Meet Debut Author Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan’s debut novel, No Ordinary Cowboy, a Harlequin Superromance, hit the shelves June 9th. This book was her 2005 Golden Heart® finaling entry, then known as Sheltering Arms. She’s currently contracted for two more Superromances.

Mary used to enjoy capturing images with a camera and manipulating them in the darkroom. Since being bitten by the writing bug, however, painting pictures with words is her passion.

Mary lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves the snow!!! When she’s not crafting her next Superromance, Mary likes to garden, cook, create recipes, walk (in snow!), and have loooong, stimulating conversations with her daughter. While she considers herself a “hopeless athlete,” she never stops trying. She hopes to, gulp, go rock climbing with her daughter one day soon.

And just to clarify, since two Mary Sullivans have been listed among the Golden Heart finalist ranks, this Mary was the first to claim the honor. She’s the current president of the Romance Writers of America® chapter just for GH finalists, The Golden Network.

Join me as we learn more about Mary and her journey.

Mary Sullivan.

Mary’s Journey Begins

•Since you finaled in the 2005 Golden Heart, you’ve been writing at least five years. When did you begin writing with a goal of publication? Was your GH entry your first story, or were there others before that?

Hi, Keli. Thank you so much for having me here today.

I’ve been writing for 12 or 13 years. I started with the desire for publication, but didn’t quite know how to get there. My first story was about lumberjacks and a female cook in a camp way up in northern Ontario in the early twentieth century. Not exactly commercial material.  😉

My GH entry was my second full story, but there were plenty of books written in bits and pieces and fits and starts before that and more after. When I discovered Superromance, I knew that was where I was headed. That’s when the stories started to take shape and finally become whole.


•You’re a born-and-bred city girl, and yet you write about cowboys. How did this come about?

I have no idea.  😉 Honest.

I just find that I am fascinated by the culture, both past and current, and I appreciate their work ethics.

Mary’s Process

•As president of an active chapter of RWA®, you’re obviously someone who’s adept at overseeing large projects. Does this lend itself to your writing, making you a big-picture person who’s a pantser? Or perhaps you’re more prone to getting all the details in place and are a plotter?

I’m such an odd mixture of both. I’m a real analyzer and love the details; in fact, I can spend hours going over a few chapters to get them ‘right’. As well, though, I don’t start with the novel mapped out, because I don’t always know at the beginning of the story whatever it is that my characters will need to learn, what will shape their arcs. Whatever learning is required of them will shape the plot and move it forward.

Sometimes I don’t know who my characters really are until the love scene.

•When do you write? Do you get up early, filled with inspiration and race to the computer, or do your creative juices begin to flow after the sun goes down?

I wish I could say that I have a routine, but I don’t. I write whenever I can and, when that isn’t enough, I carve whole days or weeks out of my schedule when NOTHING trumps the writing—not school, nor friends and family. At those times, I have no social life, no exercise, no great healthy home-cooked meals. Just writing.


•You’re a Canadian and yet your debut novel is set in Montana. How do you perform the research to make your setting come to life? Do you visit the location, buy travel guides or surf Cyberspace?

This book started in Alberta, but through flips and changes on the way to publication, the setting became Montana. I researched on the Internet and in books. I found some wonderful books about cowboy life and ranching in general, and about Montana specifically.

I dearly wish I could visit the locations I’ve written about since I started in this career!


•Four years ago, you received a call from RWA, one that’s made many a writer’s day. You learned that your story was a 2005 Golden Heart finalist? How did you react? Physically, vocally or emotionally?

Oh, so vocally.  😉 My family came running from the far end of the house. Once they discovered what the screaming was about, they did a lot of hooting of their own. Finaling in the GH was thrilling!

•Another call came on July 21, 2008. The Call. Your dream had come true. Harlequin wanted to buy your GH story. Where were you when the call came, what were your first thoughts and how long did your happy dance last?

I was no longer working and was waiting to start school, so I was at home writing when my agent called—just a magnificent stroke of good luck.

My first thought was, Well, I finally made it. My second thought was, Wow, I can’t believe I made it.

You mean the happy dance is supposed to stop sometime?????

•Your good news continued. No Ordinary Cowboy garnered a four-and-a-half star review from Romantic Times. Congrats! What are some other reviews that have surprised and delighted you?

The most stunning reviews have come from readers who have experienced cancer in their lives. Some of the characters in my novel have survived cancer and that experience has resonated with readers.

The Romantic Times review was incredible (!), but the personal emails from strangers whose lives I have touched emotionally are the ones that give me immense satisfaction.


•I’ve heard it said that many years often go into the making of every overnight success. One day you were an unpublished writer dreaming of a contract. The next you had one. How did you deal with the l-o-n-g path to publication, which can be discouraging, disappointing and, at times, even daunting?

For the past six years, I have been so fortunate in the writing company that I keep. I have an amazing critique group! Their support has been unflagging, especially at those moments when I didn’t think I could stand another rejection.

My local RWA chapter, Toronto Romance Writers, is chock full of the most enthusiastic supportive writers.

My mother and brothers and sisters, while puzzled by my desire to write, never stopped supporting me.

My daughter knew all along that publication was a given and I have loved her for having faith in me.

Partners on Mary’s Journey


•You’re an active member of the Toronto Romance Writers who’s served the chapter in many roles. What have been some ways in which the members have enriched your life and helped in your journey to publication?

I really didn’t know anything about getting published until I joined TRW. I would say that, in that regard, the first six or so years of effort were not as useful as they could have been. I was living in the solitary limbo of a writer who has no contact with other writers. Things really didn’t move for me until after joining. I started attending meetings and workshops, talking to other writers, attending conferences and learning the ins and outs of both publishing and writing. I had made all of the mistakes in both areas that newbies make. Through TRW I learned how to correct them.

Indirectly, I met my critique group through TRW, and what a group it has been! I’m blessed.  😉

No Ordinary CowboyMary’s “Firstborn”

•Please tell us about your debut novel, No Ordinary Cowboy.

Falling for a cowboy? Who would have thought…

She’d rather be anywhere than here in Ordinary, Montana. Tackling the books for a failing ranch as a favor to a friend is not city girl Amy Graves’s scene. And every time Hank Shelter stonewalls her search for the truth, she wants to be gone yesterday. Seriously.

Still, something about the Sheltering Arms calls to her. Maybe it’s the open spaces. Maybe it’s the inner-city kids having the time of their lives here. Or maybe it’s Hank, who is proving too good, too kind to be real. Despite herself, Amy’s falling for his charm. But to put the ranch to rights she needs to know what he’s hiding. Even if it destroys the sweet thing developing between them.

Mary’s Journey Continues

•Your debut novel, No Ordinary Cowboy, is on the shelves, and you have two more Super Romances contracted. Can your readers expect more cowboy stories, or is there a surprise in store?

Oh, definitely cowboy stories. I invented a small town in Montana called Ordinary. My editor liked it so much that she wanted to see more stories about it. Fortunately, I had already completed another novel about it, but she also wanted to see a story about one of the characters in No Ordinary Cowboy. I wrote a proposal for it and she bought both books.

Five Fun Facts About Mary

~I went dogsledding last winter for the first time and LOVED it. Those dogs have so much heart, spirit and generosity!

~I love beautiful shoes. Love them. Love them.

~I like solving cryptic crosswords. My success rate is limited, but I enjoy trying.

~I have four sisters and two brothers. Having a big family is so much fun.

~I eat the crusts off all of my sandwiches first and then eat the centre—the best part!

Mary’s Question for You

•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Mary. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?

I am truly fascinated by the ways in which people fall in love. How have you fallen in love? Was it at the sound of a voice? Was it the first touch? Was it the first time you made eye contact? Was it a gesture glimpsed from across a room?

What do YOU find the most romantic way to fall in love?

Learn More About Mary

Visit her Web site:

Friend her on Facebook: Mary Sullivan

Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win


Win a Copy of Mary’s Debut Novel

Everyone who leaves a comment on Mary’s post by the end of the day June 23rd will have a chance of winning a copy of Mary’s debut novel, No Ordinary Cowboy. I’ll post the winner’s name here on June 24th.

To enter, just leave your email address when prompted during the comment process. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to Linda, winner of the copy of No Ordinary Cowboy.

Win My Regular Drawing

My next drawing will take place June 30th. The winner will receive an etched steel magnet with the word Dream scroll cut from its center.

Dream magnet.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by June 30th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On July 1st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and June 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On July 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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40 Responses to Meet Debut Author Mary Sullivan

  1. Anne Barton says:

    Mary, congrats on No Ordinary Cowboy! I’ll look for you at the Literacy Autographing too.

    I’m loving these falling in love stories. 🙂 I don’t remember the exact moment I fell for my husband, but I think it had something to do with his quiet confidence. Love the strong, silent type!


  2. Mary, you must just be a country girl at heart!
    Congratulations on your recent release. Harlequin Superromances are always such heartwarming stories, and it sounds like yours is no exception in dealing with the issue of cancer.

    Loved your fun facts! And could relate to several of them, especially solving puzzles. I also just had a b-day Wednesday, so happy b-day to you!

    To answer your question, my DH and I (m 20 1/2 years) met and married within 4 months. He took one look at me and pursued me with an ‘annoying persistence,’ as I told him. He came down to the South from the New England area and never looked back. I told him he could have gotten me up there at the beginning, but there is no way I’m going up there now. I do not want to shovel snow!!

    Thanks, Keli, for introducing Mary and her novel.

  3. Simone says:

    Hi Mary! More TRW here. Congrats again on the release!

    Don’t enter me in the drawing – I already have the book, I read it, and I thought it was terrific. I highly recommend it.


  4. Kit says:

    Great interview as always, Keli. Congrats on your book, Mary.

  5. Mary Bray says:

    Oh, Linda, 39 years!!! That’s wonderful. I am so enjoying hearing everyone’s stories.

  6. Mary Bray says:

    Anne, please do say hello in DC.

    There is something soooo appealing about the strong, silent type, isn’t there?

  7. Mary Bray says:

    Julie, happy late birthday!

    I’m hoping my interest in puzzles will keep this old brain running smoothly for a few more years 😉

    Aren’t you glad that annoying persistence paid off? Congrats on the 20 1/2 years!

  8. Hi Kit, so nice to ‘meet’ you 😉

  9. Simone, hi! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book!!!

  10. Keli, thank you so much for having me here today. I have really enjoyed myself and loved hearing these great falling-in-love stories. Thank you to everyone for sharing!

  11. Diane says:

    Had to write. The book “No Ordinary Cowboy” was one of the best Harlequin Super Romances, I have read this year. I fell in love with Ordinary, Montana and look forward to more of your books. Can we sign up for email alerts for future books any where.

    Love Ontario! I’ve one of those genealogy people and had big trips there twice in the last few years for research. Visited Niagara area for ancestors in the late 1700’s and also to Eden in Elgin County for the 1800’s ancestors. Wondeful visits! Wonderful people!


  12. Diane, I’m so glad you liked my story!!!! I have such a soft spot for Hank 😉

    Please email me at with your email address and I will put you on my mailing list. Hank makes a number of appearances in the next novel. You will get to see him and Amy a year after their wedding.

    Both Niagara and Elgin County are lovely parts of Ontario. How exciting that you can trace your roots so far back. I have only been able to go back to the late 1800s with my roots in Newfoundland.

    If you are a writer, please come out to a TRW meeting the next time you are in the Toronto area!!! We would love to see you!


  13. Dianne says:

    Hi Mary,

    Nice to see all the great comments on your book from those who have read it. It’s wonderful to see after the arduous process of trying to get published. Congratulations!

    Your sister….Dianne

  14. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by. I enjoyed reading the great comments you left for Mary. What fun to hear your falling in love stories.

    I held the drawing for the copy of Mary’s debut novel, NO ORDINARY COWBOY, and Linda is the winner.

    Congrats, Linda. I’ll be in touch.

  15. Linda, congratulations! I hope you enjoy NO ORDINARY COWBOY.

    To my sister, Dianne, so glad to see you here 😉

    Once again, Keli, thank you so much for allowing me to appear on Romance Writers on the Journey. I enjoyed myself thoroughly!

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