STEPH: I'd like to welcome author Marion Kelley Bullock to the Author Spotlight this week. Marion, I don't know much about Christmas Bride. Can you tell me about it?
MARION: Oh, you wanta know what Christmas Bride is about? In 1875, it's the story of Sue-Ellen Grayson, who lives with her parents and her sister in San Antonio, Texas. Sue-Ellen's older sister, Cassie, shocks her family by announcing she's eloping with her latest admirer, just weeks before she was to have married army officer, Major Ethan Hartley at Christmas. Sue-Ellen can't stand to see such a wonderful man treated so shabbily. "You can travel to Fort Clark and break the news to him," Cassie says, laughing. "Or better yet, you can marry him, since he wants a Christmas bride." Sue-Ellen is aghast. But since she feels such sympathy, she decides to take the news to Ethan, in person, not admitting even to herself that what she feels for him is more than just pity. But it's true, she'd marry him in a minute if she were the one to whom he'd proposed. But she wasn't. And she wouldn't, anyway, because when she arrives at Fort Clark, he can't stand the sight of her.
Sue-Ellen's trip in a Concord stagecoach is fraught with danger, ranging from attacks by savages to encounters with robbers, who steal their possessions, including their return tickets, to… Well, that would be telling. And if I told all the other mishaps that occur, what would be the reason for you to read it?
STEPH: Where did you get the inspiration for Christmas Bride?
MARION: I got the idea for Christmas Bride in December of 2007, but it bogged down. I wrote another book and then revisited Christmas Bride. I did this two or three times before I really got excited about it. I began to feel a closeness to Sue-Ellen, to Lynette, Randolph, Edward, Emma, Thomas, the children and the others. It was not until 2010 that I dragged it out and started writing it. It wasn't the kind of book that wrote itself. It was hard work.
STEPH: How much research did you have to do?
MARION: I did more research than I usually do. I studied everything I could find on Fort Clark and Brackettville, Texas. My husband and I visited the fort and it became alive to me I read about Concord Stagecoaches. I studied about Buffalo Soldiers and the Rio Grande Frontier. They fascinate me.
STEPH: Which state do you live in?
MARION: I live in Texas and have lived here most of my life.
STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?
MARION - Both. For this book, I started with my idea and when it fizzled out, I finally sat down and wrote a synopsis. Only then was I able to write the book. It still was like pulling teeth, I wrote my other Christmas book, Christmas Stranger, before I wrote the synopsis. The characters were so real to me that I knew what they'd do and what they'd say. Especially Timothy and his animals. My Santa Fe book was about half plotted and half seat-of-the-pants.
STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader?
MARION: - I don't have an ebook reader--yet. But I have the sweetest laptop--an Acer Aspire One. It has ruined reading print books for me. It's so much easier to read on. I have a gazillion books stored on it, ready for me to read!
STEPH: What was the latest book you read?
MARION: - The last book I read was From Dust and Ashes (an ebook) by Tricia Goyer. It's a moving story of Liberation. I could do without TV if need be, but I can't imagine not making time to read. I sometimes read while I eat breakfast or lunch.
STEPH: Do you have any Christmas traditions you'd like to share?
MARION: - My family loves music. We sing when we're together at Christmas. We enjoy playing games. Balderdash, Chicken Foot and Zilch are our favorites. And we have a special fudge recipe we make. What fun!
STEPH: What's your writing space like?
MARION: - Our third bedroom is our office, since our children are grown and moved away. My husband and I share this roughly 10' X14' space. My desk faces south and his faces north. I don't write well with music, but I don't have to have quiet to concentrate.
STEPH: Renoir, Monet, or Picasso?
MARION: I don't like Picasso. I suppose I like Renoir best of the other two. At least that's my choice today.