Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest books. FUN.
This week’s Author in the Spotlight is Maureen Lang!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I’m a full-time writer, but since I also have a family, working at home means I always seem to be juggling my priorities. One of my kids is grown and on her own, but my two boys still live at home, one of whom has Fragile X Syndrome. Fragile X is a brain disorder that can affect people with a wide range of disabilities. For my son, who is almost fifteen, the symptoms are pretty severe; he has virtually no language, and functions like a two-year-old in a very grown up body. But he smiles quite a bit, and is actually quite easy to be around most of the time. He does take up more of my time, however, which adds to my time-juggling act. The fact is, if I haveto be a caretaker I couldn’t be more blessed than to get to care for someone who is as sweet as he is. It also makes working outside the home virtually impossible, so writing is the perfect fit for me.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I consider myself a passionate reader who’s learned how to write the stories I want to read—which are always romantic and include either contemporary or historical settings. I have to admit historicals are my favorite, though. In fact, I’ve been so fascinated with the First World War era that I’ve written five books set during that time! My newest title is Whisper on the Wind, which is set in Belgium when the Germans occupied that little European country. When my heroine wants to prove herself worthy to the man she loves, she forces her way into the secretive work he’s doing—producing an uncensored and therefore illegal newspaper that the German army is all too eager to crush. But if it costs her life, what good is all of her risk and work?
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
A long time ago (in the 80s) when I was far from God and living quite differently than I live today, I wrote secular historical romances. From the time I joined RWA until I received my first contract was probably around 2 or 3 years. I wrote consistently for about three or four years after that and published three books, but ended up going through some major personal changes (divorce, single parenthood) and I ended up giving up writing because it just didn’t pay enough to support me and my daughter. But eventually my life settled down again and I rediscovered the faith I’d left behind. The second time I made a serious attempt at publication, it was in the Christian market and took about 3 or 4 years to receive my first contract. So…neither one was a quick success!
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I’m actually a very routine-oriented writer. I work when my sons are at school (or day camp in the summer) and in the morning hours when the house is quiet. That’s optimal for me, at least while I’m writing a first draft. For revisions and editing, I’m more flexible. But even knowing that, I recall occasionally writing a scene when everyone was home, noise from every direction, and being able to follow through on what I was doing. I guess it really depends on how passionate I am about whatever point I’m at in the project! Anything’s possible when a scene is going right.
As far as what inspires me, when I take a walk with the dog I love to listen to praise music. Often times I’ll come across a song that might reflect the struggles of one or more of my characters, or some point in the story that resonates with what the song might be about. Or, if I’m listening to an instrumental piece, it might match the mood of the story I’m dwelling on. Having a soundtrack to whatever book I’m working on at the time always fires up the emotions that match the theme, characters or mood.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Initially, the biggest help for me was going to conferences. Even though they’re expensive and time consuming, they’re such a great place to get connected. Not only to connect with other writers on this same, tough journey, but to meet with editors or agents face to face. When a writer is just starting out, conferences help us to get to know the business. Once a writer is at the point of looking for an agent or an editor, conferences are just about the best way to do that these days.
I would also say that having a critique group has helped me grow as a writer, in experience and in confidence. Seeing how others react to what we write is very important to figuring out what works—and what doesn’t.
What are your biggest distractions?
Summer time! My family is home, the weather beckons, there are trips to plan, people to have over or visit with… There just seems to be an endless list of things to do in the summer. I’ve learned to set my expectations more realistically, and know that the bulk of my writing gets done during the school year when my husband is teaching and my sons are in school.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Like many other writers I know, I’m an introvert. That means being the center of attention is something we would naturally avoid, but when it comes to promoting our books we’re supposed to do just the opposite.
But in a very odd way, the thing I like least—being the center of attention—is a symptom of what I like most about being a writer. That feeling of acceptance that comes when someone tells me they like my book. Go figure.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
This book—the one with the pretty cover—has both romance and action. What better combination could there be?
What’s on the book horizon for you?
In the spring of 2011, I have another book releasing that’s set in this same World War One era. It probably comes as no surprise that most of the characters filling my former books in this setting have had German bad guys. Being German myself, and married to a German, I always felt a little sad about this. Once I asked my German plumber to verify some German phrasing, telling him the Germans were the bad guys again and he said something along the lines of “Of course! That’s always the case.”
Not so this time. My 2011 release is titled Springtime of the Spirit, and it’s set in Germany at the end of the war. Every single character is German—both the bad and the good ones. So much opportunity for angst, and some of the material seems like it could have been taken from today’s headlines. Economic worries; how much of a role should government play in our lives; socialism, conservatism…
But before you think all this sounds too political, I assure you it’s a romance! The heroine is torn between two men—a socialist revolutionary and a soldier who only wants to protect her, and to remind her of the faith she seems bent on forgetting.
I learned a lot while writing this book, but I also had fun putting my characters through all their turmoil. Authors can be so cruel, you know?
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Look for me in these places:
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
Thanks very much for having me!