Thursday, November 05, 2009

Author Interview ~ Maureen Lang

Maureen Lang has been a storyteller nearly all her life, and is thrilled to be able to share her stories with a wider audience than the neighborhood kids. She’s expecting her ninth book out on the shelves late this summer, Look To The East. But don’t look for her first three books—they were published BC and are thankfully out of print. BC? Yes, that would be the years Before Christ impacted her writing life. God definitely wired Maureen to write, and she’s found few greater blessings than to write for Him.

Welcome back to Novel Journey!

Thanks very much for having me. :-)

The last time you visited was in 2006. Can you share what you’ve been doing in the years since?

I’m happy to say I’ve been writing. My first Inspirational novel, Pieces of Silver, came out from Kregel in 2006 and since then in 2007 they published its sequel, Remember Me.

That second book actually released around the same time the first of a different two book series came out, this time from Tyndale House, The Oak Leaves. That’s a novel about a woman who finds her Victorian grandmother’s diary and learns they might share a common bond neither of them wanted.
The sequel to that is On Sparrow Hill, which released in the spring of 2008. In October of 2008 Tyndale released a stand-alone for me, My Sister Dilly. Now we’re just about to release Book One of my new Great War Series, Look To The East.
It’s been great being so productive! After having published a few books now, I can look back and see a trend. All of my books have a heroine (or two) facing something that’s life-altering. Her faith is tested, but along the way God gives her everything she needs to face the challenge and become stronger—both as a woman, and as a follower of Christ. I must admit that as I’m bringing my characters into their blackest moments, I usually shake my head and remind myself if I didn’t know better I’d think they were doomed. That’s when I know the story is working.

Several of your books have been up for awards. Is this an important part of being published?

With my first few books, I believed contests were important so I could bring whatever success I might achieve to the table when negotiating a new contract. Since then, knowing that contest placings or even wins don’t actually impact sales as much as some people believe, I’ve changed my thinking. I do still value contests because it’s a sure-fire way of getting my books into the hands of readers, at least in the form of judges. And that’s how we win readers, one at a time. I’ve gotten many wonderful comments on my books and those are heartwarming. But really, the best form of advertising is word of mouth.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Look To The East begins at the outset of the First World War. I can hear women saying: War, oh, no! But actually the war is only a backdrop, a great source of conflict. This book, like everything else I’ve written, is more about relationships than anything else. This is the story of a man caught behind the fighting lines, forced to hide in the small French village where my heroine lives. She helps hide him, falling in love along the way. Between the fear of discovery and the fighting going on not so very far away, there is a lot of adventure.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

As with every book, the romantic element is the most fun. There is a scene where the heroine mistakenly believes a German soldier helped her. In an effort to thank him, she agrees to dine—alone—with him. Watching her fear unfold beside the terror the hero holds for her when he realizes she has to follow through on the dinner engagement was actually a lot of fun. Tension is always better when the stakes are deeply personal!

As far as the least favorite part…well, I’m happy to say I don’t have one! I know there are several chapters in the beginning where the hero’s story is told parallel to the heroine’s, and it’s always more fun once they’re united. But I always like that slow build-up, that anticipation of seeing the two characters every reader knows are meant to be together. So it’s all just plain fun for me!

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

Julitte is my heroine, and to tell you the truth she was more of a challenge than my hero! I always struggle with my characters a bit at the outset; I know where they’re going to end up, but the journey along the way isn’t always clear until I get to know them. For Julitte, I knew she would have an incredible faith, based on her biological and adoptive parents. I knew she would be ostracized from a small village, which makes her even more dependent upon God. But creating someone with such a strong faith seemed to make her too perfect, as if her faith would either cover or prevent any flaw. And we all know even the most faith-filled people have flaws, we just don’t like to consider that being true.
Seeing Julitte as too perfect was one of the first things my editor said about her, too. So we knew she needed to struggle with that faith to make her believable. That’s when the whole theme of “misplaced faith” started to take shape, and how hard it could be to imagine others placing their faith in you when you feel like you’re letting down everyone around you.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

I think, to a certain extent, every author does. We have to, or they wouldn’t be convincing. We may not agree or condone everything our characters end up doing, but we ought to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing or else the reader won’t buy it. So to the extent of empathizing with them, I do sort of “become” my characters.

What made you start writing?

To be honest, I don’t really have a good answer. It’s like asking someone why they have brown eyes; I just do. I suppose there’s a genetic answer to the eye color question, because there are just so many possibilities given the fact that one of my parents had brown eyes. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was wired to write; it comes natural to me, it “feels” right. I can’t not write, I just have to do it. God wired me to write since I was a young child, and it makes me happy.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

If I weren’t writing, I’d probably do more things with my boys, which would be a very good thing to do! Perhaps I’d even be able to develop an interest in sports, which would certainly make my husband happy. I’d also probably do some crafty things, like painting ceramics or make pretty stationery with some fancy stamping designs. I don’t do any of that now, but maybe some day…

What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?

In Look To The East, some of the characters place their faith in the wrong thing: some of Julitte’s neighbor’s place their faith in her rather than in God. Early in the story, my hero Charles places his faith in himself. Even Julitte’s faith is tested when things don’t go according to the way she expects for doing the right thing.
What I would love for readers to take away is that God is constant; He always wants what is best for us, even if the journey along the way is sometimes difficult. I think when we face hard choices we think God isn’t good or doesn’t love us as much as we thought, but the truth is He’s more interested in us becoming more like Him than in our comfort and happiness along the way. Sometimes we grow faster with deeper dependence on Him when things get a little rocky.

As a multi-published author, how much marketing are you required to do? Does this detract from your writing time?

I’m such an introvert that deep down I feel like any form of marketing takes away from my writing time. For me to go to a public engagement takes time not only for the event, but for the preparation. However, once I’m involved in talking to others about my books or about writing in general, I always enjoy myself and end up learning something new about people. I need to be reminded that in order to create life-like characters I should spend time with real people! Because even though I have yet to create a character that’s built totally upon a single real-life person, almost all of my characters tend to be composites in one form or another of people I’ve met.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’m just now involved in final edits for Book Two in this Great War Series, and that’s a book I’m especially excited about—despite the fact that at the moment it still has no title! It’s set in the same time period, but other than the fact that the heroine of this book is the sister of the hero from Look To The East, it’s an entirely independent book. A reader doesn’t have to read Look To The East to enjoy this second book in the series.
Basically it’s the story of people involved in a secret, uncensored press. This paper was actually circulated during the German occupation of Belgium, by Belgians who wanted to give their fellow countrymen hope that the War would end someday and they would regain their independence. But once again, the occupation of Brussels and their fight to give hope to others is only the backdrop for not one but TWO romances within the same book! Who doesn’t love a good romance?

The last time you were here, you said, “this business is harder than it first appears, that it takes longer, that the competition is tougher than ever. But writing itself, if you’re wired for it, is the real blessing.” Do you still feel that way?

I absolutely DO feel the same way. Writing really is its own blessing! I know I’d still be writing, even if the words were only between me and God.

ny parting advice?

Christian fiction has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. It’s reaching a wider audience, appealing to a broader scope, and attracting not only many new readers, but more writers all the time. God is at work in this industry, attracting and equipping all kinds of people to not only strengthen the Kingdom, but broaden it. And I couldn’t be happier! I’m excited when people take an interest in writing for the Lord. We need all kinds of voices to reach all kinds of people!

But of course even though the market is growing, so is the competition. Being called to write is not a guarantee of publication, but it will be a growing experience, one God will use to bring a person closer to Him, no matter where the writing goes. So if you do have an interest in writing, this is a great industry—but just make sure to stay connected to the One who wired you to write in the first place!


Johnnie said...

I appreciate your insight that the market is growing and reaching a wider audience even though that means more competition. This is encouraging to those of us still on the path to that first book. Thanks!