My very talented friend Maureen Lang is stopping by the Edge today to chat about her new book (with its dazzingly beautiful cover), The Oak Leaves. Maureen is a relatively new novelist on the Christian fiction scene, but she made a lovely splash with her debut novel last year, Pieces of Silver. as she was just nominated for a 2007 Christy Award in the first novel category.
I love it when I know the story behind the story. In The Oak Leaves, Maureen weaves a tale about a mother whose child suffers from Fragile X Syndrome. Maureen knows the subject matter like few do. She lives the life of a mother whose child has this disability.
There probably aren’t many books that mesh the hard realities of life mothering a disabled child with a love story, but that’s what Maureen has done with The Oak Leaves. Here’s what you’ll find on the back cover: “Talie Ingram has an ideal life: a successful, devoted husband; a beautiful one-year-old son; and another on the way. But her world is shattered when she discovers a shocking family secret in the nineteenth-century journal belonging to her ancestor Cosima Escott. Only in reading Cosima’s words can Talie make peace with the legacy she’s inherited and the one she’s passed onto her son.”
I’m also a fan of ancestral journals that breathe life into contemporary stories, so I can’t wait to get my hands on The Oak Leaves. Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about it: “From the very beginning, Lang, a romance novelist andauthor of Pieces of Silver, deftly navigates back and forth in history… It’s Cosima’s lingering voice—her determination and faith—that inspires Talie to reconcile her son’s diagnosis of fragile X syndrome (a disability Lang’s own son suffers from) with her belief that God is merciful.”
Here’s Maureen to tell us more:
Edgewise: What did you learn about yourself as a writer as you wrote this book. As a mom?
Maureen: I learned so much on both counts! As a writer, I learned to separate the fictionalized story from some of the actual events in my life that parallel the contemporary portion of this book. It was so freeing! I wanted to include the emotion behind my experiences, but not necessarily my experiences. The story had to come first. And as a mom? This story made me delve into what I’ve learned about myself through having a child with a disability. I learned God really does have a plan for me, and Grant, my disabled son, is a huge part of that plan. I’m by no means a perfect mom, but I’ve learned I’m a lot stronger than I thought.
E: I love your cover and your title! What does the title signify?
M: I really love the cover, too, the colors and the warmth. The child portrayed has a very similar skin tone to my own son, which I also loved. The title was inspired by a friend of mine, who told me about an old custom of how family trees were once drawn. The male names were inscribed on the trunk and branches, while the female names were put on the leaves, probably because they’re names would change once they married. So the Oak Leaves in my book represent the women portrayed in my novel – their names were put on a family tree, on oak leaves.
E: Was this book harder to write or easier because of your intense familiarity with the subject matter?
M: Some of this was undoubtedly easier, because I didn’t have to research what the symptoms of Fragile X are, how a diagnosis might be made, how the genetics work and impact an entire family. But on the other hand, I had to work harder on the contemporary part because it was so close to home, sometimes too close. I had a hard time separating myself from the heroine since she had so many of my experiences – it kept hampering my progress. I didn’t want the character to represent ME so closely, and yet I struggled to find a comfortable distance that had a little of me but rather more of someone who fit into the story, with other characters around her who were entirely made up – well, except for the husband, who was also inspired by my real-life husband. There are a couple of scenes in the book that are pretty much word-for-word accounts of things we went through that fit the story. (I’ll let the readers guess which scenes those are!)
E: What are you working on right now?
M: I just turned in to Tyndale the sequel to The Oak Leaves which will release in Feb 08. It’s titled On Sparrow Hill and it, too, has a dual thread, one contemporary and one historical. I love being able to mix settings. Some of the same characters from Oak Leaves show up in this story, but the focus shifts to Beryl Hamilton in historical Ireland, and to a modern-day descendant of Peter Hamilton in a contemporary English setting. Very romantic, which made it a lot of fun!
Thanks for visiting the Edge, Maureen. Have a great Monday, everybody.