Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?
Longhorn Christmas…at the heart of this story is this idea I’ve always had about how all of the characters from the Christmas story ended up in that stable on that night. Of course the simple and correct answer is that God led them there…it was the fullness of time and everything unfolded as it should.
But the details of it, Caesar Augustus had to get involved for heaven’s sakes. Wise men traveled, some say for a year or two, following a star that no one else seemed to see until that night? Did they get there that night or did they get there much later, starting their journey when they saw the star? But why would Mary and Joseph stay in Bethlehem? They had to go there for the census but they would’ve gone home afterward right? The decree from Caesar didn’t require them to live in their ancestral home did it?
And Jesus born and placed in a manger. As lowly a birth as anyone ever had, I imagine. How impossible to explain when people called him a King. How perfect for the gift he’d brought the world.
I wanted this book to be a journey. The journey of the Christmas characters, reflected in Roy’s journey to faith and healing. And Netty’s journey to making a safe home—a safe life—for her son.
It all grew out of my love for and curiosity about The Christmas Story and a nativity scene that is now one of the most recognized scenes in the world. It was all the end of a journey for so many. And the beginning of the Greatest Story Ever Told.
Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?
I feel like Netty was the most fun. Her life became so much better when Roy came to stay. But Roy was the one who had the farthest to go. As a wandering man he had to realize he wasn’t on a lifetime journey to see over the next horizon. He was just a man searching for home.
Can you tell us about a scene that you wrote and eventually deleted? It’s always fun to know of the little details that didn’t make the cut J
It’s always a struggle to get all you want into a novella. It’s so natural to want to tell a bigger story, a deeper story. Often a whole scene gets boiled down to a paragraph. Netty talking about her husband not sharing Netty’s joy when she found out she was expecting. This was a piece of cruelty she carried in her heart from the moment it happened. She was still committed to her marriage, but she carried it, like a sharp stab to her heart, that her husband didn’t really want their son. I wanted to do more with that. That’s backstory, but I wanted to make her healing from that and learning to trust Roy a bigger conflict for her. But instead it’s about a half a page, a nice friendly talk and Roy cheering her up.
How did you decide on the setting/location for this novel?
When you write westerns, as I do, Texas is so obvious that I have to fight it. This time I didn’t, so Longhorn Christmas is set in Texas, but where in Texas? This state has everything. I finally settled on The Big Bend area. I had to research it, as I do all locations and it was so interesting, it seems like a bleak place, brutally hot in the summer, a harsh unforgiving land. But my research showed me all this food and wildlife in that area. I realized that someone who knew the land could survive there forever, as long as they didn’t need money. And my heroine, Netty, mostly didn’t. But there were taxes to pay and a few niceties she longed for from town. She couldn’t just sit back and live on prickly pear cactus and javalinas. I love learning more about every setting I write and this part of southern Texas was pure fun.
What made you pick these specific names of your main two characters?
At this point in my writing life I’m pretty much just searching for names I’ve never used before. Not much more goes into it than that. In fact I named the little boy Jeremy and in editing it came up that Jeremy might not be a really correct historical name. So at the last possible moment I changed it to Jeremiah. I’m really sorry there isn’t a cooler answer to this question.
Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What’s your least favorite household chore and why?
Oh my gosh. I am the worst housekeeper ever. I’m trying to think of one I don’t hate. I hate dusting, to me that’s the most unfair chore in the universe. I mean c’mon. If you use the dishes you have to wash them and put them away. If you use the sink, toilet, shower, you have to clean them. I drag dirt into the house, the floor needs to be swept. I sleep in the bed, it makes sense I’d have to make it. But dust? THAT IS NOT MY FAULT! It just comes right in even with the doors closed!
I dislike all housekeeping chores but I have a deep disgust of the unfairness of dusting.
What are your hobbies outside of writing?
Hoo boy, I don’t really have one.
I’m thinking okay?
I must do something besides read and write.
I like to watch the NFL. Though I really don’t care that much about any team. I just like good football.
I know…I’m reading the list myself it’s not only boring it’s SEDENTARY. Like it would kill me to take a walk once in a while.
Fall/Winter is upon us, and full of events. What is a special holiday tradition you celebrate with your family?
On Thanksgiving day, while we are cleaning up after the meal in the kitchen, I and my four daughters (or however many of them I can gather, this year one of them is in PARIS. Try and compete with that?!) But while we clear away Thanksgiving dinner we always drag out the old Mannheim Steamroller Celebration album and listen to it. It kicks off the Christmas season. That music, especially Deck the Halls, just puts me in the holiday mood.
We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?
My faith MADE my writing. I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published. On that fateful day when I earned my first contract, I had TWENTY finished books on my computer. I’d been writing for maybe five years before I even knew there was such a thing as Christian publishing. I was just a long way out in the country. There were few if any Christian bookstores. I’d read all the Jeanette Oke books, but I just didn’t get that it was a genre.
When I realized there was such a thing as Christian fiction, I looked at all these books I’d written and realized that I had squeaky clean characters who conducted themselves with Christian values. The faith thread was right there, it was just unspoken. Bringing it to life was simple. So I brought the faith alive in my books and in the process found a whole world of Christian publishers, agents, authors…friends. It was the true beginning for me.
Tell us a little about a day in the life of you? Wake up time? Lounging in your jammies all day, drinking coffee, living the luxurious life of a writer ;)
Well, first of all I’m an insomniac. So when I wake up has a lot to do with when I go to sleep. Completely erratic. Some nights, 11 p.m. Some nights 4 a.m. Sometimes I never do sleep and usually it’s for no reason I can understand. I’d say twice in the last month I’ve just lain awake all night and finally got up.
Sometimes I get up and write in the night, so it can be productive. But usually not.
I wake up in the 7 – 8 a.m. neighborhood. I never ever get to sleep the day away. For one thing I’m always worrying about sleeping late and then not getting to sleep that night.
I’d lounge in my jammies but My Cowboy, which is what I call my husband on Facebook, judges me for that! So FINE I get dressed and brush my hair and teeth, that’s it for my extensive preparations for my day. I drink one cup of coffee when My Cowboy comes in for his morning coffee break. We split whatever he’s got left in his thermos. It’s the end of a whole pot of coffee, he’s polished off the rest of it.
I head straight for the computer and proceed to burn off time fooling around online, then finally settle down and write my thousand words a day.
Is it striking you as luxurious yet?
We have a bit of a war going on here at the CCC blog. Anne and Jaime LOVE coffee and Erica and Gabriella enjoy a joyful cup of tea. What is your preference? Help us break this tie…
I love tea, I particularly love Tetley’s Earl Grey but it’s hard to find so mostly I drink Earl Grey of any brand. But I enjoy my single cup of coffee a day. I can’t help you. Now I’m worried, I think World War I started with something like this. I’m totally neutral Switzerland here, ladies!!!
And a few fun and quirky questions always reveal of lot from our authors who visit. So, first, if you were to take a boat down the Amazon River, what would you be most interested in seeing?
OH MY GOSH DO I HAVE TO SWEAT?
If the boat has an air conditioned cabin I’d go I guess. If we could keep the mosquitoes down.
I suppose nothing could be much more interesting than seeing a whole cow being eaten by piranhas so I’m voting for that.
If you had a choice of living in any era other than the present, what would you choose and why?
First of all, I love air conditioning. I love cars. History is fascinating but frankly I think if I was on a covered wagon west, I’d probably fall off at the first river crossing and drown. I don’t know, I might come through. I might turn out to have a sturdy pioneer buried inside me. But let’s just say if I DO! If I came through? It’d be a pleasant surprise for everyone.
I’d prefer to live now if that’s an option. If not…I’ll pick twenty years ago, but do I get to be twenty years younger? And still have books published and my children grown?
Hey if I can travel through time, I can set a few rules, too.
We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:
The trouble with lassoing a Texas cyclone was—now you had a cyclone on the end of your rope.
Then what was she going to do with it?
She dropped a loop over the monster’s head and ran.
Her cowpony dodged around a clump of trees as the red cyclone with an eight foot spread of horns charged. With whipfast moves, Netty snugged the lasso around an aspen and kicked her horse to get out of range.
Cyclone, a longhorn mama, with a noose tight around her eight foot spread of horns, lunged at poor Blue. Her razor sharp horns swiped her horse’s rump but she only snared the blue roan’s tail. The horse was scared enough he didn’t take any notice, not counting running for his life of course.
Cyclone came up against the end of the rope and was yanked back so hard she flipped over, onto her side. Then, like a striking snake, she turned and charged the trees. The yellow leaves still clinging in the late November breeze quivered and quaked.
She bounced off the trees then turned back and locked her furious eyes Netty. A big old hank of horse hair dangling from one horn.
Cyclone had busted out of the canyon gate and Netty’d been glad to see the back of her. As much as she needed every cow, Cyclone, amid a herd of wild dangerous animals, was the deadliest.
And then today, Netty’d ridden out to hunt food, and found a mess.
Mama standing guard over a baby she couldn’t reach and was desperate to protect.
Netty worked hard to save every baby on the place. Her hold on survival for her and her son was tenuous and losing a calf, especially a perfectly healthy calf, was serious business.
But she didn’t rope the cyclone for money, there wasn’t enough of it in the world.
The truth was she couldn’t bear the thought of that baby trapped down there away from its mama, dying a lingering death.
Netty strode to the crevice in the jumble of rocks and looked down. The little red-roan calf looked up and bawled piteously.
Carefully, picking a thin ledge for footing, Netty dropped into the hole. It was about five feet, not too far down, just too far for the baby to escape, Netty got into the little notch in the ground, roughly shaped like an upside down triangle. She scooped the poor baby up and hoisted it high and set it on the ground.
Then a terrible bawl from Cyclone—she must’ve spotted the calf—a snap loud as a gunshot, and the rope gave way, just as Netty crawled up out of the hole. Cyclone charged.
Netty dropped back into that hole and landed face down on the bottom. She looked over her shoulder to see one of those long horns slashing down at her.
Thank you so much for visiting today! It was a blast!
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys always with a strong suspense thread. She is a two time Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist.
She is the bestselling, award winning author of 48 books and novellas.
Find Mary online at:
Cowboy Christmas Homecoming
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