Ane Mulligan is one of my favorite people on the planet. Fun and funny, practical and pragmatic, and talented beyond belief, she spent years as ACFW’s Zone Coordinator and favorite cheerleader. In 2019, she shifted those responsibilities to me so she could dedicate more time to her two loves: writing and directing. (Okay, I’m sure her two true loves are her husband and family, but as activities go, these top her list.)
Now it’s your turn to meet her. I hope you come to love her as much as I do:
Q: I adore your books and your kookie characters and all the delicious messes they get themselves into, so I have to ask: How much of them is you?
A: Thank you! In my Chapel Springs series, Claire definitely had a lot of me in her. What wasn’t me were a few things in her I wished I could be or do. Like always speak my thoughts. I tend to filter them first.
Q: Several years ago, you posted a comment on my blog post, Set the Dove Free, in which I explored the question of whether, as Christian authors, we should shift toward more evangelistic, more serious Christian fiction during these turbulent days. After a lot of prayer, my conclusion was no. For me (and apparently you), our mission is to basically entertain the troops and leave the more serious stuff to the front-liners. Times are even more turbulent now. Would you care to expand the comment? What do you see as your mission as a Christian author?
A: For me, I have to be true to my calling to write from my own worldview. God created me with a humor-colored glasses. I see humor in the world. Each one of us has our own place in our writing world just as we do in the spiritual one. We can’t all be the brain. We need some left feet. So I remain true to my calling that way.
That said, not all my stories are as rollicking as my first book. There will always be humor in my books, but some stories are a little more serious or filled with tension. I believe people let down their guard when they think they’re being entertained. My books have seeds of God’s truth in them, not preaching, so when they least expect it, that truth can reach out, touch their hearts and perhaps change a life.
Q: How did you get into writing? How long between the time you dallied with a story and when you actually published one? Do you feel like you’ve matured as an author now that you have several books to your name?
A: I’d been writing scripts for use at my church, but I had quit my job and was looking for another. My husband told me to quit looking and write a book. Me? I’d never thought about doing that. But as soon as he said the words, an idea dropped into my mind, and I knew God was changing my life … again. That began a twelve-plus year journey to my first published book.
I have definitely matured as a writer, and I strive to continue to do just that. I have wonderful critique partners who hold my feet to the fire. I have an editor I really enjoy working with, and she also pushes me to dig deeper.
Q: You’ve lived all over the place, but the American South seems to hold your heart. What do you love about being a Georgia girl? Do you have a favorite Southern dish? Is there one you still just shake your head at?
A: I am Southern to my core. The moment I knew we were moving to Georgia, I immersed myself in the foods and culture. I felt like I’d come home. Things I said and loved turned out to be Southern. Now as a Christian, I believe we live once, but a teensy part of me thinks I might have been Scarlet in a former life. I’m joking, but I don’t know from where the Southern influence came, but it’s been part of me all my life.
My favorite thing about Georgia? Sugar Hill. The people in Sugar Hill are the warmest, most friendly on earth. The bywords, the Sweet Life and My Sweet City are so true. And my theatre troupe has become family for us.
My favorite Southern dish? Naturally, it’s banana pudding. And I adore boiled peanuts. I even like fried okra, but boiled okra I will not do. No way. No how.
Q: And speaking of dishes, tell us about Chef Son. How long has he been a chef? Do you have a favorite dish from among his creations?
When Chef Son was eight years old, I was working a short day since he was home with a cold. My next-door neighbor was a retired policeman and kept an eye on him. I got a call from Greg around noon.
Greg: “What are winter vegetables?”
Because we lived in SoCal, they could be almost anything. Me: “Well, yellow squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, to name three. Why?”
Greg: “Thanks.” He hung up.
I called back but he didn’t answer. I checked with the neighbor, but he called back with an “All’s okay.” So I forgot about it. When I got home, there was the most beautiful roast chicken, surrounded by roasted winter vegetables, accompanied by scalloped potatoes from scratch (no boxed mix for this kid) and fresh banana bread, also from scratch. I have never had a roast chicken look so beautiful. It took me three days to clean the kitchen, but that meal was delicious. He started is first paid job at sixteen in a deli. After working there one week, the owner went on vacation and made Greg manager.
My favorite Chef Son cooked meal? Wow, that’s hard. He still does everything from scratch. No bottled dressings or sauces. Nearly everything he makes I love. Greg cooks what he calls gourmet blue-collar food, not French cuisine. His company, Shade Tree Kitchens, has a website. I linked the name to their menu, so you can see what gourmet blue collar looks like. It’s the kind of food people order again and again.
Q: I’ve noticed that you’re highly involved in your community theater. Where is your heart now—writing or acting?
A: Since I don’t do much acting any longer, my passions are divided between directing and writing, and handling the business (and riding herd over) of the non-profit community theatre troupe. I wrote an article for Southern Writers Magazine, addressing this issue. For a while, I wasn’t balancing my two passions. Add to that, a troublesome work-in-progress, and I began to doubt my calling.
Then CoVid-19 hit. I was forced into a single passion. During that time, the focus of my book changed and the words flowed again. I wrote the second book in the Georgia Magnolias series, On Sugar Hill, in twelve weeks. I’ve learned to balance writing and theatre. I write during the first part of the day, although I can write anytime, then theatre—once we’re back in—during the afternoons or evenings.
So my heart remains firmly split – like having two children. I love them both, especially directing. It really goes hand-in-hand with writing. For the stage, I take the author’s words and help the actor bring the character to life for an audience. In writing, I create the characters and bring them to life on the page.
Q: Which is your favorite character you’ve played to date? Which character would you like to play someday?
A: My favorite wasn’t one anyone knows. She was created by a director for a radio play. She was the organist for a radio station back in the 1930s and 40s. He told me to have fun with her, and I let my inner Lucy out.
Madam Arcati in Blithe Spirit is a character I’d love to play. Mame Dennis from Auntie Mame is another I’d love to play. You can see the pattern, right?
Q: What’s coming up for you as an author?
A: In High Cotton just released. The second book, On Sugar Hill, releases June 1, 2021. I’m writing the third book, By the Sweet Gum. All three are set in Georgia during the early days of the Great Depression. I find I like writing stories set in that time period. I may even take a look at WWII. But I have lots of stories swirling in my head, one of them is part of a novella series with you, A Tangled Yarn. I can’t wait to work on that project.
At the theatre, we are gearing up to go back into rehearsals for a show we’ve been trying to present since March. We are now set for November, after 3 delays! But I’ve got about another five weeks before that happens. I have a novel to write, so I shall be hunkered down doing that.
About In High Cotton:
While the rest of the world has been roaring through the 1920s, times are hardscrabble in rural South Georgia. Widow Maggie Parker is barely surviving while raising her young son alone. Then as banks begin to fail, her father-in-law threatens to take her son and sell off her livelihood—the grocery store her husband left her. Can five Southern women band together, using their wisdom and wiles to stop him and survive the Great Depression?
Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and The Write Conversation.