June 20, 2009

Who Wants a Wimpy Cowgirl?

Montana Rose was actually inspired by Janette Oke’s beautiful classic novel Love Comes Softly. Of course, I’m not Janette Oke (unfortunately for me) and my novel has taken an alarming turn to romantic comedy, suspense and chaos.
I think of it as Love Comes Hardly.

But Barbour suggested we title it Montana Rose
Left pregnant and widowed in the unforgiving west, Cassie is forced into an unwanted marriage to rancher Red Dawson.

No decent man could turn away from Cassie and leave her to the rough men in Divide, Montana. Red Dawson can’t turn his back on the spoiled, snooty, beautiful woman. Now he’s got himself a wife he’s sure God never intended. And when he informs her there’ll be no more silk dresses and she has to do some work around the ranch he’s surprised she immediately tries to help with everything. Too bad she’s a walking disaster. His ranch may not survive her efforts to pitch in.
While Red tries to survive Cassie’s help and Cassie, for the first time in her life, tries to use her own mind instead of meekly obeying, an obsessed man plots to make Cassie his own, something he can’t do as long as Red lives.

I wrote for a long, long time before I got a book published. There came a point in my ten year journey when I sort of gave up. Not that I quit entering contests and submitting work to publishers and agents, but I gave up in the sense that I adopted a spirit of hopelessness.

It was a good thing.

I’d send out a query letter and the first three chapters with a synopsis and then I’d just think, “Well, they’ll never buy that.” And I’d start the next book.
This was a mentally healthy place for me. I mean who says the word ‘hopeless’ is a bad word? It’s gotten a reputation as a bad thing but I have to object to that. Lots of pain skipped if you have no hope. I highly recommend it to aspiring authors.
That sounds like I’m trying to be funny (sad that I’m always trying that!) But honestly there’s a different rhythm to your writing if you let the old work go and move on. Just keep writing the next thing. Your work becomes about the writing, rather than about getting published.
Yes, I’m getting to the point about Montana Rose, relax!
At some point I started not really writing for publication. Instead, I wrote to entertain myself. That was my only goal.
Forget branding. Forget ‘what’s hot in the market’. Forget targeting publishers. I am now comfortable in my hopelessness. I’m never gonna get published anyway, I’m just going to entertain myself.
So what would be fun to write this time? I could see in my work up to the point of Montana Rose that I had this bend for over-the-top tough heroines.
I’m not sure why. I’m not tough myself. A wimp in fact. But I think being a wimp is WHY I write tough heroines. I write books about the way I wish I was. The plain talk, the aggressive woman fighting for what she wants, depending only on herself. That just appeals to me. I doubt it’s really a very good way to live. Nothing wrong with being polite, easy-going and depending on people. But since I’m all those wimpy (but nice) things, I tend to make my heroines have qualities I lack and admire.

So, since I was hopeless (yay!) and writing to entertain myself, as I finished a book about some superwoman or other, I thought, “Mary, you’re repeating yourself. You’re stale. You’re boring. Mix things up. Let’s make the heroine. . .a wimp.
I can remember actually feeling fear and even some anger about that. Forcing myself to write a character I didn’t really admire. But I wanted to see if I could make a truly different kind of characters come to life. Enter overly-submissive, doormat Cassie Griffin. Domineering tyrant husband, now dead. She’s pregnant, scared, homeless, broke, incompetent and clueless. She’s a woman without resources. Physical, emotional, mental or financial.
What is there to like about her?
The bottom line was, I didn’t really like Cassie at first. Well, that’s a bad, bad thing. So, I had my work cut out for me.
In the end I didn’t really pull it off. I mean I did pull off making Cassie likeable, in fact, I ended up adoring her. Such a sweetie. What I didn’t pull off was making her a wimp. Yes she was wimpy outwardly but—right from the start—she had a lot of fire, banked fire she didn’t express, but it was there. If you’ve liked Sophie in Petticoat Ranch and her tough Texas Cowgirl daughters, Cassie is going to be very different, but I think you’re going to just love her, and yes, I couldn’t control myself through the whole book so by the end, Cassie ended up getting pretty darned tough.
And if you think Cassie is a wimp, check out a secondary character in Montana Rose, Belle Tanner. She’s a sub-character in this book but stars in her own book The Husband Tree, book two in the Montana Marriages series, coming in January.

Belle makes Sophie McClellen from Petticoat Ranch, look like a daisy-chain making, scatter-brained airhead. The title of that book, The Husband Tree, well, the Husband Tree is the tree under which she buries her husbands when they die. We start Belle’s book with her kicking herself for not bothering to mark the former husbands’ graves because she doesn’t want to dig up one of the worthless bums while she’s planting the new one. Because that would make her start a new hole and she has chores to do.
I just couldn’t sustain the wimpy heroine thing for two whole books.
And then in Montana Marriages book three, Wildflower Bride, this heroine, Abby, has never met a man she didn’t pull a knife on.


sherrinda said...

What an entertaining post, Mary! I have a way with sucking me in and feeling like you sitting right with me, just chatting away. LOve it! Montana Rose sounds wonderful, and I love the journey you shared in getting to a place of changing up the type of character for this book. Sounds like another winner.

sugarandgrits said...

Hi Mary,

It seems like I've been waiting FOREVER for Montana Rose to be released! LOL I LOVED your Lassoed in Texas series, especially Petticoat Ranch (my fave!).

Montana Marriages sounds like it's going to be another great series ~ YAY!!

Great post! Keep up the good work! *grin*

Lori S.

Molly Noble Bull said...

This sounds like it's going to be another winner. You've done it again.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Ladies. Thanks for stopping by Bustles and Spurs. I really loved this book. One criticism someone who's read it made was Red (the hero) didn't have enough of his own inner conflict. He didn't need to grow and resolve his own issues. Heroes need to have their own trouble.

He has a few little things, but honestly, I really made him a heroic character and I'm glad Barbour agreed to let him be such a decent, wise...though befuddled by his wife...man.

Cassie just needs him to be steady and kind so badly I couldn't bear to make him difficult. I ended up loving him. Perfect man. His main job is just trying to survive Cassie's 'help.'

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

You are truly entertaining! The book sounds wonderful. The last one I just finished writing has a little humor in it with a strong character, but wow, yours sounds even stronger.

G.R.I.T.S. said...

I can't WAIT to read your new series!! Sounds Awesome! It'll be great fun to review on my blog!!! Keep up the great writing!!!

Rae Byuel from "Caffeine & Romance" Blog

sarahw said...

sounds like a great book, just like all ur others. can't wait to read it.
sarahwoll at hotmail dot com