Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Guest Author: Sharlene MacLaren

Today's guest author has five published books to her credit. (See below for contest info!) Here's a bit more about her:

I'm a retired schoolteacher who, after 31 years, decided to say, "Bye-bye, Students!" and "Hello, Writing World!" It's been an interesting, exciting, challenging, heart-wrenching (AT TIMES), and inspiring adventure to say the least. One thing I know--God dropped a seed of passion for writing in my heart back in the summer of 2000, and He's been growing it ever since. (Who else in her right mind would jump out of bed in the middle of the night just to run to the computer and finish a scene that all of a sudden comes together in her head?) I have two wonderful daughters and two handsome sons-in-law, but the joy of my life (besides my sweet, darling husband) are my adorable grandsons, Dylan, born March 21, 2006 and Gavin, born March 3, 2008. AND GUESS WHAT ELSE!!! I'm expecting a GRANDDAUGHTER in June '08. Does life get any better than this? Grandma and Grandpa MacLaren just love their babies! I’m an occasional speaker for MOPS, am involved in KIDS’ HOPE, USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsel young women in the APPLES OF GOLD program, and attend two weekly Bible studies. I also enjoy my involvement in church choir and worship team. My darling husband, Cecil, and I live in Spring Lake, MI with Dakota, out lovable collie, and Mocha, our lazy fat cat.

Her latest, "Courting Emma," has just released. She has a way with historicals. I appreciated her ability to ground us in the setting and create realistic characters. Here's an interview with Sharlene:

How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?

First, thanks so much for this opportunity to share from my heart. It’s always such a blessing to me. Now, onto your question. I’ve always enjoyed writing—but I didn’t actually write my first novel until the year 2000. I was a couple of years away from retirement and already fretting about what I was going to do with myself. I pled with God to give me a new direction for my life, something that would fulfill me – as my teaching career had done. It started with a dream. I know that sounds “cliché-ish”, but it’s true. I dreamt I’d written a book. I thought the dream was odd, but after dreaming it three more times, I sat up, took notice, and thought, hmm, is God trying to tell me something? (Slow learner!) So, with much trepidation and an idea for a story floating around in my head, I sat at my computer one fine summer day in the year 2000 and started writing. Now, five pubbed books later, I’m going strong as ever! Praise God!

What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

My first book, Spring’s Promise, pubbed in 2002. It is a contemporary women’s fiction/romance. I pubbed that book with a print-on-demand operation, but the price of the book is exorbitant. I wanted a mainline publisher and prayed for one. In the meantime, I studied the market, the industry, the craft. I joined online writing groups, organizations like the wonderful American Christian Fiction Writers, and attended all kinds of seminars and conventions. Of course, it was trial and error as I submitted one query and proposal after another and my file of rejections grew thicker by the month. Finally, in 2006, I signed a contract with Whitaker House, and they pubbed my second contemporary work—women’s fiction/romance—titled Through Every Storm. My real “love”, though, is reading and writing historical romance, so that’s what followed. My Little Hickman Creek Series contains three books, the third and final one in the series releasing in March/April of ’08. Titles of the three books are Loving Liza Jane, Sarah, My Beloved, and Courting Emma. I also have another contemporary romance releasing in September ’08 AND the first in my next 3-book historical series, DAUGHTERS OF JACOB KANE, coming in January ’09. I’M BUSY!!!!

How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?

Right now, I’m working on a six-month deadline (six months for each upcoming book in my next series). That forces me to write a minimum of about 1,000 words per day. If I can do that, I’m happy. Some days other things take precedence and I write nothing, and some days I can write more than that, so it evens out. It just depends on how my schedule looks.

What is the spiritual message in your latest book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?

My latest book, COURTING EMMA, third in my historical series, is about a young woman who owns and operates the town’s only boardinghouse. Here’s a brief synopsis to give you an idea of the spiritual undertones: Twenty-eight-year old Emma Browning has experienced a good deal of life in her young age. Sole owner of Emma's Boardinghouse, she is "mother" to an array of beefy, unkempt, often rowdy characters. Though many men would like to get to know the steely, hard-edged, yet surprisingly lovely, proprietress, none has truly succeeded. That is, not until the town's new pastor, Jonathan Atkins, takes up residence in the boardinghouse, affecting not only her with his devout faith and strong convictions, but her clientele as well. Emma clings desperately to her stubborn ways, refusing to acknowledge God's love--until all of Little Hickman witnesses a real-life miracle! Only then will Emma begin to experience God's power at work.

Where can we find your books for purchase?

As stated earlier, I have five published works. A sixth, Long Journey Home, will hit shelves September ’08, and then I’m to launch my next three-book series in January ’09. You can find my books on the shelves of many Barnes & Nobles, Borders, and Christian bookstores. If they aren’t in stock there, you can always purchase online. (See the final question for more details on that.)

Where do you get ideas? Character names? Do you find your characters similar to you in any way?

Oh, my goodness, they are all floating around up there in my head, ideas, character names, plots, settings. I guess you could say I have an imagination that won’t quit. Are they like me? Well, not really, but I suppose a little bit of myself sneaks in there every once in a while.

Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?

I never really feel like giving up, but I certainly do stress out once in a while. On those nights when I have trouble sleeping, I pray and ask the Lord to help me trust Him. He is the giver of “the gift”, and so I know in my heart, He will provide me with the words, the ideas, the character development, and the ability to complete a project. Currently I’m working under a deadline, and I’ll be honest, there is stress and worry that comes with deadlines. Bottom line is you HAVE to be creative whether you feel like it or not, and some days it’s like dragging a stubborn mule down a bumpy road to eke those words out, but somehow they come. Writing for pleasure is a lot different from writing under contract, but I still love it more than I can describe. I guess that’s what they call true passion. My biggest inspiration, of course, is my Heavenly Father, but since all my stories are romantic, I have to say my dear, precious husband of 32 years inspires me in ways you can only imagine. Hee-hee. As a romance writer, let me just say, it does help to be married to a romantic, sweet, and caring guy.

Would you roughly explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?

Well, I mentioned earlier that I’ve accumulated quite a rejection pile. Before, I would finish a manuscript and then shop it to several different publishers. If it failed, I might go back and rework it for the dozenth time—OR set it aside and start an entirely different book. (Sound like torture? Haha.)

When I finally contracted with a mainline publisher in the spring of ’06, it was because in ‘05 I had sent complete proposals of Through Every Storm to about 15 different publishers. I just changed the heading, address, etc., made up as many copies as I needed of query letters, bio sheets, synopses, and first three chapters, put them in big bubble envelopes, and mailed them out with a huge prayer. Sound like a lot of work? Believe me, it is. You ALWAYS pray that your proposal will land in the exact right hands because timing is everything, God’s timing, that is.

Well, about six months after I’d mailed all those proposals—and received a handful of rejections and no responses from everyone else, I chalked that proposal up as another failure. And then came the day when Whitaker House contacted me for a full manuscript. I tried not to get too excited because I’d had full reads requested many times before. It’s always a big encouragement to writers, though, to get that request. It sort of gives you that extra boost that causes you to say, “Don’t quit. Someone besides the Lord and my family believes in me!” (grins) Well, all that to say this…after Whitaker read the book, and it passed through several editors and committees, they FINALLY offered me a contract. Yippee!

Once “Storm” went to press, they requested a look at my other projects, and the rest is history. I am now working on my fifth contracted book with Whitaker House, with two more to follow. You asked if I can now sit back and relax. Hahaha. Relax? What is that?

Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could? Etc.

My true love is my family—and particularly my beautiful, charming, handsome grandsons, the first one born on March 21, 2006 and the second March 3, 2008. And here’s some exciting news—I’m expecting a grandDAUGHTER in June of ‘08. This is a WONDERFUL time in the lives of Cecil and Shar MacLaren. (grins)

Hobbies? Well, besides writing, I’m an avid reader, of course. I also love hanging out with Cecil, going to movies (decent ones), eating at fun restaurants, spending time with our many precious Bible study friends, and traveling. I’m not athletic, much to my husband’s chagrin, so while he’s golfing on vacations, I hang out at the pool or shop. I’m very content to let him do his thing, and he feels the same way about me. We’re very in love, compatible, and happy to give each other the freedom to do whatever we choose..

I also love to sing. Before writing became my passion, I was a soloist and choir member. I’ve sung for weddings, funerals, conferences, banquets, retreats, you name it. I’m still involved with my church worship team, but really, music has taken somewhat of a backseat, which is fine for now. It’s just where God has placed me, and it’s all good.

Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?

Oh, do please come over. I love visitors. I will always reply to emails or comments on my website or blog. I’m also a member at Shoutlife, a wonderful Christian community much like MySpace or Facebook—but oh, so much better. Anyone can join, and it’s simply fantastic. Here’s my contact information, and thanks for the opportunity you’ve given me to share. This has been wonderful fun. May God bless each of you with bountiful grace, mercy, hope and joy!

www.sharlenemaclaren.com

www.shoutlife.com/sharlenemaclaren

www.sharlenemaclaren.blogspot.com

smac@chartermi.net

Thank you for visiting, Shar! Best wishes in your writing! HEY READERS! Sharlene is offering a free copy of Courting Emma. So leave a message and we'll have a drawing on April 3rd!! Winner announced April 4th. The winner is posted in the comments!

Thank you, Shar, for visiting! We've had a great time this week!

27 comments:

Sharlene MacLaren said...

THANKS, ANNETTE! HAD FUN DOING THE INTERVIEW!

BE BLESSED AND ENCOURAGED!

SHAR

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story of a beautiful person. I've enjoyed getting to know you through Krista's becoming part of our family. She's a sweetie. Best wishes on your newest book, looking forward to adding it to the other two of this series. I enjoyed your interview, and exploring Annette's website.
God Bless...Shirley

Jewel Sample said...

Great interview! Congrats on the new release Sharlene. I had a dream too of myself with a published book. I was hiking up a mountain in Colorado and Oprah was coming down as I was going up. She stopped on the trail, put her hand on my shoulder and said, "By the way I love your book." Now that was a nice dream. Only God could make it so real. I think of that dream when I think why am I working so hard.

Blessings to you,

Jewel Sample
Children's writer
"Flying Hugs and Kisses"
http://jewelsamples.blogspot.com

Sharlene MacLaren said...

Oh, Jewel, I loved your dream. It put a big smile on my face. Maybe you'll make Oprah's booklist someday. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Shirley, good to see you as well. (I love sharing the Tisdel family with you!)

Hugs,
Shar

Greta said...

What a great interview. Sharlene is a wonderful and sometimes a very funny person. you really should read her blog. She makes life real.

Patty Horn said...

Thank you Annette for the wonderful interview with Sharlene MacLaren. I enjoyed reading it and appreciated your insightful questions.

I became acquainted with Sharlene on her Shoutlife website and have tremendously enjoyed getting to know her better. I recently purchased the first book in the Little Hickman Creek Series, Loving Liza Jane, and am looking forward to reading it.

Thanks Shar for giving the interview. You were fabulous as always.

May God bless.

Annette M. Irby said...

Hey everyone, thanks for the kind comments on the blog and thanks for stopping by!! Great to have you here.

Shar has brought a party!

:) Annette

Sharlene MacLaren said...

WHOO-HOO, A PARTY!

GRETA!!! HOW FUN TO SEE YOU! ME, FUNNY???

AND PATTY, THANKS FOR STOPPING BY. THIS IS GREAT!

HUGS...

Trease said...

Great job on your interview with Shar. She is such a talented writer, and one heck of a nice person. Blessings.

Stephanie Reed said...

I stopped over from ShoutLife, Shar! No one can tell it like another author: that long, slow slog through the trenches to publication.

I'm glad you mentioned your books are stand-alone. Please enter me for a copy!

Stef
http://www.shoutlife.com/profile_view.cfm?uid=12200

Sharlene MacLaren said...

TREASE, YOU MADE IT! SEE? I KNEW YOU COULD FIGURE IT OUT! (grins) Anyway, thanks for making the effort!

Good to see you here, too. Stef! I just love all the wonderful people at Shoutlife! I could spend hours there -- if I had them to spare. There are just so many people I'd like to get to know better-like YOU, PATTY, TREASE -- EVERYONE!

Love and Hugs...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Annette, for this lovely and lively interview with Sharlene. I know Sharlene, but have never had an opportunity to sit down with her and ask questions the way you have done. She is a very special lady who loves the Lord, and her family. Her stories are so well done. She will never run out of ideas.Thanks again.  Connie Bronson

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Sharlene is a wonderful author. One chapter and you are hooked. I am so looking forward to Courting Emma.
Blessings, Dorothy:)
Cachemeersqueen[at]aol[dot]com

Sharlene MacLaren said...

Hey, Dorothy and Connie, welcome to the PARTY! So nice of you to stop by and comment on my interview. I pray all of you wonderful ladies will have a blessed Lord's Day!

Warm Hugs...

Karla Akins said...

What a lovely lady. Please put my name in for the drawing! Thanks!
karla.akins@gmail.com
http://homeschoolblogger.com/karlakakins
http://jesuslovesbikerchickstoo.blogspot.com
http://karlaakins.com

Vickie said...

Congratulations on the new release. I really enjoyed Loving Liza Jane. I have your Sarah book but haven't gotten to read it because I had my own book deadline. I'm looking forward to it. It was nice learning more about you.

dylansmommy said...

Shar is my mom, and I have to say her books are my favorites. I love the newest one, "Courting Emma". Even though she's my mom, I find myself so wrapped up in the books and I can't put them down. I hope you all get a chance to read them! Thank you Annette for doing this interview. It is always inspiring to hear my mom's story.

Kendra

Debra said...

Hi Sharlene, Debra Ullrick here.
I'm so proud of you. You never gave up and now look.
I can't wait to read your books. Add my name to the drawing.
Luv ya bunches, Shar.

Debra Ullrick
Coming April 2008, The Bride Wore Coveralls, by Heartsong Presents.

Annette M. Irby said...

Hey everyone, thanks for dropping by over the weekend. Shar, we're going to have lots of names in the drawing come Thursday night. :)

Check back Friday morning, readers, to see who won!

Annette

Sharlene MacLaren said...

WELL, THIS IS JUST SO MUCH FUN, EVERYBODY! KARLA, YOU BIKER-BABE, YOU. I BET YOU'RE ANXIOUSLY AWAITING SOME DECENT WEATHER, SO YOU CAN JUMP ON THAT GO-FAST BIKE OF YOURS! AND THANKS FOR STOPPING BY, VICKIE AND DEBRA. VICK, I KNOW ABOUT THOSE AWFUL DEADLINES. I'M WITH YA. AND, YES, DEBRA AND I GO WAAAAAYY BACK TO PRE-PUBLISHING DAYS. SHE'S A TALENTED AUTHOR, FOLKS. CHECK OUT HER UPCOMING BOOK, "THE BRIDE WORE COVERALLS". DON'T YOU LOVE THAT TITLE?

AND LAST BUT FAR FROM LEAST -- MY VERY OWN PRECIOUS DAUGHTER MADE A COMMENT HERE. DO CLICK ON HER BLOG. THERE ARE SOME REALLY CUTE PICS ON THERE OF MY GRANDSON. AND GUESS WHAT ELSE - SHE'S GIVING ME A GRANDDAUGHTER THIS SUMMER!

HUGS TO ALL OF YOU!

SHAR

Karen Baker said...

Loved reading the interview! I've known Shar since our college days but haven't had any contact with her for the past 37 years! We have recently gotten in touch and it is so interesting to read about the fascinating things you (Shar) are doing and have accomplished. You've done good girl!! I've read the first two books of the Hickman Creek series and I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of Courting Emma.

Sharlene MacLaren said...

HEY, KAREN! It has been so much fun reconnecting with you through the fabulous invention called E-mail and Internet. Isn't it wonderful? Thanks for stopping by Annette's Website! Hope you're having a marvelous week -- you and everybody else!!!

I was in Tampa, Florida yesterday and today (taping a TV interview for CTN - Christian Television Network) and I lounged next to the pool today at noon. Now, 12 hours later, we stepped off the plane in Michigan's 40-degree temps. Ugh. (BACK TO REALITY. HAHA!)

HUGS,
SHAR

Annette M. Irby said...

Good Friday morning, everyone!

I've scribbled your names on scraps of paper and shook them up in a bowl to draw a name. And the winner is: PATTY HORN!!

Thanks for visiting this week and leaving comments. This has been fun!

Patty, please contact me at annette [at] annetteirby [dot] com with your snail mail address to pass along to Shar for your free copy of "Courting Emma." If you already have a copy, it makes a great gift.

God bless,
Annette
www.annetteirby.com

Patty Horn said...

Annette,

Thanks again for the great inteview with Sharlene. Thanks for hosting the drawing too (and drawing my name out!!) It's always exciting to be a winner! Of course we are all winners if we are reading Shar's books and even more so, if we know and love the Lord. I am getting ready to email you my address.

Thanks a bunch, Patty

Annette M. Irby said...

Congratulations, Patty! Glad you checked back. :) I'll watch for your email.

All the best,
Annette

Sharlene MacLaren said...

AND ANOTHER HUGE THANKS FROM ME FOR RUNNING THIS INTERVIEW AND FOR ALL YOU WONDERFUL LADIES WHO CHECKED IT OUT. MAY GOD BLESS YOU IN MARVELOUS WAYS!

BASK IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST!

HUGS...

Annette M. Irby said...

Thank you, Shar and everyone. Great to have you here!!

Hugs,
Annette