Thursday, February 15, 2007

Meet Author Mary Connealy!

We’re thrilled to have new author, Mary Connealy, with us today. Mary’s first book, Petticoat Ranch, was released this month by Barbour Books.

MT: Mary, can you tell us a little about Petticoat Ranch? What it’s about, where you got the spark of a story idea?

MC: Petticoat Ranch is the story of an independent lady rancher with four daughters, and the mountain man who steps in to "save" her.

Sophie doesn’t need saving, but she wouldn’t mind some help. But she can’t seem to get him to understand the difference. And when her husband was murdered and the ranch stolen from her, she kept her family hidden and alive.

Clay grew up in the West and has seen few women and even fewer girls. When the search for his long lost brother leads him instead to Sophie, Clay takes it upon himself to marry her, restore the family ranch, and provide for her four daughters.

While Clay tries to adjust to a houseful of females who either crying, giggle or fighting, in other words, perfectly normal little girls, a band of brutal vigilantes learn that Clay's new wife—the sole witness to her first husband's murder—is still in Texas.

While Clay tries to convince his new family to depend on him, the womenfolk keep his feelings from being hurt while they sneak around setting booby-traps to catch the bad guys.

I got the idea for this from my husband’s life. He came from a family of seven sons, no daughters, and now has four daughters no sons. He is often mystified by the way a woman’s mind works. Of course for Petticoat Ranch, I turned up that isolation from women as far as I could. Then I created an all-girl family who had learned from past experience to have low expectations for any man. Then I watched the sparks fly as Clay and Sophie circle each other, getting to know the truth of who they married while they’re fighting and falling in love.

MT: It sounds great, Mary! And I know it’ll be funny if it has the Connealy humor in it. I have my copy and can’t wait for a free day to read!

I know a couple of our bloggers this week are talking about contests. Can you tell us your take on contests (for the pre-published)? Did you enter many? Did a contest help lead to that first sale?

MC: I am proud to be listed on the Contest Diva website.
I entered many, many contests for years in an effort to get my manuscript in front of the editors and agents who judged those contests. I also believe in them, win or lose, because of the feedback you get through contest judges comments. As a rule, I think it’s always useful to have a neutral pair of eyes on your book. A judge has no agenda, they don’t … above all … love you and see only the good in you, like if your MOM read it.

I also believe being a double finalist in the Noble Theme contest in 2004 is the thing that gave me the nerve to attend that conference. Winning that contest brought me to the attention of a lot of editors and agents. But most importantly it brought me to the attention of Cathy Marie Hake who later asked me if I’d like to be involved with a book series with her.

That contest also resulted in signing with an agent, although he had my book and had requested a full manuscript already, but that contest win definitely didn’t hurt.

If nothing else, those contests were great training for following submission directions and they were great practice at accepting rejections when I failed to win. Believe me, most authors need to get very, very good at this.

So yes, my take on contests is DO IT.

MT: I saw on your website ( that you wrote your first romance at age 12. :-) Have you been writing ever since then? How many years did you seriously pursue publication before selling?

MC: I was a broadcast journalism major in college and did a lot of writing there, mostly news reporting and feature articles but some fiction. I didn’t do a bit of writing while I was having four daughters in ten years, not much reading either. But after my baby went to school---notice I just skipped over fifteen years of my life there, and I wouldn’t do it different for a dozen best sellers—I started writing. I had been writing about ten years and had completed fifteen novels at least before I got my first contract.

MT: I was thrilled to be at the ACFW conference when Mary was offered her first contract! Mary, what was that moment like? Can you tell us if you have a release date for that book?

MC: That moment was one of the sweetest of my life. Not the sweetest mind you, I’ve given birth to four daughters and am happily married so there have been other great moments, but wow, that ranks way, way up there.

I knew Heartsong had a proposal from me and a full manuscript, two different books. And I’d done a lot of back and forth talking with Cathy Hake about the proposal and with Jim Peterson about the manuscript, so I knew it could be me.

Tracie Peterson got up and announced the contract to…drumroll…Kathy Kovak. Wow, I was so disappointed but I was okay. I’d been writing a long time. I was already revising my manuscript in my head. Then Tracie said, “And this year we’re giving a second contract to Mary Connealy.”

I still get shivers when I think about it. I remember Kathy screamed when her name was announced. I was absolutely silent. How dull, huh? I was just stunned and I remember looking wildly around the table and I made eye contact with someone…no idea who…and heaven knows what I looked like, but she said, “Is that you?”

I do remember that I was sitting at the table with Rebecca Germany. I’ve thought many times I’d like to ask her what I looked like. I mean, she had to know it was coming, right? She should have been watching.

Anyway, I made my way up there and I was just a zombie. I had people I vaguely remember hugging me, but they’d have to step right in my path. I think Julie Lessman and Audra Harders grabbed me before I stood up. Then Ruth Logan Herne just blocked me so I could get a hug. I think there were others. I started crying…wow, what a weenie, Kathy screaming was way better, and I NEVER cry and I just kind of leaked tears for the rest of the night, not sobbing or anything, just … anyway, Absolutely spectacular moment.

That book turned out to be the second book in the series with Cathy Marie Hake and Kathleen Y’Barbo. It’s called Golden Days and it comes out in April. Petticoat Ranch was sold nearly a year later but came out first.

MT: Can you tell us about any other contracted books?

MC: I have contracted a third book, a cozy mystery called Of Mice…and Murder part of Heartsong Presents~Mysteries. It hasn’t been given a firm release date yet, so coming soon.

MT: Note to self: have tons of books written and ready to sell. Mary amazes me. She’s very prolific, and is my role model. Mary, how many other finished or nearly finished books do you currently have available for some lucky editor to snap up?

MC: I have by now, around twenty books on my computer, including the three that are sold. I want to sell them all. I can tell which ones are older because I’ve definitely improved. But I still like those stories I told. I just need to tell them more skillfully.

MT: What’s your favorite procrastination technique? Or are you always in the chair writing?

MC: Email. That’s my Achilles Heel. I spend too much time answering email. But I do write nearly every day. My goal is three hundred words, just because that’s so easy. But it’s more likely that, once I get started, I’ll write a thousand words. It’s getting started that’s the problem, because I’ve got so much email to reply to. So with an easy goal, I can force myself to crack open the document and once I get into it, it’s easy to go on for a while.

MT: Off the subject of writing. What’s your favorite food? And do you cook, or are you the eat out/ fast-food type?

MC: We don’t eat out an awful lot, although we’re as hooked into the fast food world as we can be way out in the country. I’m a good cook, but since I’ve gone to work full time, my husband has started cooking and he’s really good at it. I’m so impressed and proud of him. I’ve actually written a cookbook that I’ve printed up and give away at book signings. It’s full of easy family favorites I call Faster than Fast Food.

All the meals take fifteen minutes of preparation time. I did call lit 15 Recipes~15 Minutes, but I went over 15 recipes now so that title is just embarrassing! I had to change it.

MT: What a treat to have a husband who can cook! I know your poor husband has survived a house full of females. What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened with him having to deal with daughters?

MC: Oh, I don’t know if this is funny exactly, but I remember once time one of the girls was in her room crying her heart out. She got benched at a ball game or something equally painful. That stuff does hurt. I was sitting there doing my usual, “There, there, honey,” Stuff and Ivan came in and was so upset. He wanted to protect her so badly, but how? Some of this stuff a parent just has to take.

Anyway, after listening for a while, I don’t remember what prompted it, he just pulled out his billfold and offered the kid a twenty to stop crying.

It worked like a charm.

But later I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea for the girls to learn that crying in front of a man would get them cash. We could be starting something BAD. So, he didn’t do that anymore. Or at least I never caught him.

MT: LOL! I can just imagine. I may have to try that on my daughter sometime. :-) Has your husband been excited to actually see your book in print? Are your girls proud of their mom?

MC: My family has been so great about the book. I’ve just been amazed and so touched by how they’ve cheered me on and promoted my book to everyone who gets too close.

I spend a lot of time writing over the years and they were mostly good sports about that, too, although it must have gotten old. But they were encouraging then too.

MT: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Mary. Any parting words of wisdom for aspiring writers out there? Anything you’d like to tell readers?

MC: Words of wisdom, Missy? Wow, have you ever come to the wrong place.
Words of wisdom for writers, WRITE. No excuses. Just put the words on the paper. Write every day you possibly can. That’s the way to get better.

For readers? I’ll just say I had a lot of fun writing Petticoat Ranch and I hope you’ll have just as much fun reading it. Thanks for sticking through to the end of the interview.

MT: Be sure to check out Petticoat Ranch. It’s been getting great reviews!


  1. Great interview, Missy, Mary.

    I can tell by reading this that I will love your book.

    And I hope you sell all twenty and more!!

  2. Love this. There's a new book I'm adding to my reperitoire.

    Thanks Missy and Mary!

  3. Missy, Thanks for cleaning the interview up and making me sound like I've got a clue. I appreciate being here.

  4. It was fun, Mary! Thanks so much for letting me interview you.

    I even figured out how to post a picture of the cover, plus learned how to put in links to Amazon. So you were my guinea pig! :)


  5. Girls, fun interview, and I'm tickled pink to get a second opportunity in one week to rat out Mary in public, except....

    Mare! I can't do it! I'm having too much fun reading this book, picturing Ivan and the girls, dying laughing and not paying a bit of attention to my work...

    How fun! (Except when you're living it. I've learned that living these experiences is never quite as funny as WRITING about them. Or seeing them on Everybody Loves Raymond, which, I think, no let me make that I'm fairly certain, was actually written with me and my husband's family in mind. So not kidding....)

    Great job girls, and I'm totally not surprised by that!


  6. Ruthy, I've been a witness to your life for years, then, even own it on DVD, because we've seen just about every Raymond episode that was ever written. :)

    Thanks for stopping by!