Pictured Above: Featured author Mary Billiter and husband Ron Gullberg.
For the spiciest holiday of the year, Chugwater Chili Corp is flattered to speak with author Mary Billiter of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Author of nine books, Mary is an expert on writing stories about women finding their stride and a little romance along the way. She shares her insight into writing page turners, living in wonderful Wyoming, and how homemade chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of Chugwater Chili changed her life, for the better.
Mary lives with her husband Ron Gullberg and their four children in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Find out about her newest book Do Not Disturb and her upcoming release The Escape Clause by Hot Tree Publishing. Her other works can be found at www.marybilliter.com.
Romance novels are fun to read but difficult to write. What are some of the challenges of writing a romance novel?
Great question, thank you! Every great book, regardless of the genre is rife with conflict – think “Gone Girl” or “The Hunger Games” – there’s immediate conflict when the books begin. So crafting a well-honed conflict that hooks the reader with engaging characters and a powerful premise is quite a tall order for any writer!
However, once I have the conflict in mind and the premise for the plot I crank up the heat – but not the sexy heat – the conflict heat! What else could go wrong?
I like to see how far my characters will go to save a hotel and, in turn, themselves. The romance part happens just as it does in real life – when people are drawn together for a common purpose or, perhaps they’re in opposition. Either way, the more interaction, the more attraction and, in turn, more romance baby!
What is one of your favorite books that you have written?
Tough question. However probably, “Do Not Disturb” because I finished writing the decades-old manuscript while I was going through breast cancer treatment and I needed to tap into humor. It’s my first romantic comedy, which released on the year anniversary of my diagnosis with breast cancer.
“Do Not Disturb” is proof positive that breast cancer can’t win despite its myriad attempts and that by channeling positive vibes it transposes to the page for a truly fun, light romantic comedy.
Pictured Above: Ron Gullberg and Mary Billiter at Mary's book signing for her 4th book Do Not Disturb Hot Tree Publishing.
Who is one of your favorite characters?
Kelsey Donigan who is in my upcoming new romance, “The Escape Clause” by Hot Tree Publishing with a projected publishing date of June 2017.
Kelsey is a single mom. Her plight and career struggles are ones I understand, her lack of trust with men I relate to, and her fear of failing her child I live with constantly.
She endeared herself to me because she moved from the California coast to the Oregon Coast for a second chance. And I’m all about the second chance.
Why do you think romance novels are so well loved?
Wow. Another great question. I think works of romance give a reader the escapism they long for and the belief that happily ever after is attainable – for everyone. Not just the heroines in the book, but every day women.
Sometimes, happily ever after begins when a woman finds her footing and, in turn, her strength. She just happens to luck out and find love along the way too. “Do Not Disturb,” “The XYZ Affair,” “A Man For All Seasons,” and “Not My Kid…” focused on the women’s journey. The men were important, but they didn’t define my characters happily ever after. And that, to me, makes romance well-loved.
The XYZ Affair takes place in Wyoming. What are some characteristics about Wyoming that inspire your writing? How does the Wyoming culture make a good setting for romance and crime novels?
Actually my debut novel, “Not My Kid…” was set in Jackson Hole. My second book, “The XYZ Affair” was set in Casper. And my third book, “A Man For All Seasons” was based in Jackson and Casper.
I’m all about Wyoming! I love Wyoming and honestly who wouldn’t?
Wyoming is breathtaking for its natural beauty, unsurpassed for its untouched landscapes and the Cowboy State’s charm is the people.
It’s a win for an author because Wyoming creates a great sense of setting for a reader.
The land becomes its own character, which I used in my first three novels. From the Tetons to Casper Mountain, our landmarks are typically known to travelers by name and photos. However, the depth of Wyoming is what many discover when they step into a Wyoming author’s work, like CJ Box, Craig Johnson or Nina McConigley. Readers are immediately transformed by what these authors do so well – show the spirit of Wyoming through our natural surroundings.
There's no place like Wyoming.
Have you tried Chugwater Chili? What is your favorite way to eat it?
When I met my husband, Ron Gullberg he was a single dad raising his high school aged teenaged son by himself. I expected to find bare cupboards, an empty refrigerator and a trash bin full of takeout boxes.
Pictured Above: Behind the door of the Billiter/Gullman cupboard.
Boy, was I wrong. His cupboards had all the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and the only seasoning was a jar of Chugwater Chili Gourmet Chili Blend. His refrigerator overflowed with food and his trash was rarely full.
We had a long distance relationship. I lived in Alpine. He lived in Casper. On one trip, I brought homemade chocolate chip cookies and decided to cook chili at his apartment. I read the directions on the Chugwater Chili jar, cooked up some chili, and voila! Soon afterward he proposed in his one-bedroom apartment in Casper. No joke.
I think, once Ron realized I couldn’t mess up chocolate chip cookies and chili he was sold.
It’s the best romance story of all time and it started with a bowl of chili.