coming as I stumbled up there, hugging me. It was so, so, so, so sweet. (wow, not enough so's)
I know your second book "Calico Canyon" is to be released on bookshelves soon (exactly when)? How was the writing experience different when you wrote your second book as opposed to what happened to you in writing the first?
The writing experience was pretty good because…tada…I had all three books in this series written before I got the first one published. Part of having twenty finished books on my computer. So I finished Petticoat Ranch then thought I should tell the flip side of this story. A woman in an all male world. So if you've just read Petticoat Ranch you'll know Grace and Daniel and his sons are in there, but they weren't at first. I was able to go back and put them in, then write Calico Canyon and add into Calico Canyon AND Petticoat Ranch bits of what would be in Gingham Mountain, which is coming next February.
Tell us something about "Calico Canyon" and what we can look forward to. What was your inspiration for this story?
Petticoat Ranch is my family, four daughters. Calico Canyon is my husband's family, seven sons. Gingham Mountain is my family eight of us, three boys and five girls. Calico Canyon is more of a flat out comedy than Petticoat Ranch. There is suspense in it, but the comedy is more prevalent.
What project are you working on now? When will that be out?
Well, I'm working way ahead. I'm actually two and a half books into the NEXT three book series. And I've stepped out of that because Barbour wants a cowboy Christmas book, which I'm ¾ of the way done.
I've also just finished a three book series set around a buffalo ranch in South Dakota and a three book series of cozy mysteries. There are part of book clubs so they aren't as easily available as the longer books. But I'm doing revisions on them as they come through the Barbour editors. So that's keeping me busy. And after Calico Canyon comes Gingham Mountain. I got the first look at what may be the final cover last week. More books and another sign post. I love it.
What books do you read and what authors inspire you? Do you read Christian Fiction? If so; who are your favorites?
This is a mean question because I read so much, how am I supposed to pick even a few?
I read widely in all genres. I'll list some of the Christian fiction authors I love.
I subscribe to Heartsong Presents and Heartsong Presents Mysteries. I usually get them all read, which is eight books a month…but they're short.
Hmmmmmm…. I love Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure. Camy Tang's Sushi for One. Rene Gutteridge's Boo series…I love everything she writes. I love Angela Hunt, I think she's got the best mind. She always surprises me.
Cathy Marie Hake. She's writing funny western romance and she made it safe for me to go in the water, you might say.
Missy Tippens and Cheryl Wyatt had their first Love Inspired novels come out this year and they were great. Debbie Giusti is writing Romantic Suspense for Love Inspired Suspense and she's really good. Janet Dean's Courting Miss Adelaide.
Outside of Christian fiction, I love romantic suspense with a little comedy. I'm a big Julie Garwood fan. I also love action novels like Clive Cussler writes and cop dramas like Faye Kellerman, but she's gotten too dark for me lately. Grisly.
Generally, I'd say if they're sassing each other and falling in love while they're running for their lives, then I'm happy.
How about you, Nora? Are you happy? I told you it was too mean of a question. I'll quit now. That is close to half of the authors I love.
Could you please share some of your faith journey with us?
I was raised in a wonderful Christian home. My parents were Christians in the best sense of the world. They loved all eight of us so beautifully, made us feel so special. Eight kids and no money, what a rabble we must have been, but mom always acted like she was so lucky to have each and every one of us. The woman must have been out of her mind. But in a Christian way— I remember hearing about Jesus in Sunday School and really recognizing the truth of Him very young. I made a public profession of faith when I was about sixteen. I don't want to sound like I was a faultless saint. I'm sure I gave my mom plenty of sleepless nights. But Jesus has always been part of my life, even when I've failed Him, He's never failed me.
TOP FUN THINGS YOU REALLY WANTED TO ASK MARY BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK SO I DID!.NORA SAYS
I asked Mary to answer these questions by putting down the first thing that came to her mind. After reading the answers to these questions - Mary, you are a woman after my own heart!!!
Do You enjoy Cake or Pies?
Pie,except I make the MOST amazing carrot cake.Seriously, used correctly my carrot cake could launch me straight into the Governor's chair. I wield my power very carefully. NORA SAYS: **OK, we're all coming over for carrot cake! We have to taste it to make sure it's the best. Ha! Ha!**
Do you enjoye Brownies or Cookies?
Brownies, no cookies,no brownies…what kind of cookies? You know, I didn't get into my generally oval shape by being all that picky.NORA SAYS **I'll have to remember that for my next interview – That's a good question - I should have thought of that in the first place. What kind of cookie is important I agree!**
Do you enjoy vanilla or chocolate? Hot or cold?
Vanilla ice cream. Hot fudge sundaes in particular, so that's kinda both. NORA SAYS - I agree
Do you enjoy the Beach or the Mountains?
I never get to go anywhere, beach, mountains, nowhere.I'm going to ICRS in Orlando, want to bet I never get out of the hotel? The grocery store is a big outing for me.
NORA SAYS**Mary we definitely have to get you out more Ha! Ha! Next time you should come visit us at book club in person (instead of on the phone like this time )– that way you'll be out of the house and somewhere fun and laughing up a storm!!**
Do you enjoy steak or chicken?
A well done rib-eye steak is the BEST. We're beef farmers so I'm biased. But I eat a ton more chicken. It's quick and tasty. We mainly George Foreman them.
NORA SAYS: So then when someone asks me "where the beef?" I'll tell them it's at Mary's house! Ha! Ha!
If you've never seen this you've GOT to, the sweetest, funniest romantic comedy ever. NORA SAYS**My favorite too!!!**
Favorite book?That is just MEAN. I am a book-aholic. I'm not kidding. If reading was beer, my family would be holding an intervention.
A LANTERN IN HER HAND BY BESS STREETER ALDRICH.
I'd love to hear if anyone has ever read Lantern. I just want to know if you cried like baby.
NORA SAYS: OK, Mary, now I have to find this book and read it. One more book to add to the list!
Favorite Childhood book? I'm not sure about favorite book growing up,
I was always a fanatic reader. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Hardy Boys, The Happy Hollisters. But as an adult, reading to my children,I had four favorite books that I think everyone should have.
Tootle the Train, a little Golden Book. The moral of the story, "There are nothing but red flags for little trains who get off the tracks. I work with people EVERYDAY who are off the tracks, addictions, dropouts, jail, babies with no husband ever, no jobs, poor health, violence in their lives. And these people's lives are just full of red flags. Read Tootle to your child and MAKE SURE HE/SHE GETS THE POINT
The Big Orange Splot by D. Manus Pinkwater…this is about loving yourself. It's a great combo with Tootle because staying on the tracks doesn't mean not being an individual and embracing what's wonderful about you
A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, no reason need be given, it's simply the best. Memorize "The Swing" and recite it while you push your children on a swing. So fun.
Maude and Claude go Abroad by Susan Meddaugh, a book long poem that just sings with it's fresh, funny use of language, plus a great story about a big sister looking after her little brother.
What is one special quality, talent or event you've experienced that would surprise people? Please explain.
I think you'd be surprised to know how happy I am sitting behind my computer having both sides of a conversation myself. I'm getting practice speaking to groups but I always say things I wish I hadn't. If it was in my computer, I'd just hit delete and start over, but nooooooo. With real human beings involved in half the conversation, I've got to live with whatever bone head thing I say
What is the neatest place you have ever visited and why? What made it so neat, special, memorable to you?
I think my favorite thing I've ever seen is Carlsbad Cavern. There was just something about it that totally captured my imagination. I could SEE the first people who found those vast caverns. Imagine how dark, how dangerous it was. In some places the floor was as thin as paper and it had broken in spots and you could fall for a long ways. All of that was absolutely visible to me. I loved that place
If you had all the time in the world and just as much money; to do anything you wanted, what would you do?
I suppose I'd write. How dull, huh? I'd travel more, but I'm happy at home. I'd love to go into the Rocky Mountains, rent some cabin and just sit in the middle of beauty for as long as I wanted. See rugged mountains and snow capped peaks, eagles soaring and a herd of elk. I'd love that.
Knowing me, I'd last three hours and get itchy to read a book or write some more, but I'd get a chair and sit outside to do that stuff…unless it was hot…or cold…or there were mosquitoes. Maybe a picture window, huhHonestly, all my wealth fantasies include helping a couple of sisters I have who have money troubles. Making sure all four of my girl's college loans are paid off and they've got dependable cars. I'd like to give enough money to my church that we wouldn't always be skating on the edge. Do I NOT sound so nice???
I'd fund the radio network KLOVE so they could stop having those annoying fund raising weeks.
Maybe oh, gastric by-pass surgery. Except I just love to eat. And I'd sneakily go buy a couple hundred thousand copies of my books so Barbour would think I was really wonderful. Anyway, if I had all the money I wanted I'd do all that humanitarian and charitable stuff and still keep a fortune for myself. NORA SAYS***Sounds better than surgery to me any day! – Good choice !****
What is your favorite color? Black. It's slimming and doesn't show dirt.
If you could interview or hang out with someone for a day; who would you pick? Why?Oh, what the heck. I guess I'd hang out with Nora. Why not? What'd you think? I pick that spoiled brat George Clooney? No way.
NORA SAYS**I don't know Mary, you might want to re-think this one. Ha! Ha! I'd understand if you chose George;but then made some time for me tooJJJ I'm willing to share time with a good friend!!**
I've got all these writer friends I love whom I only see about once a year at a conference like ACFW. I'd love to spend hours talking with them…Nora could come. You know, if I've got all the money in the world—left from question 8—you could ALL come.
NORA SAYS: GREAT Mary!! I'm glad that you would include me in the writers circle!! After reading this interview I definitely would like to get to have the opportunity to hang out with your writer friends and you more!! Thanks for taking the time to share your heart with us. I'm very thankful for this opportunity. Thanks also for speaking to my ladies at book club. We all loved your book and we also look forward to reading the other types of books that you have in your stach that will be published very soon!!
Mary thanks again for sharing your heart and being such a great sport and answering all the fun questions. I know I asked some tough questions. You really rose up for the challenge my friend.
Until next time.