The Waltons: Weekdays at 3p & 4p ET

An INSP Exclusive! Q&A Interview with Actress, Mary McDonough – Erin Walton

As Mary McDonough’s novel, One Year, hits the shelves, we were pleased to chat with her about her book, writing, and, of course, The Waltons.

What inspired you to write your novel One Year?

I have always written about women and read women’s fiction, so it was a natural transition to write One Year. I believe women should support each other in life and business. So often we are in competition. One Year is about how important communication is for families and that family is not always blood.

You have quite a busy schedule. Some writers fit their writing time in at the crack of dawn or around their kids’ school hours. What was your writing schedule like, and how long did it take to write the book?

It took over two years from conception to completion. My kids are all in college now so I can write any time. I am an early morning writer. But I have insomnia, so I am not opposed to writing on those sleepless nights.

You wrote and directed the film, For the Love of May. How different was the writing process between writing for the screen and writing a book?

It’s a very different process. I like to think a screenplay has some description of places with dialogue to show the emotions of the character. A book allows a lot of description with some dialogue. In a book you can go into someone’s thoughts, in a screenplay you need to show what the character’s thinking and evolution.

Did your acting experience help you to create three-dimensional characters?

I believe my acting makes the whole process so much easier. I feel everything my characters feel. I pull from my own life, of course. In some way, I am every woman in One Year. Like an actor, I know every reason they act and react the way they do. I know their motivation and how they got to where they are.

Earl Hamner, Jr. based his Waltons characters on his real-life family. How much of your extended family showed up in the pages of your book?

Let’s just say Mary Bernadette will be recognized by many of my family and friends. She is a compilation of many women I have known. Even a few nuns!!!

Did being part of the Walton family influence the relationships and dynamics in Mary Bernadette’s family?

Not really. She is based on my own life more than the Waltons. That said, my Walton experience did influence the idea of many generations learning how to get along.

Which of your characters do you most identify with?

I identify with Megan, not the most, but right now. Probably because she is the most like me at present and the closest to my age. I have a child with learning disabilities, so I can relate to doing everything under the sun to help your kid. I also understand the guilt and the overachieving Mom. Gee, do you think I based her on me? I try to live my life by the Golden Rules, so the prayer of St. Francis resonates with me greatly. I am not as accomplished at the peace that comes with being an “instrument for peace,” but I work on it daily. Maybe Megan is my role model, who I want to be and strive to be more like. I love the romance in Megan and Pat’s marriage as well. I have that now in my life and it’s a Blessing! I have been Alexis at different times in my life and have experienced many “Mary Bernadettes” in my life.

This is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child, but do you have a favorite character?

Alexis is like my child. She learns some great lessons about finding her voice; I have done the same in my life. I love the men here too. Pat is a good husband, very romantic.

Any plans for a second novel? A sequel?

It is already in the works, with a Christmas theme. That’s all I can say for now!

In an exclusive interview we did with Earl Hamner last year, he stated that the cast of The Waltons was like an extended family. Do you keep in touch with your Walton “brothers” and “sisters?”

I see all my Walton family all the time. We are extremely close and love each other, just like family.

You attended the most recent Waltons reunion in February 2015. Would you share a few of your favorite highlights of the event?

I love hearing people’s stories of how the show touched them and their lives. The General Store was great and the jail was fun. I was so honored the auction raised awareness and funds for the Sjogrens Foundation.

Read an excerpt from One Year by Mary McDonough