Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meet Sharlene MacLaren - Interview & Book Giveaway

PhotobucketIf you haven’t met Sharlene MacLaren, get ready to smile! She’s one of the sweetest people I know, and a great author to boot. Her latest novel, Courting Emma, is the final book in her Little Hickman Creek series. Let’s meet Shar!


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 loveable collie, and Mocha, our lazy fat cat.


JA: Your latest book is Courting Emma. Please tell us about it.
SM: Here’s a brief “book blurb” about Courting Emma:

Twenty-eight-year-old Emma Browning has experienced a good deal of life in her young age Proprietor of Emma’s Boardinghouse, she is “mother” to an array of beefy, unkempt, often rowdy characters. Though may men would like to get to know the steely, hard-edged, yet surprisingly lovely proprietor, none has truly succeeded. That is, not until the town’s new pastor, Jonathan Atkins, takes up residence in the boardinghouse. After a stunning, unexpected turn of events, will Emma risk removing her protective shell to accept the love of God—and the love of a man?

JA: Courting Emma is the third and final book in your Little Hickman Creek Series. As a reader, I hate to see a series I love come to an end. How do you feel about bringing this series to a close?
SM: Isn’t it strange how we allow ourselves to become so emotionally involved with fictional characters? I suppose in a way I did find it hard to say goodbye to Little Hickman Creek and all its lovely people. After all, we spent a few years together! BUT—there was also that WONDERFUL sense of relief to have written that final chapter; thus, freeing me to move on to the next series brewing in my head. ((We writers must be gluttons for punishment.))

JA: Of your three Little Hickman heroines – Eliza Jane, Sarah, and Emma – which would you say is the most like you?
SM: Wow, no one has ever asked me this before; hence, I’ve never thought about, but now that you ask, I’d probably have to say “Sarah”. “Liza” is a spitfire, determined, independent, brave, and outspoken. “Emma” is strong and stubborn, and quite rebellious when it comes to all things Christian. “Sarah” embodies some of the above characteristics, too, particularly the outspokenness, but she’s probably the most gentle-spirited, passionate about her faith, practical-minded, and tenderhearted of the three. I think I see myself more in her character than any of the others.

JA: You’ve been married to your awesome hubby, Cecil for over thirty years (is it thirty-two now?) Do you find yourself writing Cecil into your heroes?
SM: Yes, I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for 32 years, and he’s a very loving, faithful, gentle, romantic man. It’s definitely easier to write romance when you see it lived out day-to-day! I don’t actually consciously write him into any of my characters, though. All my male characters wind up having their own, very distinct personalities.

PhotobucketJA: What do you hope people take away after reading Courting Emma?
SM: My very deepest desire and heartfelt prayer is that my books will cause people to recognize the love of Christ and His redemptive power in their lives. I want to give people a reason to go back to their Bibles. Not long ago, after having read Courting Emma, one of my reviewers wrote this:

This book touched me in ways that are totally unexplainable. Never before has a book made me shed tears, especially in a crowded roomful of strangers. It made me think of my own issues, which helped me to strongly identify with the main character. My only reaction was a strong desire to fall to my knees and pray. This book reopened things about myself that I’d let go of and should probably find my way back to.
That review represents everything that I’m about as a writer. I want to touch lives through Christ’s power and strength.

JA: You’ve written both contemporary and historical fiction. Do you prefer one over the other?
SM: I enjoy both genres. My first two books, Spring’s Promise (2002) and Through Every Storm (2006) are contemporaries. And I’m releasing another contemporary, Long Journey Home, this September. But I also LOVE writing historical books. I love the period between, say, the 1880s up through about 1910 and I think it’s because my own grandparents were born in the 1880s and because my memories of them remain fresh, the era seems more real to me.

JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
SM: I envision myself writing into my 90s if God allows! I can’t imagine ever reaching the point of saying, “I don’t like doing this anymore.” I’m too passionate about it. It is in MY BLOOD!

What’s next? Well, The Daughters of Jacob Kane is another 3-book series, this one with a West Michigan 1903-05 setting. If all goes well, it should start releasing in January ’09. The three books are titled Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann. As in my “Hickman” series, each girl will have her very own unique personality.

JA: I know you’re a big American Idol fan. My favorite this year has become David Cook. How about you? What are your thoughts so far?
SM: Ha! We digress! Yes, I am an AI fan, but this year I’m having a much harder time identifying with any particular contestant. I’d read that Chikezee is a Christian – so I rooted for him. But now that he’s gone, I can’t say I have a favorite. They’re all so amazingly talented, so I guess I’ll just sit back and see who takes the prize.

JA: Is there something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
SM: Hmm, what would people be surprised to learn about me? Maybe it’s that by all appearances I’m a very friendly, open, and outgoing person (yes, even funny!), but on the inside, I sometimes feel insecure and shy. I sometimes have to work at my “outgoingness”. I LOVE spending time with friends and family, and I enjoy making people laugh with my antics, but I’m also a very private individual who loves solitude and quiet. I’m rarely the one who gets on the phone and instigates the social gatherings. I will be glad to attend things when invited, but if given a choice, I’m more apt to want to stay in the comfort of my home and just veg-out with my hubby. Fortunately, he feels exactly the same as me. Two boring little fuddy-duddies; that’s what we are! Pathetic, huh! haha

JA: Between family, writing, and church commitments, you are one very busy lady. If you had a week off with no deadlines, nothing marked in your calendar, how would you spend it?
SM: Probably what I described above, only I’d add that I’d want my precious grandkids with me. Maybe enjoying time by the pool, playing, reading, EATING scrumptious food, and maybe going to some exotic place.

JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
SM: Oh, I love visitors to my websites. I always reply to comments there and all emails. Please feel free to come “see me” anytime. I also welcome prayer requests and promise to lift you to the Father with any needs weighing heavy. Here is my contact information:

Thanks so very much for allowing me to share from my heart. It’s been great fun.


Thank you, Sharlene, and continued blessings to you in your writing journey!


Emma Browning has had a lot to deal with in her life. Coloring everything she does is the memory of the abuse she endured at the hands of her alcoholic father. Jon Atkins had an equally difficult childhood, but rather than hold on to the bitterness, he turned to the Lord. Courting Emma is not just a historical romance. Rather, it’s a story of redemption, forgiveness and how God truly does work things out for good. Fans of the Little Hickman Creek series will not be disappointed in this, the final book of the series.

MacLaren populates her novel with a great cast of supporting characters. The interplay between the citizens of Little Hickman is wonderfully natural, evoking a time when people knew what it was to live in a “community.” While the burgeoning romance between Emma and Jon is lovely, the real strength here is the evolving relationship between Ezra Browning and the rest of the town. How Jon, Emma, and even the church, look on Ezra will be sure to inspire and convict readers.


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Courting Emma just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll combine the responses of my Blogger and ShoutLife blogs to pick a winner at random on April 23rd. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) ShoutLifers will be contacted via ShoutMail. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

sounds like a good book, please enter me, thanks!

Donna Moore said...

I would love to read this one.
runninmama at sbcglobal dot net

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Everything about this one sounds neat. I'm putting it on my TBR list, it would be great to also put in my pile :)

cherryblossommj (at) gmail [dot]com

Betty Woods said...

I love this series, so I've been waiting VERY impatiently for Courting Emma.

Janna said...

I have been waiting to read this book!!! Please enter me!

ryanx6 at msn dot com

Bethany said...

I had not heard of this book, or of Sharlene, so I was very happy to read your interview. The series sounds great; I will have to look for the books. And I found out that Sharlene is my "neighbor" in Michigan!
God bless your endeavors!

aBookworm said...

Sounds like a great read!

I've posted this at my book review/contest blog - A Book Blogger's Diary. Thanks!

abookblogger at gmail dot com

Doreen said...

Hi, I've heard of this book and it sounds great! Please enter me into this contest. Thanks! purposedrivenlife4youATgmailDOTcom

cathikin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cathikin said...

will HAVE to buy this book if I don't win! I just finished reading Loving Liza Jane, and it was just totally absorbing for me. Little Hickman is not far from where my father grew up, and his father before him (Who was born about the time of these novels), and I could see my family in the first of the books. Kind of. For a Yankee, Sharlene did a great job of capturing Kentucky townsfolk of a century ago.

Julie Lessman said...

Jen and Sharlene, GREAT interview! Sharlene, it's fun getting to know more about you. I love you AND your books, so sign me up for this contest for sure!


gsus at charter dot net

windycindy said...

Hi, What a terrific interview with Sharlene. She seems like a very warm, engaging person. It is fun to know more about the authors who write the books you love to read! Her series is
heart-warming and believable. Please enter me in your drawing. I appreciate it.....Thanks,Cindi

tetewa said...

Another new author for me, count me in!

Sharlene MacLaren said...

Oh, HOLY COW! I love all of you so very much! I'm telling you, your comments have absolutely melted my heart. A huge thank you to those of you who've already read some of my books and want to read more. Bless you for making my night!

Cathikin, thanks for tellin' me I did good f'r a Yankee. haha. I love that!

Betty, sorry to have kept you waiting!

Julie, I love YOU too. You guys, if you have not read Julie Lessman's, A Passion Most Pure, run out and buy it TOMORROW. It's sooooo good!

Janna, Cindy, "bookworm", and all the rest of you, a great big thanks and w-a-r-m spring hugs!


Sharlene MacLaren said...

Oh, and how could I forget -- where is my head??? THANK YOU, JENNIFER for posting this interview! Ladies, I met Jen last year at the ACFW conference and fell in love with her. You would not know it by talking to her, but she has to deal with a lot of joint pain--Lupus, for one thing. She has such a warm and generous heart for God--and she's a talented writer, to boot. ('To boot'. Can you tell I've been writing historicals?)

Anyway, we all need each other, don't we? I love my sisters in Christ.

More hugs...


Caitlin Hoy said...

Please enter me in this contest because it sound like a great read I would enjoy.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds great. Please enter me in the contest to win.

ladijo40 (at) aol (dot) com

Anonymous said...

Please enter me!

amateurdelivre at gmail dot com

anne said...

What an interesting and lovely interview. Thanks for this great giveaway. The book sounds delightful and appealing.

ruth said...

Fascinating book which interests me. I enjoyed your wonderful interview. Thanks for this special giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

ChristyJan said...

Wonderful interview! And the book sounds great. Please enter me: hawkes (at)

diane said...

This special book would be interesting to enjoy. The interview was informative and enjoyable. Thanks for this giveaway.

Carole said...

I would love to win a copy of Courting Emma, and plan to read the whole series. Thank you!

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

frugallm said...

I would love to win this!

elkmeese [at] yahoo [dot] com

alissa said...

Thanks for the fascinating glimpse into this special book. Your interview was enlightening. Thanks for the giveaway. bencanada1(at)yahoo(dot)com

Cherie J said...

Wonderful interview! Please enter me in the drawing.

Jennifer AlLee said...

It's so awesome to see all you ladies here! I can tell you share my opinion of Shar... she's one in a million!

And Shar, thanks so much for stopping by and for your sweet words. I do have to clarify one thing... While I was diagnosed with Lupus when I was ten years old, the Lord healed me of that horrid disease. Yep, it was a miracle healing and I give God all the praise! I do still have rheumetoid arthritis, the cause of my joint issues. So why did God heal one thing and not the other? Don't know, but I'm sure there's a reason. What I do know is that God is great and he's taking very good care of me!

Y'all be blessed!

Carolynn W. said...

Please enter me, I loved the first 2 and can't wait to get my hands on this one! Thanks for the great interview!

Dee said...

I would love to read this book, thanks for the chance to win!

Sharlene MacLaren said...

Carolynn, you read the first two??? Awww, thanks so much. I am so humbled by everyone's eagerness to win a copy of Courting Emma.

Love and Hugs...


Karin said...

Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

Jane said...

Would love to win the book! designer_blitz [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] au

Joy Ike said...

Jennifer! Thank you for the review! Be blessed! -joy

Jennifer AlLee said...

And the winner is... Dee! Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who stopped by.