Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Breathtaking Belgium

Beautiful Belgium is the setting for a new release by Maureen Lang, author of 7 books including one of my favorites, My Sister Dilly. (Check it out, you won’t be sorry!) Slated for publication next month, Whisper on the Wind takes place in Brussels at the height of World War I. A small, underground newspaper is the only way for the frightened people of this occupied city to receive news of the war, but publishing it is a dangerous pursuit for Edward Kirkland. When Isa Lassone, a Belgian-American socialite, tries to rescue him, she is drawn into his world, as well as his heart.

Note from Maureen: Technically Whisper on the Wind is the second book in The Great War series, but after deciding to take the cover art for the series in a new direction, we’ve pulled the first book, Look to the East (winner of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest and finalist in the Carol Award). So for the time being Look to the East isn’t available, at least until we design a new cover -- but it will be re-released late next year after Springtime of the Spirit, the next book in the series. Each book is an entirely independent read with a new set of characters, making all of this possible. I guess you might call Look to the East with its upcoming new look the 3rd book and this one, Whisper on the Wind, the new first!

Q. Maureen, did you travel to Brussels to research this book? If so, please tell us a bit about the city and some of your favorite spots.

A. I was thrilled to go to Belgium a couple of years ago when I was in the editing phase of writing this book. Walking the same steps my characters would have walked was unbelievably exciting! But it was also practical, because it gave me such a strong sense of “place.” History is a huge factor over there, and they certainly haven’t forgotten this period. There is a number of WWI monuments, and the people we spoke to very knowledgeable about what went on during the First World War (1914-1918). So much of their country was occupied, and so many battles were fought on their land—so many lives lost—that they will probably never forget.

I have so many favorite memories of my trip there, but I would have to say one of my favorite spots was the center of Brussels, the Grand Place. In my story, the Germans make their headquarters right here. It was easy to imagine the sound of German boots on the cobble stone, lines of soldiers snaking through the narrow arteries leading to this lovely square—so full of dramatic history. I loved it, and from the pictures I’m sure you can see why.

Speaking of how the Belgians recall First World War history, this is a picture of the Menin Gate in the city of Ypres (pronounced E-pra but I also heard it called “Eeps” by at least one local). Every single night of the year they gather to remember those who gave their lives on Belgian soil to defend Belgian’s right to independence. A ceremony every night of the year! Buglers play, soldiers march, and descendants of those who died place a wreath of poppies on the monument. It’s incredibly moving.

Q. How many books will there be in The Great War series? Do you have them all planned out?

A. As mentioned above, we’ve done a bit of juggling so Whisper on the Wind unveils the new look for the series. The next book is titled Springtime of the Spirit and is set just after the war has ended, and then we’ll backtrack to Look to the East with its new look (yet to be designed). So there will be a total of three books in the series, each book containing a stand-alone story.

Q. Tell us about the main characters in Whisper on the Wind. Why is Edward willing to risk his life to publish the newspaper, and what is Isa’s motivation for rescuing him?

A. Although my character Edward wasn’t born in Belgium, it’s been his homeland for most of his life. When Germany invades Belgium on its way to conquer France, Edward wants to join the fight—but not being a citizen, he’s prevented from joining the small Belgian army. Germany, of course, completely overwhelms the Belgians and one of the first things the Germans do is take over all of the newspapers. Edward joins a small group of patriotic Belgians to produce a lone voice of opposition, one that gives the Belgian people hope and basically thumbs its nose against the German army. What makes this story so special to me is that it’s based on an actual newspaper of the time, La Libre Belgique (Free Belgium) which is still in print today.

In the story, my heroine Isa was taken to America just before the German invasion, and it takes her two years to smuggle herself back into the occupied country to bring Edward and his mother out. But while Edward wants his mother to go, he refuses to leave because he won’t give up working on the paper. It’s dangerous and few people will risk so much for it Isa soon wants to join him. Of course, being the heroine, she won’t take no for an answer. Together they risk their lives to offer hope to an occupied country, and Edward finally sees Isa for what she is: all grown up and in love with him. It doesn’t take Edward long to realize just how grown up —and irresistible — she is.

Q. Can we get a sneak peak at the next book in the series?
A. As I mentioned, Springtime of the Spirit is the title of the next book, which will release in the spring of 2011. Being German myself, I’ve always wanted to write a book where the Germans are finally the sympathetic characters. At this time in history, just before the brief German Weimar Republic was established, all of Germany was in terrible turmoil. They basically had to redefine what kind of government they wanted, and as with many power shifts of history, this one came with bloodshed. Basically my heroine is torn between a communist revolutionary and a soldier who only wants what’s best for her—but because of the guilt she carries from her father’s war profiteering, she isn’t sure which man can bring her happiness—each with such different politics and faith. The story was not only a fun challenge to write, but I learned a lot!

To find out more about Maureen Lang and her books, go to www.maureenlang.com.

Q. Do you have a Belgium recipe to share with Taste the World readers?

A. I found this recipe online, and added some notes and modification. It’s certainly tasty, but in the end I did have a little trouble cutting the slices. I admit I’ve never called myself a great cook, and I firmly believe there is an art to candy making (a gift I evidently don’t have!). But I thought the name was so fun I had to share!

Blood Sausage Candy
1 pound of milk chocolate (I used Dove because that’s my favorite)
1 square of unsweetened baker’s chocolate
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla, but use 1½ if using imitation flavoring
1 cup chopped nuts, I used regular peanuts for a familiar candy-bar flavor but if you have a favorite type of nut, go with that
2 cups powdered sugar, approximately

Melt chocolates together; years ago I lost my double-boiler in a move, so I improvised and just used two different-sized sauce pans. In the larger one I added some water, then placed the smaller pan on top, one big enough to fit like a double boiler (so the water won’t bubble up around it or get into the chocolate). The size of your small pan will tell you how much water to use; the point is you don’t want it to boil over the sides. It doesn’t take much to provide the heat you need to melt the chocolate. And of course, if you have a double boiler, so much the better!

In a separate bowl beat the egg and add to melted chocolates. Add the teaspoon of vanilla, nuts, and powdered sugar. Mix in enough powdered sugar to make the dough soft, but not sticky, and not so much that it’s dry (or it will crumble when you cut it later). Hand mixing (literally) to work in the powdered sugar works best.

Roll into logs, about an inch around. Roll into wax paper and refrigerate until firm. Slice thinly or into bite sized chunks. Can be frozen. Laugh over the name, then enjoy!


  1. I can't wait to read WHISPER ON THE WIND. I love Maureen's books!


  2. Sounds intriguing! We know so much about WWII but so little about WWI.

  3. Maureen's a fave of mine! =] That's incredible that they have a ceremony every night like that! Wow. That candy looks great...if I could get over the name. LoL

  4. Thanks so much for having me visit your blog, Susan! And Patty - I should have mentioned how many people actually show up for that nightly ceremony. Turn out is tremendous, from both locals and tourists. Charlotte, who ran the B&B where we stayed, gave us hints on where to stand to get the best view, because she warned us it would be crowded. And it was! Whenever I think of it, I imagine the gate being filled with people yet again today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Very cool. :-)

  5. Anytime, Maureen! You are one of my faves and I hope to see you again at the ACFW conference.

  6. I can't wait to read your new book and the rest in the series. Wow, going to Belgium had to be an amazing trip! I think I'll put making that candy on my list of to-do's - thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. I have just recently discovered the books of Maureen Lang. However, the one on the special ed child spoke to my heart as well as another mom of a special needs child. I have come to learn that Maureen lives her faith as well as writes it. I praise the Lord for her....and anyone who wants "Look to the East" check our half.com or ebay....I just got it last week! Thanks, Maureen for writing and for living your faith and sharing so much of yourself with others.
    Bev Liken Philadelphia,Pa

  8. Whisper on the Wind sounds intriguing and exciting. Please include me in the drawing, thanks!