Welcome, back, JoAnn. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
Nothing is more precious than love. Of course, there are many forms of love, none more powerful than our God who loves us with a passion well beyond our human understanding. Is anything more exciting than that first blush of love, that tingly feeling, that shortness of breath from a glance or touch when a man and woman first realize there’s something between them (whether they want to acknowledge it or not)? If you’ve read my debut novel, Awakening, you’ll know I don’t write formulaic romance. Sure, it follows the basic formula, and I’m a firm believer in uplifting, happy endings. When you start the book, you pretty much know how it’s going to end, but it’s the unique journey of the characters that makes the difference. The most important element in my romances is faith. Readers know when they pick up one of my books, they’re going to get a solid biblical message. The spiritual journey of a character should be interwoven in a natural, seamless way into the story. As long as I stay true to the Lord with my writing, I know He’ll continue to open the doors of His choosing−in His time, not mine. I’m blessed to have experienced great love in my life and have been married to the same man for almost a quarter century. While not a prerequisite for writing romance, I know it’s enhanced my own writing.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Your questions are very thought-provoking,
No way can I possibly choose one, and I must differentiate between my family
life and my writing life. I have to say our wedding day and the days each of
our three children were born were the happiest days of my life. One thing I
find interesting: I had three attendants in the wedding−one in pink, one in
blue and one in purple (all pastels). The birthstones of our children are those
exact colors! Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was pretty awesome. As far
as my writing life, there are three happiest days (so far): May 1, 2010, when I
received my first book contract. Second, the day I held my debut novel in my
hands for the first time and third, the day I saw my book listed on Amazon.com.
These days all signified the culmination of study, hard work, pure grit and
determination, not to mention tons of prayer! I am so blessed.
How has being published changed your life?
I’ve gone from being a “wannabe” unpublished writer to the ranks of, “Oh, she’s an authoress! How exciting!” I don’t get moved to the front of the line, and receive no special privileges or perks, but it seems I have gained a certain amount of renewed respect and admiration from friends, relatives and colleagues, especially since the publication of my first book. I suppose it’s further validation that my first novel wasn’t just a fluke! I still scrub the tub, wash laundry and dishes, stand in line at the grocery store and do all the normal things of everyday life. In terms of my writing career, I’ve spent a great deal of time on marketing and promotion. It’s like this invisible line you cross once you’re published, and it’s time to step out and gain name recognition. It helps that I’m a naturally outgoing, assertive person, but a lot of writers aren’t, and the challenges can be daunting. Like everything else, I take it one step at a time.
What are you reading right now?
My answer has changed about four times during the course of working on this interview. First it was Janice Thompson’s Hello,
it was Sandra Bricker’s Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride. Then it
was Sally John’s Desert Gift and─the
real answer to your question─I’m currently reading Myra Johnson’s One Imperfect Christmas. I’ve also been
reading a lot of terrific historical fiction in the new releases by Karen
Witemeyer, Laura Frantz and Tamera Alexander. Hollywood
What is your current work in progress?
I have several irons in the fire: the primary one is the third installment in The Lewis Legacy Series, called Twin Hearts. It’s written, but needs polishing. Torn Veil Books plans on releasing it in early spring 2012, if not earlier. At this moment, I’m working on a new, stand-alone contemporary romance called Catching Serenity set in my husband’s hometown of
. I’m excited because
it’s different in that it’s not a suspense novel, but rather solving the mystery
of what really happened five years ago in the heroine’s life, putting the
pieces together and proving things are often not at all as they seem. I’m also
developing a three-book series based on a novel I wrote a number of years ago
set in the picturesque Oxford Hills of western Newport,
Rhode Island . Maine
What would be your dream vacation?
You didn’t specify where, but what, so my dream vacation would be about two or three weeks long, combine the elements of travel by air and sea, and include some part of
Europe as well as a beach. The Italian Riviera would fit
the bill quite nicely. As I’ve shared here before, some of my fondest memories
are the days I spent in Rome and when I was a college
student and then shortly after my graduation from college. Of course, in order
to be the ideal trip, money (or lack thereof) would not be an issue and the
sunshine, warm temperatures and great food would be plentiful. Ahh… Venice
How do you choose your settings for each book?
For the most part, I write about places I’ve either lived or at least visited. It brings the setting to life and resonates with readers.
primary setting for my debut novel, Awakening.
I only spent one three-day weekend there back in the early 1980s, but I fell in
love with the sights, the sounds, the history, and everything about it. In Second
Time Around, Marc and Natalie’s century-old home is based on our house in
San Antonio Burlington, Massachusetts,
and I pay homage to the
area in this new book. One of my upcoming books takes the reader to Boston ,
where I lived for a college semester, and I incorporate some interesting but
fun facts of that city in the book. I love making the setting a character all
its own! London, England
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
This is the most challenging question to answer,
Lena, and I even posed it on Facebook to get some
suggestions. I received varied responses, but most, like me, find it difficult
to name only one person. The people with whom I’d most want to spend an evening
have already gone on to glory─my dad and grandmother. I’d love to tell them
about moving back to my hometown (something I thought I’d never do) and becoming
a published author. If Mark Twain were alive, I’d want to speak with him since
I adore his wit, humor and irony. Okay, in terms of someone alive today (and I
witnessed a horrifying accident on the highway today three cars ahead of me
which proved all over again how fragile life really is─thankfully, the three
people in the car were okay), I’d say Steven Spielberg. I’d love to pick his
brain about everything from how he chooses his projects, how he knows which
actors are right for the story, choosing locations, editing, and everything
else involved with bringing a story to the big screen. Mr. Spielberg obviously
knows which elements make it work. Mind you, I have no interest at this point
in screenwriting, but I think in terms of actual storytelling, he’s an absolute
master. Granted, I might choose another person next week, but for today, that’s
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
At this point in my life, I honestly have no hobbies other than supporting our children in their various endeavors (which usually involve music), and I am a voracious reader (mostly Christian romance). Otherwise, since I work a full-time job, it’s pretty much all about the writing since I don’t have time for much else. It completely absorbs me, and I’m sure my family could tell you stories. I try not to be obnoxious, but sometimes I have to close my mouth and swallow my words because I know they really don’t want to hear another observation or comment. They put up with a lot, but they love me unconditionally, pray for me and tell everyone they know about my books. Really, what more could I ever ask?
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I’m brevity-challenged. I know it’s hard to believe, and it’s a polite way of saying I’m wordy. Bombastic. Long-winded. Take your pick. Thankfully, my publisher lets the story dictate the length of my books, and they haven’t cut the word count even though my first two books are longer than most contemporary romances. The Lord knew which publisher I needed, but in some ways they’ve spoiled me (I’m not complaining, and it’s all good). I spend a lot of time editing, and that’s the way I overcome a lot by cutting out the extraneous. Perhaps my biggest sins are repetition (repeating the same word, sometimes too close together) and omission (those little words can be stinkers and the mind’s eye sees what it wants no matter how many times you go over the manuscript). I love entering flash fiction contests because I’m forced to write a story in only 300-500 words and every word is so important. It makes you value and appreciate the sheer power of words. What I find interesting is that not one reader/reviewer/critic has mentioned the length of my books as a negative factor. In fact, most say my writing style flows, is easy-to-read and keeps them turning the pages, and that’s always something a brevity-challenged writer absolutely loves to hear!
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
First of all, pray and commit your words to the Lord. Ask him to guide you, give you inspiration and open the doors at the “right” time of His choosing. Secondly, educated readers make better writers. I’m astounded by aspiring authors (even some contracted authors) who haven’t read other books in their genre, especially in the Christian market. Study the market, do your research, but most importantly, do your homework–meaning write, write, and then write some more. Find your unique voice and explore your passion. Those are the things that will distinguish your writing from the dreaded slush pile. So many new writers seem hung up on “the rules,” but I would encourage them to write the story first. There’s plenty of time later to go back and fine tune your manuscript. It’s true that a great story trumps anything else. Find a good critique partner (at least one), join the American Christian Fiction Writers or other writing group (most being published in Christian fiction today belong to this group), and go to writers’ conferences, if possible. At the very least, establish a website, blog, and network in various ways to make your name known. Do at least one thing every day (other than writing) to further or enhance your writing goals. It’s an exciting journey, but keep plugging away!
Tell us about the featured book.
Second Time Around is a contemporary romantic adventure, the second in The Lewis Legacy Series and the follow-up to my debut novel, Awakening. Both are published by Christian romance publisher, Torn Veil Books of Winnipeg, Canada.
The short-version synopsis: A fateful misstep steals a newlywed’s memories and becomes her groom’s fall from grace. Determined to help her reclaim her life, Marc Thompson makes great strides until a ghost from the past threatens to destroy it all. Join their journey as Marc and Natalie travel from
Massachusetts to and enlist the
help of Sam and Lexa Lewis and the lively TeamWork crew. Along the way, they
discover that surrendering all isn’t failure, it’s faith, and it might be the only way back to one another . . . the
second time around. Montana
Second Time Around has grace as its central theme, with Hebrews 4:16 as the key verse: Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (NASB). Forgiveness is also a major theme. The pervasive truth I’d like readers to grasp from this book is this: when we put ourselves aside, give up the reins and realize Someone else is in control, He will bless. In this “I can do it on my own without any help” generation, so many people have trouble surrendering to Someone much more capable. But when they do, they find strength, solace, comfort, peace and incredible joy.
Please give us the first page of the book.
It wasn’t the bloodcurdling scream that made Marc’s heart pound. Not even the sickening thud. It was the silence.
Rushing from the master bedroom on the second floor, he stumbled as he scrambled down the winding servant’s staircase. Calling Natalie’s name, he dashed into the kitchen.
“Where are you?” His voice echoed in the cold, eerie stillness of the century-old house. Based on the sounds he’d heard, Marc followed his gut instinct. With a rising sense of dread, he darted toward the open basement door. Switching on the light, he tried to see in the dim light. His eyes focused on something lying prone on the cement floor below.
On her stomach—her head turned to the right, arms outstretched—she made no sound, no movement. Marc’s labored breath caught in his throat, and an anguished groan escaped from somewhere deep within. Flying down the staircase, he avoided the rotted step that must have caused her fall. The gaping, jagged hole in the wood mocked him. Cursing it under his breath, he sank to his knees on the hard, cold floor beside his bride. He didn’t know whether he should touch her, but all he wanted was to pull her into his arms and hold her.
He put two fingers on her wrist. Warm. Beating pulse, but slower than normal. Being careful not to move her neck, he brushed aside strands of silky dark hair as he checked her forehead and then the back of her head. Slight relief radiated through him when he found no bleeding or open head wound. Leaning close, he whispered in her ear. That always tickled and got a rise out of her. “It’s me, Marc. Speak to me, sweetheart.” His heart pumped harder, and prickles of fear pierced him to his core. He reached for her, but lowered his hand to his side. He had to do something to help.
Managing to run back up the stairs on numb legs, avoiding the splintered step, Marc grabbed the phone from the kitchen wall. His hand shook so much, he almost dropped it. At least all he had to remember was 9-1-1. For a guy who thrived on numbers, he was incapable of anything more. He punched in the numbers, muttering under his breath, shifting from one foot to the other.
God, don’t take her from me. It wasn’t a request. It was a threat.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’d love for readers to visit my website at www.joanndurgin where they can learn more about my books and personal writing journey, my family and some fun little tidbits. I’ve recently added a blog and hope to make it interactive with Christian romance readers. I’m also on Facebook and am a regular contributor with Hoosier Ink.
My pleasure, JoAnn.
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Awakening: A Christian Romance Novel (The Lewis Legacy Series, Book One)
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