I’m starting a few feature here. I decided that with so many wonderful authors and books out there, my readers might like to know a little more about some of their favorites and maybe find out about some authors they didn’t know before. I hope you find something here you’ll want to read!
Today’s author is Mary Connealy
Mary Connealy is the author of Petticoat Ranch and Golden Days. She has recently signed an exclusive contract that includes Calico Canyon, a sequel to Petticoat Ranch.
She writes for three different divisions of Barbour Publishing; Trade Fiction, Heartsong Presents, and Heartsong Presents Mysteries. She also teaches GED by day and writes her novels by night, which sounds like a transformation worth of Superman so she’s always looking for a phone booth!
Mary’s dream is to tell love stories that make people laugh while drawing them closer to God. She lives on a farm in Nebraska with her husband, Ivan. She just moved the last of her youngest child to college and the nest is so empty it echoes. She has four daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. Writing is great but her family is her true life’s work.
She has two books out.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary recently.
Mary, welcome and thank you for finding time to speak with us about yourself and your writing. First, let’s talk about you a little.
You write for three different divisions of Barbour Publishing; Trade Fiction, Heartsong Presents, and Heartsong Presents Mysteries. Do you ever find yourself confused as to which division you’re writing for today?
It’s been okay, Nancy. I worried about it some, but I just finished a three book series for HP that will be out in 2009 and it’s contemporary, my Heartsong Presents Mysteries are contemporary too, but cozy mysteries. They’ve very different from a regular HP in voice and style, it’s pretty off the wall, the characters are supposed to be quirky.
So, when I finished that third HP I went straight to a historical romantic comedy that I had finished but needed to revise. I wondered if I’d have trouble catching the drawl and the attitude of historical characters.
But the first time I had my cowboy tip his Stetson back and say, “I reckon so, Ma’am.” Well, it was just fun. I love that style of writing.
So, I’m doing okay. I probably helps that I wrote for years…many, many years…before getting a contract. In those ten years I wrote everything, cop dramas, sweet romances, spy thrillers, gothic romances, romantic suspense, westerns, anything and everything that had a story idea I wanted to pursue. So I’m used to writing for different genres.
How do your books for Trade Fiction and Heartsong Presents differ?
The basic difference is length of course. An HP is 45,000 words and a Trade Fiction is more like 90,000…those books aren’t as chained to a word count as the HPs so they can be longer or shorter, but 90,000 is a good ballpark figure.
Also an HP is two POVs. We’re party to the thoughts of the hero and heroine. Once in a while we get a bit of the villain, but that’s it.
In Petticoat Ranch I’ve got…I’d say eight Point of View characters. And several of those only have one scene. So that’s a big difference.
And the other thing is an HP is very straightforward. It’s just to short a form of writing to be otherwise. No subplots, just the love story. Of course there’s an underlying story, but in Petticoat Ranch I’m jumping to major subplots, which I love, I find the shorter style difficult to rein myself in. And I also find myself closing in on the end and I’ve got a lot of story left to tell. But it’s challenging to NOT go off on a tangent and I find I like writing both ways.
You’re in the “empty nest” phase of your life? As the mom of a recent 18year old, I’m dying to know how you’re coping with that.
Honest, Nancy, the day my husband Ivan and I moved Katy to college…yikes, I can’t even tell you how it felt. It was just shocking. Devastating, really. We barely spoke to each other the whole hour plus drive home because there just wasn’t a way to put it into words, this sense of a huge chapter of our lives…the MAIN focus of our lives for thirty years, being over.
We see our children a lot. It’s an unusual week that we don’t see our girls, although one of them didn’t show up last week. But we talked to her a dozen times. They’re just not that far away and we are really close and just enjoy them so much.
But it’s different.
Ivan and I sat in our living room watching TV after we got home from moving Katy and I just had this awful sense that this was it. Our lives. We’re both fifty-one and we’re from long lived people. Possibly we could just sit there in front of that TV for the next forty years. Awk!
We even talked about it. We need to find a hobby, a group, and activity. But we can’t think of anything. We’ve just been parents forever. Maybe something will come to us.
As the mom of daughters, I can understand that writing heroines might come easily to you, but do you find it hard to get into the minds of your heroes?
Well, I think of Petticoat Ranch as my husband’s story. So I hope I got the hero right.
My husband, Ivan, is from a family of seven sons. Now we have four daughters. Sometimes, watching Ivan react to the girls, doing the very normal things the girls do, is hilarious. They just shock him. One time, during an extensive discussion of control top panty hose, Ivan shook his head and said, “This is a conversation we never had at home.”
I used his well intentioned efforts to figure out women as the background for Clay, my hero in Petticoat Ranch. At least Ivan had a mother, girl cousins and classmates. Then we dated and married, then added the daughters one at a time.
Clay came from an all male world, first in the Rocky Mountains, then in the war. He was dropped into his all-girl family with absolutely no preparation. Believing it is his Christian duty to protect and care for these women, he marries Sophie about four hours after he regains consciousness in her care.
And then the shocks start coming. The giggling, the hair pulling, the tears. He handles it all as badly as possible all while being charmed and drawn to his wife and daughters. The man is wildly conflicted and the comedy of his confusion just floods the entire book.
The next book in this series, Calico Canyon is about the prissy Grace Calhoun, the school marm and the father of her most unruly students. She gets his kids kicked out of school. He gets her fired. A completely innocent compromising situation forces them into marriage. NOT a happy marriage. So this is the flip side of Petticoat Ranch, a woman thrust into an all male world. We’ll see if I get it right.
Now, Golden Days doesn’t sound, from the blurb, like it would be as funny as Petticoat Ranch. Am I right and if so, is it hard to switch from one to the other?
No, there is a lot of comedy in Golden Days. You know, I can’t seem to not write comedy. I don’t even mean to. When I’m writing along I just always seem to go with the sassy choice in dialogue and the wackiest choice in action. I can’t stop myself.
What advice would you give an author who is interested in writing humorous books?
I guess see if you actually write humor first. I don’t think it’s necessarily a natural choice. It just kind of happens. I mean, I can control the comedy to a point, but it’s always there. I’ve talked to people who are really fun and funny to visit with who then write really serious books and I always say, “Your humor is a gift from God why isn’t it in your books?” They just act like it’s not what comes out of them. Do people really sit down to a book and think, “Okay, I’m making this one a comedy?” I don’t know.
Do you find it difficult to tackle serious spiritual truths with humor?
I haven’t found anything that I can’t lace with humor. I think the humor makes everything more accessible to the reader. One of my favorite scenes in Petticoat Ranch is a church service. A service where the sermon is a very powerful, fire and brimstone like preacher telling them to forgive their enemies, and the whole service has the kids flinching from the shouting and the parents feeling guilty. We hear very little of the service, it’s more about the families reaction to it. It’s a very funny scene with a fundamental scriptural truth about love and hate and forgiveness.
Thanks for being with us today, but before we go, do you have any final words you’d like to say?
I want to make a pitch here for Christian fiction. I think it’s the most exciting time possible to be involved with Christian fiction. It’s growing steadily and expanding into all genres and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
Anyone who is reading you blog, I want you to think about what you like to read, then, if it isn’t Christian fiction, go see if there isn’t a Christian version of it. Fast paced, well written books in all genres but with a Christian viewpoint. So, no profanity, no nudity, heroes and heroines making moral choices. But the bad guys are just as bad, the problems go just as deep. It’s just done in a way that isn’t offensive to a Christian reader.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Nancy.
Sophie Edwards’ life is one long struggle for survival, and, more importantly, the survival of her four daughters. She wants to avenge her husband’s murder, but she has no idea how to do it. And as if she hasn’t got enough to do, now a wounded man is disrupting her family’s lonely
Clay McClellen left an idyllic, all-male world in the mountains. But, after plunging headfirst over a cliff, Clay finds himself at the mercy of a widow and her four girls.
Petticoat Ranch is a suspenseful romantic comedy about a mountain man trapped in a pretty, sweet smelling, confusing all-girl world, from Barbour Publishing
After a mishap on a bustling Seattle street nearly kills her, Amy Simons is going home to Alaska.
Braden Rafferty, devastated by the loss of his wife and child, needs to get away from his home. His brother’s new life in Alaska lures him north in the midst of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Amy, frail from her recent injuries, reminds Braden too much of his fragile wife. Amy’s independence on the trip north is crushed when she has to accept Braden’s help getting home, and she vows that as soon as her strength returns, she won’t depend on anybody. But Amy finds out she has no home to go to, and Braden steps in and takes her to his brother’s.
After Amy has another near death experience, she begins to wonder if her accidents aren’t accidental at all.
Heartsong Presents, a division of Barbour Publishing