Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is the author of the Lassoed in Texas series, Petticoat Ranch, the Christy Award nominated Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. A new series begins now, Montana Marriages, Book #1 Montana Rose, Book #2 The Husband Tree and Book #3 Wildflower Bride. A stand alone romantic comedy with cowboys, Cowboy Christmas released in September. Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances is in bookstores now.
Also an avid blogger, Mary is a GED instructor by day and an author by night.
Mary, I was so encouraged when I learned that you had been writing ten years before your first book was published. What made you keep going and not give up?
You know, Sharon, I look back sometimes and wonder WHAT WAS I THINKING? What it really comes down to is, I just love to write. It’s my idea of fun.
I see your book, The Husband Tree, is in bookstores now. What’s the story about?
Silas Harden just lost his second ranch because of a woman. The first deserted him when times got tough. Now he’s had to quit the whole state of New Mexico to avoid a trumped-up shotgun wedding and the noose of matrimony. He’s learned his lesson. No more women.
Belle needs hired hands to move a cattle herd late in the season and there’s no one around but seemingly aimless Silas. She hires him reluctantly.
Silas signed on, glad for the work, though worried about a woman doing such a thing as hiring drovers, only to find out he’s the lone man going with five women, including a baby still in diapers. After the cattle drive is over, he might as well shoot himself to speed up the process of being embarrassed to death.
A fast approaching winter.
The toughest lady rancher you’ve ever seen.
A cynical cowboy who has to convince five women he’s right for their ma. . .and then convince himself.
And one thousand head of the crankiest cattle that have ever been punched across the backbone of the Rockies.
Mary, you’re known for writing romantic comedy with cowboys. What made you decide on cowboys?
In the ten years I wrote before I got my first book published I wrote everything. Almost all romance (though NOT all) but contemporary, historical, sweet, thrillers, prairie romances, gothic, cop dramas, fast action spies, and cowboys. I also wrote children’s books, young adult books, a bit of poetry, and some songs. The cowboys are the books that finally sold. So then Barbour wanted more. I had twenty finished books on my computer when I sold my first one. Barbour asked to see what else I had and they’ve bought…maybe eight of them. All the cowboy books but also the sweet contemporary romances that are contained in the book Black Hills Blessing and one thriller that is in the works right now.
I’m a big fan of humor as most of my readers know. Tell us about how you’re able to weave humor into your stories. Is the comedic timing natural or did you have to work at it?
The comedy is very natural in that I can’t seem to control my sarcastic reaction to the world. That flows pretty well, the sassy dialogue, back and forth exchanges between the characters. But a true comedy scene is a lot of work. There’s usually degrees of sass, but also some physical comedy, lots of internal thought that is how a character is reacting to the madness that swirls around him. I rewrite those scenes many, many times getting the timing right, upping the comedy, adding new dialogue, then new reaction to that dialogue from other characters. It’s not uncommon for me to rewrite a comedy scene or an action scene a dozen times. I can actually feel myself dreading such a scene when I know it’s coming because I know it’s going to be so much work. I’ve given myself permission to write it badly, and that helps a little. Write it badly first, get the skeleton of the scene done, and then start revising. Each time it gets better. I think that would always be true. It’s never done. I just finally quit.
In the Husband Tree a scene that is one of my favorites is when Belle and Silas first meet. She’s in need of hired men. He’s the only one available in the whole town, so it’s hire this stranger or go home with no one. For Silas, a woman doing the hiring, and saying she’s ramrodding the cattle drive horrifies him.
They keep real busy insulting each other and in the end, he’s hired while he sits there trying to decide whether to steal a kiss or pull his gun on the cantankerous woman.
If you had your writing journey to do over again, what if anything would you do differently?
You know, I think I learned everything I needed to know to be published as slowly as possible. I should probably be used as a ‘What Not to Do’ example. Maybe they could put up a picture of me in a red circle with a slash across it as a warning to others.
The thing that put me over the top was attending a writer’s conference and entering a contest. I’d been entering contests for a long time but I’d never seriously considered a conference. That might be partly because I had young children at home. Traveling off by myself wasn’t something I ever did. So maybe I had to do it my way, inch by painfully slow inch.
Can you list three or four of the best writing resources you have found and used over the years?
ACFW. The online classes, which are all archived on their website, are worth the price of membership.
My online critique group, which I found through ACFW.
Reading good books…not books on the craft, well written novels.
I’ve read almost no ‘how to’ books. Refer to the question above and how I did everything as slowly as possible.