Friday, December 14, 2007

Interview with Sharlene Mcclaren

Caroline: How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?

First, thanks so much for this opportunity to share from my heart. It’s always such a blessing to me. Now, onto your question. I’ve always enjoyed writing—but I didn’t actually write my first novel until the year 2000. I was a couple of years away from retirement and already fretting about what I was going to do with myself. I pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, something that would fulfill me – as my teaching career had done. It started with a dream. I know that sounds “cliché-ish”, but it’s true. I dreamt I’d written a book. I thought the dream was odd, but after dreaming it three more times, I sat up, took notice, and thought, hmm, is God trying to tell me something? (Slow learner!) So, with much trepidation and an idea for a story floating around in my head, I sat at my computer one fine summer day in the year 2000 and started writing. Now, five pubbed books later, I’m going strong as ever! Praise God!

Caroline: What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

Shar: My first book, Spring’s Promise, pubbed in 2002. It is a contemporary women’s fiction/romance. I pubbed that book with a print-on-demand operation, but the price of the book is exorbitant. I wanted a mainline publisher and prayed for one. In the meantime, I studied the market, the industry, the craft. I joined online writing groups, organizations like the wonderful American Christian Fiction Writers, and attended all kinds of seminars and conventions. Of course, it was trial and error as I submitted one query and proposal after another and my file of rejections grew thicker by the month. Finally, in 2006, I signed a contract with Whitaker House, and they pubbed my second contemporary work—women’s fiction/romance—titled Through Every Storm. My real “love”, though, is reading and writing historical romance, so that’s what followed. My Little Hickman Creek Series contains three books, the third and final one in the series releasing in March/April of ’08. Titles of the three books are Loving Liza Jane, Sarah, My Beloved, and Courting Emma.

Caroline: How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?

Shar: Right now, I’m working on a six-month deadline (six months for each upcoming book in my next series). That forces me to write a minimum of about 1,000 words per day. If I can do that, I’m happy. Some days other things take precedence and I write nothing, and some days I can write more than that, so it evens out. It just depends on how my schedule looks.

Caroline: What is the spiritual message in your latest book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?

Shar: My latest book, Sarah, My Beloved, second in my historical series, is about a young woman who marries a man for convenience’ sake, but it is ultimately about learning to trust God in the midst of hard times. When she marries him, it is to help him care for the niece and nephew who are ‘dropped on his doorstep’ after his sister’s premature death. He’s a bitter man, though, and living with him, let alone learning to love him, will take an act of God. The reader winds up cheering on this couple and the two unfortunate children caught in the middle and, of course, the ending is, hm, quite satisfying. (grins)

Caroline: You recently had another book published. Would you take this time to describe it to us? Where can we find your books for purchase?

Shar: As stated earlier, I have four published books to date. A fifth, the final one in my series, will hit shelves in March of ’08, and then I’m to launch yet another three-book series in early ’09. The series currently available has an 1895-96, Kentucky setting. Each book focuses on one of the women in the town, the first a schoolteacher who finds love, the second, a woman who marries for convenience’ sake, and the third, a rough-around-the- edges-woman who runs a boardinghouse and discovers unexpected love with one of her tenants. My books are all available through Barnes & Noble and Christian bookstores, also online. (See the final question for more details on that.)

Caroline: Where do you get ideas? Character names? Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?

Shar: Oh, my goodness, they are all floating around up there in my head, ideas, character names, plots, settings. I guess you could say I have an imagination that won’t quit. Are they like me? Well, not really, but I suppose a little bit of myself sneaks in there every once in a while.

Caroline: Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?

Shar: I never really feel like giving up, but I certainly do stress out once in a while. On those nights when I have trouble sleeping, I pray and ask the Lord to help me trust Him. He is the giver of “the gift”, and so I know in my heart, He will provide me with the words, the ideas, the character development, and the ability to complete a project. Currently I’m working under a deadline, and I’ll be honest, there is stress and worry that comes with deadlines. Bottom line is you HAVE to be creative whether you feel like it or not, and some days it’s like dragging a stubborn mule down a bumpy road to eke those words out, but somehow they come. Writing for pleasure is a lot different from writing under contract, but I still love it more than I can describe. I guess that’s what they call true passion. My biggest inspiration, of course, is my Heavenly Father, but since all my stories are romantic, I have to say my dear, precious husband of 32 years inspires me in ways you can only imagine. Hee-hee. As a romance writer, let me just say, it does help to be married to a romantic, sweet, and caring guy.

Caroline: Would you roughly explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Grin. Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?

Shar: Well, I mentioned earlier that I’ve accumulated quite a rejection pile. Before, I would finish a manuscript and then shop it to several different publishers. If it failed, I might go back and rework it for the dozenth time—OR set it aside and start an entirely different book. (Sound like torture? Haha.)

When I finally contracted with a mainline publisher in the spring of ’06, it was because in ‘05 I had sent complete proposals of Through Every Storm to about 15 different publishers. I just changed the heading, address, etc., made up as many copies as I needed of query letters, bio sheets, synopses, and first three chapters, put them in big bubble envelopes, and mailed them out with a huge prayer. Sound like a lot of work? Believe me, it is. You ALWAYS pray that your proposal will land in the exact right hands because timing is everything, God’s timing, that is.

Well, about six months after I’d mailed all those proposals—and received a handful of rejections and no responses from everyone else, I chalked that proposal up as another failure. And then came the day when Whitaker House contacted me for a full manuscript. I tried not to get too excited because I’d had full reads requested many times before. It’s always a big encouragement to writers, though, to get that request. It sort of gives you that extra boost that causes you to say, “Don’t quit. Someone besides the Lord and my family believes in me!” (grins) Well, all that to say this…after Whitaker read the book, and it passed through several editors and committees, they FINALLY offered me a contract. Yippee!

Once “Storm” went to press, they requested a look at my other projects, and the rest is history. I am now working on my fifth contracted book with Whitaker House, with two more to follow. You asked if I can now sit back and relax. Hahaha. Relax? What is that?

Caroline: Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could? Etc.

Shar: My true love is my family—and particularly my beautiful, charming, handsome grandson born March 21, 2006. In March and July of ’08 we’re expecting two more grandchildren, so this is a WONDERFUL time in the life of Cecil and Shar MacLaren. We absolutely adore being grandparents. Hobbies? Well, besides writing, I’m an avid reader, of course. I also love hanging out with Cecil, going to movies (decent ones), eating at fun restaurants, spending time with our many precious Bible study friends, and traveling. I’m not athletic, much to my husband’s chagrin, so while he’s golfing on vacations, I hang out at the pool or shop. I’m very contented to let him do his thing, and he feels the same way about me. We’re very in love, compatible, and happy to give each other the freedom to do what they enjoy most.

I also love to sing. Before writing became my passion, I was a soloist and choir member. I’ve sung for weddings, funerals, conferences, banquets, retreats, you name it. I’m still involved with my church worship team, but really, music has taken somewhat of a backseat, which is fine for now. It’s just where God has placed me, and it’s all good.

Caroline: Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?

Shar: Oh, do please come over. I love visitors. I will always reply to emails or comments on my website or blog. I’m also a member at Shoutlife, a wonderful Christian community much like MySpace or Facebook—but oh, so much better. Anyone can join, and it’s simply fantastic. Here’s my contact information, and thanks for the opportunity you’ve given me to share. This has been wonderful fun. May God bless each of you with bountiful grace, mercy, hope and joy!

Shar MacLaren

Available books:

Through Every Storm – contemporary romance

Little Hickman Creek Series:

Loving Liza Jane

Sarah, My Beloved

Courting Emma (March ’08)

In January ’09, watch for my 3-book Daughters of Jacob Kane Series

You may purchase books at Barnes & Noble or at your local Christian bookstore. If you can’t locate them on shelves, feel free to order at the store. Of course, they’re also available through or

YUM! Yum!

Creamy Christmas Eggnog

Soft Custard (below)
1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 or 2 drops yellow food color, if desired
Ground nutmeg

Prepare Soft Custard

Just before serving, beat whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in
chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Gently
stir 1 cup of the whipped cream and food color into custard.

Pour custard mixture into small punch bowl. Drop remaining whipped cream in
mounds onto custard mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately.
Refrigerate any remaining eggnog.

Soft Custard
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
Dash of salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix eggs, sugar and salt in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk.
Cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture
just coats a metal spoon; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Place saucepan
in cold water until custard is cool. (If custard curdles, beat vigorously
with hand beater until smooth.) Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but
no longer than 24 hours.

Don't forget to watch for multipublished Lena Dooley, next Friday. We'll be choosing two lucky people to get one of her books each.

The earth has grown old with its burden of care But at Christmas it always is young, The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair And its soul full of music breaks the air, When the song of angels is sung."
~ Phillips Brooks (1835-93),



Belinda said...

Great interview!!! Her books sound interesting...

Caroline said...

They are. And she is SUCH a sweet, helpful person, always takes time out to answer questions & do what she can to encourage. She's one writer I promote wholeheartedly & mainly because of her attitude.

Break Time!

In Case Anyone is Wondering What's Going on with few posts lately-- I'm taking a short hiatus. Deciding where I want to...