Day 7 Saturday
For our last day we are pleased to have Mary Connealy here for an interview. I figured most of us would like to get to know more about her, so why don't we. - David
CFRB: After reading PETTICOAT RANCH I really think people would like to know a little more about you and your writing. They can actually find a lot of this information on your website, correct?
Mary: You really think they want to know more about me?? I’m married for thirty years to my high school sweetheart, Ivan. We’ve got four daughters who have just a hint of the qualities of my four girls in Petticoat Ranch. I’m a farmer’s wife and a GED Instructor. Besides writing books. You can find out more about me at www.maryconnealy.com and and www.mconnealy.blogspot.com I’d love it if you checked any of those out and you can contact me or leave a message and I’ll find it.
CFRB: Actually, I do think people would like to know more about you. How long have you been writing?
Mary: I’d been writing about ten years before I got a contract for my first book—GOLDEN DAYS, which is out in May from Heartsong Presents. That was September of 2004. PETTICOAT RANCH sold second but made it onto the shelves first.
CFRB: PETTICOAT RANCH is an unusual, and enjoyable story. Do you like writing Westerns, or is this something new for you?
Mary: In those long, long ten years of writing before I finally received a contract I wrote everything. I decided that if no one was going to publish my work, I might as well entertain myself. So I wrote whatever appealed to me. I’ve written historical westerns, cop dramas, thrillers—including one about a demon possessed serial killer and a lady cop with the spiritual gift of discerning spirits, gothic romances, sweet romances, even plays and children’s books. I’ve got four books written of a middle grade novel series I call Rent-A-Brain about kid geniuses. I’ve got one book of a seven book series about a young angel attending Cherub Academy, my Christian answer to Harry Potter. Whatever I write seems to end up being comedy…yes even the demon possessed serial killer book and the gothic. My characters just cannot keep from sassing each other.
CFRB: You blended a number of different genres together, did that come natural, or was it difficult for you?
Mary: I didn’t mean to. I just had a story to tell and went for it. Once PETTICOAT RANCH was done I was kind of stuck with it. It didn’t fit anywhere and I didn’t know how to pitch it. Then I read Lori Copeland’s MEN OF THE SADDLE and BRIDES OF THE WEST series and there it was; historical, suspenseful, inspirational, romantic comedy. Since then I’ve found more. DeeAnne Gist’s BRIDE MOST BEGRUDING, Cathy Marie HAKE’S LETTER PERFECT. So I didn’t start out to mix genres. I just told a story.
CFRB: I can certainly relate to that. I've told people to just tell the story. Start at the beginning and don't quit until you finish. Another question, it seems as though you based Sophie's girls on your own girls, is he right, or is it just a coincidence that you both happen to have four daughters?
Mary: Well, I’ll admit the girls were in part the inspiration for my books. Joslyn, my oldest is very practical and responsible, like Mandy. Wendy, my second daughter is an animal lover. Shelly, daughter number three has always been a daddy’s girl and was a tom boy for a long time trying to keep up with Ivan. I feel bad for my youngest, Katy, because Laura, the baby in Petticoat Ranch pretty much spends the book trying to stick her foot in her mouth and screaming, so not much way to develop a Katy-like personality there. But Katy may prefer that in her mother’s work. Of course the girls are all fictionalized. Beyond that little bit of similarity I’ve certainly branched out in whatever way the story called for.
CFRB: What was the most challenging part of writing PETTICOAT RANCH?
Mary: You know, I just love to write. PETTICOAT RANCH has been as much fun as I’ve ever had writing a book, although since it’s finished (and contracted YAY!) book two in this series CALICO CANYON is, I think a more flat out comedy. But in PETTICOAT, making those girls act normal and making it drive Clay crazy and having Sophie in the middle trying to figure out what is wrong with that man, just made me laugh. I wrote that book and snickered until my family though I was nuts. The most challenging part is the marketing. Is that a fair answer? I’m doing okay…I hope, but it was unexpected and I’m much more comfortable behind the computer than doing book signings or (horrors) giving speeches. Still, I’ve been okay. It takes all my nerves to do public appearances and people have all been really kind. But I made a commitment to myself, and to Barbour that I’d do whatever was asked of me to promote the book.
CFRB: Humor does seems to be the “language” you use to get your point across. Is humor an important aspect to you?
Mary: I just can’t seem to NOT take the laugh line. It comes naturally to me and although certain parts of the book call for drama and seriousness, even those…to me…need a breather and that breather is comedy. Humor is the most fun for me to write. I especially love a really complex scene, with lots of characters and lots of dialog, all coming on top of other dialog, with stage movements and misunderstandings, is pure fun. I need to go over it again and again, add more, make sure the reader gets it, even if the characters are completely confused.
CFRB: Sounds like a lot of work, but the kind that would be a lot of fun as well. What are some of the goals you hope to reach, or the message you want to get across in PETTICOAT RANCH?
Mary: The underlying theme in PETTICOAT RANCH is that anger is destructive. That sounds so deep for what ended up being a really lighthearted novel. I believe that Satan is in most Christian anger. I know there is righteous anger. I know Jesus got angry. But that’s no excuse to spend your life furious about the constant assault on people of Christian faith in this world. Often I think our anger is as simple as the old image of the devil sitting on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The devil whispering in your ear that ‘He deserves to be punished.’ ‘You need to get even’ ‘Your anger is righteous’ The angel saying, ‘God wants you to react to this extremely aggravating situation with love.’ ‘Forgive him.’ ‘Smile in the face of her unkindness.’ ‘Be patient.’ But Sophie, Clay and Adam are all on a different place on what I saw as an arc of forgiveness. I mainly created Adam because I wanted someone, a good guy, whose rage was white hot. The harm done to him was brand new and his anger was absolutely justified. Sophie has been dealing with her anger for two years and she’s still angry but she’s done some healing. Clay has known someone killed his brother for a few weeks and he’s still furious but with his new wife and family, some of that rage is diluted. I started out with Clay being killing mad but I didn’t like what that did to him as a husband and father, so I created a secondary character to be that close to the edge.
CFRB: How important is it to you that this is a Christ-based story?
Mary: I told you I’d been writing for ten years. I still remember the first time I heard of Steeple Hill. When Harlequin began that new line of Christian romances all I’d been writing fell into place for me. I wasn’t writing specifically Christian books, but I was writing books I wasn’t ashamed of…as a Christian. Guess what? Not much market for those. The only line of books I found that accepted unsolicited manuscripts was Silhouette, a sweet line of Harlequin. When Love Inspired began it was like a light coming on for me. My books now needed a faith thread but that wasn’t hard. I realized I was already writing books with Christian characters and Christian morals, so the faith thread was there, just not spoken. It was like I’d been writing for a genre, Christian fiction, that wouldn’t be invented for years. Of course once I started looking at Christian fiction, I found lots of publishers. Including Barbour who offered me a contract.
CFRB: What advice would you give writers on the art of writing?
Mary: My advice is simple and possibly useless. Write. Keep writing. Write some more. I think it’s a simple as practice, practice, practice. Come out of the box with an explosion. I think of my books as Three Explosions and a Conclusion. Someone else said that first, but I can’t remember who. Explode, either physically or emotionally or both from the first word. Then 1/3 of the way through, another explosion, then at the 2/3 point again some action, a turning point, make it important and big, then an explosive conclusion, including that black moment. If you’re writing a 70,000 word book, when you’re getting to word number 20,000 start thinking what you’re going to blow up. Whose heart needs to be broken HARD right now? Can I start shooting at anybody?
CFRB: You have another book coming out. Could you tell us a little about it?
Mary: GOLDEN DAYS is due to be released from Heartsong Presents in May. It’s hard to find because it’s a book club. But it can be done! Go to www.heartsongpresents.com and you can find it there. It’ll be available on Amazon eventually but the book club members get it first so you’ll have to wait. It’s available at some bookstores but I’m not sure which ones. If anyone finds it in a bookstore I’d love to hear about it. And a bookstore can order it for you even if they don’t have it on the shelves.
CFRB: You made your own video book trailer. Do you think that this is important in promoting your book?
Mary: I mainly figured out how to do it from watching what Dave was doing on the CFRB blog. Man it was hard, hard, hard the first time. I am NOT a good computer geek. Geek maybe, but not with computers. I enjoyed it and posted a copy of it on www.mconnealy.blogspot.com and www.myspace.com/petticoatranch After the screaming, monstrous, painful, sky high learning curve had been climbed it was kind of fun. I did PETTICOAT RANCH first then GOLDEN DAYS went pretty fast.
CFRB: What are your future goals, other than the 2nd novel you have coming out?
Mary: Well, in those ten years of being rejected I followed my own advice (which is why I believe in it, I suppose) I’ve got twenty books on my computer. That’s all done, finished, ready for someone to buy. Maybe some of the earlier ones need work, but I still loved those stories I told. I’ve not got contracts for four books, all from Barbour. I recently signed a contract for a CALICO CANYON, a sequel to PETTICOAT RANCH. CALICO CANYON will be out next summer. If you’ve read PETTICOAT RANCH you’ll recognize these characters. The fussy school marm Miss Grace Calhoun and Daniel Reeves the father of five unruly boys. She expels his sons from school, he gets her fired. Through a perfectly innocent compromising situation, they’re forced to marry the next day. The boys are horrified, Daniel is a trapped rat. Grace is overwhelmed and scared to death…the boys almost killed her at school. Now there’s no escape.
CALICO CANYON does for a fussy woman thrust into an all-male world what Petticoat Ranch did for a mountain man who finds himself surrounded by girls. I’m done with CALICO CANYON and am just finishing a third book in this series that I hope they’ll want. I’ve also got a cozy mystery, OF MICE…AND MURDER, coming from Heartsong Presents Mysteries—this is a cozy mystery line that launches in January 2008. I had a lot of fun with OF MICE…AND MURDER and am working on a sequel Heartsong Presents Mysteries has expressed interest in.
CFRB: I hope you'll let us take these on tour. If they're anything like PETTICOAT RANCH they'll be wonderful. Thank you for your time Mary. It's been a pleasure having you here. May the Lord bless the works of your hands.
Mary: Thank you for letting me be part of Christian Fiction Review Blog. I’m nervous and excited about the whole blog roll event. And I went to the Chat the other night to get my feet wet. That will be May 31st. Maybe you can give more details about that. God bless you.