Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Author Interview - Maureen Lang

Angie is out of the country and I hope having a marvelous time. So I'm posting in her place.

We have a fabulous interview with Maureen Lang, author of On Sparrow Hill. I'm in the middle of reading this book and I'm loving the unique and complex subject matter that Lang has chosen to write about. She and I have something in common--a special needs child. While my daughter's issues are different, I understand what she means in her interview below. She has combined a contemporary story with the discovery of a beautiful historical woven into one book. As a reader who loves read and writes historicals and does genealogy research, I love this book and I haven't even finished it yet!

Maureen will be giving away a copy of On Sparrow Hill to a lucky winner from today's drawing, so be sure to leave a comment. You'll love this fascinating book!

Jenn:Describe yourself for our visitors. (ex. hobbies, favorite music, ministries)

Maureen: I usually think of myself first as a wife and mom, and in particular the mom to my very special “special needs” child. Grant has Fragile X Syndrome, a disorder I’m intimately familiar with and which played a part in the inspiration for The Oak Leaves and its sequel (which we’ll talk about today) On Sparrow Hill. Basically my son is physically healthy but struggles with symptoms that look very much like autism. He’s twelve but functions like a two year old in most areas. The plus side is he’s extremely sweet, smiles most of the time, and is a joy to be around if you don’t mind the noises, the messes he likes to make, or changing an occasional diaper!

I consider writing my ministry, but God has taught me so much through my son that a lot of it comes out in my writing. For example, with On Sparrow Hill, I’d been struggling with this whole servanthood thing. That’s what comes with being a parent to a child who needs so much. But why was I struggling, when to be servant is a noble thing? Isn’t what Christ came here to do summed up in servanthood?

Music is another thing that inspires me. I love Christian music these days, with so much to choose from. I often have a favorite song that seems to go with each of my books – a “sound track” so to speak, that has something in it, either an idea, a theme, or just a tune that seems to reflect some part or feeling evoked by whatever book I’m working on.

Jenn: How do you find time to connect with God?

Maureen: I start my day reading the Bible, which helps immensely. And as I said with the last question I also love listening to Christian music, especially in the car. I also love going to church! I’m a terrible singer but there’s something about worshipping as a church body that really refreshes me.
Jenn: Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

Maureen: I have lots of favorites – my husband is always teasing me that I could never come up with a top ten of anything because I keep adding more than ten. For starters, there are the classic authors like Francine Rivers, who really helped pave the way for writers like me. I also love Patricia Hickman, Siri Mitchell, Jodi Picoult, Maeve Binchy, and lots of others. But for favorite book – well, I’ll just name two. Martin Eden by Jack London and for all-around wonderful, top-notch writing, Peace Like A River by Leif Enger. I keep waiting for some new novel to knock Peace Like A River off its top spot, because it’s been out for several years now, but nothing’s done it – yet. Maybe his new novel will, which I plan to purchase when he comes to town next week!

Jenn: Tell us about your journey to publication.

Maureen: I’ve been writing (or at least loving to write) most of my life, so my journey is pretty long. The first time I submitted something to a real editor was through a High School Creative Writing class. In order to pass, all of us had to submit something for publication. It could be to a magazine, book publisher, special press, whatever, but we had to send in something. Of course I already had a full manuscript and back in those days anybody could send in a full proposal (cover letter, synopsis and three chapters) without querying first (this was back in the dark ages of the 70’s). I received a very nice rejection, telling me that my submission was better than many adult submissions this editor had received. Although it was a rejection, the personal attention gave me a lot of hope!

A few years later I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) and was soon submitting things again – to publishers and to contests, although there weren’t as many contests back then as there are today. Shortly after receiving word that my historical romance was a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart, I received a contract in the mail. No fanfare, no call, just a contract. (They don’t do this sort of thing any more.) That was a big year, receiving a contract and then winning the Golden Heart.

I went on to sell three books to this particular New York publisher, but then my life took some turns and I became a single mother. My writing didn’t pay enough to live on and I found I didn’t have enough time to be a single parent, work and write. Something had to go, and it was writing. I didn’t write for about fifteen years after that, although I did dabble in it a couple of times.

Eventually my life settled down — after a few years of ups and downs. Remarrying was definitely one of the ups, but not long after that we had a child who was born with a genetic disorder called Fragile X Syndrome. (See The Oak Leaves if you ever wonder what it’s like to get a serious diagnosis on a precious baby.) After life settled down, I started writing again. I joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and entered the Noble Theme contest (now called the Genesis). Shortly after winning that I met an editor from Kregel at the Write To Publish conference, and pitched a novel that Kregel ended up purchasing. That was Pieces of Silver, which went on to become a Christy finalist. They also bought the sequel (Remember Me).

While all that was going on, I worked on The Oak Leaves, a story very close to my heart. I went to an ACFW conference where I met Greg Johnson, my agent, who liked this book and agreed to represent it. He sold it in just a couple of months — to Tyndale, who also bought its sequel. I also have a single title releasing with them in October of this year and the first of a three book series coming out next year (2009).

As you can see, my journey was full of lots of writing and networking, before and after my first contract. That’s key for those of us who want to make it in this business. Don’t stop with one manuscript, although you should polish and make it the best it can be. But when you set that aside to acquire a fresh eye for revisions, start on something else. Always be writing!

Jenn: Tell us about your current book.

On Sparrow Hill is the sequel to The Oak Leaves, but you needn’t have read that one to enjoy this one. Some of the same characters are mentioned in both, but for the most part there are new people populating these pages, and an independent storyline. I should say two independent story lines, since this one, like The Oak Leaves, has a contemporary thread as well as an historical one. In the contemporary story, Rebecca Seabrooke is the curator for a Victorian estate north of London. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, she never really got over her childhood crush on the owner of the estate. Instead, she’s kept herself busy by making the estate the finest in England for education about Victorian living and for hosting an occasional business or wedding banquet. Things get interesting when the estate owner decides to take up residence in his country estate for the summer, admitting he has feelings for Rebecca. But his class-conscious mother decides Rebecca should stay in her place and her son in his, and sparks fly in all directions.

The historical thread follows Berrie Hamilton, who played a relatively minor role in The Oak Leaves, as she travels to Ireland to start a school for the “gentle feebleminded.” She meets one obstacle after another, not the least of which is the brother of one of her students. He can help or hurt the future of her school, and she isn’t sure which he really wants to do.

Double the story, double the romance!


Jenn: How did you come up with ideas for this book?

This book was actually inspired by my agent. He thought he could sell The Oak Leaves, but felt it would be better for my career if I could sell a two-book deal instead of a single title. I was actually hesitant, believe it or not. If someone had told me a few years before that an agent would ASK me to come up with a two-book idea and I hedged about it, I’d have said they were crazy. But I did.

The Oak Leaves has a lot of me in it, and as I mentioned it was a dual story, with a contemporary thread and an historical one. I’d already used a diary to go back and forth from one era to another, and I didn’t want to use the same technique even though I recognized for a sequel to work the second book would need the same structure.

But when my agent said: “Isn’t there a character in this book you’d like to spend more time with?” I knew there was. As usual, the historical segment was easier for me and there was a character named Berrie that really appealed to me. I wanted to give her a story. But the contemporary part? That was harder… I did want to see what might have been going on with the contemporary descendents from the historical characters from Oak Leaves.

I experimented with a few different characters and ended up being surprised by the modern day curator taking care of the contemporary estate in England. I’d actually proposed doing a story based more on other characters, but once I “met” this curator, she just took over the contemporary story for On Sparrow Hill. I love it when that happens.

Jenn: List your three most recent books (if applicable).

The Oak Leaves and On Sparrow Hill are my most recent titles (both with Tyndale). Before that, from Kregel Publications, there was Pieces of Silver and its sequel, Remember Me.

Jenn: What's next for you?

My Sister Dilly is a single title contemporary women’s fiction that releases in October of this year. Basically it’s the story of two sisters, with a romance for one and the hint of one for the other. Can’t go wrong with a romance!

Here’s a blurb about it:
Hannah Williams leaves her small, Midwestern hometown in favor of the faster pace and trendier lifestyle of LA. But when her sister Dilly makes a horrible mistake and ends up in prison, Hannah goes back home to make up for "abandoning" her - leaving in LA the one man she's ever loved. But she learns she can't really go back, all she can do is accept forgiveness. Both her sister's and God's.

Jenn: Where can visitors find you online?

http://www.maureenlang.com/
______________________________________________________________

Maureen, Thank you for joining us!

If you'd like to be entered in the drawing for Maureen's latest novel, please leave your email address and at least a first name in the comment section. I'll contact the winner by email for a mailing address.

19 comments:

  1. I cannot wait to read this book! Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I've been curious about the historical treatment of kids with disabilities. Thanks, Maureen!
    Jill
    jillholter(at)comcast(dot)net

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  2. I loved Oak Leaves and would love to read Sparrow Hill. Please enter me. forest_rose[at]yahoo[dot]com.
    Melissa

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  3. Great interview. I haven't read anything my Maureen yet. This does look good.
    Please put me in for the drawing.

    Thanks

    www.psalm516.blogspot.com

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  4. Jennifer, thanks for doing the giveaway!! I haven't read anything by Maureen Lang yet, but everything I've heard about this book and her other book makes me want to. Please sign me up for the drawing!! :o)

    Thanks,
    Christy (orca0024@yahoo.com)

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  5. What a journey! And what a testimony! I would love to read her newest book! Please enter my name for the drawing.

    Kim
    kimfurd at hotmail dot com

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  6. What a wonderfully inspiring story! As a teacher, I am always amazed at the strength of parents with special needs children. I would love to read your next book. Please enter me in the drawing.

    Danna
    shawnanddanna@verizon.net

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  7. I didn't know there was a book trailer. It is awesome. Please enter me. I loved Oak Leaves.

    fragile (dot) what (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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  8. Hi Maureen

    Many thanks for this interview- i enjoyed reading it.

    I'm halfway through Oak Leaves and loving it. Which song did you feel was your sound track when you were writing this book?

    Please enter me in the drawing for On Sparrow Hill. Thank you.

    God bless

    Ruth Dell

    tonydell@mweb.co.za

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  9. Currently reading The Oak Leaves so I would love to read this one next. Please enter me.
    runninmama at sbcglobal dot net

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  10. What an enjoyable and interesting interview.
    I'd love to read On Sparrow Hill.
    hawkes(at)citlink.net

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  11. Maureen, you are an inspiration as you have kept your faith strong through having a child with Fragile X, as I do. I cannot wait to read "On Sparrow Hill" as well as "The Oak Leaves" as I will be going on vacation soon and can't wait to dive in to your books.
    Mary Conaway mconaway(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  12. Enter me in the drawing. It sounds like it hits some very deep topics in a fictional world. spowell01(at)bellsouth(dot)net

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  13. What a awesome interview. I would love to be entered in the drawing to win this book.

    Blessings,
    Jo

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  14. I'm sorry to make it so late today!

    Maureen and Jenn, that was an excellent interview! I've read a good big on Maureen's website previously, but learned even more today.

    Maureen, your books sound so good!!

    Missy

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  15. Jenn, Maureen, great interview. Sorry I can't be in the drawing...I'll just have to purchase.
    Thanks for visiting!!!

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  16. I just wanted to thank everyone for stopping by and reading the interview, and especially to those who left a comment. It's so nice to hear from real, live people! Sometimes it's hard to imagine our books in the hands of those we don't personally know. :-)
    Ruth asked about what sound track I had in mind for Oak Leaves. I had a couple of them, actually. The historical segment came to me first, and there is a song on one of my son's Disney CD's that's from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a prayer for the outcasts. Every time I heard that song (which was often since that's one of my son's favorite CDs!) I envisioned Cosima singing it.
    For the contemporary thread, there were many songs. At one point my contemporary hero (Luke) had an interest in old-time pop songs - like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney - George Clooney's aunt, I believe, for all of you younger readers who have no idea who any of the above named people are. :-) Unfortunately, most of the references to this kind of music were eventually edited out, but they still helped me envision the story.
    For On Sparrow Hill it was everything British - do you remember "Those Were The Days" by Mary Hopkin? If Lady Elise would have ever listened to anything other than classical music (only the snootiest) or stepped foot into a pub, she would have loved that song. I also thought my book trailer designer had just the right music for the background to this book - really on target.
    And I've just finished revisions on My Sister Dilly. For that book I listened to a lot of Carole King and the sound track to My Best Friend's Wedding. It's such fun to be taken into the stories through music.
    Thanks for asking!
    Maureen

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  17. Maureen is a new author to me, and I've been wanting to read this book since it first came out. I learned so much from the interview and appreciate both of you taking the time.

    I recently stumbled across Peace Like a River at the library and thought it looked good. I haven't read it yet, but can't wait to now because of Maureen's recommendation.

    Thank you for the opportunity to win Maureen's book.

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

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  18. Maureen, thanks for sharing your story with us. Your love for your child is so very evident! He's lucky to have a great mom like you! My daughter teaches a self-contained classroom of autistic boys so "special" children are always on my heart!

    Your books sound wonderful! Congrats on all your writing success.

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