When I first heard about this book, I contacted Julie to see if I could interview her. After reading A Passion Most Pure, I can hardly wait for the sequel.
Welcome, Julie. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Probably more than I should! :-) There’s definitely a part of my personality in each of the three sisters in the series. Faith, the sister heroine of A Passion Most Pure, is my spiritual self. Faith has an intimate relationship with God—she talks and prays to Him as naturally as if He is her best friend, but she gets angry with Him too. You might say she (and I) are emotionally engaged with the God of the Universe—we laugh with Him, tear up at His goodness to us, and worship Him with all of our hearts.
Charity, the sister heroine of Book 2, is my rebellious and “passionate” self, before I came to the Lord. I was a wild child of the seventies, you know, like so many of us. Thank heavens that Jesus got a hold of me (as he does Charity in Book 2)!
Lizzie (or Beth), the sister heroine of Book 3 is my dreamer self. Lizzie is a bookworm bent on fairytale romance, just like I used to be as a little girl, sneaking downstairs to watch romantic movies after my parents went to bed. In her story, Lizzie has to learn (just like I did) that true romance, the kind that really satisfies, comes from following God’s precepts, not the world’s.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Mmm … there’s so many things I could say! I guess one of my quirky tendencies is that I lay out in the sun—in as low as 45-degree weather!! You see, I’ve had a skin condition since I have been a little girl, and it needs sunlight. I actually had someone take a picture of me in my twenties because they couldn’t believe I was lying out on a blanket next to a patch of snow! For me, the sun is so therapeutic, both physically and mentally, that I still lay out in my driveway today while listening to oldies. Only now … ahem … since I AM an “oldie,” I make darn sure I park both my car and my husband’s to block me from the street and the neighbors. Oh, and I also wait until the temperature gets a wee bit higher than 45 … say 60 or so. :-)
You need the sun, and the sun causes skin cancers on my husband. We are all so different. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Oh, from the moment I read Gone With the Wind! That amazing book inspired me to begin my own novel at the age of 12, a 150-page, single-spaced manuscript that is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. In fact, I was so hooked on romance after reading GWTW, that when I was in high school, I actually dressed up as a nun to go to a free showing of GWTW for the local religious and clergy. One of my friends had a sister in the convent, so she loaned us novice habits and off we went! I sat there mesmerized, shoving free popcorn into my mouth as I watched the tug-o-war between Rhett and Scarlett. It was one of the most fun times of my teens … until we ran into the nuns from our high school! Whew, we got into trouble … but it was soooo worth it (at least at the time!).
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Oh, I’m pretty set in my ways, meaning I read mostly romance, although a good mystery can lure me away now and then. I’m more of a “Calgon, take me away” type of writer/reader rather than “slice of life,” so I read more romance than women’s fiction. But there are a number of women’s fiction writers I do love (i.e. Francine Rivers, Deb Raney, to mention a few) and one of my all-time favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird (not a shred of romance in there!). But most of my reading is Inspirational romance/fiction. Oh, and a rare nonfiction book here and there, although I have to admit, I usually have trouble getting all the way through. Sigh.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Only the three in The Daughters of Boston series: Book 1—A Passion Most Pure, Book 2—A Passion Redeemed, and Book 3—working title A Passion Denied.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I RUN … not walk … to the throne of God! He is my high tower, my place of refuge in ANY storm, be it professional or personal. For me, He has never been a last resort, but the FIRST thing I do when life’s hurried pace overwhelms me. A good example is a story on my Web site about when a doctor told us he thought our college-age son had cancer. Now I am a wired individual under the best of circumstances, so this had the potential to fell me like a tree. But I sprinted to God faster than Jackie Joyner Kersee going for the gold, and the prize was God’s peace. You can read the steps I took in maintaining my sanity at http://julielessman.com/from-the-heart/.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Mostly, I just go with what feels right. For instance, in the original manuscript I wrote at the age of 12, the heroine’s name was Faith O’Connor, just like in A Passion Most Pure (which, of course, is based on that early manuscript). Of course, I wasn’t a girl of “faith” then, so I’m not sure why I named her that, but I did. Ironically, it suits her perfectly in A Passion Most Pure because she is the consummate woman of “faith.”
Both of her parents’ names, Marcy and Patrick, were also from that early manuscript, but I renamed Faith’s rival sister, Charity, and the bad-boy hero, Collin, because there names were … are you ready?? Del, short for “Delatha,” and “Bart.” Don’t even ask me what I was thinking at the age of 12 except that I do remember liking the TV show Maverick, which featured a handsome character named Bart Maverick. I chose Charity’s name because Faith had a twin named “Hope” who died at the age of 9, and I was going for “Faith, Hope and Charity.” And Collin’s name, pure and simple, came from a listing of Irish male names.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Professionally, that would be the third book in the Daughters of Boston series, (working title A Passion Denied). It was difficult to write for a number of reasons. First of all, I hit the wall on this book because I was reading another author whose incredible talent made me feel like I wanted to puke on my keyboard whenever I read my own writing. :-) And secondly, because I was attempting not only to tell a very complicated and dark love story about the third daughter, but also weaving in second-tier stories about the parents and each of the other daughters.
Whenever I read a first book in a series, I generally fall in love with the hero and heroine and don’t want to say goodbye to them. So in my Daughters of Boston series, each book continues to grow and becomes more complicated and layered. As a result, I worried that book 3 would end up seeming like a bunch of disjointed stories, but everyone who has read it so far (quick prayer here!) says it’s seamless and the best of the three books. So I’m very proud of that accomplishment.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
You mean an animal that describes my nature best? Well, I’d love to say a sweet-natured golden retriever, but then a bolt of lightning would singe my computer! You stumped me on this one, Lena, so I just called my husband to ask him, and he immediately said “pit bull.” After I hung up on him :-) and he called back, he said “a shark” because I never stop moving. Mmm … I think I would have to go with a hummingbird, though, because I do everything fast—eat, talk, brush my teeth, drive, you name it. And I have been known to sip some red nectar on occasion! :-)
What is your favorite food?
Hands-down, turkey and dressing! Second favorite food: Spanish rice.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
For me, it was definitely a “Nike” thing—just do it! It took me almost forty years to sit down and finish what I started after Gone With the Wind impacted me at the age of 12. But it finally happened when God inspired me in a beauty shop. I was waiting for a haircut while reading a Newsweek 2001 cover article about Christian books, movies and music. It said they were on the threshold of exploding, and my heart jumped. Something in my spirit said, “It’s time to write your book,” and the pull was SO strong, that I started writing A Passion Most Pure one month later. From the moment that I wrote the first line, all roadblocks were gone, and I was off and running into the world of the O’Connors!
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Basically the same advice that published authors gave to me:
1.) Join ACFW, FHL and RWA, both to get connected with other like-minded writers and to learn a lot about your craft.
2.) Take a fiction-writing class or attend a writing seminar or conference.
3.) Join a critique group.
4.) Purchase and study writing books such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas, AND invest in a great thesaurus such as The Synonym Finder by Rodale Press (my writer’s bible!!).
5.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.
6.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.
Very good advice.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
That this story is basically a love letter from me to my God, who took me from the darkness into His incredible light. Jesus Christ transformed a hard, cynical agnostic (like Charity, the rival sister in A Passion Most Pure) into a person of joy and hope and love (like Faith, the heroine). This is a story I will never tire of telling, and hope to continue to do so in all the books I am privileged to write.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thanks for asking, Lena! Visitors can find me at http://www.julielessman.com/ or at The Seekers group blog at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/. In the next few months, I plan to have a newsletter that will be e-mailed to anyone who signs up on my Web site. It will keep readers updated on the progress of my books and their release dates, plus all the fun things that go on such as title selection, promotion and cover design. YOWZA, wait till you get a glimpse of the male cover model for Book 2—guaranteed to make this book sprout wings and fly off the shelves! :-).
Thanks so much, Lena, for hosting me on your Web site. I had fun, and I hope your readers do too!
Thank you, Julie for spending this time with us. I can hardly wait for the next book to release.
Readers, you won't want to miss this one. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy, but if you don't win, get your hands on one as quickly as you can. The book is a really good read with lots of layers and lots of depth as well as lots of romance.