Find a Christian store

Interview With Mary Connealy

Her books are well-known for her comedic combination of romance and cowboys. With perfect timing, Mary Connealy ushers in the Christmas season with her latest book, Cowboy Christmas, a tale about a songstress on the run and the cowboy you just can’t abandon a woman in need.

Mary, what drew you to write stories about romance and cowboys?

I wrote for a long, long time before I got published and I’ve written everything. I don’t think of myself as a historical or contemporary author. I think of myself as a romantic comedy author. No matter the genre, that’s what keeps coming out of my fingertips onto the keyboard. I do love writing cowboys though. I love that classic American style, the ease of finding a clear good against evil story. And I just love having a hero who pushes the brim of his Stetson up with one thumb and says, "I reckon this looks like shootin' trouble, Little Missy. Best let me handle it."

As for romance, that's what I love to read and so that's what I love to write.

Is it challenging to incorporate comedy into your stories?

No, not challenging at all, in fact, I can't control it. For some reason the sass is just what emerges when I type. Writing a true comedy scene is a lot of work, getting all the back and forth, the set-up to the joke, the timing of the punchline and any physical comedy right takes lots of revisions. Those scenes are different that just the general, free flowing comic dialogue.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?

Absolutely joining ACFW was the turning point to me. The classes I took, the connections I made, the contests I entered, the critique group I joined, the conferences I attended. You know what? I promise I didn't do this deliberately, those are five C's.


The five C's of getting published. And let's add a sixth C for Christ. So, it's ACCCCCCFW.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?

I love to write. I just do it almost compulsively. It's entertainment to me and my real challenge isn't carving out time to write, it's not neglecting the rest of my life to write. I got my first book published the year my baby graduated from high school and that really gives me a beautiful sense of the seasons of life. God knew I finally had time to be gone to booksignings and conferences and all the time constraints being a published author can put on you.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?

I started writing before ACFW existed, before most Christian publishers started a fiction line. I hunted around for someone to publish the very sweet romances I was writing and found…almost no one. I wasn't writing true Christian fiction—by that I mean I didn't have a faith thread to my stories. But I was writing with Christian characters living their lives by Christian standards. That means no premarital sex, no graphic sex scenes, no profanity. And what I was finding was that there was nowhere for me to even pitch my books. Then along came Christian fiction. And there I was with all these books already written and even the faith thread was there, just sort of behind the scenes, it was easy to put it into words. I felt like God had me writing for five years for a line of fiction that hadn't been created yet. It took me five more years to get the first book published and by that time I had twenty finished novels on my computer.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Absolutely no contest. I was given a contract … my first contract…by Barbour Publishing at the 2005 ACFW Conference. If any of you attend that conference you'll know that Barbour Publishing gives a contract to an unpublished author every year and in 2005 it was me. I got to go up in front of 350 applauding authors and accept that contract. It is one of the sweetest moments of my life.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

I just love to write. I'm not sure what exactly spurs it. I feel like it's how God made me. Some might call it a writer's temperament, a creative soul. Some might call it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think of my first book, Petticoat Ranch, as my husband's story, though I wasn't so much aware of that when I was writing it.

My husband is from a family of seven sons. Now we have four daughters. Sometimes, watching Ivan react to the girls 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 took the comedy of that and twisted it into a romance novel.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

The comedy mixed with very serious issues is different than what most people are doing. Not a lot of comedy out there, but very little included in books dealing with child abuse, spouse abuse, child labor, slavery, infidelity, and in a western setting. I write Inspirational, suspenseful, historical-western, romantic comedies. Seriously, I've invented my own genre.

Finish this question: The heart of romance is…

Respect. This is what I tell my daughters. Marry a man you can respect. It will get your through those tough times. My girls have friends who are forever picking some guy who won't work and drinks too much and isn't faithful and their excuse for putting up with that is, But I LOVE HIM.

The feeling part of romance can come and go. But if you're with a man you truly respect, honor, admire for who his is, separate from your feelings, you can get through hard times.

Any parting words?

For the unpublished authors who are reading this, here's my standard advice.

Keep writing.
Write some more.
I think it’s as simple as practice, practice, practice.

Come out of the box with an explosion. I think of my books as Three Explosions and a Conclusion. Someone else said that first, but I can’t remember who. Explode, either physically or emotionally or both from the first word. Then 1/3 of the way through, another explosion, then at the 2/3 point again some action, a turning point, make it important and big, then an explosive conclusion, including that black moment. If you’re writing a 70,000 word book, when you’re getting to word number 20,000 start thinking what you’re going to blow up. Whose heart needs to be broken HARD right now? Try to shoot someone if you possibly can…that works a lot better in westerns.

But fundamentally, just keep writing.

Thanks for sharing with us, Mary!

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.