Mary Lynn Archibald – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book is called, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue. It’s an irreverent look at ranch life as we knew it, on Twin Creeks Ranch, a 120 acre spread in the wilds of Trinity County, in Northern California. My husband and I thought it would be our relaxing country retreat, but it turned out to be a cattle ranch, and we knew nothing about cattle. I think the cattle were as upset about this as we were. Still, we did our best for twelve years, and it was one of the most amazing, spiritually inspiring times of our life together.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born and raised in Soquel, California, but World War II took us to Dayton, Ohio, where my father was engaged in doing important, top-secret work for the war effort, building machines that would eventually crack enemy naval codes, and turn the tide of the war. From there we moved to Berkeley, California, after the war, and eventually to the suburbs of San Francisco.

I’ve been writing professionally since about 1985, but a good deal of that was article writing for newspapers and magazines. Accidental Cowgirl is my second book, and was written over a period of time, from 2002 to 2007.

In my younger days, I spent time in San Francisco during the turbulent late ’50s and early ’60s, and had such diverse professions as salesclerk, switchboard operator, model, chorus girl, and Miss Francisco finalist. But that’s the subject of my next book.

What inspired you to write this book?

Reading over my journals after we sold the ranch, I realized that our experience there made a pretty compelling story, and I was sure that no one I knew would believe it unless I wrote about it. It was totally unique, and I was inspired to share it.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

I think the hardest part of writing is getting started–actually sitting down and beginning. Most writers will say this.

How do you do research for your books?

Of course I use the Internet a lot for research, but for Accidental Cowgirl I also had available to me some personal stories of early settlers in the area which had been collected by a local historian. A lot of it was handwritten, and some had been copied so many times it was difficult to read, but I found it a fascinating window into early life in what has become one of California’s last frontiers.

I also read a book called, People of the Edges, by local historian Ray Rafael, and much of what he described about the area still held pretty true to my experience thirty years later. In the wilderness, things changed very slowly.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

I learned that we human beings are a pretty small part of the natural scheme of things, and I learned never to pit myself against nature, because nature always wins in the end. But most of what I learned was learned from living, and not writing about it.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m rereading Ernest Hemingway’s, A Movable Feast. it almost makes me want to go back to Paris. Almost. I just finished reading several women’s memoirs, including, Don’t Call Me Mother, by Linda Joy Myers, one of many women authors who’ve lately introduced me to their truly dysfunctional families.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes. My next book is another memoir. This one is about my early life in Soquel, California (I’m a Native!), and my late teens in San Francisco, some of which I alluded to above. I was such an innocent, it was amazing I survived!

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Do a lot of writing before you tackle a book (short stories, essays, etc.)

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My RedRoom website is pretty comprehensive but you could also look at and