I read this book and loved it and Mary graceously agreed to be interviewed. Thanks Mary for your time.
As far as writing westerns, I wrote for a long, long time before I got published, Jenny. Ten years. In those years I wrote everything. I mean everything. Sweet contemporary, romantic suspense, police thrillers, long, short, historical, serious, comedy. I ever wrote children’s books and middle grade books. I decided about half way into my ten years of writing that if no one was going to publish what I wrote than I might as well write to entertain myself, so I just did whatever interested me. And Petticoat Ranch was the one that hit. It started winning contests and drew the attention of some people who said they thought I was ready to be published. I love the tone and style of the historical, though. I just love a cowboy, tipping his Stetson back with one thumb and saying, “I reckon, Ma’am.”
2. Do you have any favourite Westerns or western series or actors?
(I loved the old Randolf Scott movies) One of my favorite movies ever is Quigley Down Under. Which is, of course, in Australia. Tom Selleck as Quigley has got to be near the top of my great cowboy lists. And we re-watch The Man from Snowy River and the sequel every few years. I just love the music and the running horses and that earnest young cowboy in love with the wealthy rancher’s daughter.
3. What drew you to writing Historical Westerns?
I’d written a couple of historicals before Petticoat Ranch, they’re now contracted to be published next year. YAY! The first one, Montana Rose, was my attempt at a prairie romance, similar to Love Comes Softly by Jeanette Oke. Of course the basic premise, a pregnant woman who’s husband dies and leaves her alone in the west, want far afield from Jeanette Oke’s book. The Sequel to Montana Rose is The Husband Tree and I think that’s about the funniest book I ever wrote, it’s due for release in 2010. Although Calico Canyon may be my most flat out pure romantic comedy. All the nonsense with those unruly boys makes for lots of fun. I can’t seem to write anything without going for the joke. But Montana Rose that book was my first attempt at a prairie romance, which ended up being more cowboy than prairie and I kept playing with the genre until I came up with Petticoat Ranch
4. How did you come up with the story line for this series and this book in particular?
I don’t know if you’ve heard of the concept of Plotting versus Seat of the Pants.
There are authors who write both ways. Some plot the whole book out in fairly complete detail. Some just have a broad idea and start writing, creating the whole thing as they go.
Well, I’ve done some plotting and I can do it but I’m more Seat of the Pants. With Petticoat Ranch I started with two ideas. Vigilantes and a man dropped into a woman’s world.
Calico Canyon came to me as only fair. The flip side. A woman dropped into a man’s world. So I created the fussbudget, prissy, proper Miss Calhoun in Petticoat Ranch and her nemesis, the father of the boys that were driving her crazy, Daniel Reeves. There was NO WAY these two were going to end up married so I had to force it. Compromise Grace in some way so she would be ruined and Daniel would be a cad if they didn’t agree to the marriage. In that scene, when they’re getting married, I used the line, Daniel had the look of a coyote caught in a trap, who was seriously considering gnawing his foot off to escape having to marry Grace.
So there is NO love lost between these two. Then I had to snow them in together for a long, long time because it took a while for them to start liking each other. So there comes the canyon…with the narrow opening, filling with snow.
5. In Petticoat Ranch we saw the story of a widow and her 4 children and you said they had traits of your own daughters. I am wondering are the boys in this book modeled on people you know also? They are an interesting bunch.
My husband is from a family of seven sons. His mom, Marybelle, is one of my favorite people on this planet and listening to her talk is both hilarious and terrifying. The woman was lucky to survive raising those boys. And she survived brilliantly. She’s eighty-nine now.
This woman is tough! She’s also smart and she has this wonderful sense of humor and she has a great knack for not sweating the small stuff.
She tells stories of pure mayhem. I don’t know how all little boys act but she was always breaking up fist fights and rushing to the doctor with broken bones and cuts that need stitches. They lived on a farm and…if she could possibly arrange it…they ran wild outside.
I got so much of what’s in Calico Canyon from Marybelle that I dedicated the book to her.
6. I just love the way you use humor in your books. How easy do you find it to write the humorous scenes? (I love the way things can be said so innocently and misinterpreted at the same time a couple of scenes with the boys trying to help there father come to mind)
The humor comes naturally to me, but comedy is a lot of work really. I write a sassy line, but then I need to fix it. I need the right set up for a joke, the right mix or voices and misunderstandings.
The think I like best to write is a comedy scene that is pure chaos. The scene that comes to mind in Calico Canyon is the one where they’re forced to marry. Nine people in this scene. All talking. Some of them are listening to each other and reacting to each other, while others are only catching parts of one conversation and part of another.
For the madness of the scene to work, all the characters need to be reacting in their own heads and out loud, and while the characters can be mixed up, the reader HAS to know they’re mixed up and understand what’s happening. It’s really complex. I will see a scene, in my head, how I want it to be, and almost dread it because I know how much work it’s going to be, how much tweaking and word smithing I’m going to have to do to get it right. But I love it. Action scenes are similar to get the pace right and flood the scene with speed and all the senses, noise and smells and emotions.
They’re hard work but if you get it right, it is so much fun.
7. I am wondering have you heard from many men who have read any of your books? I think it would be interesting to hear what they think about your books. I think you capture the differences in women's and men's thinking really well.
I’ve been delighted with the reaction I’ve gotten from men for Petticoat Ranch. I was worried about it because I wanted Clay to be absolutely clueless about woman and always say exactly the wrong thing, but he had to be a hero with a good heart to. I didn’t want the book to descend into male-bashing.
I wanted it show that a woman’s ways were a complete mystery to him, but that wasn’t all his fault at all because women so often don’t say what they mean, they expect a man to KNOW what they mean. And while a man is reacting logically, a woman is reacting emotionally. I feel like I got it right based on some of the reactions from men.
8. I loved learning more about Grace and her story, she really is an interesting lady did you enjoy creating her and watching her character develop?
I did a lot of fooling around to discover who Grace really was. That moment, when she’s stuck in the avalanche with John and she tells John, “I used to be brave.” That is a huge moment for me. That’s when Grace realizes that she’s turned into a coward who is running, always running. She used to be brave when she was a child, being raised by a cruel adoptive father who forced her and all her sisters to work in a carpet mill. She’d deflect her father’s wrath onto herself to protect her little sisters. She’d discipline her little sisters and teach them and protect them from the rough life at the mill and the other tough little children who worked there.
But once Grace started running she just didn’t know how to stop, turn and fight. She goes into that avalanche a prissy, proper, starchy lady and comes out a little spitfire. And after that, though she still has no idea what to do with all these men, she remembers who she is and becomes a feisty, brave little thing. Daniel can’t help being drawn to her.
9. What’s next for Mary Connealy, I know there is one more book in this series (I would love even more)?
This is a fantastic and crazy year for me, Jenny.
Calico Canyon releases July 1st.
Alaska Brides, an anthology containing my book Golden Days releases August 1st
Of Mice and Murder is part of the Heartsong Presents Mysteries book club. It’s the first of three books. Of Mice and Murder comes out in September. It will be hard to find if you’re not a book club member. ( Jenny here There is a link on the side to click on to join this wonderful club and international readers its very easy to join up if you need info just ask me)
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 who's helping her trap her mice and solve the crime is pretty interesting, too.
Then I’ve got a three book Heartsong series (Not the same as Heartsong Mysteries, notice) also releasing this year.
Buffy Lange has landed the job of her dreams, managing a huge buffalo ranch in South Dakota. Wyatt Shaw's ranch adjoins the Buffalo Commons and he watches in trepidation as its owner expands and rides roughshod over the local ranchers.
Emily Johannson discovers a cranky man living in a derelict house in the woodland behind her ranch. When she orders him off, Jake Hanson tells her he bought this wreck and is planning to live there. He's filthy, starving, and furious that Emily found him. He wants to be left alone. And she would if she didn't keep needing to save his worthless life.
Tyler Davidson was a tyrant for a husband, and Jeanie was born to be a doormat.
They got along great.
Then Tyler abandoned his submissive wife, just another way to be a jerk.
Tyler returns a Christian and wants to heal their relationship. Jeanie is in possession of the first bit of hard won self esteem of her life, and she doesn't believe for a minute her cranky husband can change his ways.
They commit to building a healthy marriage but his new job as her boss slips them back into old habits.
Then Gingham Mountain comes in February, book three of the Lassoed in Texas series. And that begins a three book a year release schedule with Barbour that lasts through 2011.
10. Do you have any final words for my readers?
Thanks Mary I look forward to the upcoming books. I really cant wait till Gingham Mountain comes out.
Mary has done it again. This book was really good. I read Petticoat Ranch and loved it but this book is even better.
We meet up with characters from Petticoat Ranch again which was good, but this book focus's on Grace and Daniel. Grace is a school teacher and Daniel is a widower of 5 boys. Grace is having trouble controlling the boys and Daniel cant work out why she has a problem. Due to circumstances they end up married (This is one interesting scene). Mary uses humor which makes the story even better. As you get into the story you learn more about both Grace and Daniel, You learn Grace had a hard life and after an life changing incident she remembers she is strong and we see her grow and become much stronger. The Boys also have a major hand in this story. If you have ever been around 5 young boys full of energy you will know what a handful they can be. This book is a wonderful read. my advise is don't start it just before going to bed as you may not want to put it down. 5 stars
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