Mary Connealy talks about her latest western romance,
Out of Control (Bethany House):
1. Tell us about your new novel, Out of Control.
Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. She particularly enjoys her outings to the cavern near her father’s homestead, where she explores for
fossils and formations and plans to write a book about her discoveries. The cave seems
plenty safe—until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to climb her way out.
Rafe Kincaid has spent years keeping his family’s cattle ranch going, all without help from his two younger brothers, who fled the ranch—and Rafe’s controlling ways—as soon as they were able. He’s haunted by one terrible day at the cave on a far-flung corner of the Kincaid property, a day that changed his life forever. Ready to put the past behind him, he plans to visit the cave one final time. He sure doesn’t expect to find a young woman trapped in one of the tunnels—or to be forced to kiss her!
Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he’s ever known. But how can he overlook her fascination with the cave he despises? And when his developing relationship with Julia threatens his chance at reconciliation with his brothers, will he have to choose between the family bonds that could restore his trust, or the love that could heal his heart?
2. In Out of Control you talk about how fish could be found at the top of the mountain and that they must have been swept there by Noah’s Flood. How did you reconcile
modern scientific theories with your heroine Julia’s belief that the fossils were proof of the biblical account of Noah?
One of my favorite small bits of information in the Bible is the fact that when prophets
foretold Jesus’ coming, they said at different times:
“Out of Egypt I called my son.”
“He will be born in Bethlehem.”
“He will be called a Nazarene.”
The reason I love this is because when we read things in the Bible that seem to contradict what we “know,” I try and remember that our understanding is limited. So something like these three statements about Jesus, which seem to be in clear contradiction, end up being absolutely and fully true. In fact, the truth is as simple as: Jesus’ family moved. When we hear a scientific explanation that debunks the Bible, I know that now we see through a glass darkly. So I enjoyed writing about a real world event that could be explained by Noah that now everyone “knows” isn’t how it really happened.
3. Why have you chosen to write about cowboys?
In much the same way that Amish fiction captures a simpler time, cowboys in fiction take us to a time when good and evil were much more clearly separated; to a time when one man would stand on his own to wrestle a living out of a hard land. The code of the West has
different definitions but it was about honor. It was about taking responsibility, protecting those weaker, especially women. It was about your word being your bond. Never quit, never rustle another man’s cattle or steal his horse. In these rules you’ll find the fundamentals of many of the Ten Commandments. So telling a cowboy story with a Christian worldview is simple.
4. Why did you set your book in the rugged mountains of Colorado instead of the more traditional plains of Texas?
I wanted to tell a story about a cavern. I was deeply moved by a visit to Carlsbad Cavern a few years ago. Carlsbad was both stunningly beautiful—and I’m not using the word stun as a cliché. It truly is an awe-inspiring place and you should go there if you can. But it’s also dangerous. Not so much now; they’ve done their best to make it safe—carefully constructed trails, sturdy handrails, and good lighting. But what if a child found this cavern? If three little boys were drawn by the beauty of it and terrified of the darkness, but in a way that is chilling and fun? I tried to capture the reactions of three boys to the powerful lure and the dreadful danger of a cavern like Carlsbad—before it was safe, before there were any lights. I needed mountains to hide the deep cavern. I couldn’t use the real Carlsbad Cavern because the history of it is just so well known that I knew I couldn’t treat this history with respect. In fact, I’d be trampling the truth with my book. But I found some other beautiful caverns in Colorado, as well as other places, and it gave me the nerve to create my own.
5. You have a writing style that combines action, danger, and comedy. How do you fit those unlikely elements into a story?
The western historical setting gives me a nice backdrop to battle life and death against outlaws and wolves and blizzards. I have a recurring theme in my books that the West weeds out weaklings. It was truly the survival of the fittest. You grew strong or you went back East or you died. It was not a forgiving land. This is a mind-set I picked up from reading about a hundred Louis L’Amour books over and over. It was a hard land and the weak got out or died. So I’ve had characters say, “It’s no wonder he’s dead, considering the stupid way he conducted his life. It was only a matter of time.”
And many of my character say versions of, “There are a hundred ways to die in the West, and if you’re stupid or lazy there are a thousand ways.”
Throw in the love story, because I love a love story, and it figures that you’ve got strong women teaming up with strong men—that’s the only kind of people there were out West. If people who thrived in a hard land get mixed up with each other, a battle is assured and sparks are going to fly. And comedy springs naturally from that.
6. What is the underlying theme of Out of Control?
You need to turn control of your life over to God. Rafe and Julia are both very much take charge kind of people. When they meet, they clash almost as strongly as they’re attracted to each other. Neither one can take orders. Neither one can stop
issuing them. Who backs down? Who wears the pants in the family? Rafe hates the cavern and has spent his life trying to protect people from it. Julia believes God led her to the cavern and she’s not giving it up for a mere man. Except that man is the answer to all her prayers. So why did God send her a man who is determined to stop her from fulfilling God’s will for her life?