Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Look to the East by Maureen Lang

Today I have the privilege of bringing you an interview with one of my personal favorite authors, Maureen Lang. I've read this excellent book and highly recommend it. Maureen, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us a little about your new release?

Look to the East is the first book in my Great War Series. I’m so excited about these books! The First World War isn’t necessarily a “forgotten” war, but I think most people only know about it because of World War Two. There must have been a World War One, right, in order to have a World War Two? But few people know what the first one was all about.

Well, I’m sorry to say even those who fought in the First World War didn’t know very much about why they were fighting. And while my book isn’t a war book with battles and war history, it does touch on how little communication there was during that era and during that war. Look to the East focuses on the how things were for French civilians living behind the battle lines.

In particular, the story follows the romance of Julitte Toussaint and Charles Lassone. Charles tries to volunteer to fight against the Germans just as the First World War breaks out, but he’s too late. The war has already begun, and there is so much havoc he can’t make it to officially join the Belgian army, where he has at least part-time residency. He’s caught behind the battle lines, forced to take shelter in a small French village where he meets Julitte, the adoptive daughter of a sailor. They fall in love despite the danger—if the Germans were to find Charles, it would be death for him and perhaps the same for anyone helping him. And when Charles escapes, he comes back for Julitte, proving to himself and to her that he’s not the coward he thought he was at the beginning of the book.

What made you decide to write during the First World War era?

I’ve always been fascinated by this era. I’m one of the youngest from a large family—which I mention only because people are surprised that my grandmother (not a great-grandmother or some other distant ancestor) used to tell me about living in a time where “motorcars” shared the roads with horse-drawn carriages. Where airplanes were so rare people stared at them when they flew overhead. Where telephones were uncommon, even in the city. My grandmother seemed to me to be a link between history and this modern world we shared.

And war…well, with a grandfather who fought in the First World War and a father who fought in the Second, I grew up hearing about war and I guess it made an impact!

What would you like your readers to take away after reading Look to the East?

Writing for the Christian market is more than an opportunity to write “clean.” And while I don’t often begin any of my stories intending to teach a spiritual lesson, it always amazes me how God teaches me along the way.

In Look to the East, many of the characters misplace their faith. The villagers look to Julitte, the one person they’ve ever known who was part of what they believe to have been a miracle that occurred in their small town. Instead of crediting God with what happened, as Julitte did, they credit her. And Charles has always believed in himself; he’s had an easy, fun-loving life. Competing against other sailors in a regatta amounted to his biggest challenge before, so it was easy to put his faith in himself. Who needs to think about God when life is easy? Even Julitte finds her solid faith tested when things don’t go the right way, even when she thought she did the right thing.

I’m hoping those who read Look to the East will come away realizing their faith is best put in God, and God alone.

How much research was involved in writing Look to the East?

Since research is one of my favorite parts of writing, I probably recall it taking less time than it actually did. I read many books on the subject of the war and what people in the occupied territories experienced, starting with The Englishman’s Daughter by Ben Macintyre (which I read more than once!). Going to Northern France (and Belgium, where Book Two in the series takes place) was incredibly valuable, not only for orienting my characters to the area, but getting into context what went on at the time as it’s commemorated over there. As I write any novel, I usually start out with at least a couple of months of research and then search out more details as I need them—those unexpected little turns plots like to take, which lead to the demand for more knowledge.

One of my favorite parts to research was finding a church to have in mind as I wrote the scenes where my hero, Charles, is hiding. I needed to know if they were similar to churches here, if they had a basement, if they had pews the way churches here do, how ornate they might have been, etc. I’m convinced the authority an author conveys for writing a novel is found in the details.
So as my husband and I drove through Northern France, we often stopped to get a closer look at different churches. It was fun!

What’s next for you?

I’ve just turned in Book Two in this Great War Series. Although I always say whatever book I’m currently immersed in is my favorite, this one really feels like it is! It has a similar time setting with the backdrop being WWI, but this time rather than France, Book Two is set in Brussels, Belgium. I haven’t heard of many books set there, and when I was able to visit Belgium all I kept thinking was why hasn’t this lovely country been in more novels? It has a rich history, flavored every bit European, just like France or England…and yet few people I speak to know much about it.

This second book is titled Whisper on the Wind, and it’s the story of two people who live during the war in occupied Brussels. They become involved in a secret press—that is, printed and distributed without the permission of the ruling German army. Basically both sides, the Germans and the Belgians, believe in the power of the printed word. Which is why my characters enter into the endeavor knowing it could cost them their lives—and it very nearly does!

Oh, and did I mention one of those two characters has been in love with the other nearly all her life? When he realizes she’s grown up to be not only beautiful but courageous, he can’t help but fall in love too—even though he believes their lives are caught up in too much danger to be distracted by each other…

How can readers find you on the web?

My website is, but if readers would like a peek at the journey Look to the East took—from the sale through the European research trip and on through the editing process—they should visit my blog archive starting from August of 2008: It was great fun to catalogue the process!

Thanks for having me, Kathi!

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