Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Welcome Mary Connealy to my Window!

It is my pleasure to welcome Mary Connealy to share the view from her Window! I hope you will enjoy the recent visit I had with her! She is a delightful lady with a heart for God and a desire to honor Him in her work! Welcome Mary!

Where did you come up with the idea of Grace hiding out/running away from an abusive adoptive parent? Was that based on historical evidence? I know there are a lot of horror stories connected to child labors during that period of time.

I remember reading a book about a carpet mill long ago that really left an impression on me, how horrible it was. I was looking for a way to put Grace in an all-male world but it was harder than putting my hero Clay, from Petticoat Ranch, in an all-male world. So I came up with an all girl family and added the aversion to men by making her father a king-sized jerk. The kind of cruel slime ball who adopted little girls because he had a special taste for frightening and abusing women. Then I needed to give her absolutely none of the necessary female skills most women of her era would have. So the carpet mill, working long hard hours there, made a good way to separate her from what would have been household toil in the normal course of growing up, even with a jerk of a father.

I also had the idea for the sequel to Calico Canyon already in my head, which deals with Orphan Trains and I wanted Grace, and her friend Hannah who is the heroine of Bk #3 Gingham Gulch to have a very good reason to distrust single adoptive fathers.

My own family was created “by design” when my dad lost his first wife. What was your inspiration for Daniel Reeves history? Was it difficult to write about his heartache and the struggle he faced in his own mind when he began to have feelings for Grace?

Daniel was especially hard because I wanted him to be an oaf with almost no manners, but a good heart. I tried to strip the poor man of all social graces while at the same time giving him true decency and great father love for his boys. There’s a line in Calico Canyon where he says something about his first wife crying for months a after the babies came. He’s complaining about Grace crying. Grace snips at him, ‘Did you ever think your wives cry because of the way you treat them?”

Daniel just shakes his head and says, “Nope, it weren’t anything I ever done.”

He’s just absolutely and completely insensitive. He doesn’t doubt himself for a minute. He was just ripe for humor. He is completely OUT of touch with his feelings and he’s obsessed with the idea that having babies killed his first wife and he will never risk another child with his new wife. So he sees his growing desire for Grace as temptation straight from the devil.

I’ve read your blog posts a lot, and if memory serves, you have daughters in your household. How on earth did you capture so perfectly the unbridled energy and rambunctiousness of a house full of boys? I mean you NAILED it!!

Do you really think I got it right? I hope so. My husband is from a family of seven sons. His mom, Marybelle, is one of my favorite people on this planet and listening to her talk is both hilarious and terrifying. The woman was lucky to survive raising those boys. And she survived brilliantly. She’s eighty-nine now. My husband is one of the youngest and Marybelle was a newly married woman before electricity came all the way out to the country. I think they go electricity in about 1946, it was after World War II. And she had at least three kids by then. So we’re talking … heating wash water over a coal stove, in the kitchen, in August, to wash clothes for five people, which she was pregnant.

She used to bake bread twice a week, twelve loaves and a batch of cinnamon rolls each time. Using a coal stove, in her kitchen, in August, while she was pregnant.

She’d start with three live chickens at ten o’clock a.m. and have fried chicken for dinner.

She grew everything in the garden, every vegetable and fruit. If she couldn’t grow it, they didn’t have it to eat. Then can enough to last all winter. She did her canning all summer long but the biggest batch of it was tomatoes, which she’d need to can over a hot coal stove, in her kitchen, in August, while she was pregnant. The woman had two babies in October, one in September and one in November. One of them mercifully made his appearance in February. She also had one in July and one in August but they had electricity by then. No air conditioning though.

This woman is tough!

And she tells stories of pure mayhem. I don’t know how all little boys act but she was always breaking up fist fights and rushing to the doctor with broken bones and cuts that need stitches. They lived on a farm and…if she could possibly arrange it they ran wild outside.

I got so much of what’s in Calico Canyon from Marybelle that I dedicated the book to her.

Petticoat Ranch comes from my own family of four girls.

Calico Canyon comes from Marybelle and her seven sons.

Gingham Mountain is going to be from my mom. There were eight of us, boys and girls both. So we’ll see if I can nail that, too.

What draws you to the mid-1800’s in your writing? What planted the seed for this story in Mosqueros , Texas ?

There’s just something about a cowboy, tipping his Stetson back with his thumb, narrowing his eyes, slightly weather from long hours in the sun and saying, “I reckon, Ma’am.” That really is fun for me.

I’ve written everything though. I wrote a long, long time before I got published and I tried everything that appealed to me. I’ve got a three book contemporary series coming from Barbour Heartsong Presents this fall and the first of a three book cozy mystery series, Of Mice and Murder, releases to the Heartsong Presents Mysteries book club in September. I enjoy writing those styles too. Barbour has been so wonderful about letting me try my hand at different things. All these longer books are going to be historical western romantic comedies though. I do love cowboys. I’m married to one.

I originally chose the location because I wanted a train to turn around and go back in Mosqueros, so I shoved it right up against the Mexican border. Then I found out trains turned around all the time and there were short railroads that certainly didn’t go all across the country. So the border became less important, but by then I’d set the location generally and I wanted the town’s name to reflect the Mexican influence.

I appreciate the honesty with which you describe God’s faithfulness even in - and especially during – difficult situations. On page 209 Adam captures this beautifully while talking to Tillie – “Our people have always been too wise in the ways of hardship to believe God exists to make sure the world treats us fair. Instead, He comes to us in the midst of great misery and ministers to our souls. Don’t tell me He waits until we’re free any more than He waits until we’re happy or healthy. God comes all the way to you, wherever you are, and all He asks is for you to accept Him.” Can you tell your readers why it is so important to understand this truth?

Wow. I wrote that? That is nice, isn’t it? I think this comes from the same question, “Why do bad things happen to good people.”

I try to read my Bible with this central idea in mind. God cares about our souls. God’s foundational focus is our immortal souls and that’s the part of us He created in His image. I don’t cling to that to the exclusion of other ideas but I think a lot the verses and stories take on a different meaning when you read it with that focus.

Jesus reacts to people in ways that have to do with what he sees on a soul deep level. He wasn’t saying, for example, to Martha that it was wrong to cook and care for guests. But she did it with her heart in the wrong place. He saw resentment and possibly pridefulness about her hostess skills. That’s the underlying lesson of the Bible, is to be right with God in our souls.

So Tillie turning from God when she felt abandoned by Him is something people do a lot. They ask, ‘What’s the point of believing if He doesn’t help me when times are at their worst?’

Of course, the answer is ‘that’s when we need to believe the most because times are still going to be bad. And now, they’re bad without God.’

What exciting thing is God doing in your life right now? Any words of encouragement you want to leave with your readers?

This business of getting books published is really exciting. I am almost to the point now where I don’t expect a phone call from Barbour saying, “We have come to our senses and now have an entire team of lawyers working around the clock to break this contract with you.”

Encouragement…Well, I’d like to encourage your readers to dive into Christian fiction. Christian fiction used to be a pretty narrow field. Pretty much Janette Oke and Grace Livingston Hill and Francine Rivers. And I love all those authors and read them all. I take nothing away from their work, much of which is very sweet and gentle. But if that’s not what you like to read, if you’re more interested in detective fiction or romantic suspense or sassy chick lit and social issues, give Christian fiction a chance. We are expanding into all areas so fast it’s hard to keep up. Whatever you love to read, find the Christian version of it and enjoy your stories and the foundation of faith underlying them that gives that extra honesty and dimension.

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