Interview by Michelle Lynn.
An interview with Lili Mahoney.
Hey Lili! Thanks for doing this interview. We’re excited to share your wonderful book with our readers. What can you tell them about it?
My debut novel is Barefoot Pastures and is the first of four in the saga. It’s a young adult novel about a Texas cowgirl who is finishing her senior year in high school and trying to figure out where she wants to go next.
Do you have a favorite character? I know, that’s like asking someone to choose which of their children they love more.
To pick just one is really hard. Does Rusty count? I mean I know he’s a horse, but he’s got such personality! Tory’s gang, as I like to call them, is made up of characters I love for different reasons. Of course there is Megan, her best friend who counter balances Tory and is light and carefree. I also love Dillon and the support and loyalty he shows. But the twins are her pillars and comedy relief as well. I guess if I had to pick just one that I always go to, it would be Tyler. He just makes me laugh so much.
Tory works the rodeo circuit, something that I loved. I know nothing about it so I found that world fascinating. Do you have a lot of experience in that world?
I do and I don’t. I wasn’t born on a farm or ranch, so compared to individuals who were, I’d so no. They are the true cowboys and cowgirls. Folks that live that life in order to survive. However, I did start barrel racing when I was about 12 years old and continued throughout college. Though it was a “hobby”, I worked my horse every single day, for hours and hours, and raced most weekends, all over the great state of Texas. It’s a world that I feel truly at home in, the people and the animals are where my heart is.
When most people think about rodeos, they picture bull riding and the other big events portrayed by movies. But this book is about the horses and there’s something so pure about the bond between Lili and her horse. What is it about horses that you love so much?
Horses have a way about them that is hard to explain. Besides the obvious, being huge and powerful, yet soft and furry, they are also magnificent creatures whose soul reaches something deep inside you and both calms and ignites a fire. When you work with a horse, it’s a partnership built on trust and a drive to work hard, to give all of yourself to each other in order to accomplish the goal. A horse doesn’t know how to hold back. That is what I love.
Tory goes through a lot, yet remains strong and confident in herself. What are the keys to writing a character like this?
Tory has accomplished a lot in her young life and that builds a certain level of self-worth. She is flawed though, and she knows it. To create a character, a teenage girl that other teenage girls can relate to, is a challenge. But to be honest, Tory really took on a life of her own. She is loosely based on my daughter. A strong-willed, independent, and feisty female who will not be held back by gender roles. Sometimes that makes her annoying. She can be too stubborn at times, but like all young females, she’s still learning and growing. Tory is fighting to find out who she is deep inside, who she truly wants to be, and that is the key to her character. I think we all continue on that journey of finding ourselves, or at least a version of ourselves that we like and are proud of.
Were there alternate endings that you considered?
Tory’s journey was written in one document and in about four months. It was only after the story was “purged” that I began learning about publishing, (ie. book length) and discovered that it would need to be broken up into four books, thus creating a saga. So, the “ending” had to be a point along that journey that could sort of be a break, or a timeout so to speak.
What authors have inspired you to write?
It never crossed my mind, being a writer. I wasn’t even a reader, honestly. Reading takes work for me, being dyslexic, and it was not a pastime I enjoyed. The way it happened is sort of strange, I have to admit. Some fellow teachers who were reading the Twlight series talked me into reading the books (of course I was hooked) and as I was reading them, “Tory” began telling her story. My daily thoughts became consumed with in inner dialogue and I simply had to write it down to get it out of my head.
What age were you when you started writing?
In my 30’s
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
My stories don’t seem to develop that way, so no, I haven’t.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write and as I get it put down on paper, the story just progresses.
Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
What do you mean they aren’t real?
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I tried traditional publishing first. I had two agents that were interested in representing me, but insisted the book be shortened, by almost half, since I was an unknown writer. They both said it would be hard to find someone to publish it because of the length. After a lot of consideration, I just couldn’t change the story from the way it was written and proceeded to learn about Indie publishing.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
There was a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Except maybe to not be in a rush once I had the book polished and ready. I should have done a bit more exploring about publishing companies and marketing.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I have two books ready to be published, I just need the time to put into the marketing and release. One is the continuation of Barefoot Pastures, and is Young Adult. The other is Contemporary Romance that I will publish under another name.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I have been told that Tory is annoying, more than once. And in a way, I already knew that. She’s slightly flawed, but she’s growing and maturing. Still, it hurts when someone doesn’t like your character. It’s like someone saying they don’t like you or your friends.
The thing I’ve heard more than once, and makes me the happiest about my book is when they stayed up all night reading, that they couldn’t put it down. My favorite was someone telling me they called in sick to work so they could finish reading! LOVE THAT. I’m selfish that way.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I’m probably not the best to give advice since I just starting writing, and with no prior training. But I think it’s important to do what you think you would be good at, what you dream of. So learn all you can learn about that “craft”. Research and research some more. Then share your work with someone you trust will be honest with you.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
When I write I like to have headphones on to help me block out the things happening around me. I like to snack, and not be interrupted until I get out what is currently playing in my head. Which I guess isn’t very weird, but for me it’s a big thing. (snacks vary between sweet and salty. I love popcorn and reeses pieces mixed together)
Thanks for the chat Lili! For anyone considering reading about this crazy and complex world of rodeo and the pure, sweet bond between girl and horse, here are what others are saying.
“Tory’s awkwardness was cute and her brothers made her all the more endearing. They provided both the humor and a large part of the heart. The theme of family is very strong and I could fall in love with the story on that alone. “
“I would recommend this book as a great coming-of-age story about what it means to be a teenager. Whether you’re familiar with Texas or tending horses (both of which you’ll get a real education about in this story) or not, the familiar teenage themes will resonate with you whether you’re currently living your teen years or well past them.”
“Lili Mahoney does a great job at creating an introverted and socially insecure character and then allowing her to grow and blossom throughout the story. She paints a wonderful setting and I really enjoyed reading Barefoot Pastures.”
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