Finalist Spotlight

Mary Gray

Mary Gray balances dark and twisty plots with faith-based messages. Some of her best ideas come when she’s lurking in the woods, experimenting with frightening foods, or pushing her kids on the tire swing. She is the co-owner of Monster Ivy Publishing and has written several fiction and nonfiction works.

Follow Mary Gray!

Mary Gray on her Whitney Awards Finalist novel,

The Girl at the Hanging Tree

What was the inspiration for your Whitney Awards finalist novel?

I have two very close loved ones who’ve had to dissociate from past trauma in their lives. I wanted to write a story about a person who goes through that to help readers empathize. I also wanted to the tell the truth about the history near where I live while creating a mind-blowing page-turner, since psychological thrillers are typically my favorite stories.

What was the tipping point that turned this novel from “just an idea” to a project you HAD to complete?

I asked my friend to take me on a local tour of some whispered historical sites in my community. She took me along with four other friends. The tour opened our eyes to the potential we all have to be good or evil–some people even pretend to be something they’re not, essentially making two versions of themselves. I wanted to show how that happens while infusing the story with light. I also wanted to create a protagonist who has a strong desire to do what’s right–no matter how scary it is.

How did this book evolve into the final story? Did it end up the way you thought it would, or did the plot or characters change along the way?

I thoroughly plotted the novel and thought I knew where it was going, but typically when I write books, my mind kind of explodes at the 3/4 point. I build everything, then I think, “This should happen next, right?” I’m almost always wrong. It took two solid editors to help me pound out the ending the way it needed to be. Without them, this book wouldn’t be what it is today.

Who is your favorite secondary character, and why?

WT. His character is surrounded with so much mystery. Is he good or is he not? Is he dead or alive? Why wouldn’t he leave with Gemma to go on a trip away from Deep Creek? He has a troubled past and it takes the length of the book to learn why he is the way he is.

If your book was made into a movie, which scene would you want to be a background extra in?

I wouldn’t want to be an extra in this book/movie because the town is creepy!