Today I'm pleased to post my very first author interview here at "On the Write Path". Mary Connealy has graciously agreed to share her experiences with us. Please leave a comment and enter a drawing for a copy of Mary's book PETTICOAT RANCH. The drawing will be held on Monday, February 26th. And thank you to Mary for the interview.
I drew so much inspiration hearing about your road to publication. Could you describe some of the highs and lows on that journey?
1) The first time I placed in a contest. It was really early on and not repeated for a long time, but it was such a confirmation to me. I came in third in the Smoky Mountain Romance Writer’s contest with a book called The Farmer Takes a Husband
2) The first time I earned money for writing. I sold a play, a children’s Sunday school Christmas program play. I went on to sell five of them.
3) The day my husband said, “Josie (our oldest daughter) told me I ought to read your book. You’re really pretty good.” That little compliment still touches me, that my family was talking about my writing behind my back obviously, in a good way.
4) The highest high, being offered a contract for Golden Days ~ Heartsong Presents, due out April 2007, at the 2005 ACFW conference, by Tracie Peterson, in front of 350 writers.
5) Holding my book in my hands. I sold Golden Days first but Petticoat Ranch is coming out first. The day the boxes with my author’s copies came I was just giddy all night…and for about a week afterwards.
Lows: Too numerous to mention. Not going there.
How have things changed for you since the book came out?
The thing that’s surprised me is marketing the book. I just hadn’t really thought about that aspect of having a book published before. I think I’m more naturally suited to sitting alone at my computer…Mary the Hermit. But I made a commitment to do whatever was asked of my to promote the book and I’m doing it. I like interviews like that, because it’s writing. I’ve done a couple of phone interviews and one face to face and did okay. Now comes the biggest challenge to date. I’ve got a book signing where I’m expected to ‘say a few words’. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What other books do you have coming out soon?
Golden Days comes out in April. I now have an isbn number for it and a cover, so it’s really going to happen!
Here’s a little bit about Golden Days.
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.
Golden Days is coming in April from Heartsong Presents, a division of Barbour Publishing
I also have a cozy mystery coming from Heartsong Presents Mysteries due out December 2008.
Being named in Great-grandma’s will was like hitting bankrupt on Wheel of Fortune. The whole family held their breath while the wheel ticked around and around, or rather while the lawyer opened the envelope. Then they all heaved a sigh of relief when the wheel stopped on Carrie’s name. Carrie the heiress. Great. Clean up the house. Clean up the yard. Clean up Great-grandma’s rap sheet.
Carrie hates mice and loves the big city. So why is she living in a huge mouse infested house in her dinky hometown? The dead guy in her pantry closet is the most interesting thing that's happened since she came home. Of course the carpenter whose helping her trap her mice and solve the crime is pretty interesting, too.
A cozy mystery coming soon from Spyglass Lane Mysteries, a division of Barbour Publishing.
Were there any surprises in the editing process, anything you weren't prepared for?
What surprised me was what a great professional job Barbour did. Everything they did for my book made it better. It’s not that I didn’t think they’d be professional, I just didn’t expect every thing they came up with…like the cover and the words on the back and things like that, to be better than I imaged.
And the other surprise:
How completely Petticoat Ranch is still my book. I really thought by the time I revised it and they edited it, it wouldn’t resemble much what I’d originally written. In other words, I expected them to fix it, but it’s mine still, for better or worse.
Who is your greatest cheerleader, and how do they encourage you to press on?
My family has been great. Surprisingly great considering the rather odd pastime writing is. They’ve encouraged me, cheered my success and helped buck me up when I had disappointments. My husband has been a great sport about the time I spend writing, the traveling I’ve done to conferences and just everything. I think he was always just the teensiest bit afraid I might actually sell a book so he thought he’d better stay on my good side. My four daughters were always great cheerleaders, too.
What drew you to western romance?
I had been writing for ten years before I got a contract. So, it’s not really western romance, it’s just that I’ve finally gotten good enough. I’ve written everything under the sun. Sweet romances like Love Comes Softly, thrillers like This Present Darkness, cop dramas, action adventure, gothics—I really loved writing that gothic murder mystery. That was just pure FUN!
The one ‘brand’ I’d say I have is comedy. No matter what I write, it ends up with comedy, even if it’s not a comical story. That seems to be my voice. But I loved writing this western style. I really think of this book as a Christian Louis L’Amour book. Have you ever read Louis? Those books are all just romance novels from the man’s POV with a lot of fist fights and shoot outs. So don’t let anyone tell you men don’t like reading romance novels! Petticoat Ranch is more western than prairie romance, more action cowboy than pioneer. For some reason I’m just enjoying myself when I can call the children in my books --young’uns—and have my hero adjust his Stetson and say, “I reckon.”
Are you a plotter or do you fly SOTP?
I can do either. I started as a SOTP but writing HPs on proposal forces you to plot because you HAVE to turn in a chapter x chapter synopsis. No way to avoid plotting that out. I like plotting just fine, but it’s hard to plot so it’s easy to skip it if no one is making you do it. Petticoat Ranch was completely SOTP. A lot of the plot twists in the book were complete surprises to me. Then later, those surprise twists become such a part of the fabric of the book, I wonder what I thought I was going to write about before I came up with that off-the-cuff development.
Are there any writing aids, craft books, resources, or systems you would recommend?
I enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing, but mostly because it confirmed what I already knew, plus it was an intriguing look into the fires that forged King. I haven’t read many ‘How To Write’ books but that doesn’t mean it’s good to avoid them. I seem to have done everything the hard way.
What is your favorite part about being a published author?
Knowing dreams can come true. If you knew me, Erica, knew how ‘regular’ I am. A quiet life, a house and job and kids, I am all that is average. I guess the only un-average thing about me is that I love telling stories. Writing seems to be almost a compulsion for me. But it’s just unbelievable that I dared to think I could even write a book. And now, to have it published…it just makes me want to urge people to take a chance on their dreams, any dreams, because wonderful things can happen. I suppose it’s best said, “When you call on Jesus, all things are possible.”
What's your least favorite part?
Public speaking. Have you ever heard that saying—Public Speaking is the number one fear of most people? What’s number two??? DEATH!!! Well, I am all over agreeing with that. In fact, while I’m making a speech, I’m pretty much praying for death, so I guess that makes me both a coward and NORMAL.
I've heard that mysteries are difficult to write. You have a cozy mystery coming out with Barbour soon. Did you find mystery more difficult to write than historical romance?
I thought writing that sweet, funny, short cozy mystery was the most complex writing of my life. I enjoyed it. It was almost like putting a jigsaw puzzle together but keeping all the little threads and red herrings going…and don’t drop a thread. Don’t toss a red herring in and then forget to explain it. I enjoyed it, the misdirection of it and I learned a lot from writing Of Mice…and Murder, but it’s got to be done right, the story isn’t linear. Does that make sense? You can’t just tell a straight forward story, it’s all woven together.
What advice would you give to a not-yet-published writer?
I recommend entering contests. The critiques help you improve as a writer. If you final, you get your work in front of editors and agents. I recommend critique groups. They’re not for everyone, but I really improved as a writer through mine. I’d also recommend joining ACFW and using their website to find the on-line Courses. There is a gold mine of information in those courses. Plus belonging to that group is part of getting to know other writers, making connections that could lead to a contract, plus it’s such a fun support group. Knowing there are 1200 other authors out there makes you feel far less alone and writing is a lonely business.
My best advice boils down to Read and Write. Reading is the textbook, Writing is the homework. Learn how great authors write by reading them, not by studying books on how they write. If you read a really great action scene, go back and figure out how they did it, what descriptive words worked. How did they make me hear and smell and feel that fire racing toward me? How did they put me in that plane while it was crashing? How did the pain become so real? How did she make me cry right here? How did she make me laugh?
What avenues have you pursued to market your books, and are most of those initiated by you or by your publisher?
Barbour has hired Glass Roads Public Relations to publicize Petticoat Ranch. I’m trying to do my part too, and I’m in touch with Glass Roads so I can support their efforts and we don’t duplicate anything.I’ve mainly done local stuff. I live in a small town so I have contacted all the area newspapers, the local libraries, the local bookstores for book signings and events. It’s been a surprising amount of work. I’d rather be writing, but I made a commitment to do whatever was asked of me, even if it’s outside my comfort zone…like public speaking.
What blogs or websites for writers do you particularly enjoy?
I’m a staff book reviewer for At Home with Christian Fiction. www.athomewithchristianfiction.com. And that blog, run by Catherine Terry is trying something interesting and I’m the guinea pig. We’re doing an online launch party for Petticoat Ranch. I’d invite you to come to a chat we’ve got scheduled for Saturday, February 24, that’s THIS Saturday. Find it by clicking here. http://catswebdesigns.com/At_Home_with_Christian_Fiction/Party_Room.html
Come and join us. If this is successful we might do one for every author who is interested.
I hang around the Barbour editor’s blog and I’d recommend any aspiring author do that. http://editcafe.blogspot.com/ It’s a great chance to get your name in front of THREE acquiring editors from Barbour, plus learn what they like. And the posts, from Rebecca Germany, JoAnne Simmons and Susan Downs, have a lot of good lessons on writing and what they’re looking for.
I check in at Camy Tang’s blog some http://camys-loft.blogspot.com/ and I love Michelle Sutton’s book review site. http://edgyinspirationalauthor.blogspot.com/ That girl is just a readin’ machine. I like Cheryl Wyatt’s blog http://scrollsquirrel.blogspot.com/
I’ve got links to a lot of great sites on my blog, http://www.mconnealy.blogspot.com/ which you’re welcome to go see but it’s not as interesting as the others I’ve mention. I’ve also got a MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/petticoatranch and a ShoutLife page http://www.shoutlife.com/maryconnealy
That’s enough of that. I spend too much time hunting around the internet.
Are you in a critique group?
Yes, I’ve been a member of a critique group since shortly after I joined ACFW, nearly…wow, was it five years ago? At least. I love it. I’ve been struggling to keep up with it lately and I feel like I’m failing my critique partners so I probably shouldn’t be in it anymore. But I’ve learned so much from working with those ladies. Christy Barritt, Suzan Robertson, Susan Smykla Osborne, Nicole Cooper, Tamara Cooper, Carolyn Slaughter, Rhonda Gibson and Anne Greene have passed through Crit 15 over the years. I hope I’m remembering them all.
Only Christy Barritt is left from the original group, I joined about a year after it formed. But the variety is good. I’ve learned something from all of them.
What are your long term plans for your writing career?
I’d like to publish every single one of the twenty books I have on my computer. And then settle in and write about two books a year. I’d also like an Academy Award…you know, Best Adaptation? But I think I’ll just concentrate on writing my books and let that whole…Oscar thing…happen on its own.
Remember to leave a comment and enter to win a copy of Mary's book, PETTICOAT RANCH.