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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Author Interview ~ Sharlene MacLaren

Born and raised in west Michigan, “Shar” married one of her childhood friends. Together they raised two lovely daughters, now both married to wonderful fellows. To date, she and her dear hubby have one grandson.

Happily retired after 31 years of teaching, Shar enjoys reading, writing, singing for the church worship team and choir, traveling, and spending time with her family. Shar enjoys speaking, volunteering, and counseling young women in the APPLES OF GOLD program. She and her husband reside in Spring Lake, Michigan with their lovable collie, Dakota, and Mocha, their lazy, fat cat. Visit her website and her blog.

What new book or project would you like to tell us about?

Through Every Storm is my most recently released book published through Whitaker House.

When Jeff and Maddie Bowman unexpectedly lose their daughter, their relationship slowly begins to deteriorate until divorce appears to be the only option. Through an unexpected turn of events, the Bowmans begin to care for a young boy who teaches them how to truly appreciate life and each other again. It is a book about finding hope in the midst of pain and despair, discovering God’s unfailing mercy and redeeming love. Readers will see that God cares about the biggest and smallest details of our lives, and that hope still grows from seemingly hopeless situations.

I’m also working on a three-book historical set called The Little Hickman Creek Series, also contracted through Whitaker House.

Loving Liza Jane is the first of three in a series and is set for an April ’07 release. Each story depicts life in the late 1800’s in the town of Little Hickman, Kentucky, an earthy, unsophisticated farming community nestled amongst Kentucky’s rich green grasses and mossy hillsides.

This actual town operated its own post office from 1867 to 1912. Today it is a small but thriving community in Jessamine County. Known for its creek, which swells to river proportions in heavy rains and shrinks to a mere stream in dryer times, it will be the catalyst by which several fictional characters emerge along with two more novels carrying the titles Sarah, My Beloved, set for release in October ’07, and Courting Emma, coming out in March of ‘08.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

I didn’t write my first full novel until about the year 2000. But once I ‘got the bug’ to write, I’ve kept at it, writing a number of novels—mostly yet unpublished ones. I first received my contract for Through Every Storm with Whitaker House in the spring of 2005. It was a thrilling and humbling day for me to realize someone truly saw something in my writing that was worthy of publishing.

Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?

Of course. Although I’m in my late 50s, I’m still relatively new to the writing industry. I am surrounded by extremely gifted writers. I read what others write and think—wow—what talent! Satan loves to whisper lies into my ears about how inadequate I am for the task, but I’m learning to tune him out. God has given me a passion to write, and so I’ve dedicated my work to Him and ask Him daily to direct my thoughts and ideas. I wouldn’t want to do this without Him.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Not really quitting. Yes, I’ve had some set-backs. Mounds of rejection letters will do that to a writer. But I just couldn’t rid myself of that seed of passion God had planted in my heart and soul and mind! Something in me just keeps driving me to write—whether anyone ever reads it or not. It’s fun for me.

What mistakes did you make while seeking a publisher or agent?

I don’t know if you’d call them mistakes, but I just kept submitting proposals and chapter samples to one publisher after another until I finally ‘got a bite’. It takes time, effort, and hours of hard work, but if you’ve got the determination and the willingness to learn, hone your craft, and take suggestions, most writers will eventually publish. I believe that with all my heart.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Never give up! Keep writing. Attend workshops, get involved with writing groups, both local and online. Rubbing shoulders with other writers/authors inspires you! You learn from each other.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Not a pet peeve really. Finding a publisher is hard work. This is not an easy industry to break into. But as I said earlier, if you’re willing to keep at it, the hard work usually pays off. DON’T GIVE UP.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

When I first started to write I didn’t know any of the writing lingo—POV and PASSIVE VOICE were biggies for me. It took me a long time to learn how to rid myself of writing in the passive voice. Also, head hopping was an issue in the beginning.

I recall an editor chopping up one of my earlier manuscripts into teeny-tiny shreds, writing two entire, single-spaced pages about all the things that were wrong with it. I wanted to spit and sputter afterward (and probably did). It hurt! But she was so right. That manuscript was dreadful. Looking back, I so appreciate the time and effort it took her to write that detailed letter back to me.

Was there ever a difficult set-back that you went through in your writing career?

I just recall one instance when I’d received yet another rejection letter. They’d requested a full manuscript, then in the end turned it down. I was sitting at my computer in tears. My husband walked into my office and caught me crying. I said, “I don’t know if God wants me to keep writing. Is it worth it?” He put his arms around me and simply said, “He does—and it is.”

What are a few of your favorite books?

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. What an impacting book about God’s unending, unconditional love. Of course, the fact that it’s also a romance of the highest caliber draws me in like a fish on a hook. One of my all-time favorite books, and one I read as a college student, is Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. This classic book set me on a spiritual path from which I’ve never wavered.

I enjoy many authors, both Christian and secular, too many to name. I do love a good romance, though. Thus, the genre I most enjoy writing.

What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?

I don’t know if ‘proud’ would be my word of choice. I love to give God credit for the good things in my life. I love that He’s given me this passion to write, and so it goes without saying that I’m enjoying this publishing journey.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has spoken to you lately in regards to your writing?

I like to call Romans 8:28 my life verse, for as long as I can remember, it’s been my favorite. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” What a comfort this has been to me over the years. No matter the circumstance, if I trust the Lord, He will take even the rottenest of situations and turn it around so that some good will come of it. I love that!

Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?

Since I am a retired schoolteacher, my days are now my own. But that doesn’t mean I’m not busy. I volunteer at my local school once a week, volunteer in the church office, visit my mother twice weekly at her adult foster care home, participate in two weekly Bible studies, baby-sit my wonderful grandson whenever I get the chance, and the list goes on. In between time, I answer E-mails, do research for my books, and write, write, write! I don’t know how I ever had time to work outside of the home.

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

I have tried to set goals for myself, but I so often fail at them that I find it best to simply write as much as I can in a day’s time, then wake up the next day and do the same!

Are you an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer or a plotter?

Most definitely a SOTP writer. I wish I could say otherwise. I’d love to have all my stories carefully plotted out to the final detail, but often I don’t know what is going to happen in my scenes from one page to the next. Sometimes I hold my breath and think—ooh, this is getting good. I better keep going so I can see what’s going to happen. (smile)

What author do you especially admire and why?

Oh, my goodness, too many to name. In secular writing, I used to love LaVyrle Spencer (now retired from writing). Her stories brought me to tears. I love a book that reaches my emotions, brings the characters to life, keeps me up into the wee hours of the morning. Francine Rivers did that in Redeeming Love.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

I love to write—but I hate deadlines. The pressure seems to drain my creative juices. I LOVE the finished draft, though, and the editing that comes after. That’s probably my favorite part of writing—the revising, the deleting, the rereading, the fine-tuning. Hm. Love it.

How much marketing do you do? What's your favorite part of marketing?

Since Through Every Storm is my first book with Whitaker House, this whole marketing adventure is new and exciting to me. I’m looking forward to the book signings, interviews, and mailings, and setting up appointments. I consider myself a people person, so I love meeting new people. I DON’T, however, enjoy talking about myself or pushing my own product. This is the challenge every author has to face when it comes to marketing.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Don’t ignore God’s calling on your life. He has a plan for all of us.


  1. Thanks, Shar, for sharing your journey. You're right, it's good advice to "rub shoulders" with other writers. I've learned more from my fellow ACFW members than anywhere.

  2. Thanks for having me, Ane. It was such a blast doing an interview in my 'jammies'. May God bless you in your own writing journey.



  3. Great advice on the stick it out thing. Redeeming Love was most have great taste! Thanks for sharing your struggles and ultimate triumph. God bless.

  4. Nice to "meet' you, Shar! I've seen your posts on the ACFW loop. Congrats on all you've accomplished!

  5. Thanks, Gina and Kristy. So nice to have this chance to share a bit of my life/writing journey. It's been great fun. Happy New Year and may this be the best one yet--for everyone!

    Be Blessed and Encouraged!


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