Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sharlene Maclaren - Through Every Storm

I'm going to introduce you to Sharlene today, and we'll learn some interesting things about her. I do recommend that you also go to her website:

Sharlene, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

That is an interesting question and one I’ve needed to ponder. I think there is probably more of me in my characters than I realize, particularly when it comes to my values and the way I view life. I always want to portray Christ as being the answer—not that we can tie up all of life’s difficulties into a neat little bow and be done with them—but that we can know with all certainty that no matter what struggles we may have to experience, God is there in our midst, lending strength, peace, and comfort. Romans 8:28 is my life’s verse, and it’s proof that no matter what we face, God has our best interest in mind. All He asks is that we trust Him. I try to weave this truth into all my stories and my characters’ lives.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I don’t know about quirky—absent-minded maybe. One story comes to mind immediately, so I’ll go with that one! Several years ago, I was hurriedly preparing the evening meal, hurrying because we were expecting guests. I had just peeled a dozen potatoes, several carrots, and a couple of large onions for my good-sized beef roast. Upon finishing, I swept the potato peelings, carrot shavings and onionskins into an empty Wheaties box that had been sitting there since breakfast. When done, I shoved the box aside. Later, I went about cleaning up my cluttered kitchen—emptying the dishwasher, stashing away a week’s worth of mail and a couple of old newspapers. It was a mad rush because I still had to vacuum and dust! (You know the routine we ladies get into before company arrives.) Well, in my rush, I grabbed the Wheaties box and – you guessed it – put it up in the cupboard. It was, after all, where I always stored the cereal. About a week later, my husband went to the kitchen for his favorite evening snack, a bowl of Wheaties. I will never forget that howling sound, as I was relaxing in the living room with a cup of tea and my Better Homes and Gardens magazine. “Honey!” he wailed. “What is this gross crap I just poured into my bowl?” And believe me, it was gross. Not to mention smelly.

I'm sure it was. I've not done anything like that, but I have put some strange things into the refrigerator that didn't go there, because I was plotting a book in my head. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I have always been quite the storyteller, so my friends tell me. As a kid, I weaved many a tale around a cozy campfire, taking special delight in scaring my listeners with surprise endings. I was also known for inventing a few whoppers, like the time I convinced my best friend I’d spotted a big black bear in the woods out behind our house. Of course, I didn’t intend for her to pass on my “news”, but she did, and before I had a chance to blink, the entire neighborhood wanted details. Oh, it was a tangled web I’d woven, but that’s another story entirely. Back to the question… I didn’t actually take novel writing seriously until the summer of 2000. As a mom who’d thrown her life into raising her two daughters, I wasn’t taking the “Empty Nest” too well, and so I pleaded with God to give me a new purpose. And He did! One summer day I sat down at the computer to see if I could get past page one of a story that had been stirring around in my brain. The rest is history. My passion was born that day. In three short weeks, I completed a 90,000-word manuscript. (My husband kept me watered and fed, bless his heart.) Incidentally, I have never written that fast or furiously since…and I don’t intend to try.

Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I enjoy a wide variety of genres, anything from autobiographies, to mysteries, to inspirational studies, to romance. Of course, romance is my favored writing genre, so it’s also what I enjoy reading most. But I think it’s important for writers to drench themselves in all kinds of styles and genres. It’s how we learn. Right now, I’m doing a Beth Moore Bible study (very challenging) and a small-group study on the Book of Matthew (very intense). I’m also reading Coming Home by David Lewis, husband to Beverly. It’s about family issues, past hurts, relationships gone sour—and God’s sustaining grace and healing power. Of course, there is a thread of romance woven throughout the story, which keeps me turning pages!

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Oh, I probably have four or five completed manuscripts waiting for a home, and a hundred or so stories stirring around up there in my head. (tee-hee) I’m currently working on a three-part historical series. I’ve signed contracts for the first two in the series with an option on the third.

That's wonderful! How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

You know what? I’m retired, so it’s wonderful. I gave 31 years to the wonderful profession of teaching and loved almost every minute of it. Although my writing keeps me busy, as do the two weekly Bible studies I’m involved in, and a host of other volunteer-type activities, I am at a point in my life where I can go at my own pace. Obviously, some days are zanier than others, but for the most part, I’m living a slower lifestyle than when I was working full-time. Praise the Lord!

How do you choose your characters’ names?

A lot depends on the period in which I’m writing. Through Every Storm, which is set for release in January ’07, is contemporary. My Little Hickman Creek Series (three-book set) takes place in Kentucky in the late 1800s. You have to do a bit of research to determine popular names of that era. One of my favorite websites belongs to Sandra Petit, On it, she has a name generator. I have no idea how many names are in that generator, but I’ve never run across the same one twice. I always go into that site when I’m searching for names for my characters.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

You ask tough questions! I know what the pat answer might be—meeting and marrying my wonderful husband and still going all ga-ga over him after 31 years. Or maybe it’s giving birth to two of the most beautiful girls that ever lived, then watching them grow to be women of God and, best, marrying men of God. Or might it be that I chose a career (education) that allowed me the opportunity to invest in the lives of hundreds of kids, then have them visit me years later to say those incredibly rewarding words, “You were my favorite teacher.” And then I can’t forget that wonderful feeling of elation when you first lay eyes on a hot-off-the-press book and it has your very own name on it!

Yes, these are the pat answers, but now that I think about it, they’re also my greatest accomplishments.

That moment you hold your new book in your hands is priceless, and I feel it with every one. Right next to that is seeing it on the shelves of a bookstore or Walmart. Now for some fun. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

Whew! Finally, a not-so-deep question! Ha-ha. Well, it certainly wouldn’t be a mouse, since, of all God’s creatures, I hate those things the most! I don’t even like the fact that way back when some computer guru decided to call that little gizmo we shove around with our hand a mouse. What’s wrong with “kitty” or “puppy”? The nerve! Anyway, I’d probably be a dog. I cannot live without a dog! Dakota, my 100# collie lies at my feet while I type away. He’s my bud.

What is your favorite food?

CHOCOLATE! That qualifies, right? In fact, in the typing of that word just now I started thinking about whether or not I have any more chocolate chips up in my cupboard.

Chocolate is a writer's or a girl's comfort friend. I love dark chocolate best.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

I’m so humbled to think this book is going to print. Of all the books I’ve written, it’s one of my favorites. Its premise is sad, a young couple (Jeff and Maddie Bowman) losing their only child to a tragic crib accident. But the outcome is a good one, finding Christ in the middle of their turmoil. While they suffered greatly for their loss, including the near crumbling of their marriage, one little boy (Maddie’s seven-year-old cousin) with a heartful of faith helped them see that there is life after tragedy.

The story, while rather gloomy in concept, carries a hopeful tint and, of course, Timmy, the young boy who comes to live with Jeff and Maddie on a temporary basis, adds buoyancy and bits of humor and life to the mix. In essence, he teaches them to smile again.

Although I’ve never experienced a loss of this magnitude, I have tasted grief, and I know how hard it is to struggle through the emotions day in and day out. I hope this story will inspire my readers to trust Christ through the good times as well as the bad, knowing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

To find out more about the book, go to Sharlene's web site. Thank you, Sharlene, for spending this time with us.

Remember, readers, leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Through Every Storm.


Anonymous said...

Great interview!Through Every Storm sounds wonderful.

Cherie Japp

Sheryl said...

Wonderful interview Sharlene & Lena! I loved the Wheaties box story, as I'm afraid I've done something similar :-)

I'd love to be entered in the contest to win Sharlene's book.

Kristy Dykes said...

Great interview! Thanks, Lena and Shar. Nice to "meet" you, Shar. I wish you the best.

Kristy Dykes said...

Oh, I meant to say, that was a hilarious story about the Wheaties box. You've GOT to put that in one of your novels! I can just see it now. A zany heroine and a straight-laced hero... :)

Ang said...

Great interview and the book sounds wonderful. Please enter me for this book.

smac said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind remarks. Oh, Sheryl, I'd love to know what "similar" story you have to my Wheaties one. I tell you, ladies, I have done so many silly, zany, downright absent-minded things in my life, I could fill a book with them. Hubby shakes his head at me and sometimes even quivers when he thinks what might happen next. I'm not kidding.(Mostly he just laughs hysterically.) All I can say is I must be a trip to live with.

Kristy, you've given me a great idea about using this little story in one of my future novels. Sometimes things just happen to me. They are funny to other people, but I don't see them as such until someone points them out. Then I go, oh, yeah, that was funny. Like the time I stuck my own foot under the garage door because I was curious if had that automatic feature whereby it would pop back up if something passed under it. OUCH!!!!!!!!!!! It did have the feature, but let me tell you, ladies, it takes a couple of seconds to activate.

Don't ask me why I didn't stick a block of wood under there instead. Hubby already asked me that after rolling on the floor w/ laughter when I tried to explain the bruise on my foot.

Isn't it fun to laugh at ourselves?
I love it.

Be HUGELY blessed!

Shauna said...

Wow!! Just reading the premise of the book had me nearly weeping at my computer! This subject has been a tough one for me to contemplate. I'm the mother of three beautiful, little boys and I continually ask myself, how would I handle the loss of my child? I know that children are a gift from God and ultimately belong to Him, but I can't quite grasp how one holds them with open hands.

My Aunt and Uncle experienced this loss some years ago and I cannot understand how they have managed to move on. They don't have faith in a loving God to cling to and I can't imagine how one could possibly continue without that hope.

Anyways, this book sounds wonderful, but I'm not sure I'd be able to make it through to the end. I'm in need of kleenex just sitting here thinking about it! :-) But I'm sure that this book will be a blessing to many people!

God bless you, Sharlene!

smac said...

Shauna, I know the premise sounds excruciating, but let me say that the story opens two years after the accident. It's mostly a story of love lost and found and hope coming out of desolation. And there's humor involved as well because of this precocious 7-year old who enters their lives and helps them see that all is not lost when God gets figured into the equation. Give it a try. I dare ya!

Love you all!


Norma said...

I just found this blog link on a fellow waiting-adoptive-single-mom's blog. The book sounds wonderful but I agree that I might need tissues to get through it! I don't know how this works but I would love to be entered in the contest to win this book.

smac said...

Sharlene MacLaren says...

Norma, I would love to connect to that blog site you mentioned if you can remember the address. Also, I think you'll find the story easier to read than you may think. It's not all gloom and doom. There's lots of hope and ultimate healing.

Big hugs and Blessings,

Judy said...

Wonderful interview. This sounds like a tissue book. Please add my name to the drawing for a copy.

Carole said...

I enjoyed the interview, especially your list of accomplishments, Sharlene. Sometimes the "pat" answers are the best.

All of us will sooner or later be touched by the loss of loved ones, and I appreciate you choosing that theme to write about. Thanks for entering me in the contest.


smac said...

Sharlene MacLaren says,

Judy and Carole...and everyone,
Thanks for your kind remarks.
Hope all of you are staying plenty warm. I live in West Michigan where we again are experiencing MORE SNOW! I am so ready for spring. Hubby and I are heading for Florida in a couple of weeks, and let me tell you, I can't wait!

Rachelle said...

I love the premise of the story. Looks like something worthwhile to read!

Carolynn W. said...

Great interview...I'd love to read this book