Mary Connealy, author of the new romantic comedy Montana Rose, took time out of her book-writing marathon to answer a few questions for me. She’s had so many interviews lately, I tried to liven things up a bit – just because. You can tell she’s a mom of four…she didn’t even flinch 🙂
I know that every interviewer asks you to tell us a little about yourself, but since I defy convention, I want you to tell us a little about your new granddaughter, Elle, and the best part of being a grandma.
It’s hard to explain why I love this little girl so much. A big part of it comes when I hug her and hold her and know that when she wakes up crying in the night, I don’t have to get up. That just makes me so incredibly happy!!! I also really need to be the favorite grandma and I know that is not assured because her other grandma loves her very much and can make cookies like nobody’s business, so the competition is fierce. So I’m always trying to bribe her into loving me best and I will continue with this fight for the rest of my life.
She learned to pull herself up onto her feet just last week. We went down for a demo on Sunday. She performed like a champ.
If you could write any other genre besides historical ‘cowboy’ books, what would you pick?
I don’t really think of myself as a cowboy book author, I think of myself as a romantic comedy author. I’ve written lots of books in other genres, but always romance, always comedy. Those are the two things that never vary. But I do love cowboys. There’s just something about a cowboy saying, “I reckon this is gonna be shootin’ trouble little missy. Best to let me handle it.” That makes me smile.
Who are a few of your favorite authors?
This is a mean and cruel question, Pepper. Shame on you.
I am a fanatic reader and the list is not only insanely LONG I also have a lot of authors I love both professionally and personally and I’m terrified I’ll forget one. I love the work my Seeker buddies are doing. Janet Dean, Missy Tippens, Myra Johnson, Julie Lessman, Camy Tang, Debbie Giusti, and Cheryl Wyatt. And several more of these ladies have their first books coming out soon and I can’t WAIT. Glynna Kaye, Cara Lynn James, Ruth Logan Herne. I love Cathy Marie Hake, Terri Blackstock, Susan May Warren, Tracie Peterson, Marcia Gruver. . .I could go on a long time.
I also love Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick, Elizabeth Lowell, Linda Howard, Faye Kellerman, Janet Evanovich. Again, too numerous to mention.
I love romantic comedy with suspense. If they’re sassing each other and falling in love while they’re running for their lives, then I’m happy.
Since we’re talking about your tastes in reading-choices, what’s your favorite dessert ever?
This is so easy. First of all, I didn’t get into my generally oval shape by being all that picky. Having said that, Apricot Torte from the Lithuanian Bakery in Omaha, NE. Who knew Lithuanian’s could bake?
If you could be any person (present or past) who would it be and why?
I’d be me. Only thin and cool with a little better sense of direction and some social skills and an improved short term memory and a passion for dusting and vacuuming.
Okay…I’ll try to get a little serious (heavy sigh). Of your novels, from Petticoat Ranch to Montana Rose, who is your favorite hero? Heroine?
This is hard because I tend to be fixated on the one I’m working on, trying to make him the best hero ever. I’m going to set that aside a bit. I completely loved Grant in Gingham Mountain. He had the best, kindest heart of any hero ever. Red Dawson in Montana Rose is just the perfect man. Dreamy. I think all men should immediately change to be just like him. GO! NOW! CHANGE! NO EXCUSES!
I had more fun with Nick O’Conner in Of Mice. . .and Murder than any woman should be allowed to have. I loved all those cozy mystery heroes. I suppose Clay McClellen in Petticoat Ranch was the most fun because I had him be so wildly bewildered by his women folk.
Heroines, hmmm. I honestly have to say I’ve never had more fun than writing Belle Tanner in The Husband Tree. That woman has an attitude problem that no man can handle. Without of course, TRUE LOVE.
Cassie in Montana Rose was such a fascinating character to create. She was hard to do right and I ended up loving her. Grace in Calico Canyon, her transformation from a prissy school marm to a fearless little wildcat who remembered how to live bravely.
Annette in Cowboy Christmas was a labor of love. A good girl who had to learn when to defy authority. When being good led her into trouble.
Abby in Wildflower Bride was a delight. Just how mean can a woman really be? I pushed the limits HARD.
I’ve thought of five more heroes and six more heroines.
Let’s just move on.
Writing is a big job and I’ve heard you mention before “if you can stop writing, do it”. For those of us who are ‘infected’ by the compulsive need to place words on paper in a narrative fashion, what are your top three tips?
That’s it. If you want to be a writer? Write.
The three Es of writing.
Do everything you can think of to improve, take classes, read books on the craft, join a critique group, enter contests and study the judge’s comments, join professional organizations, attend conferences. All of that is good, but no matter what you learn from those things if you don’t sit your backside down in a chair and write, you can’t improve, you can’t submit, you can’t get published.
You refer to yourself as a Seat-Of-The-Pants writer, or panster, could you give your definition of what that means for your writing? The method to your creative genius?
Well, I do a lot of daydreaming before I start a book. I’m an insomniac and when I’m laying awake at night I flip ideas around in my head, try not to get stuck on one to the exclusion of others, think off the wall and outside the box until I hit on an idea that makes me excited.
I start the book with an explosion and I spend a lot of daydreaming time planning that. I want an inciting incident that you can NOT look away from when you open the book. Action, high high stakes. It can be an emotional explosion but I really prefer for something to actually blow up. A run away stagecoach, bullets flying, a riding plunging off a cliff, a heroine attacked by a pack of wolves. Something fun like that.
Your books are chock-full of humor, which gives them a light-hearted feel, but spiritual depth sneaks out in ways that are unexpected and beautiful. As a Christian writer, what type of role does your faith play in your stories?
I wrote for a long, long time before I got my first book published and back in the day when I started writing, there really was no Christian fiction, or very little of it. When Christian fiction exploded onto the scene, I’d say with the Left Behind books or about that time, here I had all these books on my computer that OH WOW, were Christian fiction except without the faith thread. There are just some things I’m not willing to write. Graphic sex, profanity. It’s just not gonna happen and that left me with a lot of books and a very, very narrow market to sell them to. I could only find about one publishing house that accepted very sweet romances. Then BOOM Christian fiction appears and I can open my book files on my computer and realize that all my characters are Christians and they conduct their lives by Christian principles but I’ve never spoken aloud the words they live by. Adding a faith thread was simple. It was like I was writing for years for a genre of books that hadn’t been invented yet.
My fundamental desire when I write is to entertain. I don’t think of my books as powerful works of life changing fiction. Instead, I think of them as fun. What I want to do more than anything else is prove that Christian fiction can be just as fun, fast paced, high stakes, roller coaster ride as secular fiction. I refuse to believe that we can’t have that kind of fun with a book without the sex and cussing. So that’s my goal; to entertain within the rules I live by. I do tend to have some heavy issues climb into my books. I don’t know why exactly.
I was talking with an author about an upcoming book I wanted to brainstorm.
Abusive father, hurt and paralyzed. His abused son, a Christian who has left his father behind for his own sanity, reluctantly comes home, believing it’s God’s will that he at least try one more time to reach his father.
His father is of course, a big jerk. The son brings along a white woman he found who was raised by an Indian tribe. The son doesn’t know how to handle his father, who has always intimidated him. The woman however has no problem dishing out as much grief as she can to the old tyrant.
Of course it’s a romantic comedy.
My writer acquaintance listened to my brief outline and her response: “There’s nothing funny about that.”
Ahem. . .I beg to differ.
That’s Wildflower Bride. The hero has the sweetest nature of any hero I’ve ever written. The heroine has never met a white man she didn’t pull a knife on.
Only TRUE LOVE can keep these two together. The hero, he’s fine, he’s crazy in love. The heroine? Not so much.
Wildflower Bride coming in May 2010. Book #3 in the Montana Marriages series.
Book #1 Montana Rose, in bookstores now
Book #2 The Husband Tree, coming in January
And look for the stand-alone Christmas romance Cowboy Christmas, coming in TWO WEEKS.
To find me online:
Thanks a bunch, Mary.
To learn more about Mary’s inspirational journey through motherhood into writing, visit her website. She truly IS as nice as she looks. I, for one, look forward to filling my bookshelf with as many Mary Connealy adventures as I can. They are truly books that entertain, inspire, and…make you laugh.