Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Colleen Coble is Laurel from From Snowflakes to Hotcakes blog! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (ckrumm@litfusegroup.com)

This week please welcome Mary Connealy in the spotlight! To win a copy her new book Swept Away (Bethany House), leave a comment on this post!

Mary is giving away a $250 Visa Cash Gift Card! Click the banner below to see what others are saying about book one in her new series, sign up to win the gift card, and RSVP for her Facebook party on 3/28!

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I am married to a Nebraska rancher who was my high school sweetheart. We just celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We’ve got four grown daughters, two married, one with two beautiful little children. I work full time and write nights and weekends. Nights particularly because I am a raving insomniac, so I write to pass the hours.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

I write Romantic Comedy…with Cowboys. I think I can bring a lot of authenticity to this because I’m married to a cowboy and mostly I know how he thinks (He can still surprise me though) The comedy comes because my husband was one of seven sons and now we have four daughters. He just grew up in such a male dominated world and now he’s surrounded by women. Watching him react to the girls…well, there’s a lot of comedy in that.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?

I started writing my first full length novel when my baby went to Kindergarten. I look back on that decision to write and book and honestly I don’t know what came over me. What was I thinking??? But I did it and I love it and yes, the whole time I was pursuing publication. I have so many rejections I could set them on fire and melt the polar ice cap. In fact if the polar ice cap is melting it could be my fault because I burned them all a few years back.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

I wrote for ten years before I got my first contract and on that fateful day when I sold, I had twenty finished books on my computer.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I am a very low maintenance writer. I don’t need music or quiet or a certain drink. I can get a phone call and talk for a few minutes, then go right back to writing. I don’t have a hard and fast routine other than trying to write 1000 words a day. That’s my goal and I forgive myself if I fail but mostly I make it.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

I’ve done so many things to try and get published. I’ve taken classes, joined professional organizations, entered contests, attended conferences belonged to critique groups queried agents and editors. The think that finally brought me to the attention of the company that pubished my first book was a writer’s contest. I won and that earned their attention and they said yes and then they saw all those finished books I had and wanted to see more. I’ve published 10 of those previously written books now and Swept Away is my 25th release so it’s going well.

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

The very best moment in my writing life was when I received my first contract. There is a moment at the ACFW Conference when Barbour Publishing offers a contract to an unpublished author. When that moment came…they called out my name. I got to walk up onto a stage in front of 350 applauding authors and get handed a contract. It is one of the sweetest moments of my life.

The worst? Honestly I was rejected so many times by so many people when I look back on it all I can think it how it made me tough. How it made me determined to soldier on. I didn’t like it, but I learned from it and now when I get a one star review on Amazon, I can shrug it off because being disliked is a very familiar feeling, there is no way left to shock me.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

You know, I just love being a published author. Maybe because it took me so long, but there isn’t any aspect of it I don’t love. I love starting a new book. I love revisions, making a scene faster, stronger, funnier. I love interviews like this where I get to tell people about my books. I suppose I dread public speaking but I’ve even found a comfort level with that. It’s not exactly my greatest gift though.

What is the role and importance of an agent?

I consider signing with Natasha Kern to be the best decision of my professional life. She has skills that boggle my mind. I love being agented and it’s getting close to being essential in today’s publishing world.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Write. Write. Write. Get a book finished. Make is as good as you can, enter it in contests, join a critique group, submit it to agents and editors and then, while you’re waiting to hear back from them, write another book. Learn everything you can and then apply it. Like any skill, you get better with practice so keep writing!

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.

“Hi, have you ever read Janette Oke’s beautiful, gentle romance Love Comes Softly? Well, mine are just like hers except mine have mayhem and gunfire.”

What’s on the book horizon for you?

Swept Away is book one of The Trouble in Texas Series. Book two, Fired Up, is coming in August 2013. I’ve just signed a new contract with my publisher Bethany House so I’ll be writing for them for a while and I am thrilled!

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

Petticoats & Pistols
My Blog
My Website
My Newsletter

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

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