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Interview with Ane Mulligan

Welcome, Ane! Congratulations on your recent release In High Cotton. What was your inspiration for the story, and what message do you hope readers take away from this book?
In High Cotton has an odd history. My agent was shopping Chapel Springs Revival. I was writing its sequel, but at that time, the married romance wasn’t attracting publishers. A writing buddy, Gina Holmes, suggested I try a historical and set it in the Great Depression. I was intrigued. I brainstormed the story, found my characters’ photos, interviewed them, and mapped the town. I quickly fell in love with the characters and the story.

I pitched the synopsis and first three chapters to my agent, but she told me since I wasn’t yet established, I needed to choose. Did I want to write historical or contemporary? At that time, I chose contemporary.

After I’d published four books in my Chapel Springs Series, I mentioned In High Cotton to her again. This time, she said it fit my brand of ensemble casts of strong, Southern women traversing life’s issues together, so it was good to go.

Your first book came out in 2014. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
I started my writing career as a playwright in 1995 and after publishing a couple dozen plays, I turned my pen to novels in 2001. That began a long journey, because I only knew how to write good dialogue. POV? Omniscient was something God was. Show don’t tell? I thought we told stories not showed stories. But I was so focused and driven to learn and write well, that I quickly grew a thick rhino skin. Hey, I wasn’t stupid—I knew I didn’t know anything but dialogue.

I got into a critique group and soon bonded with 4 other writers. We’ve been critique partners since 2005. We all went from raw newbies to published, then award-winning and bestsellers.

But between the raw-newbie and published was a persistency that drove me. By 2006, I was going to committee constantly. At every publishing house, from editorial to pub-board, I revolved through their doors. One year, I got the call. One of the larger houses wanted my book. Finally! However, their slate was filled for that quarter, so they were holding me over until the next quarter. That was fine with me. I was getting that contract. Hooray!

Two weeks later, that editor retired, and the company wiped clean her computer hard drive—the one with my manuscript on it. Yeah.

That’s when I knew God was saying, “Not yet. Not there.”

With the confidence that I’d gone that far at least, I started a new series. I had two and a half new novels written by the time I got a contract for them. That was in 2012. I thanked God that I didn’t have to write under any tight deadlines.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
I’ve always loved my gal friends. It was probably born out of wanting a sister. (Read my adoption story and my discovery of my real life sisters on ( My stories reflect that. I always have ensemble casts of strong Southern women, friends who “do life” together. My Southern-fried fiction brand was pinned on me by Rose McCauley. No matter what the era, contemporary or historical, my readers will find me true to my brand.

What is your writing routine? Any quirky habits or must-have snacks?
I prefer to write in the morning, when my brain is fresh off a few cups of coffee and my muse is creative and happy. However, I’ve learned over the years to write anytime, even a few snatched minutes before racing off to the theatre.

Must have snacks are always M&Ms and pretzels. They are no-nos on a keto diet, but I don’t adhere too strictly to that, and I limit my intake of those snacks. Every 100 words, I get an M&M and a pretzel. I’ve really increased my word count in the last few months.

In addition to writing, you are very involved in your local theater group. How do you balance writing time with your other responsibilities?
That balance has taken time to learn. However, I write in the morning and give the afternoon and/or evening to theatre work. I also take my laptop when I’m at the theatre, so if I have a few minutes, I can continue to write. I’m fortunate I don’t have a quiver full of still-at-home offspring.

What was your favorite childhood book?
It’s a toss-up between Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and The Blossoming of Patricia the Less by Lida Larrimore and Hattie Longstreet Price. The story has mystery and a love story. My mother had read it and loved it. She introduced me to it when I was around seven, and I read it at least a dozen times.

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
Louisa May Alcott. I’d love to know if Jo (who I wanted to be) was based on her or someone else. And I wonder what she’d think if she realized Little Women became such a beloved classic.

What one piece of advice would you give to your younger writing self?
Because I started this novel gig in my 50s, I was pretty savvy about what I was getting into. I kept my eye on the prize, but I enjoyed the journey, and I still am. That’s the advice I give when new writers ask me.

Would I go back and change anything if I could? Not really. I’ve made hundreds of long-lasting friendships along the way, with authors, editors, and agents. If I’d been published earlier, I might not have made all those. And they’re worth more than a contract, because friends are forever.


Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland she was born a stone's throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She is a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library.

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