Maureen Lang’s interview

» Posted on Mar 4, 2008 in Blog | Comments Off on Maureen Lang’s interview

Don’t forget to comment (with email address in it) or email me at if you want to enter the drawing for On Sparrow Hill by Maureen Lang. The drawing ends on Sunday night.

1. What made you start writing?

I’ve always loved telling stories. I’m actually not sure how this writing thing started in me, except stories have always floated through my mind. I like to think my parents played a big part in my inspiration. My mother used to tell stories to my sister and me at bedtime, stories she made up that were so creative. I also recall my dad telling a neighbor that I was “the creative one” and I guess I believed it, too. So here I am, telling stories the way my mother used to, right out of her head, and hoping to live up to my father’s assessment of me.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

I have two break-in stories. I sold my first book to a traditional publisher many years ago, when I was in my twenties. I was writing secular historical romances at the time, an active member of RWA. I recall submitting manuscripts to many publishers, back in the day writers didn’t absolutely need agents the way we do today. One day a contract arrived in the mail. No fanfare, no phone call. Just a contract. I had to read the top sheet several times before I believed it — but there it was, my name and the title of my book (which they didn’t hesitate to change, of course!).

But my life went through a series of changes and, after writing three books for the secular market I ended up withdrawing a fourth from the agent I had by then. I gave up writing for fifteen years, having rededicated my life to my faith in Christ and knowing He didn’t want me to be writing that kind of novel. I wasn’t equipped yet to write for Him, although I did try to rework one of my old stories and received some brief interest from a publisher at the time. But the Inspirational fiction market was really negligible back then, and between working and raising my daughter on my own, I just didn’t have the time and energy needed to devote to writing full time. So I gave it up, thinking that was the right choice at the time.

Fifteen years later, I started writing again. It took a few years of figuring out my strengths and really trusting God for the benefits of writing (even if that benefit was strictly a closer relationship between Him and I) before receiving another offer, this time via email. Once again, no fanfare, no phone call. Just a polite inquiry from the Kregel Publisher wanting to know if Pieces of Silver was still available, and if so they would like to speak to me about publishing it. Needless to say I was overjoyed. That book released in 2006, and in 2007 was a finalist for a Christy.

Since then, Remember Me (the sequel to Pieces of Silver) released in February of 07, followed by two books with Tyndale House, The Oak Leaves, which released in May of 07, and On Sparrow Hill which just came out in January of 08 (a month early!). Later this year I have another book coming out with Tyndale titled My Sister Dilly, and my agent just negotiated a three book deal for me with Tyndale where I’ll be returning to the First World War for some war angst — and of course romance!

3. How do you handle rejections?

Writing is such a solitary endeavor it’s easy to get down about rejections. If it were a team sport, we could commiserate with others and share the sorrow, commit together to work out any kinks and knock ‘em dead next time. But since most of us do this writing thing all alone at our computer, it’s easy to second guess ourselves and let rejections get us down. For me, if something isn’t working I try to figure out why. It’s easier, of course, if you get feedback from an editor, but without that the next best option is to go to writer friends, critique groups, (online or face-to-face) to see about getting to the next level. Rejections can be a step to the next project, the one that’ll be “it.” But of course it’s always a while after getting over the rejection that hope returns for new projects. I give myself a little time to grieve, but inevitably I’m back at this writing thing again. I really can’t stop myself from writing, no matter how many rejections and in whatever form they come.

4. Why do you write?

I write because I can’t stop myself. I have these characters floating around in my head, and sooner or later they just have to come out. I have to admit I don’t think I could teach someone how to write a book; if they did what I did, they’d just sit down and write (well, after lots of researching and pondering!). Sometimes, when things are going well, it’s just a matter of dictation. My fingers can hardly keep up with what’s going on with these characters “out there.” That’s when writing is really fun!

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

I’d read. I actually consider myself a reader first, because writing for me is just another way of reading, only I get to decide who’s in the book and what the goals and obstacles are, and how they get to work it out. When writing is really going well, it feels like the characters are doing all the work and I’m just an observer.

6. What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished a book called My Sister Dilly, which will release from Tyndale later this year. It’s the story of a woman who leaves her small Midwestern town behind, preferring the faster pace and trendier lifestyle of LA. But when her younger sister makes a terrible mistake and ends up in prison, this woman returns home to help. She finds out, though, that she can’t really go back, all she can do is learn to accept forgiveness for “abandoning” her younger sister when that sister needed her most. It was fun to write because of course there is a romance in there, but it was also fun to explore the relationship between these two sisters.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

I think to a certain extent it’s impossible to completely separate ourselves from our characters, even the really bad ones. Not that we, as authors, can envision ourselves doing all the things our characters do, but we have to understand them. Know what motivates them, what stops them, what makes them be the way they are. If our eyes are the filter through which they see everything, it’s impossible not to have some of “us” rub off.

But in The Oak Leaves I did find more of myself in there than usual, mainly because the main character faced some of the same challenges I’ve faced in my own life. She goes through a serious diagnosis for her son, and all the stages that go along with that. In the case of this book in particular, I really did “write what I knew.”

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

On Sparrow Hill is the sequel to The Oak Leaves, which released last year – but it’s important to know that you needn’t have read Oak Leaves to fully understand and enjoy On Sparrow Hill. Some of the characters from Oak Leaves are revisited, but the two stories stand independent, too.

This book has a parallel story line, both romances this time, which was double the fun. The contemporary heroine is the curator for one of England’s finest historical homes, and she’s proud of her job and wants to keep it. Problem is, she’s had a crush on the owner of the estate for a long time and when he returns to take up residence there for the summer, he complicates things by admitting his own interest in her. As much as she would like to proceed, she isn’t so sure the classes should mix, especially with his old-fashioned, class-conscious mother as one of their main obstacles. But old letters they discover written by a Victorian relative over a hundred and fifty years ago teach my contemporary character that some things are worth fighting for.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

I always tell people who are interested in writing that they should do three things:

1) Join American Christian Fiction Writers. It’s a great online resource for information about the industry, and for connecting and networking with other authors.
2) Join a critique group. ACFW can help connect you to one, but it’s also nice to join one that’s face-to-face. Having others read your work is vital to seeing how people perceive your work, and writers read differently than the rest of the world, so their feedback is invaluable.
3) Attend writer’s conferences, as your budget allows. They’re great for figuring out what this industry is all about, and very often have classes that teach the writing craft from the basics on up.

10. How important is faith in your books?

As I mentioned before, I used to write seculars until the Lord called me back to His side. I gave up writing at that time because those secular romances didn’t glorify or honor Him, and I knew if I ever wrote again it would only be for Him. These days, God teaches me something through every book I write, and I always, always, feel closer to Him during the process. I think anyone who finds and then actually gets to do what they’ve been wired to do cannot help but be drawn closer to our creative God, who lavishes so many gifts on us, even work as it’s truly meant to be — a blessing.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

Theme is important to me, and each of my books has one. For my first two Inspirationals, the themes revolved around betrayal and patriotism. For Oak Leaves, it was unconditional love, not only between a parent and child or a man and woman, but between us and God. For On Sparrow Hill the theme was servanthood and how God is pleased with a servant’s heart. For My Sister Dilly the underlying message is all about forgiveness — between us and God, between us and others, all within the context of relationship, because that’s where forgiveness has the most value.

I am somewhat of a thematic writer, because once I’ve identified what the theme is for each book, it’s easier to stay on track as I write it. If you haven’t already noticed from the length of my answers here, word count for me is only an issue in length (not in brevity) so I can easily go off on tangents if I don’t keep my theme in mind. ☺

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

I’d like to say whatever book I’m working on at the time is my favorite, and in a sense that’s true, because if I don’t bring passion and excitement to a project, it’ll be impossible to write.

But The Oak Leaves will always hold a special place in my heart, because it has a lot of “me” in it. The contemporary story thread follows a woman who fears there might be something wrong with her son. She goes through denial, guilt, doubt in God, into finally accepting the truth. All the things I did when I went through the same process in my own life. The Oak Leaves isn’t an autobiography by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have a lot of my experiences in it. I wanted to share that life experience, and let others know about Fragile X Syndrome, which is the disorder my characters struggle with, and a huge part of my own life because my 12 year old son is profoundly affected by this disorder.

13. What is your writing schedule like?

I write like crazy when my boys are in school during the day. And believe me, those days go quickly. But there’s nothing like being validated by what I’d be doing anyway, so getting the opportunity to share my work with others has been a huge blessing to me.

Thanks so much for having me, Margaret. Your questions were delightful!