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Interview With Maureen Lang

1) Introduce yourself to us. Name, info on your family, number of books authored, etc...

Maureen Lang, author of PIECES OF SILVER, from Kregel Publications, a March 2006 release. I’ve also had three secular historical romances published, but that was BRC – “before recommitting to Christ” so I don’t tend to talk about them much. It’s so much more thrilling to write something for the God of the Universe. Now that’s something to talk about!
I’m also a homemaker, wife to my wonderful husband and mother to three great kids. My oldest will graduate from Loyola University this year, while my youngest finishes 2nd grade!

My middle child is my guarantee-against-an-empty-nest: he has Fragile X Syndrome, a form of genetic mental retardation. He functions very much like a two-year-old and I’m not sure that will change much even as he is soon to enter his teenage years. Despite the many challenges, he has a smile and the brightest, happiest blue eyes that cover a multitude of mischief.

2) Do you write full time? If yes, can you give us a glimpse into your daily writing life? If not, what is your day job?

Well of course my family comes first, but I do consider writing my full time job. I’m an early riser, so I begin my day with breakfast and a prayer, usually accompanied by a quiet time. If I have time before having to get my two boys up and out the door, I check email first (my biggest distraction from writing!). After my boys are sent off to their schools for the day, I sit down at the computer. On my best days I write steadily from eight to one, then break for lunch. To prevent myself from staring at an empty page on the computer screen, I usually review what I’ve written the day before, tweaking that as I go. When things are really moving along with a project I can write twenty new pages in a day. Oh, I love those days! Many times I settle for three or four pages, but I shoot for at least seven.

On the days I don’t fill up the time with constant writing, I do some researching, editing, or other writing-related activities like critiquing a workshop member’s submission, keeping up with market information, corresponding with other writers.

My oldest son, with Fragile X Syndrome, is home by two in the afternoon so most serious writing ends because he needs pretty close supervision until bedtime. I usually read before I go to bed, to keep up with friends’ work, more research, or pure enjoyment (sometimes a combination of all three!).
But, if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that I no longer demand the perfect setting for writing (things like needing my morning energy level, or a really clean house, a quiet surrounding, no other demands peeking over my shoulder). Nope, I can write just about any time and any where these days!

3) Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

The publishing industry is so hard to predict! I’ve seen good writers struggle for years and years and are still waiting for that first contract. I’ve seen others have a book come out relatively quickly, just a few years after they finish their first project.

For me, it took about three years to receive my first contract from a Christian publisher. My previous writing experience was so long ago, I wasn’t sure it would help or hinder so I didn’t talk much about that.

My road to publication in the Inspirational market began at the Write To Publish conference in Wheaton, Illinois, three years ago. I attended hoping to meet as many editors as possible, and that’s a good conference to consider for that reason, especially when their faculty has the best emphasis on fiction. The WTP coordinator tries to balance between fiction and non-fiction, which is great for the industry, but since I’m only interested in fiction, I was thrilled that year when the staff seemed to have more fiction editors than non-fiction.

I met with several editors and talked about various projects. Paul Ingram, from Kregel, was interested in a couple of things, which ultimately led to the sale of PIECES OF SILVER. The thing for writers to keep in mind is that this sort of thing usually takes much longer than we hope or expect. From that first meeting until the actual release date of my book, almost three years have gone by. It wasn’t only the full roster of books that the published had already purchased, although that’s the most common reason for the wait, but it was also waiting for the best time slot. My publisher felt a book with more romance in it, as mine is, would be best served with a spring release.

4) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

It’s hard to pick just one! I’ve always loved to write, and since I had a history in the professional market I did have the sense that it would only be a matter of time if I was persistent enough to keep at it. But life has many other demands, and writing takes up so much energy, time, and passion, that it’s sometimes hard to allow yourself all it takes to keep at it. Sometimes life is too full without writing.

But I do believe God brought me to a peaceful season in order to taste writing again, to be reminded of how fulfilling it is and to learn that even when those overwhelming demands of life do occur, it’s possible to keep at this writing thing anyway. Part of that was knowing I have the security and support of my husband.

One last word here – and it’s probably a common one. Rejection might be one of the biggest obstacles to many writers. On one level that’s obvious: of course it’s rejection standing in the way of getting published! However, on an emotional level, rejection stands for so much more. Writing is such a solitary thing, it’s so hard to receive that stinging rejection, that personal refusal. The truth of each rejection is so varied: like marketing issues – a publisher might have just purchased a similar book and doesn’t want yours right now. Or something similar is already on the market. Or the market is perceived glutted on that setting, plot or other such nuance. Or it could be personal taste of the editor or assistant who first receives the project (you know the saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure). Rejections can occur for all sorts of reasons we authors will never know, but it’s impossible not to take it personally even when we shouldn’t. I know I did, and I was very slow about submitting because of all the deep hurts that went along with each rejection.

5) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Whenever someone tells me my work has touched them. Whether that’s someone in my critique group or someone I don’t even know, that is, without a doubt, the best thing about writing. To pick words out of thin air and use them to touch another life. What could be better? It beats contest wins, holding your book in your hands for the first time, hosting a book signing, whatever.

6) How do the ideas for your stories spark?

I wish I had a specific switch to turn on when I needed a story idea, because that would be more predictable! But in reality ideas come from everywhere. Just this morning, I was reading an article in the newspaper about an activist who is going to jail for three months and I thought – wow, he would make such a good hero. Or I could make the character a girl and that might be more interesting! A heroine with a police record!

I also overhear conversations, observe the people I see in everyday life, half-listen to the news every day as I prepare dinner, read a lot of non-fiction…those are all great places to gather ideas. Since I write mainly historical fiction, many of my ideas come from history books. I always end up picturing the dramas of history and asking the old question, “What if…”

7) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

I’m definitely a seat-of-the-pants writer, especially at the outset of a project. I know, I know, people who plot say this is a waste of time. But if I plotted extensively, I would miss all those great surprises along the way! I do tend to rewrite my first chapters a few times, simply because I don’t know the characters or the story well enough when I start out, but I’m okay with that. Once I do know the characters better (usually several chapters into the book) I write out a sketch of what’s to come. Since the characters have become more real to me, I ponder them in their situations, do more research, and things pop up that I know fit the general overall puzzle of what the book is all about. So…can I say I do some plotting, just not at the outset?

8) I’m notorious for *snacking* while I write! Do you have any favorite munchies you wouldn’t mind us knowing about?

I always take a break around 9:30 or 10 in the morning and if there is a cookie in the house, I go for it!

9) How do you strike an agreeable “balance” between your writing time and other responsibilities?

Sometimes my balance isn’t so balanced! Fortunately, I tolerate interruptions pretty well so if I have laundry going it’s okay to go and tend to it and I can get right back into my project without much trouble. I also have an extremely supportive husband, who doesn’t mind if the best way for me to clean the house is to invite people over so I have some incentive. Mainly the hours while our boys are at school are my writing hours, so I try to get my other responsibilities finished during parts of the day when someone else is around.

10) What has been the most surprising thing about your adventure in publishing?

How many people love to write! No matter where I go, someone admits to me they have this “secret” interest to write a book. At this point there seem to be more women than men with this dream, but that may only be because I talk to more women.

I’ve also been surprised by what a terrible memory I have. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I wish I could remember all the research I’ve done so historical backdrops would be easier to write!

11) How do you deal with publisher rejections? Crawl in bed under the covers for an entire day? Indulge in double-fudge chocolate? Or just brush it off?

Does anybody just brush off a rejection – I mean really? Wow, if so I’d like to know how they do it! But I don’t exactly crawl under the covers, either, although a few rejection tears have been added to that bottle God has with all our tears in it.

Mainly I pour it all out to my husband, who has learned enough about the unpredictability of this industry to say all the right things. Then he tells me to get back to work and I do, because that’s the best way to get over any rejection.

12) Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

Still writing! Hopefully writing better, wiser, and consistently.

13) These have been fairly standard questions. What is one thing you’d like to share with up-and-coming writers that they may not even know to ask yet?

Make sure you define your motivation for writing. Is it for yourself, or for God? Either way may be right, but if you really do see your writing as for the Lord, then realize it’s a ministry. You may touch many lives or you may touch one—your own! God uses words all of the time to teach us, correct us, deepen our experience here on earth. See what He has to teach you through writing, and trust Him with the outcome.

14) You have a new title coming out, right? Tell us about it.

My March release with Kregel Publications is titled PIECES OF SILVER and it’s about Liesel Bonner, who loses her job because of her German heritage when America joins the First World War and Germany is the enemy. But that’s just the beginning of Liesel’s trouble. She soon realizes the man she thought she was going to marry is working against America, so being loyal to him means betraying the country she loves. If she does turn him in, she must do so to a federal agent who turns her life upside down from the moment he walks into it. PIECES OF SILVER was so fun to create, with faith-filled characters, a touch of espionage, a little bit of danger and lots of romance!

Thank you, Maureen, for such an enlightening and entertaining interview! Everyone run out during the month of March and pick up your own copy of PIECES OF SILVER!

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