Sunday, August 12, 2007

Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy - Review/Interview

Petticoat Ranch (Lassoed in Texas Series #1) by Mary Connealy softcover, 2007, Barbour Books
ISBN: 1597896470
320 pages

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that I have agreed with the heroine as much as in Mary Connealy’s Petticoat Ranch. I even caught glimpses of my husband in the character of the exasperated hero. That is why this book has made such an impact on me while reading it. The characters thoughts and emotions so closely mirrored my own that I was drawn to them in a way that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Sophie Edwards has been fending for herself and her four daughters for what seems like forever. They work together like a well trained team, protecting themselves from the men, both good intentioned and bad, around Mosqueros, Texas.

In rides Clay McClellan, determined to seek vengeance on his brother’s killers, he decides it’s his Christian duty to marry his late brother’s widow and protect her and the girls from a hard life on the Texas frontier.

From Clay’s misunderstood proposal, his horror that little girls cry a lot, and the fact he has no clue what to do with five females. To Sophie’s and the girls’ frustration for being treated like delicate china, dealing with a man that’s sure his way is right, and trying to translate the manly grunts they hear from a new husband and father. Ms. Connealy’s book is seasoned with hilarious examples of the differences in the way men and women think and handle situations.

Pile on top four adorable girls who would over anyone’s heart, a ruthless outlaw bent on destroying anyone who stands in his way, and this book is a page turner that will keep you chuckling long after the last page has been turned.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS with Mary Connealy

Gail: I loved the sense of humor in your book, have you always been a writer with a flare for humor or was Petticoat Ranch your first?
Mary: I end up putting humor in everything I write. I just can’t resist having the heroine sass the hero. When it’s a choice, she ALWAYS mouths off.

Gail: The four adorable daughters in the story, do they resemble anyone you know?
Mary: I have four daughters and in the most general ways possible the girls resemble mine.
Mandy is the oldest, responsible, orderly.
Beth is the animal lover with the soft heart.
Sally is the tom boy, the daddy’s girl
And the baby, Laura, well, she’s pretty undefined.
Except for Laura they are similar to my girls but of course I went wild and deviated any time I thought it served the book, so their resemblance is minor.

Gail: I very much enjoyed the confusion that Sophie and Clay felt for the opposite gender and how they tried to understand the thinking behind each other’s actions. You were able to put it in a non-offensive way. What was the inspiration for this story line?

Mary: I think of Petticoat Ranch as my husband’s story. My husband, Ivan, is from a family of seven sons. Now we have four daughters. Sometimes, watching Ivan react to the girls, doing the very normal things the girls do, is hilarious. They just shock him. One time, during an extensive discussion of control top panty hose, Ivan shook his head and said, “This is a conversation we never had at home.” I used his well intentioned efforts to figure out women as the background for Clay, my hero in Petticoat Ranch. At least Ivan had a mother, girl cousins and classmates. Then we dated and married, then added the daughters one at a time. Clay came from an all male world, first in the Rocky Mountains, then in the war. He was dropped into his all-girl family with absolutely no preparation. Believing it is his Christian duty to protect and care for these women, he marries Sophie about four hours after he regains consciousness in her care. And then the shocks start coming. The giggling, the hair pulling, the tears. He handles it all as badly as possible all while being charmed and drawn to his wife and daughters. The man is wildly conflicted and the comedy of his confusion just floods the entire book.

Gail: What one character of Sophie’s do you feel you share with her?
Mary: I really don’t think Sophie is much like me. Instead, I think of Sophie as how I’d like to be. My role in my family seems to be the disciplinarian…so that’s a bit like Sophie, and the calm in the middle of the hurricane. So, I spend most of my life dealing with emotional girls and a husband who could be … oh, Italian maybe, for his inevitably noisy over-reactions to whatever is going on. What that amounts to for me is, I say about one tenth of the things I think of. Mostly I just keep my own opinions locked up because I just need to calm everyone else down and not add to the chaos.
But not Sophie. Sophie says exactly what she’s thinking. She isn’t afraid to get in Clay’s face and tell him how it’s going to be. That is so not me. I think the reason I write books is because of the opinions I have to keep to myself.

Gail: I see there is a 2nd book coming after Petticoat Ranch; can you tell us more about it?
Mary: Book 2 in the Petticoat Ranch series is Calico Canyon. Prissy Miss Calhoune, the schoolmarm from Petticoat Ranch and Daniel Reeves with his four unruly boys star in Calico Canyon. She expels his boys from school. He gets her fired. A completely innocent compromising situation sees them married the next day.
Five little boys are horrified.
Daniel is a trapped rat.
Grace is stuck in her worst nightmare.
She’d walk out on them all…with their fond farewell, except her past caught up with her in town, which is why she hid in Daniel’s wagon and ended up spending the night with him and the boys.
Coming Summer 2008 from Barbour Publishing
Calico Canyon is the flip side of Petticoat Ranch. A finicky woman who deals very poorly with men is trapped in a family with six of the most ‘male’ men and boys who ever lived.

Gail: What have you been working on recently?
Mary: I’ve been hard at work, Gail. I am going through Calico Canyon one more time before turning it into Barbour. It’s done but I want it to really sing.
I’ve just been informed that Golden Days, which came out with Heartsong Presents last May, is now going to be part of an anthology called Alaska Brides and will be released next September. Cathy Marie Hake and Kathleen Y’Barbo wrote the other books in the anthology.
I’ve just finished the third book in a cozy mystery series I’m writing for Heartsong Presents Mysteries. The first, Of Mice…and Murder, will be out Christmas ’08.
And I’ve been contracted to write a three book series for Heartsong Presents. I’m done with two of them, written before I was offered the contract, and am into the third. These are set in South Dakota and centered around a small town with a big buffalo ranch.
The first book in that series, Buffalo Gal is a vegetarian who dreams of the day her beloved buffalo can roam free on the Great Plains and a cattle rancher who is standing right in the way of her dream and has no intention of moving an inch. Of course it’s a mess that can only be overcome by True Love.

Gail: What do you feel the hardest part of getting published was for you?
Mary: Wow, Gail. Getting published is just so hard. The hardest part? Yikes.
Going back to writing after I got a ONE on a scale of One to Ten in the Golden Heart, for Petticoat Ranch which was winning almost ever contest I entered it in. THAT was hard.

Going back to writing when an editor has just sent you your zillionth rejection letter.
Staying in the game when I realized I’d been rejected for using language wrong for the historical time period. Trouble was, my book was a contemporary. Which told me I’d been rejected before the editor had read two full pages, because they were driving a pick-up truck on page two. That’s how long of a chance you get to impress someone. Very humbling.

The stacks of rejections. I remember one for Petticoat Ranch that was just particularly disappointing and I stared at that rejection letter and thought, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done, I put everything I’ve learned, every skill I know, every trick of the trade into this book, and it’s not good enough. What now?”

HARD is just…like…a synonym for Publishing. I tell people who really get down about rejection letters…I mean some people really take it badly, are devastated by it. I tell them to get out NOW! Grow yourself a rhino hide or GET OUT because dealing with disappointment and rejection is just LIFE when you’re a writer and if it hurts you this much, don’t do it to yourself.
About the last two years before I finally got a contract, I developed an attitude that really helped me through the tough times. Seriously.


I’d send out my submissions and just figure GUARANTEED REJECTION and go back to writing. The rejection would come, I’d think, “Of course” and go back to writing. It really helped me stay sane. I highly recommend hopelessness for unpublished authors.

Gail: Can you pass on any words of advice to budding authors?
Mary: My first reaction here is; if a budding author is taking advice from me, they are in big trouble. I’m still amazed that I got a book published.
I think, fundamentally, the way to become a published author is to write.
That’s it. Write, everyday if you can. Steady, keep at it. Write and write and write some more. You really do get better with practice.
I had twenty books finished when I got my first contract, and when I look back at the old ones, it is painfully obvious that I got much better as time passed.

Other advice. Enter contests; they are worth the price for the critique. Attend conferences; you make connections that will really help. Take classes. I belong to ACFW and they have, on their website, an archive of classes taught by scads of authors and the information in those archives is pure gold. Join ACFW, study those archives, connect with the other members, attend their conferences and take the classes and meet the editors and other authors.

A lot of people will tell you that in writing, “It’s all who you know.”
There’s some truth to that. It really does help to know people. But what isn’t included in that rather, sneering comment, “It’s all who you know.” Like it’s not about writing talent at all. What isn’t included is how easy it is to get to know people.

I belong to a critique group through ACFW, or did for a long time rather, I credit what I learned in that group with developing so many skills. We were all unpublished, four of us, and three of us are now published. We could see the mistakes in each other’s work but not in our own, isn’t that odd. We were a great team. The fourth member, who isn’t published, took a side trip away from writing into motherhood so she’s got a great creation on her hands, too.

Gail: When is your favorite time to write?
Mary: I’m an insomniac. I do most of my writing late at night. It’s kept me sane while the hours tick by and I’m still awake.

Gail: One last fun question – would you call yourself a shop-aholic or a choc-aholic?
Mary: This is so easy, Gail. Neither. I hate to shop. One step into a mall and my head starts aching and my feet start hurting and I start to feel POOR.
I love chocolate but it’s by no means an addiction. I’m far too much of an equal opportunity snacker to commit to a single food.
I think I’m a book-aholic. Honestly, if reading was beer, my family would be holding an intervention.

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