So quite a few of you have left comments on the post to win Deborah Vogt's new novel. I look forward to choosing a winner next Monday!
Now, I am thrilled to bring you yet another book giveaway! Two giveaways this week! Is that cool or what?
Today, I am posting an interview that I conducted with multi-published author, Maureen Lang. Maureen's novel, Look to the East was released last month. Leave a comment on this blog post to WIN a copy of this wonderful book!
About Look to the East:
Village under siege. A love under fire.
At the dawn of the First World War, the small village of Briecourt is isolated from the early battles while a century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de Colvilles still rages in the streets. But when the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides of the feud are forced to work together to hide stragglers caught behind enemy lines.
Juliette Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls in love with one of the men in hiding—a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur—she knows she’s flirting with danger.
Charles Lassone has been waiting in the church cellar, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if he’s discovered, it will threaten the entire village—including Julitte—and could cost Charles his life.
Now, join me as I get to know Maureen a little better.
LYNDA: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
MAUREEN: I think I “formally” discovered writing when I was about ten years old. (No kidding!) I’ve always wanted to tell stories, and I completed my first novel at age ten. Handwritten. A romance. (Of course!) I don’t really know why I started writing, I just did. It’s like asking me why I have brown eyes; I just do. I suppose there’s a genetic answer to the eye color question, but for not for writing—or is there? I guess I was wired to write; it comes naturally to me, it “feels” right. I can’t not write, I just have to do it. It makes me happy.
LYNDA: What was the road to publication like for you?
MAUREEN: I’ve actually been down two publication roads. The first journey was when I was writing steamy seculars over 25 years ago. So although I was using a talent I believed my Creator gave me, I wasn’t doing it for His glory or honor. And yet He still blessed me in that regard. My first contract came with no fanfare, just a “simple” contract arriving in my mailbox. This was before email (believe it or not!) but I didn’t even receive a phone call (because yes, the phone had been invented by then!).
I’d been involved in RWA (Romance Writers of America) and had learned so much about formatting, submitting, and general things about the industry. I also entered the Golden Heart Contest, and not long after receiving the contract in the mail, I learned my submission had won. It was quite a year! I went on to publish three historical romances with the same publisher (which are thankfully out of print and under a different name).
However, my life took some turns after that. I went through a divorce and faced not only single parenthood, but returning to the working world. Even though I had the possibility of publishing more books, making enough money to live on is rare for authors. But more importantly, when I went through my divorce I took stock of things; I looked at my life, what I believed, what I wanted, and realized how far behind I’d left my faith. I knew God didn’t want to be an afterthought, He wanted to be involved in all of my decisions, from trivial to major. I rededicated my life to Christ, and it was obvious He didn’t want me writing books that didn’t honor God.
I didn’t have time to write anyway! I actually didn’t write again consistently until about fifteen years later, after I’d remarried and my life settled down. And when I did, words just poured out. I joined another writer’s group, this time one where I knew everyone was striving to write the kinds of books I knew I’d want to write: ones that honor God. I ended up winning the Noble Theme Award for one of my early manuscripts, that contest being the precursor for ACFW’s Genesis. (American Christian Fiction Writer’s) About a year after that, I received my first contract from Kregel Publications, and not long after that another contract with Tyndale House. I’ve been working with Tyndale for a few years now, and loving the entire process.
LYNDA: Very cool testimony. It's amazing how God works, isn't it? So who are some of your favorite authors?
MAUREEN: Oh, my goodness—so many! And I’m always afraid I’ll leave someone out when I answer this question, so I tend not to get too specific. I’ll just say my critique partner is Siri Mitchell, and one of the main reasons we came together was that I was already a huge fan of her work!
LYNDA: Safe answer! LoL. You’ve written both historical and contemporary fiction. What are some of the things you enjoy about each process and does one or the other come easier for you?
MAUREEN: I’ve always preferred historical fiction. I think the reason for that is it feels more like an “escape” to me, at least more of an escape than contemporary novels provide. Not that I want a total escape; science fiction and fantasy novels tend to feel too far from reality for me, although I know those genres are popular and can be fun to read. I guess I feel that of the three settings, contemporary, historical, or fantasy, I prefer the middle ground. More of an escape than our contemporary world, but not out of this world, either.
As far as the process of writing either contemporary or historical, I find myself being meticulous with both but in different ways. For historical, I love submerging into the daily life details. If I can get a good picture of how their routines would have been, from the food to the clothing to the environment, it’s much easier to feel immersed in their time period. I have an easier time watching the characters come alive if I know what they would’ve been doing during their day.
For contemporaries, since I share the same time period with my characters, I already know much of what they would have available to them. I tend to look for details specific to their occupations or unique challenges. Contemporary research often seems more complicated to me, simply because I have to depend more on my research than I do on my imagination. I can imagine what something will look like under the glow of candlelight, but for a contemporary setting if I don’t get the details right about the difference between a soft white light bulb and fluorescent lighting, I’ve lost all credibility. Bottom line? I think historicals allow authors more room for imagination, while contemporary stories have to live up to what everyone alive today might—or might not—expect in an author’s description of something we all see and experience.
LYNDA: Tell us a little about your new book, Look to the East.
MAUREEN: Look To The East is one of my favorite projects. It was one of those stories where, at times, my fingers couldn’t keep up with what the characters were doing. I love it when that happens!
This story follows the romance of Julitte Toussaint and Charles Lassone. Charles tries to volunteer to fight against the Germans just as the First World War breaks out, but he’s too late. The war has already begun, and there is so much havoc he can’t make it to officially join the Belgian army, where he has at least part-time residency. He’s caught behind the battle lines, forced to take shelter in a small French village where he meets Julitte, the adoptive daughter of a sailor. They fall in love despite the danger—if the Germans were to find Charles, it would be death for him and perhaps the same for anyone helping him. And when Charles escapes, he comes back for Julitte, proving to himself and to her that he’s not the coward he thought he was at the beginning of the book.
LYNDA: It sounds wonderful, Maureen. I'll defintely be adding Look to the East to my "to-be-read" pile. Tell us about the other two books in this series.
MAUREEN: I’ve just turned in Book Two in this Great War Series. Although I always say whatever book I’m currently immersed in is my favorite, this one really feels like it is! It has a similar time setting with the backdrop being WWI, but this time rather than France, Book Two is set in Brussels, Belgium. I haven’t heard of many books set there, and once I was able to visit Belgium all I kept thinking was why hasn’t this lovely country been in more novels? It has a rich history, flavored every bit European, just like France or England…and yet few people I speak to know much about it.
This second book is titled Whisper on the Wind, and it’s the story of two people who live in occupied Brussels and become involved in a secret press—that is, printed and distributed without the permission of the ruling German army. Basically both sides, the Germans and the Belgians, believe in the power of the printed word. Which is why my characters enter into the endeavor knowing it could cost them their lives—and it very nearly does! Oh, and did I mention one of those two characters has been in love with the other nearly all her life? When he realizes she’s grown up to be not only beautiful but courageous, he can’t help but fall in love too—even though he believes their lives are caught up in too much danger to be distracted by love…
LYNDA: I’m sure you receive lots of reader mail. What’s the nicest feedback you’ve ever gotten about one of your novels?
MAUREEN: Each and every time I receive a note about one of my books, it’s a thrill. Honestly, I feel proud and humbled at the same time – proud to have written the book, but humbled because I believe I wouldn’t be writing if God hadn’t put the desire (and ability) inside me to begin with.
But I do have a special connection to at least one letter I received from a reader. As many people know, one of my children has a disorder called Fragile X Syndrome. My book, The Oak Leaves, deals with a family going through a similar diagnosis. Not long after The Oak Leaves was published, I received a note from another mom whose child also suffers from this genetic disorder. We chatted via email and it was very nice. Then a few months later I received a note from this same mom, telling me her daughter (the child afflicted with Fragile X) wasn’t feeling well and she was so worried about her because she’d been sick for several days. Would I mind praying for her? Well, of course I agreed. A few days later she wrote to me again to let me know her daughter had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She was obviously devastated, but we kept in touch throughout the terrible ordeal of treatments and surgeries and living away from home for a bone-marrow transplant. We’re still in touch to this day, and I’m happy to report that her daughter is in remission and doing very well.
LYNDA: This gave me chills. What an awesome God we serve. And how wonderful that God used your book to make the connection with this family.
I'll wrap it up with this question: What’s the best part of being a Christian author?
MAUREEN: The best part is when I see something in my characters that is something God wants me to know or learn about in my own life. Being able to include and weave a spiritual theme into any and every story I write is just incredibly exciting. When pieces I wasn’t sure meant anything turn out to fit perfectly with other pieces and start emerging as a whole picture reflecting one spiritual truth or another—well, there’s just nothing more fun. I’ve written for the secular market, and I’ve written for the Christian market. Being able to include a theme that has eternity on the line makes all the difference to me.
Thanks so much for having me, Lynda!
LYNDA: It was truly my pleasure, Maureen. Thanks for taking the time to chat. And for offering to give away a copy of your book!
Remember to leave a comment on this post for your chance to win a copy of Look to the East. Deadline to enter is midnight, Tuesday, September 15. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on next Wednesday's (September 16) blog post.
*Void where prohibited; open only to U.S. residents. Odds of winning depend on number of entrants.
Maureen Lang has always had a passion for writing. She hand wrote her first novel around the age of ten, put the pages into a notebook she covered with soft deerskin for a “hardback” cover (nothing but the best!) then passed it around the neighborhood for rave reviews. It was so much fun she’s been writing ever since. Eventually Maureen became the recipient of a Golden Heart Award from RWA, followed by the publication of three secular romances. Life took some turns after that and she gave up writing for fifteen years, until her faith sent her in a new artistic direction. Soon she won a Noble Theme Award from American Christian Fiction Writers, and a contract followed a year or so later for her Inspirational historical fiction Pieces of Silver, (nominated for a Christy in 2007). The sequel, Remember Me, released in February of ‘07. She also has three women’s fiction novels from Tyndale House Publishers, The Oak Leaves released in May of ’07, On Sparrow Hill and My Sister Dilly released in ’08. She has a new 3-book series, the first of which will release from Tyndale in the fall of ‘09, set in Europe during the First World War.
Maureen lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and their dog, Susie.