Saturday, July 3, 2010

Laugh and Learn with Mary Connealy

Hi everybody. Pepper here and I'm tickled all the way down to my funny bone to have Mary Connealy visit The Writers Alley today. Besides being one my my writing heroes and a fabulous author, Mary is an encourager. If you haven't had an opportunity to read any of Mary's books, check out her website at to find out what new book she has coming out about every 2-3 months. Seriously, she's had a new book come out that often AND kept them consistently entertaining.

So what's up next from this marathon writer? Well, THIS MONTH her novel Doctors in Petticoats comes out, followed by Wrangler in Petticoats and Sharpshooter in Petticoats. I can't wait to get my hands on them. To be honest my two favorite books of Mary's are still Petticoat Ranch and Montana Rose, but if you pick up ANY of them, you're in for an knee-slapping, Stetson-toppin', rip-roarin' adventure :-)
Today, Mary is giving away her new book - Doctor in Petticoats for one lucky commenter!!

So, Mary let me pick her brain a bit about her writing process and her characters.
Thanks so much, Mary.

1. You had quite a few finished novels on your computer before you ever became a published author. In fact, I've heard you recommend that to unpublished authors often. "FINISH a book" I think is how you put it once ;-) (kind of separates the serious from the not-so-serious writers). How many books did you have on your computer when you were first published and how many of those original stories have gone on to become published books?

I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published. On that fateful day, when I earned my first contract, I had twenty finished books on my computer. I have now sold nine of them. I just was offered a contract for what will take me up to 25 published books. . .stretching out through 2013. . .I think.

2. Okay Mary, you know I'm one of your top fans. I try to sniff out Connealy Classics long before they are supposed to be taking up shelf-space. How much of your personality comes out in your writing? Do you think you're as funny off the page as you are on the page? (From what I know about you, I'd say YES!), but I'd love your opinion :-)

Off ‘stage’ I am a troubled loner with no people skills. You don’t think I wrote all those books and still had time to talk to people, do you??? I’ve learned to try and fake having a personality. My main goal is to be myself. . .only better. . .and cool. . .and younger. . and prettier. . and thinner.

3. You have some pretty variable characters. From the sharp-shootin' rancher Belle Tanner to the insecure Cassie Dawson. Do you have a firm idea of what your characters look like before you write them? Do you create story boards or print out pictures of 'similar' looking people or is it all just stuck in your head?

I don’t do story boards. I sometimes have a famous person in mind, though not usually. I think it’s just part of creating a character. Honestly I’m so interested in creating CHARACTER that I often don’t spend all that much time creating looks. Does that make sense? I’ll be writing along, sometimes fifty pages into a book and realize I never gave the heroine an eye color. But I gave her a personality. I’m trying to be more disciplined about that because it can be a problem. How many times have I realized I don’t know my hero’s eye color and then I’ll have to do a FIND on the words, Blue, Brown, Hazel, Green. . .hunting through my manuscript to see if I DID give him an eye color and forgot, or just didn’t give him one.

Myra Johnson has an excel spread sheet chart I try to use. In the book I’m writing now I’m really trying to do more with eye color and hair color. The hero’s eyes are cool blue like the sky barely showing through a heavy fog. The hero is a very controlled man. So the cool is what I’m going for. His brother, a lunatic, has eyes I describe as Wild Blue. He smiled and his wild blue eyes snapped with excitement.
4. I'd love to learn a little about your writing process. Do you write out your first draft from start to finish and then go back to edit, or do you make most of your revisions along the way?

I make tons of revisions as I go along. I start the book and write my minimum daily allowance of words. Usually 1000. Day #2, I reread those 1000 words and do a LOT of revision, then write more. . .if I revise enough to reach my 1000 word goal sometimes I only do revisions. Day 3, I start at the beginning and re read and revise my now 2000 words. I do this until it starts to get long and going all the way back is a huge burden, and also I start to be satisfied with the beginning. Though I’ll often go back again and again to it as I write more and discover characters and think of something bigger and more explosive to begin the book. I play with first lines a lot and am rarely satisfied with them because they are sooooooooo important.

5. When writing a series like the Montana Marriages, how do you keep all of the stories and characters straight as the cast grows? By the time we get to Wildflower Bride, there are lots of adults and kids to keep track of and you do it well. Is that a complex process?

Wait’ll you read Doctor in Petticoats, girl. That is the beginning of another three book series that weaves the Lassoed in Texas series and the Montana Marriage series together. I did a TON of work to get that all straight.

How old are Sophie McClellen’s girls? How old are Belle Tanner’s children? How old are the Reeve’s boys? I had to create a really detailed life line for all of them to keep it straight. And the big characters, the MAIN weren’t so bad once I figured them out. But it’s the lesser characters, with only passing references to them, I had quite a time getting it all straight.
6. For those of us in the 'learning' phases of writing, what are some helpful tips for developing memorable characters?

To create a memorable character you need to think in terms of creating them right to the bone. I mean their dialogue, sure, but their thoughts, their internal musings. The word choices they make inside their heads.

Here’s a really BAD example. some guy is trying to flirt with her and says, “Hey, baby, I can tell you’re trying to make an good impression on me.”

If your heroine is a carpenter she might say, “If I want to make an impression on you, I’ll use a hammer.”

If your heroine is a cook, she might say, “If I want to make an impression on you, I’ll use a cast iron skillet.”

Like I said, dumb examples. My hero in my current book thinks, I’m tired of the cowhands extolling the virtues of his perfect big brother.

Well, that says what I want it to say--but it’s LAME. No COWBOY says extol the virtues. I just typed that and I know it’s wrong. I need to go back and rewrite it to say, “I reckon if I hear another word about the way my big brother runs this spread I won’t be able to keep the food in my belly.”

Or something like that.

Get the thoughts right, the voices right, set the scene, the clothes, the eyes support the thoughts and the voices. (PS I always get fearful when I give advice. I usually lead people terribly astray)
7. What do YOU like about your own characters?

What do I like about my own character? Yeesh. I like that I’m content to be at home. I enjoy writing. I entertain the heck out of myself when I’m writing. I am mostly dissatisfied with myself in the details and pretty content in the big picture. Does that make sense? I should eat right, exercise more, keep my house cleaner, write more thank you notes. I’d change so much about myself. But those are details, the big picture, I’m honest, have a solid faith in God, a good work ethic, I’m am a faithful wife, have an easy going personality, which means I take abuse well (four teenagers and ten years of rejections from editors and agents. I had a lot of practice)

8. If you could be any of your heroines, who would you want to be...and why? ;-) (don't you just LOVE questions like that)

I think the closest to my heart is either a compilation of the three heroines in the Nosy in Nebraska three in one collection. The mouse fearing Carrie, the shy bookish, Bonnie and the klutz Maddy. Or maybe the heroine in Clueless Cowboy. She’s a ranch girl, lifelong country dweller. I could really write her story with some honesty. As for who I’d want to be? I love writing strong, strong heroines, Belle, Sophie, Glowing Sun/Abby, but really being ‘in your face’ isn’t a great way to conduct your life. So I think those heroines are who I wish I could be, but never will be. And that’s probably for the best. Someone’s gotta remain calm and restore the peace. (That’s a reference to the four teenagers again)

Thanks so much for being with us today, Mary.

Other places you can find Mary tossing out some words of wisdom and sharing her hilarious sarcasm are:

Petticoats and Pistols
Her blog
or her website.


apple blossom said...

Loved reading this interview post. Thanks
ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this interview! I really enjoyed it! Learned a lot too!
I really like the following quote:

"To create a memorable character you need to think in terms of creating them right to the bone. I mean their dialogue, sure, but their thoughts, their internal musings. The word choices they make inside their heads."

So true! I sometimes forget about the word choice they make inside their heads... LOL

Pepper said...

Mornin' Apple Blosson - great to have you here. I'm going to bring in the morning with donuts (Mary likes those) AND some apple fritters, in honor of Apple Blossom :-) Great way to start the day. Coffee's brewin' and some yummy chocolate milk is out for those of you who need a cool start to the day.

Pepper said...

Nice to have you here. Yeah, I loved that quote too. It made me step back and reevaluate if my characters have their own voices or not. As clearly as I can recognize which of my kids say something from another room, I need to know which character is talking (or thinking) by their words.

Mary - people are going to follow your advice. Be afraid ;-)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I suppose I hadn't considered the importance of including the little details like eye color. It seemed to not be necessary unless the eyes played a specific part in the story....but now that I read Mary's answer, I've changed my mind.
Mary you are a delight and someone who would be a good friend.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Okay, Okay...I am trying to do the math in my head and, being a word girl and not a number girl, am having trouble with the number of your books.

You have:
20 books on your computer
9 are sold
25 is the number you will have as the total of number of books sold.
Soooo... will 11 of those books on your computer factor in? Or will you have to write 16 new books? And all that over the next 3 1/2 years?

Yeesh...that it completely mind boggling.

Okay, another question. I found your writing process fascinating. It looks like you are a panster? Do you plot at all?

I better you are funnier in person than you think you are. People think I'm funny, but I consider myself to be a loner, one who LOVES being home alone with her laptop. (but, alas, I must work for insurance!) I don't think you could NOT be funny and have such fun books.

I loved this interview and absolutely LOVE finding out more about you! I can't wait to read your next 16 books in the next 4 years!!!!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Wow, Sherrinda, you're asking me to do MATH?

This early on a Saturday morning?

Um......I've got contracts for 25 books. The fifteenth one just came out, Doctor in Petticoats.

Um......of those, I nodded off there for a moment...about, let's say about, nine of them were already written. So I've written

15-9= (counting on my toes, carry the one, borrow ten from the 15, no wait, just go back to my toes, fetch some toothpicks and create, I'm not a visual learning, just desperate.
I've written six new books and need to write 10 more.
Which I'm hard at work on and have, in fact already written
good grief, I'm so caffeine deprives
written 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and one half.
Plus I sold one one already written books.
And I'm hard at work on the sixth books.

Someone else figure that out.
I need to now go re-read Sherrinda's question because I've forgotten it. But I think I still have ten or nine or eleven finished books on my computer, that I want to SELL.

I've also got about...four? YA books. Two books in a file drawer that didn't survive a computer crash (which might be God saying, NONONONONONONO, so they may just sit there forever)
And I've written a few songs. My favorite of which is
BAMBI ON MY HANDS (an ode to buckskin gloves)

I'll come back later and probably read this and start whining at Pepper to delete it. So read it quick.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Okay, Pepper, here it goes.....


You knew it was coming!

Oh! My! Goodness! Mary, you totally crack me up. My tattooed son and my preacher hubby are looking at me with raised eyebrows, wondering what I am rolling on the floor about. My preacher man is wondering if he might need to do an exorcism and my son just thinks I am the same weirdo mom, so I just explain that Mary is in the house and I am cracking up. (laughing...not loosing my marbles)

All humor aside, I am just so impressed. So you still have quite a few books to write. But as fast as you are, you can do it.

Bambi On My Hands....the picture just so wrong, girl! lololol

Pepper said...

Bambi On Your Hands is much worse than having him hanging on the wall. One of my favorite childhood memories ;-)

It's always a pleasure to have you visit. You write a lot of 'cowboy' books,and then there is Nosy in Nebraska series (and your Heartsong Presents) are there any other genre you've written or would like to write?

Jan Marie said...

I really enjoyed this interview ... love the humor! I also appreciated the comment about the character's eye color because I recently read a book in which the writer gave the character one color of eyes at the beginning of the book and changed them a bit later on. Now I know that writers have a lot of freedom when it comes to character development but even they don't have the power to change a person's eye color! That writer sort of lost me from that point on.

Interspersed with the humor were lots of good tips about improving writing skills, which I greatly appreciate seeing as how it comes from the voice of experience - thanks!


Jo said...

What a great interview. I always enjoy reading Mary's books so will have to read this one as well.


Mary Connealy said...

I just re-read questio SEVEN and realized I answered a question you didn't ask, Pepper.

I read, 'what do you like about your character'

I took that to mean what do I like about MYSELF.

But you actually said, 'what do you like about your characters'
Which means the characters I create.

I probably did this interview too early in the morning. Oops.

Mary Connealy said...

I am much more awake now. I believe I can more clearly respond to comments.

20 finished books when I got my first contract in 2005.
Since then, eight of those finished books have sold.
15 books out, counting all the short Heartsong Presents and Heartsong Presents Mysteries but NOT counting THREE 3-in-1 collections containing those same short books.
So 15.
Contracts for a total of 25, including ONE more of those original finished books.
So ten left stretching out three years.
Of those ten (including that one already written) I've got 5 1/2 written and 4 1/2 to go.

THERE. That's right.


Mary Connealy said...

And when I talk about a characters thoughts, like that example of the 'make an impression with a hammer'...make an impression with a cast iron skillet'...
I really can't stress that enough. Your character needs to be who they are TO THE BONE.
They don't daydream in modern day thinking. They lie to themselves. They may think something and say something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
The thoughts may be wild and angry, but they are soft spoken people, or shy or submissive.
I tried to do that with Cassie Dawson in Montana Rose. Give her this tumultuous thought like while outwardly she just says, "Yes, Red. I'll do whatever you say, Red."

And Red trying to get to the real woman while Cassie is horrified by her inner thoughts, sometimes stretching to violence and fury.

Unknown said...

This interview (including the comments) was so entertaining - just like your books. I want to read them all! Please count me in for Doctor in Petticoats.


Pepper said...

Cassie is such a great example of knowing your character's inner voice. Fantastic.
I've recently started to understand the great importance of 'knowing' my characters. I think I'd only had a superficial (maybe a bit deeper) knowledge of them until recently - and getting down to their 'bone' has been hard, but such fun.

Tanya Daene said...

I was only able to speak with Mary Connealy for a little while, but just doing so brought some of my longing to write again bubbling back to the surface. I loved the interview and found some very helpful ideas in it. My daughter is going to the library to get one of her books and will certainly enjoy it!

karenk said...

a great posting...looking forward to read this fabulous novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Pain SUX said...

This was a wonderful interview with Mary, as usual. I am truly amazed and inspired by how many wonderful book she puts out and so often...she doesn't give you time to forget her...that's a great thing. I love her books and have passed them on to family and friends, who now wait paitently (thankfully not too long) for her latest book to be released.


Edwina said...

How encouraging to know that you had so many books on your computer, Mary, before the first one was published.

Enjoyed getting to "know" you through the interview!


Mary Connealy said...

HEY!!!!!!!!!! TANYA!!!!!!!!

Tanya is speaking to me.

I once invited her to a writer's gathering then stood her up. I feel awful about that.
We changed the date and I didn't let her KNOW!!!
She was stranded in a strange town ON HER BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!

The GUILT!!!

I'm so sorry. I'm honored that you're speaking to me...

Mary Connealy said...

Edwina, I've told Pepper this a THOUSAND TIMES. (Well, twice, but still....)
I encourage aspiring writers to adopt a spirit of hopelessness.

I know this isn't the usual advice, but I've found it to be for the best.

You write the best book you can write, then you send it off, editors, agents, contest, WHATEVER, with absolutely NO HOPE.
And start writing your next book.
Just write and keep writing. Finish a book, toss it into the slavering jaws of death to be ripped to shreds (aka submit it to a publisher) and go back to writing.

When the inevitable rejection comes, you look at it, thing, "Of course, I had no hope." And go back to writing.

Krista Phillips said...

*wiping the sleep out of my eyes*

Sorry... put together baby stuff all morning and took a nap all afternoon. Then I get on the computer with a "WHERE ARE YOU? You'RE MISSING ALL THE FUN" tweet from Sherrinda, so here I am! *yawn* Sorry, haven't fully woken up from my nap yet.

Mary, GREAT interview, ditto all the kudos everyone else gave, and since I am the self-professed math geek on the Alley, You did very well on your math! (the second time anyway... the first time even I was scratching my head, ha!)

My pet peeve is finding an author I like who writes slow. You find a book, LOVE IT, devour it, head to the store and buy the other handful they have out. But then nothing. NO more books to read. You look on their website to find that their next book isn't coming out for a year. SERIOUSLY? I'll forget about said wonderful author in a YEAR! How can they DO that to me!?!

But oh no. Not Mary. I'm still not all the way current on your 15 books, and I have the blissful knowledge to know that when I make it to the bookstore next, there is a GOOD chance that a new Mary book will be sitting there, pretty as can be, just waiting for me to pluck it up.

Now that, my friends, is a kind, wonderful, caring author!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Uh oh...more than one book a year. I think you and me need to quit our day jobs, Krista and get busy filling up our hard drives with novels. THEN someday...say in 10 years, we can start rolling in the dough. You ARE rolling in the dough, right, Mary? *snort* buwahahahaha......

Krista Phillips said...

LOL!!! 10 years.... no worries, we'll be famous rolling-in-dough authors sooner than that. But you're right. If we are like Mary and have this ridiculous stash of books ready BEFORE we get published, then they can start rolling them out and by the time we actually have to worry about writing more than one a year, then we'll be living pretty off of royalties (Mary, I know you're crying laughing at the thought of this by now, ha! But shush, let us dream okay?!?)

Oh, and I am a big believer that the "hope" of succeeding is worth the disappointment of failure. It's like the little engine who could... "I THINK I can, I THINK I can..." :-)

Call me an eternal optimist:)

Unknown said...

I love Mary's books!

Mary Connealy said...

Krista, God bless you with that whole HOPE thing. I see a lifetime of pain.

Can't be helped I suppose.

Rolling in dough, yeah right. That's why I had to calk my bathroom shower myself today, after scrubbing mold off of it until my hands started to peel.

But Honey (I say to my husband, who is a rancher and thinks just because his job is currently running about 16 hours a day) can't YOU DO IT???

The snarling is so unpleasant.

When they tell you to wear plastic gloves while putting on water proof calking BELIEVE THEM.

Fedora said...

LOL! Great interview, Mary and Pepper! I've been loving Mary's books, and am thrilled she's on the next generation ;) Keep on writing, Mary!!

f dot chen at comcast dot net

Anonymous said...

Do your editors complain when you send your manuscripts with traces of home life on them?

Pepper said...

I'm a good listener. I always take your advice, no matter how many times you have to repeat yourself :-)

Hopefully Hopeless in Elizabethton

Ann Lee Miller said...

Would love to sample Mary's humor!

Vickie McDonough said...


Congratulations on your new release and on all the contracts. You'll be busy for a long while. I never knew that you'd written 20 books before you sold. Amazing! Can't wait to read your new book.


Edna said...

I would live to receive the book "Doctor in Pedicoat" by Mary, I really love her books

I follow you on google come to my blog and follow me for a chance to win some of my machine embroidery.


Kathryn Albright said...

Hi Mary (and Pepper!)
Absolutely loved this interview. I am 100 pages into the first Mary Connealy book I've ever read and really enjoying it. I picked up The Husband Tree after hearing about the humor that sparkles through all of Mary's books. Made me anxious to have a look/read for myself. Can't wait to read to the end and start another. I'll have to try one of the ones that Pepper says are her favorites. Thanks for the great interview Mary!


Cindy W. said...

Loved the interview. Mary I just want to tell you I love the cover art on all your books. Do you have a lot of say in what the covers will look like or is that something that the publishers handle?

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Pepper said...

Halfway through Doctor in Petticoats. Love it. I wasn't too sure I'd like Alex at first, but now I'm in love with him. Fabulous. And...Go Beth!!

Linda Henderson said...

I enjoyed the interview very much and I can't wait to read Doctor in Petticoats.

seriousreader at live dot com

Martha A. said...

Can't wait to read another one of your books! It was fun to read how you write! martha(at)lclink(dot)com

Merry said...

I loved reading more about Mary, what can I say but she is amazing! I have truly been encouraged and uplifted by each of her books. I am looking forward to reading Doctor in Petticoats.

Lucie said...

Just stopping in to say that I LOVE Mary and her books! Our book club had the pleasure of having a phone interview with Mary and she was just a delight to have with us. I really, really need to read more of her books! The book we read in our group was Cowboy Christmas, humor, adventure and romance all bundled up in one.

Thank you for the great interview!


lucieluvsca at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Mary is my favorite author :) I haven't had a chance yet to read this interview (I'm book marking it for later), but wanted to enter, just in case!


Sandee61 said...

I enjoyed the interview, and love Mary's books. I don't have a blog nor do I write (wish I could), but would love to be entered in your giveaway. I subscribe to reading blogs, and love to find new authors and new books to support my book buying habit. Love to read, and do avidly.
Thanks for sharing!



Pepper said...

We've had such a great turnout to celebrate Mary and her books. Anyone who leaves comments by midnight EST tonight will be in the drawing.
Good luck and Happy Fourth

Anonymous said...

This is my first time to this site, so of course I've commented on the wrong post when I meant to comment on yours :)

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your writing journey. Yours is truly an inspiration to a newbie like me!

Thanks again,

beemama said...

This is my first time on this site as well. It is a great place to visit. I have read several of Mary's books and can hardly wait for this new series. She is one of my favorite authors. Even the guys at my house like her books. I often read them out loud when we travel. Shirley

Carman said...

Great interview! I cannot wait to read this book. I *loved* the Lassoed in Texas series and can't wait to read more about those girls. :D
Please enter me.

Anonymous said...

I'm just new to following the Seekerville blog, but so glad I am. This interview was extremely encouraging. Though I've written lots of poetry, stories and articles I'm still working on my first novel--and, even though I wake up THRILLED about it most days, most days I don't even work on it! I get distracted so very easily.

Anyway! I love that you said 'FINISH a book,' and I love that you gave such a tangible example of how to do that--setting a daily word-count goal. I think, if I set that up first, I'll still have time to spend on the other stuff... and not get myself all confused :) Thanks.

misskallie2000 said...

Mary, I loved your interview. You sound like a great person and someone I would love to know.
I have not read any of your books I don't think (started excel sheet in 06')but I do have them on my wish list. Thanks for stoppping by to chat.
Pepper, thanks for introducing me to Mary and for hosting this great giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Donna K. said...

I love her books! Please enter me.

misskallie2000 said...

Mary, Great interview. I love westerns with women overcoming the fact of being a woman in a mans world. Women had to fight tooth and nail to become doctors, lawyers, etc and because of them the women of today can be any one they wish to be.
Pepper, Thanks for the great giveaway. Pls count me in.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Mary Connealy said...

Anyone who wants to read one of my books and hasn't and doesn't feel like they can afford more books GO TO THE LIBRARY!!!
I love libraries and I'm even okay with you BRAGGING about it.
If the library doesn't have them ask about their Interlibrary loan program. Low cost or ever free access to any book in any library in the whole state.

Katie Marie said...

Wow! I love that the interview and discussion doesnt stop with the post - it was entertaining to read all the comments! I'd love to be entered to win this book - I have heard a lot about Mart Connealy's books!


Edna said...

I love to read Mary's books, never read one that I didn't like