Today, we continue my “all-redhead, all-the-time” interview tour, welcoming Ane Mulligan, Zone Director of the ACFW. Ane is an accomplished and published playwright, who is “knocking at the door” with her novels.
RM: Ane, I’ve got to start by asking, “Why ‘Ane?’ Why not ‘Ann,’ or ‘Anne?’”
AM: LOL – That started as a bit of British humor by my Brit husband. When we met, he kept asking me if I spelled my name with an "e". Finally, as a joke, I wrote a note, which read: Yes. An e.
You get the picture. That was many moons ago. It stuck. I did a search on one of those websites to see how many people are out there with your name. I'm the only Ane Mulligan in the U.S. Cool.
RM: You were, at one time, a Legislative Affairs Director. That’s a far cry from the theatre. What sent you on that journey?
AM: You're well informed! My husband had accepted a position with a company in upstate New York, north of Albany. We arrived at the end of October. It snowed in November. With our son in school and my husband at work, I had way too much time on my hands. My husband suggested I get involved in the local politics.
Sounded good to me. Little did I know what my husband and God had up their sleeves. A few short months after I joined the Republican committee, I started a county chapter of Christian Coalition. It grew rapidly, drawing the attention of the state and national executive directors—to say nothing of the media. In liberal NY, this upstart newcomer had a thriving conservative group making waves.
LOL - There had to have been a serious lack of news that month.
I had planned an all day seminar as a kick-off for the chapter and invited all our state representatives and senators. They came. So did the media. The following week, I was interviewed by the newspaper and asked how I'd gotten so powerful in such a short time. The journalist was referring to all the legislators at the event.
SECRET REVELATION TO FOLLOW: I called them on the phone and asked them. I didn't tell the journalist that, but truly, that was all it took. ;) Politicians love constituents.
And shortly after that, I was hired to be the New York Legislative Affairs Director, lobbying in the state capitol and in Washington D.C. on special occasions.
I'd always been involved in drama, but the first Sunday I walked into a church in Clifton Park, NY, a woman approached me. She fingered my then-long, wild red hair and sweetly asked, "Would you play the harlot in our Easter play?" Hello – welcome to our church. You look like a lady of ill repute! Sheesh.
LOL – that started a life-long friendship and a new ministry. Drama in the church. Whodda thunk it.
Well you asked!
RM: Do you find that your experience as a playwright has helped you in writing fiction?
AM: Except for writing good dialogue, it didn't. LOL When I finished the first draft of my first novel, I joined an online Christian critique group. Boy, was I a raw newbie … except for dialogue. I'd never heard of POV, didn't even know what the initials stood for and omniscient applied to God, right? Fortunately, I picked up a dear mentor, Chris, who taught me a whole heap of things. That manuscript is now ensconced deep in my files.
RM: You’ve been agented, if that’s an acceptable word nowadays, for almost a year. I know that a lot of unpublished writers are still trying to find an agent. Can you describe your experience?
AM: I did it backwards … sort of. I had a relationship with an editor from way back with my first novel. He'd loved my writing but the manuscript was episodic. I was ready to move on to another story, so he said to send it to him when it was done. Eventually it was and I did. He took it to editorial committee.
At that point, I figured I'd better move quickly, because legalese is a language I don't speak. I sent out about half a dozen queries. John Eames of Eames Literary Services read my full manuscript himself (I could tell because of some of the comments he made about it). When he offered representation, I signed with him, knowing it was where God had planned for me to be. John has championed my book ever since.
RM: What things have helped you most in your journey toward becoming a published author? And, if you don’t mind sharing, are there things that you hoped would help that didn’t?
AM: Joining that online critique group was the first big step. I learned so much. I was also introduced to a lot of great books on our craft. But most of all, I met my critique partners Gina Holmes and Jessica Dotta. We grew together as writers, eventually forming a small crit group of our own. We later brought in Elizabeth Ludwig, contracted by Barbour, and Michelle Griep.
Besides the best crit partners in the business, I went to writers conferences where I networked with editors and agents. I joined ACFW and networked more. That and determination is a formula can't be beat.
As far as anything that didn't work, I was pretty well guided and mentored. Deb Raney taught at the first conference I ever went to. That was the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Besides writing, she taught about the business and told us some of the pitfalls to avoid.
RM: You’re very active in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Association. What has that meant to you, professionally and personally?
AM: Everything! Professionally, it exposed me to a huge group of multi-published fiction writers, editors and agents. At my first ACFW conference in Nashville, I was amazed at the number publishing houses and agents there. ACFW gave me the opportunity to meet and pitch to them.
The professionally now blends over into the personally part. I have gained so many friends, and one who has become my mentor, Diann Hunt. Who else but a bunch of writers truly understand you? They know what's happening if my eyes glaze over and I tune them out. LOL They know that the voices in my head are louder than theirs at that moment.
RM: I’ll confess—I sometimes thumb through a novel published by a CBA house and think, “I can write this well, maybe better than this.” How do you avoid jealousy and resentment when others get a contract and you’re still seeking?
AM: I learned the secret from another writer, Rick Warren. It's all about God and not about me. I'm writing the stories He gives me. They aren't sermons or preachy, but they do have a message. If I do my part and hone my craft to the best of my ability, He'll do His part—in His time.
Besides, what if the people who your story will reach aren't ready yet?
RM: And I’ll give you the opportunity for a few last words for our readers.
AM: Hone your craft, never give up, and have a blast on the journey, because that's what it's all about.
Thanks, Ane, for joining my all-redhead, all-the-time series of blog interviews, for providing so much information about yourself and writing, and for reminding us that it’s okay to enjoy life—even to the point of “laughing out loud.”