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Interview With Sharlene MacLaren

She’s a woman of many talents— retired teacher, singer, grandmother, speaker, mentor, but the author Sharlene MacLaren joins us this month to talk about her latest release. The third in the Little Hickman Creek Series, Courting Emma, is a romantic tale about a boarding house proprietress determined to keep control of the reins in her life, but God has something else in mind.

Sharlene, can you tell us about your inspiration behind this series and what made you decide to write historicals?

Well, first of all, I have always enjoyed reading historical settings, so I guess it would stand to reason I’d enjoy writing them. I didn’t jump right into them in the beginning, though. I had to work up to them. Haha! After writing four or five contemporary manuscripts, none of which found a publishing home, I began dreaming up my Little Hickman Creek series, which has an 1895 Kentucky setting. We’d taken numerous trips to Lexington to visit our daughter and son-in-law and I simply fell in love with the landscape, miles of stone fences, acres of bluegrass, endless azure skies, and ancient barns snuggled into lush hillsides. I felt completely inept to write about a time period for which I knew nothing, but lots of research and, of course, all the historical books I’d read in the past helped dispel my fears. After the first story, Loving Liza Jane, came into being, the others evolved over time, and my Little Hickman Creek Series launched!

Reflecting back, what do you see as being most significant to your publication journey?

Without a doubt, the day I relinquished everything into God’s very capable hands, gave back to Him my writing passion, cried out from the very bottom of my being that I didn’t want this writing thing to be about ME – only Him, and recommitted my heart and soul to Him, proved the changing point for me. I tell you I had to reach a pivotal moment in time when I said, “God, I love to write, but it doesn’t matter to me if I ever publish a single word. What does matter is that YOU be in charge!” I so don’t like to run things anyway, so letting Him have control took such a load off. (grins)

Looking back at my journal writings, EVERYTHING FELL INTO PLACE AFTER THAT. God took the reins, Whitaker House offered me a contract, and the rest is history.

How do you balance your writing time with all these other “hats” you wear?

It is a struggle and something I pray about every day and night! There are so many things to accomplish and so little time in which to do them. But there again, GOD IS IN CONTROL. I commit my life into His hands and ask for wisdom to pick and choose those things that must take priority on any given day. For instance, my daughter just gave me a precious 9 lb. grandson on March 3. Do you think I got any writing done in the days before, during, or after that blessed event? LOL

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

First, don’t we serve a loving, generous, faithful God? His grace and mercy toward me are a constant amazement, and why He would show me such favor is a true mystery. All any of us can do is fall on our knees with grateful hearts of praise. And that is what I do. This writing business is NOT about me – it’s all about HIM and bringing HIM glory and honor. My highest, most heartfelt prayer when writing my stories is that God will somehow take my feeble words and translate them into meaningful messages for hurting readers. I weep with joy when someone tells me something I wrote touched an emotional chord and pointed her toward the Savior.

What was your biggest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

Back in 2000, I sat down and wrote my first-ever novel. Literally, my soul burned with passion as my fingers danced over the keyboard and that story evolved before my eyes – 90K words in 3 ½ weeks! ‘Course, the hard part came later – learning the “dynamics” of writing, discovering I couldn’t write worth beans. Ouch! And what in the world was POV? (Plain Old Virgin?) And still more terms to deal with: head-hopping, (Huh?) passive voice/active voice, narrative, inner dialogue, outer dialogue – oh, and that whole business of telling not showing, or is it showing, not telling? I’m still confused on that one. All that to say this: writing with flourish does not come easy. It comes with years of practice, study, hard work, and much dedication! Obstacles? You bet. I am still tunneling through them.

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

Tough question. Was it signing my name on the dotted line to signify I’d finally landed a real publisher? Was it laying eyes on the cover design for Through Every Storm? Or maybe running my hands over my very first ARC? Or doing my first radio interview and then TV? Or that first book signing at the CBA Advance when people actually formed a line at my table? Now that I’ve pondered it, narrowing this whole experience down to one moment is, hmm, impossible.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

My greatest joy is to write about triumph through struggles, victory in the midst of heartache, hope in the face of sorrow. All my stories involve some sort of tragic event, which puts my characters on a quest for truth, healing, and wholeness. I love weaving scripture passages throughout in the hopes it will prompt my readers to open their Bibles and find answers for their own struggles.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

Again, tough question, because everyone is very critical of his/her own writing, but what I strive to do is write emotion into my characters. If my readers tell me my stories move them to tears or make them laugh out loud, I feel I’ve accomplished something. I want them to KNOW my characters thoroughly, become so attached to them that when the story reaches its conclusion, they actually grieve awhile. We all have our unique voices; I think mine is developing characters that somehow manage to reach my reader’s very core.

Finish this question. My favorite kind of character is…

Ha! Someone who gets to the very core of my being, makes me struggle, makes me weep, makes me laugh. My favorite kind of character is someone I can relate to, someone who isn’t afraid to show his/her weaknesses and then acknowledge Christ as the only true source of hope and wholeness.

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

Oh, my goodness, I’ve said this before on the loop – If you believe in your heart that God has called you to write, then you have “the gift”. Don’t ignore it, don’t blatantly walk away from it, and don’t diminish it. Write, write, write! Attend conferences, join writers’ groups, read every day, pray without ceasing! God SO has a plan for you! He designed you with all your hopes and dreams. Make no mistake, He wants to use YOU! If you are yet unpublished, don’t despair. Keep at it, keep submitting and querying and striving to improve. But remember this – it’s NOT about publishing; it’s about saying ‘Yes!’ to whatever plans the Father has for you. What God wants is a relinquished, sold-out heart. After that, wow! The possibilities are LIMITLESS!


Thanks for sharing with us, Sharlene!

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