Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Guest Author: Maureen Lang

It is my pleasure to host returning author Maureen Lang. I've recently finished her book "On Sparrow Hill." What a treat. Here's an interview with her. (Don't miss the info about her book trailer.)

Tell us about your newest release, On Sparrow Hill.

Two parallel stories are told in this novel, starting with a contemporary heroine who is the curator of one of England’s finest historical estates. She wants only two things: to make the estate the best example of Victorian living for England’s repertoire of historic homes, and to forget the childhood crush she had on the estate’s aristocratic and most often absent owner. The first goal is a lot easier to attain than the second, since he returns to the estate with every intention of living there during the summer.

A second storyline returns to Victorian times, to Ireland, where an aristocratic Englishwoman arrives to start a school for the “gentle feebleminded.” She is the epitome of Victorian philanthropy, except she wants to be directly involved in running the school instead of allowing others to do it for her. When the brother of one of her students arrives, she isn’t sure he’ll help or hurt her quest (privately or professionally).

This is the sequel to The Oak Leaves, where the parallel stories took place in contemporary Chicago and Victorian England. But readers needn’t have read that book to enjoy this one. On Sparrow Hill is first a romance, but it touches on dealing with persons suffering from mental retardation, with an underlying theme of servanthood.

To see a book trailer about On Sparrow Hill, readers can visit my website and scroll down the homepage to click on the book’s cover. It’s so much fun to visualize various aspects of the book!

Why did you write On Sparrow Hill?

Since I have a child who is in many areas considered profoundly mentally retarded, this is a subject that permeates my life. He is affected by Fragile X Syndrome, which plays a part in both The Oak Leaves and On Sparrow Hill. One of the lessons that come with having a child like my son has to do with servanthood. I’m like a lot of people who do what must be done, and yet sometimes, I’m sorry to admit, I resent my son’s disability. Not just because of everything he’s missing, but (selfishly) because of the limitations his condition puts on my life. God often has to remind me that He came to earth as a servant, so what right have I to complain? None. Serving others is something we should all strive for, and if you’re lucky enough to serve someone you actually already love – well, so much the better!

What would you like your readers to come away with?

My first hope with any book is that readers will finish the last page refreshed, having been entertained. But each of my books has a theme, and with this one it was servanthood. My hope is that the next time one of my readers might feel like some of the tasks they do in life seem ordinary, boring, unappreciated, or tiresome, they’ll be reminded that if that action is in the service of someone else, it’s valuable to God.

What do you love most about being a writer? What do you least like?

I recently had a discussion about writers getting to “live a dream.” This is absolutely true for me. I’ve had a desire to tell stories since I was a little girl, so writing is something I obviously can’t do without. I would write stories even if I were the only one to read them. But I must admit, knowing others are reading my books is one of the things putting my life in the dream-come-true category. I think a lot of people are living their dream. We’re wired for work, for the satisfaction of creating. When we learn what we’re wired for and then get to do it — that’s living a dream. A slice of Heaven.

As for what I like least about writing . . . well, there isn’t a lot I don’t like. I love actually writing, even at the beginning of every story, when I’m terrified I won’t do the subject justice. There is, however, a business side to writing that all writers must tend to, whether we’re published or not. Before publication, you have to do all you can to get your work in front of agents and editors. The whole submission process takes you away from actually writing. After publication, networking remains every bit as important as before publication, and that takes time, too. I think a lot of writers are like me, rather introverted, and we have a vision of just sitting at our computers creating. It can all be fun if it’s balanced well, but to me the dream part of this career is found in the actual writing, not the business angle associated with it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Practical advice would be of course to just sit down and write. We can improve our skills by reading good books, attending conferences, joining writer’s loops to learn more about the craft. But the bottom line is to devote the time you can to writing. I’m always amazed when people tell me they have a passion for writing, but they have trouble finding the time to finish a manuscript. If this is happening to you, the first thing to do is get that first draft under your belt, if only to prove to yourself that you can. Don’t be obsessed with making each scene perfect until you’ve gotten the first draft down. You’ll have plenty of time for revision! But the next piece of advice I have is to not let yourself get swamped in rewriting, either. We can tweak a project to death sometimes. There comes a time when you just have to let go, move on to something else, and perhaps come back to it in the future if you still feel it can use some revision.

Personally, I like to think of writers actually writing. It’s what we do. We can find enjoyment by reading the work of others we admire, we can research non-fiction books for material. We can attend writer’s group meetings, writer’s conferences and retreats, which is all fun, not to mention important for networking. But it’s all about the writing, so if some of that stuff is getting in the way of writing, then it’s time to sit down again and create. It’s why we love this so much. God created us in His image, and part of that is a love of creating. For writers, that only comes by writing. So get to work!

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