I've really been looking forward to this interview. And my book came yesteday. We picked it up at the post office late, and I've started the first few pages.
For women like me who crave a great love story with LOTS of romantic tension, but without the gratuitous sex. According to the American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Barna Group, “nine out of ten women nationwide consider themselves to be Christian.” The majority of these women fall into a category I would define as “Mainstream Christianity" -- women who proclaim God, but not always in their sexuality. Many of these women want compelling novels with strong romantic tension and often turn to the secular market to satisfy this need. But wouldn't it be wonderful if they were drawn to a novel of passion and encountered God's ideas on sexuality along the way?
For myself, I cannot thoroughly enjoy a novel unless the romantic element is threaded with God’s precepts. Yet it is rare to find a novel that merges romantic passion and spirituality with an intensity that appeals to me and this mainstream majority. One of the few novels that has successfully done so is Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, which, in my opinion, is why this novel topped the CBA Bestseller List four years in a row, remaining a CBA bestseller to this day.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Boy, Lena, ask a tough question, why don’t ya?? Holy cow, I’m an emotional type of gal, so I have a LOT of happiest days, but … if I have to pick just one … it would be the day I married my very own romance hero AND my best friend, my husband Keith. I had NO idea at the time just HOW good God was being to me, but I do now, which definitely qualifies it as the “happiest day” of my life.
I understand completely. I was a Christian walking a rebellion when God brought my wonderful husband to me. He was God's greatest gift to me, after Jesus. How has being published changed your life?
The biggest change is that I have more peace about my writing. Before I was published, I honestly had NO idea if I was any good or not. But now, I feel a little more secure with three books under my belt. That is, until I started writing the synopses for the next 3-book series! YIKES, the doubts are back, which is okay because it just means I have to trust in God that much more. And believe me, I do! :-)
What are you reading right now?
I am almost finished reading An Irishwoman’s Tale by Patti Lacy, and although I am not usually a women’s fiction fan, this book has mesmerized me with its vivid imagery and haunting story. It is wonderfully well written.
Good. I'm featuring it on my blog later. What is your current work in progress?
Currently I am putting together another 3-book proposal for my publisher that will finish off the saga of the O’Connors. Book 1 will be the story of the youngest daughter, Katie, which will be fun because she is a pistol who comes of age in the Roaring Twenties, right before The Great Depression. Books 2 and 3 will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven, during the exciting era of speakeasies, dance marathons, gangsters, G-men and era criminals like Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillenger. Steven will be a tall, brooding G-man-type modeled after Elliot Ness … you know, a la Robert Stack from the Untouchables? Hubba hubba. I’m very excited because all three plots are very involved, include detailed sub-stories for ALL the character couples (can you say “complicated”???) and each plot has surprises that I hope will blow you away!
I'm sure they will. You do know I'll want to feature you with each book. What would be your dream vacation?
Mmmm … a beach bungalow on an unspoiled tropical island with my husband and lots of my favorite things—good friends, great books and old movies.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
Well, Boston and Dublin are the only two settings I’ve used in all three novels of The Daughters of Boston series, which are the only books I’ve written, and I chose those cities when I was a little girl. As you may remember, I started writing A Passion Most Pure at the age of twelve after reading Gone With the Wind and immediately knew I wanted an Irish family coping with a war (like GWTW), but didn’t have the audacity to try another Civil War epic. :-) Ireland was always a given, and Dublin is one of its biggest cities, so that’s why I chose it.
As far as Boston, I have never been there, but I LOVED Boston Baked Beans candy when I was kid, as well as anything Colonial (I used to LOVE Disney’s Swamp Fox show), so I am guessing I just picked Boston because of those reasons. You can imagine my excitement when I wrote A Passion Most Pure 40 years later and learned that Boston was considered the heart of Irish America because of its large contingent of immigrants after the potato famine. Very cool!
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
President George Bush because I admire him greatly for his deep faith.
Yes. I've prayed for him all through his presidency. What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Dinners out with friends, watching old movies (Gone With the Wind, That Touch of Mink, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Slept Here are some of my favorites), gardening and hosting elaborate dinner parties a la Martha Stewart. I’m pretty driven in whatever I do (anal might be a better word). And, yes, I’ve been known to pipe guest’s initials into their twice-baked potatoes, cut napkin rings out of real lemons to hold lemon green beans, and sketch a layout for how the food would be placed on the plate. Which was fine when I was younger and had the energy to do it, but these days, sitting at my computer with a candle burning and a cup of Hazelnut Cinnamon coffee is my pastime of choice.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
E-MAILS. I like to handle the urgent ones first thing in the morning while I drink my hazelnut coffee and eat my peach oatmeal, then pray and read the Bible. BUT, what’s been happening lately, is I seem to spend more and more time on e-mails, which is NOT good. So, what I have taken to doing is turning Outlook off throughout the day and only checking here and there AND trying to stay brief … which as you know from my almost 500-page novels, is not easy.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
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.
Here’s the jacket blurb:
No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought.
Depth of beauty … shallow of heart, Charity O’Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. She sets her sights on a man who wants nothing to do with her, and although the sparks are there, he refuses to fan the coals of a potential relationship with a woman who ruined his life. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won’t play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants—one way or another.
A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thanks, Lena, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership.
Anyone who would like to contact me can do so through my Web site at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter, in which I feature book giveaways. Finally, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog of which I am a part that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/.
Thank you for spending this time with us, Julie.
Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Passion Redeemed. If you don't win, be sure to get a copy.
Then check out Julie's web sites.