As part of her job as a freelance writer and video producer, Star Prairie author Carrie Maloney does everything from creating videos and writing websites to scripting speeches and cooking up creative concepts for organizations. The rest of the time, Maloney is a devoted writer and aspiring author.
So when her first book, Breath to Breath, was recently published, Maloney couldn’t have been happier.
“It sounds like readers are reacting to the quirky characters in this small town, the twists and turns in the plot, and the way the characters — human and animal — connect with one another,” Maloney said. “Hearing those reader reactions makes me feel both grateful and hopeful.”
However, self-publishing her own book hasn’t been an easy task either.
“With my marketing background and all of the cool tools available online, I thought it would be a grand adventure,” Maloney said. “And promoting the book has definitely been an invigorating experience -- but it has also been a full-time job, on top of my other full-time job. I’m grateful for the positive reviews I’ve gotten so far, and it feels like momentum is slowly building.”
Breath to Breath is about a veterinarian in a small town and the quirky creatures in her life -- some human, some not.
“The tale takes place in the fictional town of Milk River, Wis., but at its core, Breath to Breath is about all creatures everywhere,” Maloney said. “It’s about our vast differences from one another and the wants we all have: To feel safe. To feel happy. To feel like we belong.”
Maloney was born in Plainield, N.J., but spent most of her early years living in Le Sueur, Minn. Her life took her to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and found her working as a translator for Mexican migrant workers during the summer. Later, Maloney spent a few years in retail management before starting night school to learn about the world of broadcasting.
Maloney ended up at a PBS TV station in St. Paul where she produced for the Emmy Award-winning science show, “Newton’s Apple,” and won a regional Emmy as a producer on a documentary about KMOJ, a Minneapolis radio station serving communities of color.
Maloney now lives in Star Prairie with her husband and two shelter dogs.
According to Maloney, there isn’t a time when she can remember not being a writer.
“Even as a little kid, before I could read, I was writing. I’d sit with my baby sister and read her a book -- the same book every time -- but the story was always different. I remember thinking that if I just opened my mouth and started talking, a story would come out. And it always did.”
For the most part, Maloney enjoys writing about people and the situations they get themselves in, especially when those people have nothing in common.
“I love to explore what happens when people who are nothing alike are thrust together into an intense situation, forced to figure out how each other ticks if they’re going to move forward,” Maloney said. “I get a kick out of poking around in different types of brains to find the beauty and the pain we all harbor.”
Maloney also has a passion for animals, which is one of the reasons most of her stories either center on or include animals, specifically those of a canine persuasion.
The inspiration for Breath to Breath comes from a real-life incident of a man in Florida burying a litter of puppies in 1995. The next day, the mother broke free and dug up her puppies, returning them to her doghouse. A neighbor heard the ruckus and came to help.
“For years I was troubled by that story, and needed it to have a happy ending. So I made one up,” Maloney said. “Breath to Breath opens with a vet saving a litter of puppies that began life that way, and then goes on to weave the tale of what happens next — to the veterinarian, to the people who adopt the puppies, and even to the guy who’d committed the heinous act.”
For Maloney, the most challenging part of writing her first novel was learning everything she could about being a veterinarian.
“That meant I had to learn specific details about veterinary medical procedures, instruments and terminology,” Maloney said. “I’m a total science geek, so the research was a hoot. But it took a lot of time — and not just mine. I tapped the talents and patience of two Wisconsin veterinarians — Dr. Chris Bleifuss in Mosinee, and Star Prairie’s own Dr. Marcy Armstrong (retired).”
Another problem Maloney ran into was creating a first chapter to her book that would bring in the reader and make them want to keep reading to the end.
“Today’s readers have to be hooked in the first few pages, or they move on to a different book,” Maloney said. “And the way you hook a reader is to make her care what happens to your main character -- the person has to be intriguing or likeable in some way.”
Although Maloney is open to writing a sequel to her first book, she’s already started writing a brand new story, this time for children.
“I’ve got a few different manuscripts in various stages of development. I’m about 50 pages into a novel for kids that I’m really excited about,” Maloney said. “Every time I test the plot out on a group of children, they go crazy, wanting to know when they can read it.”
Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of Breath to Breath can visit the book’s website (BreathToBreath.com). The book is available both as a paperback and an eBook.
Maloney also writes a blog, which can be found at morningdogdevotions.com.