Monday, August 11, 2008

Guest: Author Mary Connealy - Day 1

Song Stuck on the Brain: Day Tripper by David Cook

Today is an exciting day for me. Why? Because Mary Connealy, author of Calico Canyon and many more, is visiting for the next two days. Yay!

About Calico Canyon:

Running from her Abusive foster-father, a man intent on revenge, the prim and perfectly proper Grace Calhoun takes on the job of schoolmarm in Mosqueros, Texas.

As if being a wanted woman isn't bad enough, Grace has her hands full with the five rowdy and rambunctious Reeves boys─tough Texan tormentors who seem intent on making her life miserable. When, in an attempt to escape from the clutches of her pursuer, Grace is forced to marry widower Daniel Reeves, father of the miniature monsters, she thinks things couldn't get any worse. Or could they?

Daniel Reeves, happy in his all-male world, is doing the best he can, raising his five boys─rascals, each and every one. Since his wife's death in childbirth, Daniel has been determined never to risk marriage again.

When God throws Grace and Daniel together─two people who couldn't detest each other more─the trouble is only beginning.

Will this hapless pair find the courage to face life together in the isolated Calico Canyon? Or are their differences too broad a chasm to bridge?

Sounds intriguing, right? I know I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Mary's writing style. I've already blogged once about Calico Canyon, Mary's latest release. But when the opportunity to have Mary as a guest came up, I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't want to spend time with a succesful author and get all the dirt from behind the scenes?

To that end Mary was kind enough to answer my (and some of your) questions.

Q & A with Mary Connealy:

Q. Karen asked: "Where do you find your inspiration to write? What sparks these stories in your mind?"

A. I’m not sure where it comes from Karen, but I’m pretty sure it’s not exactly normal. I just see things and start ‘what iffing’.

The cozy mystery series that’s coming out this fall was inspired by a billboard along an interstate that said, “World’s largest Bumblebee, next left.”

Seriously. I found a book in that. :)

Q. Nancy asked: "You do such a good job of testifying about your faith. How do you know where the fine line is between sharing your faith and beating someone over the head with it?"

A. One thing I love about Christian fiction today is how widely it’s spread over genres and depths of faith. I like to write books where the characters are Christian, where that’s just understood, and they turn to God with thanks and petitions, and they live their life by Christian standards, but beyond that, they’re just caught in the story I’m telling.

That gives me guidelines I don’t want to cross as far as profanity and graphic sex. I don’t write that stuff because of who I am, and my own moral code, more than because the story doesn’t call for it.

Seriously I’d bet that about 90% of the Harlequin Romances written before about 1970 would qualify as Christian fiction today, simply because of the moral code the characters lived by.

Q. Angel asked: "In Calico Canyon, Daniel Reeves boys are quite the handful. What inspired their behavior? Have you met boys like them?"

A. Ah, this one is easy. My husband is from a family of seven sons. His mother, one of my favorite people on the planet, can tell little boy stories forever. So much chaos and bleeding and stitches and near death in her stories. The woman had snow white hair by the time she was forty. But she’s wonderful, she’s got this great ability to roll with the punches, accept life’s slings and arrows with a smile.

Q. Angel also asked: "The avalanche scene in Calico Canyon was so intense and realistic. How did you write that scene? Have you experienced anything like that before?"

A. I love action scenes but they’re a lot of work. I’m delighted to hear you think I did it well. To write a good action scene, just like a really fast paced comedy scene takes going over and over and over the manuscript. Short sentences, intense use of the five senses, but brief, smells and noises and sounds. You need to keep adding and adding and tweaking, cutting when something stops the flow, adding when you aren’t being drawn in and held hard.

I love writing them but when I know one is coming I feel myself dragging my heels because I know what it’s going to take to get it right.

Oh, and no, I’ve never been in an avalanche, but seriously, Angel, have you? Who knows if I got it right? :)

Q. In both Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon, you present the differences between the male and female mind so well. I was in stitches! How do you get inside the male mind? Did you base either Clay or Daniel on anyone you know?

A. Well, I did, but just like I said to Angel on her question, who knows if I’ve got it right. Who knows what’s really going on inside a man’s head.

I think of Petticoat Ranch as my husband’s story. He’s from a family of seven sons and we’ve got five daughters. Watching my husband react to the girls is just hilarious. If you’ve got a little brother or an older brother, you know that boys seem to LIVE to torment their sisters. Yay! I embarrassed her to death in front of her boyfriend. Yay! I made her scream when I stuck a bug in her face. Yay! I made her cry when I pretended to kill her favorite doll.

I think this is one of those things you learn when you’re young or you never learn it at all. My husband never learned it. The girls both fascinate and terrify him. Their tears make him CRAZY. He cannot handle it when they cry. If they’re giggling or just talking over every little detail of something, he’s just mystified. So I made Clay like my husband, of course cranked way, way up.

Then Daniel and his boys were my husband and his brothers. They really were little savages in a lot of ways. The lack of civilizing influences…despite my mother-in-laws efforts (she says her boys were a LOT better behaved at the table for instance) still left them just running wild with all boys most of the time. So I tried to capture that in Calico Canyon.

Q. Gingham Mountain, the third book in the series is scheduled for release in February 2009. How many more books in the series can we look forward to?

A. Gingham Mountain is Hannah’s story. It’s coming soon. It’s the last of the Mosqueros, Texas stories for now, but I may write a series based on Sophie’s daughters after the next three book series, which we’re calling Married in Montana. That will be new characters but oh man am I having fun with them. I’ve just finished a book called The Husband Tree that just makes me laugh, same historical western, and a woman who makes Sophie McClellen look like a wimp.

Q. Sophie McClellen a wimp? Wow! LOL, that's hard to imagine. So, what do you want readers to take away from your stories?

A. I hope this doesn’t sound shallow…but I write my books to entertain. I want the spiritual message to be…oh, I guess…organic to the plot, not shoe horned in. Does that make sense? I am a reader, practically compulsive. I read for entertainment while other people might watch TV. That’s what I want in a book and that’s what I want to write. I find writing really entertaining, almost as much as reading, so I’m writing to make myself laugh and to engage my own interest.

Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

A. There is a lot of learning for a new writer and you need to do all of it. But none of it works if you’re not writing. Write a book. Write the whole thing. Then, when you’re done, start a new one.

Do NOT spend five years trying to sell that first book. Send it in somewhere and forget it. It takes forever to be rejected. And you can have your next book done by the time you learn the first one isn’t going to sell. Enter it in contest and learn everything you can from the feed back. Join a critique group. Join on line writer’s communities like ACFW, their website section with online classes is worth the price of the dues. Plus you meet other writers, learn about the market, learn about contests, get connected.

And just go ahead now and grow a really thick hide because you’re going to need it, lots of rejections in the writing world. I had twenty finished books on my computer when I finally sold, and now I’ve sold seven of those, plus I’m writing new ones as fast as I can.

Q. Good advice, Mary. Okay, here are a few questions just for fun. What are you currently reading for pleasure?

A. Well, I just finished a kind of over-eating feast of books by favorite authors.
Mostly they were a disappointment. Does anyone read Janet Evanovich? Hers were pretty good. Fearless Fourteen. That woman can create chaos that blows my mind.

Q. What was your favorite book as a child?

A. Not fair, I was a maniac reader. Um…Dr. Seuss maybe? I read everything, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters (anyone remember them?) Trixie Belden. I just read and read and read.

Q. You're right, it wasn't a very fair question. I probably would be hard pressed to name just one too. Good choices though, I loved Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew as well. Where is your favorite place to vacation?

A. Although we haven’t been there for years, all the years my daughters were growing up we went to a lake in Minnesota for a week. I’d say we went there fifteen to seventeen years. It’s a great vacation for a family. Swimming, eating, fishing, boating and all at the world’s slowest imaginable pace. Loved it.

Q. Any other good news you'd like to share?

A. I’ve got an exclusive contract to write books similar to Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon for Barbour for the next four years, starting next year there’ll be three a year. Eleven books in all. Plus I’m writing these cozy mysteries, a three book series, and I’m writing a three book Heartsong series set around a Buffalo Ranch in the Black Hills in South Dakota, those will be out later this year.

So altogether, eighteen books, plus some are being repackaged, like the cozy mysteries, and sold outside the book clubs, so Barbour is being wonderful to me and I’m thrilled.

Thanks for having me visit.

Wow, Mary I'm exhausted and amazed just hearing about your schedule. Congratulations on the latest contracts and your great success. I look forward to reading many more of your books.


In honor of Mary's visit, one winner will be selected to recieve a free copy of Calico Canyon. Leave a comment on today's post and leave your email address. The contest is only open to US and Canadian residents and closes on August 15, 2008.



Vickie McDonough said...

I loved Mary's first book and am looking forward to reading Calico Canyon.

A bumblebee billboard? That's a truly unique way to get a story idea. :)

Gail said...

Can't wait to read it!!! Thanks for the interesting interview. Loved hearing how you based the books on your family. Please enter me.

bookwurm70 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Anonymous said...

I have been reading a lot about Calico Canyon on these blogs, and I so want to read it! Please enter me in the drawing.

Deborah Piccurelli

Anonymous said...

My goodness! What a busy writing schedule!!! I read Calico Canyon this week, so please DON'T enter me. Just want to say that it was as enjoyable as Petticoach Ranch. As an avid bookstore reader (Borders is my second home), I usually stifle my responses...but I couldn't help but laugh out loud with the antics of the boys (and Sophie's girls)and both Grace's and Daniel's consternation and confusion with each other.

Great interview, April and Mary!


windycindy said...

I would really appreciate being entered in your drawing for "Calico Canyon!" Thanks very much, Cindi

Pamela J said...

What a gift to write, to come up with a book 'series' being inspired by a billboard that said, “World’s largest Bumblebee!! How fun can THAT be??

This book sounds GREAT. With capturing the little savage boy actions AND the adventures such as an avalanche.

It is great to read a book written to entertain as well as glean the spiritual message, all being able to laugh at the same time.

Please enter me in your contest. Thanks.
Pam Williams
cepjwms at yahoo dot com