Readers, today we're talking to Maureen Lang.
Since all of my characters are filtered through me and my perceptions, experiences, history and personality, all of them probably have a little bit of me in them. In one book, The Oak Leaves (a recent release from Tyndale) the contemporary heroine is very much like me. In fact during the first draft, she was a little too much like me because some of her experiences as a mom finding out her child is mentally handicapped happened to me. I had to go back and distance myself from the character, making her less like me, to make the book easier to write. Usually my heroines are women I’d LIKE to be, or if they have some weakness or fault it’s one I can identify with.
I know what you mean. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I have to laugh at this because I’m so-not-quirky. I was once with a carload of women as we drove down to Nashville for our ACFW conference and they each said to me I was the most “normal” person they knew. I wasn’t sure how to take that (my translation: normal = boring) but they assured me they liked me anyway. I do like to have quirky characters, however, so maybe I’m just living vicariously through them!
So based on that qualifier, the quirkiest thing about me will probably be snickered upon by those who are truly quirky. I often can’t remember how old I am. Once I turned 21 it stopped being interesting. However, now that I’m nearing 50, which seems to be a marker, I’ll probably be able to keep it straight, at least for a few years!
You are so young. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I was very young – maybe 9 or 10. I wrote an entire book (which was probably only around 30 notebook pages long, with large printing and very wide margins) and passed it around the neighborhood. It was so much fun I’ve been doing it ever since.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I enjoy women’s fiction and historical romance, so that includes both contemporary and historical settings. I like a book where the conflict is deep, the character grows, emotions are touched —but if it has a romance in the story, all the better!
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I actually wrote three secular romances for a New York publisher about twenty-some years ago, but those books are long out of print and didn’t honor God, so I rarely mention them. When God brought me back to Him, I knew if I ever wrote again I’d tell only stories that honor Him. My debut Inspirational was Pieces of Silver, which was a finalist for a Christy. The sequel to that, Remember Me, came out this past February, and the following May The Oak Leaves released. Pieces of Silver and Remember Me are both set during the First World War, and Oak Leaves has a combination setting, contemporary Chicago and Victorian England, so it was the best mix for my taste. The sequel to The Oak Leaves is titled On Sparrow Hill and will release in February of ’08. It, too, has a combination setting, this one between contemporary England and Victorian Ireland.
Maureen, tell us how you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Sometimes it feels like I don’t! My boys are young (nine and twelve) and I really do enjoy spending time with them. I also never feel like my husband and I have enough time together, so all that adds up to stress. It’s sometimes difficult to find childcare because my twelve year old is handicapped, so it’s a good thing I’m a homebody. Still, you don’t have to leave your hometown to feel like there is too much to do in a day.
The thing that helps me most to get a grip on life in general is writing, which is a wonderful thing considering my occupation. There is something about creating a fictional world, one where you as the author have some control, can touch emotions, find satisfaction, that makes facing the real world so much easier. I honestly feel that if God wired us up a certain way, and we’ve found out what it is and are blessed to be able to DO it, nothing is more satisfying. It’s what we were made to do.
I totally agree with that. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I always have a setting chosen first, whether it’s contemporary or historical, American or some other country. One of my favorite name books lists names by country, which is so helpful. I like unusual names, ones that haven’t been used too often, but they can’t be too far out there, either, or it just won’t feel right. I once wrote an entire book with the hero’s name “Cosmo” but I suspect if I dust that one off and try selling it, the first order of revision will be choosing a new name. It’s funny, though, because by the end of writing that book the name really fit him.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’m proud of all of my books, because I not only enjoyed the process, but I stuck with the whole writing passion even through the inevitable rejections. Getting a book contract is a major accomplishment. But I would have to say I’m most proud of The Oak Leaves, because it reflects so much of my own experiences. That storyline revolves around a woman receiving a Fragile X diagnosis on her son, which is a genetic form of mental retardation. It’s something I faced personally—my twelve-year-old has Fragile X. So few people have heard of this disorder that I knew “someday” I would write a book that contained this element and I could help spread the word about it. If more people hear about it, they might be inclined to donate for research and education about it. When I began the book I honestly didn’t feel like I was ready to write it, but I really felt nudged to go ahead with the project anyway. When the book came out about three years after I wrote the first draft, I hosted a book launch party and raised over two thousand dollars for the National Fragile X Foundation. I’m proud of that.
That is an accomplishment. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’d probably choose to be a dog, because most of them have the sweetest, most selfless personalities. I’d like to be that way…
What is your favorite food?
Hmmm….cookies…no, chocolate….no…cookies with chocolate…
You're making me hungry. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Finding a publisher! I’d been away from writing for twenty years. When I came back to it the kind of writing I wanted to do had nothing to do with the writing I once did. Granted writing is a bit like riding a bike in that you don’t forget how, but it would’ve been nice to keep some contacts and have a writing network maintained to be able to help get my foot back in the door. But even if I’d done that, it wouldn’t have helped because I switched markets. It took me about four years to find a publisher again, one who was willing to take a chance on an unknown. I also think these days it’s just as hard to find an agent as it is to find a publisher, and I’m very glad to be working with Greg Johnson so I don’t have to worry about that.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Write! Rewrite! Submit! As soon as you submit, start something new, because when the rejections come in (notice I didn’t say ‘if’ the rejections come in) you’ll have new hope with your new project. That’s not to say to give up on the first project, but when the rejections come and you try to understand why, you’ll find revising something old is possible to do even while you’re creating something new. Every bit of writing will teach you something, so if you keep at it you’ll just get better and better.
Remember Me was so much fun to write. It’s set during one of my absolute favorite time settings, the First World War (1914-1918) ,and it’s more romantic than the first book, Pieces of Silver. I love a good romance! Plus, the hero in Remember Me is near and dear to my heart. He really was supposed to be “finished off” at the end of Pieces of Silver where he was initially introduced, but I found myself liking the guy so much I just couldn’t give him such a sad and hopeless ending. And so Remember Me was born!
I know what you mean. In my Minnesota series, I thought the hero and the heroine in the second book were taken care of in The Other Brother. But God showed me something different. Their story became His Brother's Castoff. How can readers find you on the Internet?
www.maureenlang.com or I have a blog on Amazon Connect and a page on Shoutlife. Drop me a note, I love hearing from my readers!
Maureen, thank you for spending this time with us.
Readers, you'll want a chance to win a copy of Remember Me. So leave a comment on this interview.
I will be going to the national American Christian Fiction Writers Conference later this week, so I'm going to post two more interviews before I go. You don't want to miss any of them.