Interview with Sharlene MacLaren on her latest book, Abbie Ann
How did you come up with the concept for Abbie Ann?
Abbie is the third and youngest of Jacob Kane’s daughters, so I developed her character and her eventual story early in the series. Since she is a rather feisty, self-confident, independent soul, even though the youngest, I decided to give her a passion for women’s rights; thus, her involvement in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The Union wasn’t just about prohibition; it also involved, and still does, women’s suffrage (the right to vote and be heard), child welfare, equal opportunities in the workforce, fair labor laws, banning the mishandling of dangerous and illegal drugs, and so much more.
How did you choose the location for the setting?
The fictional name of Sandy Shores is actually my own stomping ground. Many landmarks, street names, certain events, and even a few characters’ names are real. It’s fun, not to mention convenient, writing a story with your hometown in mind. (Research is always just a phone call or car ride away!) That said, the series is still fictional.
Do you have a favorite character in Abbie Ann? Why?
Well, I’m always partial to my leading men, and Noah Carson is no exception. I would say strong, sturdy, and stubborn best describes him. Of course, under that tough façade is a man in need of a Savior. I enjoy developing my characters, i.e. bringing them to a vulnerable state in which they recognize how utterly lacking they are in their own strength.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Abbie Ann?
Well, besides discovering many interesting facts about the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which exists to this day, I also had to learn the basics of shipbuilding. (My male character builds racing sailboats.) I had to learn what lofting means—making sure the boat’s lines are fair and smooth, how to make a steam box, and just what steps to follow in the actual building process. That took a bit of research. Would I be able to build a boat today? NOT IN YOUR LIFE! In fact, I can barely remember what I learned.
What message would you like your readers to take from Abbie Ann?
My hope and earnest prayer is that my readers will find God amidst the pages of my books. I don’t write for the pure enjoyment and pleasure it brings but from the satisfaction of learning some reader sensed God speaking to him/her while reading one of my books. I am a SAHM (that’s not stay-at-home-mom, as some might think, but stay-at-home-missionary). Yep, my job as a writer is to dedicate each of my stories to the Lord and ask Him to place them in the right hands. I long for God to use them to spread the message of His healing power and love.
What is your greatest achievement?
To this, I can only say raising our daughters to love and serve Christ with all their hearts and souls and then seeing them marry God-fearing men who share their zeal. What greater joy can a parent experience than to know he/she accomplished this God-given task?
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Christ-follower first, then a devoted wife, mother, and grandma. I’m also a retired schoolteacher, having taught 31 years in 2nd and 4th grades. Loved my career, but I’m enjoying this second career as a writer every bit as much—or more! I’ll tell you, God is full of divine surprises!
What is your favorite Bible verse?
I like to refer to it as my “life verse”, as it’s been with me since my early college years. The verse that’s meant so much to me is Romans 8:28: “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord; to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
How did you get started writing Christian fiction?
In the summer of 2000, when I knew retirement was still a couple of years out, I asked the Lord to begin implanting in me a new direction and passion for my life. I’d always enjoyed writing in some capacity or another but hadn’t actually dabbled in fiction since 11th grade! Can you believe it? At 51 years of age, I decided to sit down at my computer on a warm summer day to see if I could hammer out more than one page. Well, let’s just say I wrote four full-length manuscripts over the course of that year, and MY PASSION WAS BORN! I didn’t publish for another six years, though, just kept feeding my passion by writing, attending seminars and conferences, joining writing groups, honing my craft, learning the industry, and committing everything very prayerfully into the Lord’s capable hands.
What inspired your interest and passion for fiction?
I have always enjoyed writing; just never saw myself doing it as a career, especially since so many other things (family, church, Bible study, music, teaching) kept me constantly busy. When God first planted this seed of desire to take my writing to another level, Christian fiction seemed the most fitting genre for me, as I’d always LOVED reading it. Now, I just sit and read my own books as I write!
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love writing the “bones” of the story, but even more than that, I love the editing process. With the story mostly complete, I love being able to go back over it a few more times to add in the color and extra layers. Sometimes, though, editing can involve removing layers. I tend to get a bit wordy first time around, thinking I’ve written some of the best paragraphs ON EARTH only to plug my nose when reading back over them. That’s when I say, “What was I thinking?” and hit the DELETE key.
What is your writing style? Do you outline? By-the-seat-of-your-pants? Something in-between?
Ha! If you haven’t yet figured it out, I am a total seat-of-the-pantser! I swear to you most times I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen from page-to-page. Yes, I do time-period research, I determine the gist of my story; i.e. a basic beginning, middle, and end, and I draw up character sheets whereby I decide what sort of personality, traits, and features to give each person. THEN…I sit down and start carving out my story. Some days are rather interesting; particularly when a character says or does something I hadn’t planned! I sit at my computer and ask, “What are you doing, and where are you going? Come back here this instant!
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
In the fall of 2010, you’ll find a new stand-alone contemporary titled Tender Vow. It’s a heartwarming story about unexpected love amidst tragedy. All of my novels involve romance and most of them some measure of intrigue, mystery, or suspense. Tender Vow differs in that it’s a flat-out love story with tragedy at the forefront and God’s gentle grace the backdrop. If you enjoy a story of hope, healing, forgiveness, second chances, and renewal, then Tender Vow won’t disappoint. Currently, I’m working on a new 3-book historical series that’ll begin releasing in early 2011. It’s titled “River of Hope”, and the setting is 1926-30, Wabash, Indiana. I’ve begun the research and am just itching to dive in!