Find a Christian store

Interview With Maureen Lang

Maureen Lang is an author with an ability to handle a complex issue with a unique blend of compassion, knowledge of her subject, and realistic characters. I love historical fiction that brings to life ordinary people, facing unique circumstances, who learn and grow because of their God-given abilities and faith that carries them through. And Maureen’s books are guaranteed to give her readers that kind of satisfying, yet challenging, read.

How did you know you wanted to write fiction and historicals in particular?

I’m a natural fit for writing historicals, since I love reading about other eras. But even though I love reading non-fiction history books, I almost always come away with a fictional book idea. I’m a firm believer that almost any time period and any setting can be fascinating if you’re willing to dig deep enough to find some little-known facts—and those facts make me want to create the kind of fictional character that would best fit the situation. What’s the most dramatic way to portray living long ago, during specific events or incidents? I want to go there, and the only way I can do that is through the eyes of my characters.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Throughout the years I’ve always been blessed with great encouragers around me, cheering me on, letting me know they enjoy my stories. That’s really huge. Encouragement from someone else can be more than a band-aid over a rejection wound, it can give a writer the persistence needed to carry on and keep going.

But there is one person I still recall with gratitude, and it happens to be Margie Vawter who coordinated this interview. Margie was working with WordServe Literary when I submitted a proposal for consideration. When I spoke to Greg Johnson, his enthusiasm about taking me on as a client began with the wonderful recommendation Margie gave my work. That’s a significant moment I’ll never forget, and I’m grateful to this day for Margie’s input.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Working at home is a challenge for almost anyone who juggles a family with a career. If I wasn’t intentionally protective of my writing time (during the hours my boys are at school) I’m not sure I’d ever meet a deadline. It’s so tempting to want to meet everyone else’s needs, especially for your family. But I try to do more household things on the weekend when I can multi-task while sharing my family’s company, or allow myself to run errands only after I’ve spent at least a few hours writing. It’s a balancing act, which I suppose is true for most people in our hectic society these days.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
It’s amazing to me how many ways God teaches me whatever it is He wants me to learn. My story can be about something completely foreign to my own life and yet invariably some aspect or challenge my characters face ends up teaching me something. For example in the book I just finished, Springtime of the Spirit, one of the questions my heroine must ask herself is how involved she believes the government should be in the personal lives of the average citizen. Okay, so she’s talking about post-WWI Germany and I live in modern day USA, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve turned on the news to find people talking about defining an appropriate balance between the size of government and personal freedom. It’s something people have been trying to decide a lot longer than we imagine!

So even though I’m working on a completely fictional story, since my characters either have or are acquiring a Christian worldview, it’s easy to see where God can get involved. God has a way of weaving in every day occurrences that can impact both my characters and me. That’s such a faith-builder for me, proving God really does involve Himself in the smallest detail of my life.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career so far?
Probably having The Oak Leaves published, which was my first book with Tyndale House. The story has a lot of me in it, including much of the journey my family faced when our oldest son was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome. I thought I’d write that story “someday” when I was ready to pass along a bit of wisdom about what it’s like to endure a life-changing diagnosis. But God nudged me to write it long before I thought I was ready, and I not only learned a lot about my own adjustment to this life change, I’ve had incredible conversations with others who’ve been touched by that book.

A close second would be writing My Sister Dilly, which released in 2008. I recall my sister-in-law telling me about a woman she knew who was going to prison because she’d tried killing herself and her handicapped daughter—but failed on both counts. My Sister Dilly is the fictional story of how a woman who went through such a tragedy readjusts to life after prison, and how her love for her daughter really was never in doubt. It was a book I definitely did not want to write, because I prefer to write something lighter and definitely more romantic. But I really felt God’s finger on that idea. Having a child with a disability, I felt like I could handle the subject without offending too many people, and maybe even understand both sides of a very sensitive issue. Of course, I had to add a romance in order to get through the experience, but I’m happy with the way that book turned out and have had some great feedback on it.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
Writing, at least for me, is one of those things I just have to do. Even if I take a break between projects, it isn’t long before I hear or see something that triggers an entire book idea. I’m not sure I could teach anyone else to do this, although I’m sure every other writer does this, too—whether they were wired to be a writer or learned the process along the way.

Most of my ideas for historical novels come from reading history books. Research is my friend! I love reading about little known details in history and imagining what it would’ve been like for real-life people at that time. Then I fill in the situation with characters I think fit best, and off I go into another story world. I’m not sure who’s in control, because I’m often swept away by ideas

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been so impressed by the quality of so many new authors that it’s getting harder and harder to set yourself apart these days! I believe God is stirring the creative Christian world and it’s exciting to see.

But even with excellence becoming more the norm than the exception, I believe all of us have a unique voice, simply because we were created that way. Our writing voice is like our fingerprint, unique only to us. We can be inspired by other writers but inevitably our own viewpoint, our own filter, will lead to word choices, phrasing, plotting and character action that are uniquely our own.

I do hope that a reader will come away from one of my books with the feeling that my style comes with a romantic flair, combined with something they can take away—an encounter with something spiritual, or to think about a point of view they hadn’t considered before. The tagline on my website is “Engaging the mind. Renewing the soul,” and it’s my hope that’s what happens when a reader reads one of my books.

If you were to change anything about your journey to publication, what would it be?
When I was in my mid-twenties I was writing secular historical romances. Then my life went through some substantial changes, not the least of which was rededicating my life to Christ. I gave up not only writing secular stories, but writing altogether. I often wish I hadn’t done that, that I’d somehow been able to manage writing along with all of the other responsibilities I was taking on at the time (such as being a single adult on my own for the first time, single parenthood, new spiritual investigation). I didn’t write for about fifteen years, and although I did a lot of growing and living during those years, on a literary basis they were wasted. I sometimes wonder how much farther along I would be in my writing endeavors if I’d stuck with it through those years. I sincerely believe the longer a writer writes, the better at it he/she becomes, and I lost all those years of honing my craft.

Finish this question. The best writing advice I ever received was . . .
…never stop reading. I sometimes hear an author say she doesn’t have time to read any more, or she doesn’t want to dilute her own style or plot ideas with what’s out there now. I think that’s a huge mistake. I’m picky about what I read, and only finish things that teach me something, but I learn so much from reading a well-written book. It’s as inspiring to me today as it was when I was a kid dreaming about what it would be like to have one of my own stories published someday.

What’s next for Maureen Lang?
In March of 2011 my next Great War book will release, titled Springtime of the Spirit. I have to say this was one of the most challenging—and rewarding—books I’ve ever written. When I proposed the series to my editor, I naively pitched the idea to set one of the three books at the end of the war—in Germany. How much more drama could a book offer than what must have been going on at the end of that war? It’s true there was plenty of drama in Germany during the final months of 1918 and into 1919, but it was a challenge to boil it down to one storyline. So of course I concentrated on a romantic relationship between a woman torn by the guilt she feels because of the profits her father earned during the war for producing munitions, and choosing between a seductive, idealistic revolutionary and a soldier just returned from the war with guilt and internal wounds of his own.

Then in the fall of 2011, Look to the East will be re-released with a new cover look that matches the rest of the series. I’m happy to say that Look to the East was a finalist in the Carol Award for books released in 2009, and won in the Women’s Fiction category in the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest.

Any parting words?
I want to encourage all the members of American Christian Fiction Writers! The publishing industry can be wonderful and terrible at the same time. We put so many of our hopes into getting published and being able to share our stories, and it seems nothing short of a miracle that sometimes we get a foot in the door. There really is nothing else like getting to do what you’ve been wired by God to do, particularly in the arts. It’s not a team sport, so it feels far more personal when the triumphs come—but also when the rejections come. I love to remind aspiring writers that God is impressed more by our obedience than by the number of books we might or might not see published. So listen to those God places around you, and know that it takes every bit as much perseverance as it does talent to succeed in the publishing world.

Thanks for sharing with us, Maureen!
Thanks very much for visiting with me!

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.