Giveaway and Interview with my Friend Maureen Lang!
Please make sure you leave your comment and an email address for a chance to win Maureen's book!
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?
I’m one of those writers who found my love for writing early in life. I remember finishing my first “epic” when I was around ten years old, and passing it around the neighborhood for others to read. I also invited friends over and sometimes instead of playing a game, I’d beg them to sit down and write stories with me. How many games of Kick the Can or Monopoly can you play, anyway? Not all of my friends went along with it, and no one else stuck with it. (I often wonder what the world is missing if only they’d persevered!) So I suppose the realization that I was wired to write began early, because I was different.
What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
I’ve written contemporary and historical novels, women’s fiction and romance. I think the difference between women’s fiction and romance can be subtle, at least it is with the books I’ve written. My Sister Dilly, for example, would be considered contemporary women’s fiction, but a romance is included in the story. The difference between the kind of book I like to write and a classic romance is more a matter of page time focusing on the romance. Romance is definitely part of all my stories, but it might not be the main focus.
Lately, however, I’ve been following my preference for historical settings, and my books have been getting more romantic, which is just so much fun! This newest release, Whisper on the Wind, has a mix of war tension as the backdrop, but the focus is definitely romantic. Maybe that’s why it’s one of my favorite stories…
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?
I’m on a nine-month schedule with my publisher (Tyndale), which has worked well for me. That might sound like a long time, but between research, revision, family demands and marketing other work, those months just fly by. I write every school day, just as soon as my boys get on the bus, leaving the house nice and quiet! Sometimes I aim for a minimum of 7 or 8 pages in a day, which is less than 2000 words, but when things are going well I can do far more—20 pages or so, depending on my time and energy. Those are the best days, when it’s hard for my fingertips to keep up!
Tell us about your new book. What is the spiritual message in it? What can readers expect to get from reading it? How and where can readers buy your book?
Whisper on the Wind is one of my favorites. For me, the spiritual lessons aren’t just on the pages—I began this book years ago, with God sitting right next to me at the computer, reading along, affirming for me that after many years of not writing, I was doing what He wired me to do. Finally writing a book He wanted to read! I’d written secular historical romances years before that, but given it up when life took some turns and I could no longer afford the luxury of staying home to write. When I finally returned to writing, this was the story on my heart.
I love the First World War era. Not the war itself—it was as horrific as any other. But the time period seems to have one foot in history and another in more modern times. Sometimes I would read history books from that era and I noticed references to an “illegal newsprint” call La Libre Belgique. It originated in Belgium when they were occupied by the German army, and illegal because the Germans censored everything—except this little newspaper that found a way to give hope to those who suffered under the occupation. What a brave band of people they must have been! And so I imagined my characters getting involved—a rich, spoiled young woman who falls in love with a heroic young man wanting to do whatever he can against the occupying army. He thinks she’s too young and spoiled to be noticed, until she risks her life for the same thing he believes in. Faith, for both of them, is never more real than when they lose almost everything.
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?
Since I regularly meet with a number of newer writers, I haven’t forgotten how that first goal of publication looks and feels. Any bit of success is heady, but the real prize seems to be a book contract from a traditional publisher. The myth: just get that first contract, and more will follow. I wish it were true, that we only need to be published once for a writer to find an audience and readers who will follow (no, demand!) everything they want to write. But the truth is the book industry is just as competitive after publication as it is before. As most writers know, at least those who’ve attended a writer’s conference, there are many more aspiring writers than published ones. Having critiqued many manuscripts, judged many contests, I know there are a number of talented aspiring writers out there. There simply isn’t room for everyone, which makes staying published almost as hard as getting published in the first place. That means sticking with it, not giving up, writing when we don’t feel like it, meeting deadlines (whether from an editor or self-imposed).
I also have a family, which includes my wonderful Fragile X child who is functional only at a two-year-old level even though chronologically he’s fifteen. So my days are full, and I must admit there have been times when I realize life would be so much easier if I could concentrate on my family’s needs.
But the truth is there is absolutely nothing more exciting than recording all of the stories that fill up my head—those stories that sometimes keep me sane when the rest of life is demanding, disappointing, or overwhelming. There is nothing like capturing on the page some of those every day moments that can really be poignant – faith moments, learning moments, loving moments. And then—the real icing on the cake—is hearing from readers that one of my characters helped them articulate some of their own struggles, define some of their emotions, or just helped them escape for a little while the same way I do when I’m imaging all of the story scenarios. That’s why, even if I weren’t writing for a publisher, I’d still write. The escapism is just too important to my every day sanity!
Would you 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?
Like most serious aspiring writers out there, I investigated which publishers produced books similar to the ones I wanted to write, and basically targeted every one of them. I’m not sure any aspiring writer singles out one publisher, because that so narrowly limits options, and few of us have the confidence to think whatever we write will be eagerly snapped up by our favorite publisher.
I was first published by Kregel, which is a well-established, family owned publisher. And while it was a great experience for me, I did want to broaden my exposure. I met the founder of WordServe Literary Agency at a writer’s conference, and not long after that I began working with them. It was through WordServe that I connected with Tyndale—which has been a special blessing to me since they’re local to me in the Chicago area. The Tyndale campus is less than an hour away, so I’ve occasionally stopped in for marketing meetings or to drop off Christmas cookies as a thank you to the staff for all they do to help get my books out there.
But I don’t think there are many authors who sit back and relax after getting published. If your books sell well, the pressure is on to keep those sales up. If the sales sink, the pressure is on to get them back up. Regardless of sales, if one book is received well by an audience, the pressure is on to write something new and different but still please our reading audience—an audience that wants something at least a little familiar from us. In some ways, the time before being published is easier because a writer can write with passion and has the time to explore different genres and interests. But I’m not sure any aspiring writer would see it that way, or that I saw it that way before getting published.
Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?