Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mary Connealy: Kid on the Road to Great Stories

Mary and two of her sisters in their fancy scarves

I'm just going to say it--Mary Connealy writes the funniest and most poignant novels and I love them!Over the years that I've been a book reviewer, I've passed along books or recommended titles to local book clubs. I have a friend who is the president of a local historical society. I loved Mary's historical romances so much, I couldn't wait to give her those. Well, that lady is a harsher critic than I am ("good story, but..." LOL) but she said about Petticoat Ranch, "Mary's voice is authentic. And I really liked this book, do you have any more of her books?"

What's a better recommendation than that?

I explained to my friend that there is a good reason Mary is so good at writing--she grew up in a big family with great parents, she married a guy who grew up with brothers, they live on a farm, Mary's a teacher, and Mary and her husband had girls! Mary is a reader from way back.She just has lived so many things. The first time I met Mary, I liked her immediately. If you haven't met her, then read her books or if you are in Michigan, then be sure to go to her booksignings (see list at the end of this.) Be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win Gingham Mountain.

Let's see what shaped Mary into the author with humor and insight that she is today:

Childhood Ambition:
I wanted to build roads. I had a really huge impression made on me by the first interstate highway interchange I ever saw, overpasses and on-ramps, and I remember thinking that, like the Appian Way in Rome, this would last forever. And I’d love to help build them and then something I did would last forever. You know, writing books lasts. Right???

Fondest Memory (then):
I remember my parents buying a house…a small country farm house…and having it moved and stuck onto the small country farm house where we lived, eight of us in a two bedroom house. Two Bedrooms is an exaggeration. One of those two bedrooms was a fold out couch in what was laughably called a DINING ROOM. No dining went on in there. And the other was a attic, really small with sloping ceilings. So, when we added on the house, we quit using the attic and the DINING ROOM and so, our two bedroom house, added three bedrooms and subtracted two for a total of THREE bedrooms. Although, in honestly, I now got to sleep on that fold out couch for a few years, so I guess you could call it a four bedroom house, for ten people. And I loved the fold out couch. I was the only kid who had her own room.

When they bought that house, I remember watching it come down the road, very impressive.

Proudest Moment (then): Hmmmm….
I was a very shy kid. I remember vividly spending a lot of time clinging to my mother’s skirts and burying my face. I wasn’t about PRIDE back then. I remember being in a wedding when I was about five, picked from among my then…four sisters (ages 7, 6, 5 (me) and 1). I really loved that, being plucked out and given that honor. I may have just been the right age but it made me feel really special.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:
I’d say shyness. It’s one of the reasons I make a great writer. I can have both sides of a conversation myself and, if I say something stupid, I’ve got a lot of time to think it over and delete it. A perfect world for a shy person.All my instincts are to withdraw. I live a whole world inside my head. I’m never happier than when I’m alone, in front of a computer monitor makin’ stuff up.

Mary as a teen 

My First Job:
Babysitting. I babysat for a neighbor with three little kids, including an infant when I was probably twelve. I was fearless. I had five little brothers and sisters by that age. I feared NOTHING about little kids.

Childhood Indulgence:
Reading, I think. My parents would let us get out of almost any chore if we were reading a book. They just considered it a constructive activity. So, if I was reading, I could duck washing dishes or cleaning, almost anything but helping milk the cows. There was NO ESCAPE from that.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
A pink flower girl dress from that Proud Moment above, it was beautiful!!!!!!

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:
I don’t know about favorite but we watched the Wizard of Oz when I was a kid. And I didn’t know it turned into color once they weren’t in Kansas anymore, until really late in life. We only had black and white TV. We watched Ed Sullivan instead of Bonanza because my mom thought it was too violent. Go watch an episode of Bonanza sometime. Very tame. It makes you see just how far we’ve fallen.

Favorite Childhood Book:
I was a ravenous reader. Dr. Seuss when I was really young. I love the 500 Hats of Bartholmew Cubbins, anyone remember that? I read Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and just any book I could get my hands on.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:
I had a friend right across the road, Joani, one year younger than me and we played together constantly. We were always outside. We had horses and barns to climb in. Woods behind our house and beside Joani’s. We ran wild, except we never got too far.

About 1960: Youngest to Oldest: Lois, Don, Mary, Nila, Ruth

I also had all those brothers and sisters so there was never a shortage of playmates.
Mary and all of her siblings

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?
I went to a One Room Country School when I was a kid and one teacher had twenty-four kids in eight grades and that woman was FORMIDABLE. We didn’t misbehave much, it was just too scary. I look back at her and just love what she was, how she acted. I remember her telling us her husband had died of a heart attack really young because he smoked and we must never, ever smoke. I remember her turning on the radio the day JFK died and letting us listen to that unfold. She cried. Very scary to me to watch such a strong woman cry. Of course, my brothers and sisters were all there, and Joani and her brothers and sisters (seven in all). Plus a lot of other good-sized families. We had a blast, all while behaving pretty well.

Dad and his three big girls: (Mary says) "I'm third of eight, so I'm the baby in
 this one
(Around 1956, right Mary??) Look at all those books beside his chair!

Childhood Hero:
My dad, I suppose. He used to read to us. Now, in this modern era, my dad wouldn’t rate that high. He didn’t do diapers, he didn’t help around the house at all. But he read to us, held us on his lap, he was funny and did wonderful voices with all the characters in the book. Meanwhile, my mom is out cooking supper for ten people, so she’s my hero, too. But she was grateful for him distracting kids. She felt blessed, too.

Childhood Favorite Memory of Church:
We had this really lovely old church. I remember the Jr. High & High School age kids got to go up in this room in the STEEPLE for their Sunday School class. And I wanted to do that so badly. I was nine or ten when we built a new church-I had maybe two years to go before I’d make the cut into the steeple classroom. The new church was beautiful with big, roomy classrooms and I loved it. But I always was a little frustrated I never quite got to the age to go up in that steeple. I did go up there some, between Sunday School and church, sneaked. And it was cool.

What kinds of memories from childhood are used in your book(books?)
I consider a lot of Gingham Mountain to be like my childhood life in a general way. Grant’s tiny house and all those kids. Enough food but not much else, no luxuries at all. I knew I could take that tiny house and shoe-horn all those kids into it because I’d lived it.

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

My parents were both college educated. My mom was a teacher, though she worked…maybe one year at it. My dad had a degree in agriculture. Then they got married and he was a farmer and she was a housewife. They used their education later for work but at the time it was just a part of their background.

We were kind of raised with this,almost, mythology about how they’d gone to college and found each other. I don’t know if that ‘love story’ was the roots of it, but education was really respected in my family. We didn’t have fancy stuff. My mom was no Martha Stewart. Too many kids, the house was bitter cold in the winter and blazing hot in the summer. We had a very starkly simple bathroom in the basement and a shower but the basement was cold. We bathed in a tin tub in the winter, one that got dragged in off the porch. Most of our clothes were used and they were crammed into not nearly enough drawers that wouldn’t shut, overflowing closets.

But we had what was important. We had love. My parents adored us. If they were worried about money they didn’t lay that burden on us ever. We had faith in God and a love of books and learning and a sense that we could do anything we wanted to. All eight of us went to college. Two doctors, including among spouses, several masters degrees, two pastors with divinity degrees and one published author.

I remember saying to my mom one time that I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, I just wanted to be happy.She said, “Find out what God wants you to do and you’ll be happy.” That struck me as being really profound and I always remembered it. Years later, I told her that really impressed me.Mom couldn’t remember saying it. She was just this lovely, gentle-hearted woman of faith who could look at her chaotic, poverty-stricken, child-burdened life with a husband who wouldn’t change diapers and feel lucky. And my dad acted lucky 

to have found her. She knew how to love beautifully and that came out in every word she spoke.

Mary Connealy Today: Child of God,Daughter, Wife, Mother, Grandmother,
Friend, Teacher, Author (Still talking in her head, but not quite as shy)

Mary's Web site
Mary's Blog
Seekerville, where Mary and other authors blog
Petticoats and Pistols (historical) blog

From Barbour Publishing



February 2007

International Readers Choice Contest Finalist
Long Historical Fiction Category

Sophie Edwards’ life is one long struggle for survival, and, more importantly, the survival of her four daughters. She wants to avenge her husband’s murder, but she has no idea how to do it. And as if she hasn't got enough to do, now a wounded man is disrupting her family’s lonely life.

Clay McClellen left an idyllic, all-male world in the mountains. But, after plunging headfirst over a cliff, Clay finds himself at the mercy of a widow and her four girls.

A suspenseful romantic comedy about a mountain man trapped in a pretty, sweet smelling, confusing all-girl world.


July 2008

4 1/2 Stars from Romantic Times

Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutches of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

GINGHAM MOUNTAIN  (Just released. See below to be entered in a drawing for a free copy!!!)

February 2009

4 1/2 Stars from Romantic Times

A rancher runs head-on into the new school marm, who believes he's made slave labor out of eight orphaned children.

Grant Cooper crowds too many orphans into his rickety house, just like Hannah Cartwright's cruel father. Grant's family of orphans have been mistreated too many times by judgmental school teachers. Now the new schoolmarm is the same except she's so pretty and she isn't really bad to his children, it's Grant she can't stand.

Other books by Mary Connealy:

From Heartsong Presents

August 2008
By Cathy Marie Hake, Mary Connealy
and Kathleen Y'Barbo

Contains Golden Days winner of ACFWs Book of the Year contest as Best Short Historical
The historic Alaskan frontier makes a wonderful setting for romantic adventures. Trek into the wilds alongside three women who have strong faith, determination, and no need for a husband. Can they surrender their independent hearts when love comes to call in the form of a friendly neighbor, a grieving widower, and a secretive gold miner?

from Heartsong Presents Mysteries

Coming in June 2009

November 2008
Join the club

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 who's helping her trap her mice and solve the crime is pretty interesting, too.

Coming 2009

Joe Manning comes to town to finally meet his dead beat dad, only to find his father has been murdered.

Bonnie is attacked while she's at work in the Melnik Historical Society Museum, proud home of Maxie the World's Largest Field Mouse. Only her attacker now claims it was an accident, and he claims he's never seen the guy before who's dead in Bonnie's store room.

Bonnie wants to be suspicious but once he stopped attacking her he turns out to be pretty sweet. And lots of people had a motive to kill Sven Gunderson - including Bonnie herself. Gunderson, the true owner of Maxie, wanted his mouse back.

In Melnik, that means war!

Coming 2009

Tyler Simpson is opening a new law office and he's home to stay.

The very British Dr. Madeline Stuart is writing an anthropology doctoral thesis about a small town that worships an oversized rodent. Success with her project should lead to her dream job, a full professorship at Oxford... even better, a guest shot on Oprah.

When a body falls out of a cupboard in Tyler's law office, clutching Maddy's necklace in his cold, dead fingers, Maddy gets arrested and Tyler is appointed her attorney.

But once Tyler finds out Maddy's here to betray his beloved Melnik, he isn't giving her his best effort.

And someone out there thinks blaming the murder on Maddy would be a perfect solution to his own problems. And Maddy's more likely to cooperate with being framed - if she's dead.

Maxie the World's Largest Field Mouse must come through one more time to thwart the criminal in his peaceful, if someone mouse-obsessed, hometown.

~ Heartsong Presents~


October, 2008

Book #1 in the South Dakota Weddings Series from Heartsong Presents

They'll never see eye-to-eye.

Buffy Lange has spent her life learning about, caring for, and protecting buffalo. She's landed the job of her dreams, managing a huge buffalo ranch in South Dakota. With stars in her eyes, she imagines all of the Midwest given over to free-ranging buffalo. To her, buffalo embody beauty, majesty, and strength. To Wyatt Shaw, however, the buffalo are a constant threat. Wyatt's ranch adjoins the Buffalo Commons and he watches in trepidation as its owner expands and rides roughshod over the local ranchers. Buffalo are wild, untameable, and dangerous. They present a hazard to man and beast.

When disaster strikes, Wyatt's worst fears are realized and Buffy can do nothing but clean up the mess. With one determined to rid the area of buffalo and the other determined to see them flourish, the dust seldom settles around these two. Will they find a common ground or are they destined to forever stand alone?

November, 2008

Book #2 in the South Dakota Weddings Series from Heartsong Presents

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.

December, 2008

Book #3 in the South Dakota Weddings Series from Heartsong Presents

Michael Davidson was a tyrant for a husband, and Jeanie was born to be a doormat.

They got along great.

Then Michael abandoned his submissive wife, just another way to be a jerk.

Michael 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.

Barbour Authors Booksigning Tour in Michigan, March 30th-April 4th, 2009

Authors: Christine Lynxwiler, Kaye Dacus, Mary Connealy, and M. L. Tyndall

Monday, March 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Family Christian Stores

Minges Brook Mall

5700 Beckley Road, Suite B-2

Battle Creek, MI 49015

Tuesday, March 31 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Family Christian Stores

3155 Westshore Drive

Holland, MI 49424

Tuesday, March 31 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Baker Book House

2768 Paris Ave SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Wednesday, April 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Family Christian Stores

Rivertown Center

3819 Rivertown Parkway SW, Suite 100

Grandville, MI 49418

Thursday, April 2 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Leighton Township Library

4451 12th Street

Moline, MI 49335

Thursday, April 2 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Jude 3

2279 North Park Drive, Suite 810

Holland, MI 49424

Friday, April 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Family Christian Stores

Jolly Cedar Plaza

5132 S. Cedar Street

Lansing, MI 48911

Friday, April 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Family Christian Stores

Westnedge Corners Shopping Center

4413 S. Westnedge Ave

Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Saturday, April 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Family Christian Stores

3343A Alpine Road NW

Walker, MI 49544

To be placed in a drawing for Mary Connealy's Gingham Mountain, leave a comment with your contact info: 
(yourname AT Isp dot com) 
and I'll draw one winner on March 9th, 2009 (Sorry, U.S. addresses only.)


Hoarders Extraordinaire said...

Wow! All your books look amazing...and honestly I'd love to have all of them! Please sign me up and I have my fingers crossed on this one!


Julie Lessman said...

What an incredibly beautiful interview, Mary and Crystal! Teared me up several times, Mary, and I don't expect that from "Keep-em-laughin' Connealy"! Don't enter me in the contest because I have my own signed copy and absolutely LOVED it!!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Do I get a reward for scrolling through that long list of published books? LOL Just kidding. Wow, that was a fabulous interview. Thanks for sharing about your family, Mary. Really sweet.

Don't put me in the drawing. I have all three books and loved them all. Grant in Gingham Mountain is the best hero I've read in a long time. Loved him!!! Great job, Mary!!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

What a great interview, so different from most author interviews. I loved it! Large families are such a joy (my husband is one of 6 and there are now 25 grandchildren) and they make for great memories. Please enter me into the contest. I would love to win a copy!


Mary Connealy said...

Really, Julie? You teared up? You got the part about ten people in three bedrooms, right? And freezing cold in winter and blazing hot in summer?

It was a good life, though. Except for milking those cows!!!!

Crystal, I oughta do a blog about that alone...nightmare.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'd love to win this book! Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!


Audra Harders said...

Mary, that was a beautiful insight into your soul...I promise I won't tell anyone : ) You've found what the Lord wants you to do and you are happy.

Bet your mom is happy over that, too : )

Don't enter me in the contest, I have my own collection of Connealy Classics : )

Thanks for the great interview, Crystal!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, what a fun look into the past with you!

You know what's even more funny? These days they'd examine all the reasons why your family was dysfunctional according to modern standards, but you're proof positive that faith, love, commitment and grace are the ties that bind.

Thank you for such a wonderful reminder.


Pam Hillman said...

I'm all teared up, Mary. You should'na oughta done that to me.

Mary Connealy said...

You liked Grant, Melanie? I'm glad. I really liked him too.

I've actually had a little trouble with my hero in the upcoming Montana Rose. The criticism, he's too wonderful, too sensitive, too sweet, too wise...all while being a tough Montana cowboy of course.

So I've tried to mess him up a little, but he's a dream boat. I loved writing him. And he needs to be all those things to survive after the wife he just got saddled with.

Mary Connealy said...

What exactly made you cry?

I can just see my mom if she reads this. She'll get all scowl-y and shake her head and say, "I wasn't that great." :)

Love that woman.

Erica Vetsch said...

What a really, really beautiful article. Your childhood unfolds as like the plot of one of your books. Hardships may come, but sweet memories and a legacy of faith, family, and fun sustain you through them all.

Debra Ullrick said...

I already have all of Mary's books, so don't add my name to the drawing.

Fabulous interview. One of the best I've read.

Mary, you are a hoot. And so are your books. You have thee most amazing characters and yours stories make laugh. You are truly a gifted writer...and a comedian. And all of this from a former shy girl. Hey, that could be a title of a book: Former Shy Girl. hehe

Somehow I can't picture you wanting to build roads. But, in a way you do with your books.

I thought a family of seven was a lot...but ten. Yikes! That's a herd! hehe

Mary, Mary, Mary. Now I know the reasons why you're such a fabulous writer. You gave away your secret. It's because you can have both sides of the conversation by yourself, and if you say something stupid, you can delete it. Guess something fantastic came from being a shy kid afterall, eh? *grin*

I wish I had known you when I were young. I would have started reading back then so that I could get out of doing chores. hehe

What a handsome man your father is.

After reading that you consider Gingham Mountain to be most like your childhood, I can't wait to read it. I've often wondered where you got that delightful, fantastic sense of humor. And now I know.

Luv ya bunches.

Debra Ullrick
The Bride Wore Coveralls
Déjà vu Bride
Dixie Hearts

Crystal Laine said...

I know I always say this on each of the Kid interviews that I do, but I loved Mary's photos and memories. I think I want to know about the milking of the cows, Mary. My mother-in-law's mom (mom of 9) used to love to milk the cows to get away to QUIET. ha

We love to glimpse behind the curtain to see how people were shaped to do what they do now, don't we? (I do!)

Anyway, if anyone wants to be interviewed in this format,(or know of someone else!) be sure to contact me--I'm back at it now and am actively seeking vic--er--interviewees. I can work around events or releases.


Put WHEN I WAS JUST A KID in the subject line.

Thank you, Mary! (and Melanie, if you need a prize for scrolling through all those books, we might think up something...ha)

Anonymous said...

I loved reading the interview, and would love to read this book.

Thank you,

Becky C.


Janet Dean said...

Mary and Crystal, thanks for the fabulous interview! Mary, your memories really touched me. Your large family and happy memories were great fodder for a wealth of delightful stories. Love your books!

Your parents' respect for education hit home with me. My father's siblings all attended college and earned at least one advanced degree. When I asked him if he knew why, Daddy said his parents never kept them home from school to work on the farm. Education came first, though they all worked when they got home.

Wish I could attend one of those signings, Mary. Have fun!

Crystal, your blog is a delight!
Would love to guest in May. :-)


Mary Connealy said...

My mom just emailed me. She came and read this. And she's not a huge computer person...can pretty much just check her that's pretty good.

She loved it.
Thanks for having me on, Crystal

Martha A. said...

I loved this interview!! I related with you, Mary! I grew up as the oldest of 11 children and when we had 8 children we were living in a 2 bedroom house. Also, the cow milking...I personally really enjoyed milking a cow, but my sister tried every way to get out of it possible, even when she got a boyfriend and I am almost certain she liked him only because he milked for her. I hope I win this book...I would love to read it!

Mary Connealy said...

Wow, I've got to go with your siste ron this one, with the milking.
I even MARRIED an dairy farmer and I couldn't get HIM to help with milking. seriously it never occurred to me to ask.

What a missed opportunity for me!!!

Crystal Laine said...

I love all of Mary Connealy's books, but especially the historical romance series.

Thanks so much to everyone who left comments and I wish I could send everyone a copy of these books I love so much.(Love Julie's, Janet's& Debra's books, too!)

We did the drawing on Monday and SHERRINDA won!

I know you are going to become a fan. Check out some of the other authors who also left comments here--Janet Dean did an interview here so see hers on the right. And I might be getting Julie Lessman here someday soon. Don't you want to know about her childhood, too?