Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Stick With it Lady has Come for a Visit. Drop in...
I started writing when I was a child—around ten years old—so I hope it’s true that when we stick with something so long, we’re bound to learn to do it well. I’ve been published in the secular market and the Christian market, and can wholeheartedly say that letting God be part of my stories is far more satisfying than shutting Him out. I’ve also written both contemporary and historical stories, have won some awards and finaled in other contests. But what really matters is that I love writing and encouraging other writers. About me personally: I live in the Midwest and am a wife and a mom, and one of my wonderful kids has Fragile X Syndrome, a cognitive disorder that affects brain function.
SDC: Congratulations on your new book, Maureen, and welcome to the blog this week. I’m so anxious to hear about this new story you have for us.
ML: My newest book is called Whisper on the Wind, and if nothing else it is the best example of never giving up hope on a project. I actually wrote the first draft of this story about ten years ago, after I’d been away from writing for a number of years (sometimes life takes us on tracks we don’t expect!). When I finally sat down to write again, this is the book that poured out. Apart from some much needed tightening, it’s largely the same book that I wrote all those years ago.
Basically it’s the story of a woman who forces her way back into Belgium after her parents had whisked her off to safety, just before the Germans invaded that country in the First World War. It’s taken my heroine two years, but she’s back, ready to rescue the man she loves and his mother, too. But he refuses to leave and when she finds out why she forces him to accept her help in producing an illegal, uncensored newssheet for which—if they’re caught—the Germans would heartlessly, happily, execute them. My poor hero never wanted to endanger her life, but she’s someone who doesn’t take no for an answer…not even when he tells her that now, in the middle of such danger, is definitely not the time to fall in love.
SDC: How did you come up with the idea for it? Do you enjoy war stories? I noticed it was about war.
ML: I actually do like war stories, believe it or not. I suppose that’s because my grandfather fought in the First World War, my father in the Second, and although my brothers didn’t go to Vietnam, it was definitely an issue at our dinner table while growing up. I mentioned there was a time in my life when I wasn’t writing, but I was reading. And the First World War era fascinated me—it has such a historical flavor to it, with a touch of contemporary because so many of the inventions we still use today were new back then. In all of my reading, I kept coming across a reference to this little newssheet called “La Libre Belgique” – Free Belgium. I knew the Germans had occupied that country, but how did this newspaper exist during the occupation? When I found out that ordinary citizens risked everything—their money, the relative freedom, their lives—in order to offer hope to their fellow Belgians, I knew I wanted to write about it. And wrap it up in a romance, of course.
SDC: I'm curious. Which character in your novel was the most difficult to flesh out and why? Which was the easiest and why?
ML: Surprisingly, the hero was the most difficult for me this time. Usually it’s the heroine, but for some reason she was the easiest. My hero, Edward, suffers from survivor’s guilt because he endured German brutality when not only his father but several men he knew were killed. So everything he does, everything he’s willing to risk, is colored by that guilt. It made the romantic angle more difficult, because he kept shutting down all the attempts for anything good to come his way. I wanted my hero to be in love with my heroine, of course, but how could he get over those feelings that he didn’t deserve any happiness? Challenge is great, but resolving those greater challenges isn’t always easy.
And as to why my heroine was the easiest: this was one of those rare occasions when everything seemed to fit for her. She has a spirited but naïve personality, and is in love with God and the man who introduced Him to her. Her youthful invincibility fit so perfectly with the war backdrop that it made her a lot of fun to work with.
SDC: Sounds intriguing to say the least. How do you enjoy promoting for your audience and where do you find your most faithful fans, Maureen?
ML: Actually the marketing side of writing is a challenge for me! I was raised in a way that makes me prefer being invisible rather than the center of attention, and marketing always makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, even if I’m doing it right. But I do love hearing from readers; having someone tell me one of my stories has touched their life is an incredibly satisfying feeling. So to get that, I need to talk about my books, don’t I?
My most faithful fans are online, visiting my blog or sending me emails. There’s nothing more satisfying!
SDC: I enjoy the online communication with others also. If you were to take your heroine to church with you how would she be received the way she’s portrayed in the beginning of your story and will it change throughout?
ML: In this particular novel, my heroine would be immediately welcomed, because even though she’s a little naïve, she totally loves God. She can’t believe it when she reconnects to the hero, who introduced her to the love of God. He’s turned his back on the very faith she knew he once held dear. And even though she does cultivate some doubts in herself throughout the book, her faith stays pretty much intact. But if you want to talk about heroines who would be shunned, we’ll have to talk about the book that comes out in 2011 (Springtime of the Spirit). She’s a social activist in Germany, 1918, who thinks churches are tools of evil capitalistic minds… But more about that next year!
SDC: Hmm. Something else to look forward to. Do you think most women would be drawn to your hero immediately or is it possible they would be irritated by him and why?
ML: If most women are anything like me, they’d be at least a little irritated with him, at least initially. He’s cautious to the extreme, mainly because he knows how fragile life is. He no longer believes God is worthy of trust, so we’d all better hang on to the life we’ve got. But he’s also brave and has a good heart, so that makes up for a multitude of sins.
SDC: Sometimes that's difficult, because we want our readers to like our characters, but we also want them to see the struggles they are in the midst of. It makes our stories more true to life doesn't it? What is the first thing you think about when you rise in the morning?
ML: Before I get out of bed? Usually what the Lord has on my agenda for the day…and if I’m in the middle of a project, that usually includes a thought about what my characters will be doing (which is how I go to bed at night, thinking about what scenes are coming up). Then I have breakfast with the Lord and have a few minutes of praise and quiet.
SDC: Just like the characters in our stories, every author struggles about something too. What do you struggle with?
ML: Do you have a few hours to share? Just kidding. Actually, I have plenty of doubts and insecurities but I embrace that about myself. I think it makes me work harder and never give up trying to do my best. So I worry about whether or not I’ll still be able to write, whether or not my books will be well received, have good sales numbers, whether I’ll goof up a marketing opportunity…
But really, all of that is put into perspective when I think about my son. He has Fragile X Syndrome, which is a form of genetic mental retardation. He’s almost fifteen but functions like a two-year old (a very tall two-year old!). And I know, I know, it’s not right to worry. God loves my son even more than I do. But I still worry about what will happen after I’m gone—and even though I certainly hope that’s many years from now, every time I change his diaper or clean up one of his messes, I worry that no one else will be able to take care of him the same way, the way he’s used to.
All of my other struggles sort of pale in comparison to that one.
SDC: Life is difficult for all of us in one way or another. I find it amazing how God only allows in our lives that which we can handle with Him in control. You've got your own hands full too, it's clear. Back to writing: Where can readers find out about you or your writing online? Please include the link for purchasing your book!
ML: On my website: http://www.maureenlang.com/
Or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-Lang/77586161029