Interview with Ashley Farley for Merry Mary
Tell us about Merry Mary in one sentence. Merry Mary is a heartwarming story about the powerful connection between a caring soul and an innocent child in need.
What do you think readers will enjoy most about your story? I hope readers, especially mothers, will identify with my protagonist’s desperate longing for a child and empathize with the decisions she makes. I also believe they will enjoy the close relationship Scottie shares with her brother, Will.
Are you working on a new novel? Yes, the sequel to Merry Mary, which I plan to release in Spring 2016. My currently untitled WIP is a full-length romantic political suspense starring Scottie, Will and the charming Guy Jordan.
Who or what was the inspiration for your story? I created my protagonist, photojournalist Scottie Darden, out of my love for photography and my desire to see the world. Understanding some of the technical aspects of photography adds credibility to my story. All of my plots focus on familial relationships. My first novel, Saving Ben, which I wrote as a tribute to my brother who died of a drug overdose in 1999, depicts a college-aged brother and sister. Her Sister’s Shoes portrays three middle-age sisters struggling to balance the demands of career and home while remaining true to themselves. Scottie Darden shares a close relationship with her brother In Merry Mary and the upcoming sequel. Certain aspects of their relationship remind me of my brother and me, but mostly I created them out of the special bond between my own children, who are close in age—21 and 20—as well as spirit.
What is your favorite thing to do to get ready for the holidays?
Definitely not shopping. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, I put my small artificial tree up in the corner of my kitchen, where I spend most of my time, and decorate it with food-related ornaments. I enjoy this tree so much more than the live tree I put up in the living room, which stresses me out and makes me a bah humbug.
What is your favorite holiday . . .
Movie? I’ve seen The Holiday with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black at least a dozen times. Jack Black is lovable. Cameron Diaz wears the most amazing clothes. And Jude Law steels my heart every time when he cries at the end.
Novel? The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. Disillusioned journalist Tom Langon meets a host of interesting characters as he travels from Washington to Los Angeles by train for Christmas.
Song? Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”
Tradition? It’s all about the food for my family. We have many traditions for the holidays, but our Christmas Eve meal is the most important. We invite the whole family over for a formal sit-down dinner. Even though we have the same dishes every year, everyone always raves about Emeril Lagasse’s Twice Baked Potato Casserole, which I thought you might enjoy.
10 large russet baking potatoes (about 7 pounds total)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1/2 pound sharp white Cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 pound mild Cheddar, grated (3 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub the potatoes well and rinse under cool running water. Pat dry with paper towels and prick the potatoes in several places with a fork. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
When the potatoes have cooled, cut each potato in half and, using a spoon or a melon baller, scoop the flesh out of the skins, leaving as little flesh as possible. Place the potato flesh in a large bowl and add 1 stick of the butter, the sour cream, heavy cream, salt, and pepper and mash until chunky-smooth. Add the bacon, cubed white Cheddar, half of the grated Cheddar, the green onions, and eggs and mix thoroughly.
Butter a 9 by 13-inch casserole with the remaining tablespoon of butter and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
Place the seasoned potato mixture in the prepared casserole and top with the remaining grated Cheddar. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges and heated through and the cheese on top is melted and lightly golden. Serve hot.