Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so pleased to introduce you to Ane Mulligan. Ane and I have worked together with the American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is also part of the Writing from the Trenches book with me.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, award-winning author Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, and bestselling novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a lovable, goofy dog.
Tell us about your current release: A Southern Season – Four Stories From a Front Porch Swing is a collection of four novellas. Mine is A Magnolia Blooms in Winter.
With Broadway stardom within her reach, Morgan James returns home in winter to help an old friend. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but when she sees him again, an old flame rekindles. When she’s called back to NYC to take the lead in a new musical, will fame be worth losing the man she loves?
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I have to know my characters thoroughly before I start to write. I’ve found if I know my characters as well as I know my best friends, then I can plot the novel by their motivation. Then, I can make a “map” of sorts for where the story will go. Once that’s done, I let the characters take it where they will. If I’ve done my pre-writing work well, they will highjack the story.
I’m always intrigued by how writers get started. Did you always have these books inside you and knew that you wanted to write them or did the idea just pop into your head one day and you decided to put pen to paper? My stories come from overheard conversations (yes, I eavesdrop) or from things that have happened in my life. In my first published novel, Chapel Springs Revival, it was an overheard conversation at church, in which a young woman told another that she wasn’t a Christian when she got married. When she learned God had a perfect mate chosen for her, she was going to divorce her husband and go find this “perfect guy.” From that, a wacky character called Claire worried about her marriage.
The second book in that series came from our son, who got himself a 21st Century mail order bride. He met online, conversed for a year, flew to Columbia and married her, then spent another two years getting her up here. He never told us until she was here. I told him for that (not telling us) it was going in a book. I do have to say our daughter-in-law is the best thing that ever happened to him, but of course, I had to add a lot of conflict for the book.
How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)? That’s an easy one. I’ve had terrific critique partners since shortly after I started writing. We’ve been together for fourteen years. We push each other to reach beyond our comfort zones, and never allow each other to get away with mediocre. We all began to send out queries after a couple of years, and we usually were asked to send a proposal. Eventually, we all were signed with agents and soon enough afterwards, published.
What is one thing that you never saw yourself doing and either do it now or have done? Absolutely hands down, being a published author. I was always an avid reader. I didn’t buy shoes, I bought books. As a kid, my allowance was always spent on books, and I spent every Saturday in my home town library. After I got married, our one argument was how much I spent on books. And yet, it wasn’t until my husband voiced it, did I consider writing one myself.
Do you talk out plot lines with others, and if so, who? I absolutely do! My critique partners and I brainstorm together. Sometimes, a plot detail I might have imagined won’t work or isn’t plausible. If I get stuck, I immediately call Michelle or Lisa or Patty and talk it through. And when a character throws me a curve and it fits the story, I call for help again. Two or three heads are better than one. And a chord of three strands is strong.
At what age did you know you wanted to write? I’ve heard stories of people who were writing stories in childhood (which is what I’d expect). But I’ve heard of others who randomly started much later in life, and that is so interesting to me! As a child, I was ADHD long before they ever had a name for it. I played out the stories in my head with my dolls. They could go on for days and have many twists, but actual writing wasn’t in my sphere of interest, nor did I have the sit-ability. Besides, I planned on being an actress. I’m sure glad my plans and God’s merged. I couldn’t imagine a life more fun as mine is now. I write novels and I manage a Community Theatre. It doesn’t get any better than that.
How hard is it to come up with names for your characters? What are some of the sources you use? Names are important to me. They have to fit the era, the region, and the character. I have several sources. One is The Baby Name Survey Book, by Bruce Lansky & Barry Sinrod. It tells you what people think of when they hear names.
I also use Behind the Name: the Etymology of Names. They have two sites. One for surnames: http://surnames.behindthename.com/ and one for first names: http://www.behindthename.com/. You can search by nationality or alphabet.
I like the Social Security Administration’s Top Baby Names by Year. You can search as far back as the 1880s. It gives you the top 10 to 100 most popular names.
Finally, I have used online Southern names sites, old church or club directories, newspapers, and I’ve gotten some great names from people I meet. I keep a file on my computer of names I’ve used and want to use. If you use an unusual name of someone you know, be sure you pair it with a different last name. However, I have one man who has shown up in most of my novels as a minor character. He was someone who encouraged me in my writing. He loved being a character, and I always portrayed him as sweet, funny and an encourager. Now that he’s in Heaven, his family still loves to see him in my books, and just writing his name gives me a boost.
Find Ane’s latest release online:
Ane is giving away a copy of her latest release A Southern Season – Stories from a Front Porch Swing! See how you can enter: