I'm happy to welcome Maureen Lang back to the blog with an interview about her latest book, On Sparrow Hill.
The first thought that usually comes to mind about this is that I write books I want to be reading. That’s the fast and simple answer, but it’s really more than that. I love books; I specifically love books that honor God. I’m convinced God uses books of all kinds to touch, teach, and grow us.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
This will probably sound cliché, but it was the day I married my husband. I’m crazy about the guy. He’s taught me so many things, and we’ve shared so much it’s impossible not to be most thankful for him.
How has being published changed your life?
Surprisingly, being published hasn’t changed my life as much as I thought it would! It’s one of those things many people believe: having a dream come true will change everything. But the fact is I’d still be writing, whether or not I became published, I’d still attend writer’s group meetings, I’d still attend conferences. Being published has undoubtedly affirmed my writing and brings me great happiness when others tell me they enjoy my books, but the actual process — putting characters to paper — is the same. And since I still do the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and serve my family, the only thing that’s changed is that I get more feedback from readers than I ever did before I was published.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading two manuscripts, one for a critique partner and one for endorsement to be released next year. I’m also reading two novels (depending on my mood). One is secular, called Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (not for the gentle reader) and The Elevator by Angela Hunt (wonderful writer!). I’m often reading more than one book at a time, and I don’t have any trouble keeping all the characters straight. If I can’t remember one set of characters when I pick up the book again, I usually don’t go back to it.
What is your current work in progress?
I’m working on a contemporary women’s fiction novel that will release through Tyndale in the Fall of ’08. This is one story I have trouble talking about in short sound bites! Hannah Williams wants to make up for not being there when her younger sister was desperate enough to attempt a murder-suicide. When she fails, it lands her sister in prison instead. So Hannah has put her own life on hold for over six years, planning and saving for the day she would return to make up for failing to be there when she was needed most. But despite her goal, her sister is convinced she doesn’t need help, especially when she learns Hannah has been refusing the attention of the man she loves all these years. The working title is “My Sister Dilly” but I’m not sure if that is set in stone yet!
Sounds wonderful. We'll want you back for an interview when it comes out. What would be your dream vacation?
Europe: Brussels, Prague, Rome . . . Someplace where history comes alive, I can learn and be fascinated by everything around me.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
I like to choose settings I’m fairly familiar with, or at least have done some research about to feel like it’s familiar. There are some places that might feel over-exploited in fiction, but really I think just about anywhere can be brought to life with fresh eyes and new perspective.
Sometimes the setting is an important part of the plot, which makes authenticity more important. For example, in the project I’m working on now, the setting is the Midwestern town the heroine left behind. She doesn’t want to live there, but feels obligated to return in order to take care of her sister. Although I’ve never lived in a small, Midwestern town, I’m familiar with such surroundings because that’s the kind of setting in which my husband grew up. In this case research was easy, but for a story where the setting impacts the character and their decisions, it has to be part of the story, almost like another character.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Anne Lamott. I think she has a lot to teach writers!
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I’ve become so boring. I used to love painting ceramics, but between family demands and the fact that I try not to have too many breakable items around the house (I have a handicapped son who loves to pick things up, look at them, then set them down in the most precarious spots!) I haven’t done much of that lately. If I had time, I might like stamping and making pretty stationery. My sister has made some really lovely cards and it looks like fun.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
All of the other demands in my life. Each of us has been given the same 24 hours in a day, but it seems like my hours disappear faster than ever! I can only write while my boys are in school, which limits my time. I haven’t figured out how to overcome this problem, although things like consistent housework, fancy cooking, and entertaining have gone by the wayside. It would be nice to be able to do it all, but I just can’t.
I know what you mean. What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Don’t give up! I know this business can be discouraging, even intimidating, but if you keep writing, keep growing by sharing your work with others, staying involved in writer’s groups and loops, there’s a very good chance you’ll see your work in print. I’ve seen writers wait a long time, but the ones who succeed are the ones who’ve stuck with it and continued to learn through workshops and critique.
On Sparrow Hill is the romantic sequel to The Oak Leaves, both published by Tyndale House. Like the first of this two-book series, On Sparrow Hill offers dual stories. Part of the book is set in contemporary times, the other in the Victorian era. On Sparrow Hill takes a European setting, with the English heroine an estate manager for the historic home now owned by a descendent of the Victorian characters in The Oak Leaves. She struggles with her attraction to the estate owner until he reveals his own feelings for her — but she knows his aristocratic mother would never approve. Through letters she finds in the family vault, the historic segment goes across the Irish Sea to a school for the “feebleminded” that was first envisioned in The Oak Leaves. In that thread, Berrie Hamilton (from The Oak Leaves) has one goal: to run the school Cosima Escott first envisioned. But when the brother of one of her students gets in the way, she isn’t sure what troubles her most: his temper or her unruly attraction to him. This story is more romantic than the first, which made it so much fun to write. Dana, also from The Oak Leaves, joins the contemporary story, and is dealing with a genetic disorder that was introduced in The Oak Leaves, the same genetic disorder I carry (Fragile X Syndrome). So this book is very special to me! I hope everyone who liked The Oak Leaves will enjoy On Sparrow Hill just as much.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Maureen, thank you for spending time with us. I can hardly wait to read both of the books.
Readers check out Maureen's web site.
And leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of On Sparrow Hill.