I've really been anticipating having Julie back on my blog. I love her books and can hardly wait to read the new one. Welcome, Julie. God has really been moving in your writing life. What do you see on the horizon?
Gosh, Lena, I try REALLY hard not to “see” too much with my own vision because as we all know, that can set you up for a fall. And if there is one thing I have learned (ahem … the hard way!), it’s that I’d really rather not focus on what I want, but what God wants for me. BUT, if you are asking me what I would LIKE to see in my future, I can certainly share my dreams with you and your readers.
Deep down in the core of my being, I have a burning desire to reach women like I used to be—women who, yeah, maybe they believe in God, but they are not living for him—not in their lives or in their sexuality. I look at the young women today, mired in an amoral society, and my heart cries out to make a difference in their lives. To show them what God showed me—that unless He is in the center of our relationships, true happiness will be very hard to come by. Unfortunately, most of these types of girls and women don’t read Inspirational Romance. BUT … it is my desire—and I hope, God’s—that the edgy romantic tension in my books will somehow draw women like this to the type of Inspirational Romance that I write. And IF they read it, I am convinced the spiritual message will resonate for some of them.
How do I know? Because I get e-mails all the time, telling me so. And just last week, I was going through a really discouraging time regarding my writing, wondering if I was on track with God regarding the level of sensuality I include in my books. I was praying with my prayer partner about it when her 25-year-old daughter stopped by, a girl I hadn’t seen in a long time but knew that she had strayed from her Christian roots—living with her boyfriend before they got married, not going to church anymore, heavy drinking, etc. This young women proceeded to tell me that when she read my books, she actually got angry at me. Why? Because the spiritual parts convicted her so much that she wanted to throw the books out. But she didn’t, she said, BECAUSE the sensuality and intense romance so grabbed her by the throat, that she was compelled to finish the books. And when she turned the last page of A Passion Redeemed, she told me it had brought her to another level with God. I had tears in my eyes when I learned she is now back at church and trying to live for Him. For me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
I know what you mean. When I receive feedback about how one of my books changed someone's life, it's as if the Lord is saying, "Keep doing what I've called you to." Now, Julie, tell us a little about your family.
Well, first off, I am married to a man I don’t deserve—he’s way too kind and patient for the likes of a high-maintenance drama queen like myself, but therein lies the goodness of God! He is an artist who designs my Web site, posters, bookmarks, newsletters, whatever I need. I also have a 25-year-old son who lives in Omaha with his wife who just graduated from med school, and we were blessed to learn she obtained a residency in St. Louis (where we live). I also have a sassy 21-year-old daughter who is headed for law school in the fall, so come May, my husband and I will go from empty-nesters to having five adults and three golden retrievers under our roof. YIKES … we’re a close family, for sure, but the question is, will we remain that way?? If nothing else, it should provide plenty of fodder for my books. :-)
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
Yes! Before I started writing, I never read anything but the Bible, some non-fiction and an occasional best-selling novel. You may find this hard to believe, but I never read romance! Why? Because I was a romance snob—one of those professional women who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a romance novel because I didn’t consider it “serious” reading. And then eight years ago, God set me free from my bias when He dropped the bomb on me that the actual desire of my heart was to write romance for Him. What a shocker! Since then, I have read everything in the Inspirational market I can get my hands on to study how it was done, and that’s still pretty much all I read.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished my fourth book about the O’Connors on St. Pat’s Day—how’s that for great timing as far as Irish novels? It’s called Refuge From the Storm (working title), and it’s the first book in my new 3-book series, which begins with Katie O’Connor’s story, the youngest daughter from The Daughters of Boston series. Katie is a pistol who comes of age during the Roaring 20s and The Great Depression, so it was fun to write.
Books 2 and 3 will be about the O'Connor brothers, Sean and then Steven, all during the exciting era of speakeasies, dance marathons, gangsters, G-men and era criminals like Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillenger. Sean's love interest will be ... guess who? Emma! Charity's scarred friend from Dublin. Steven will be a tall, brooding G-man-type modeled after real-life Elliot Ness. Some of your readers are probably too young to remember this, but I am modeling him after Robert Stack from "The Untouchables," who played Eliot Ness in the TV show years ago. I am 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 and pray will blow readers away!
I'm sure they will. What outside interests do you have?
Grin. Not many since I’ve taken up writing, I can tell you that! I used to be into gardening and entertaining, but with a 500-page book due every six months, there’s not much time for those things anymore. But, I do still love to watch old movies and musicals with my husband, fix special dinners and READ, of course!
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 historical person, who would it be and why?
Are you kidding? Jesus Christ, hands-down … or maybe I should say, “knees-down.” He is the love of my life, and I would thrill at the opportunity to worship Him in person.
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
I wish I’d known what an emotional roller-coaster it was going to be AFTER I got published. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, wouldn’t it? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered (AGAIN!) that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is my confidence when my sales rankings on Amazon.com are high or low, which is why I CLING to the following Scripture from 2 Corinthians ll:3, praying it almost every day: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
I even believe that every rejection for a manuscript comes from the Lord. The publisher who rejected the proposal or manuscript wouldn't be able to reach the readers who need to read that story. What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
Ouch, Lena, you really know how to go right for the jugular, don’t you? In fact, the lesson the Lord is teaching me right now has been so painful, that I’m afraid it’s still a bit raw. He’s teaching me that it doesn’t matter if I final in contests or if my numbers on Amazon are high or low or if a reviewer thinks my books are too sensual or not. All that matters right now is that my heart is stayed on Him and His will for my writing. Period. I’m getting there, but I have to admit—it’s slow.
We wouldn't grow, if we didn't experience the pain. I know. What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
Well, I hope you don’t mind, but I would rather not limit it to three things, because I suggest all of the following in order to succeed, which is basically what I did:
1.) Join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers at http://www.americanchristianfictionwriters.com/), FHL (Faith, Hope & Love at http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/) and RWA (Romance Writers of America at http://www.rwanational.org/), 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.) Enter contests for invaluable feedback.
6.) Hang out at Web sites devoted to getting published, such as The Seekers (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/), an excellent group blog that I belong to.
6.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.
7.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.
Very good advice. Tell us about the featured book?
Book 3 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Denied, is the story of Faith and Charity’s little sister, Lizzie, a shy bookworm who dreams of a fairy-tale romance. It unfolds a man’s dark past and a young girl’s shattered dreams … and the God who redeems it all.
Elizabeth O’Connor is the little sister John always longed for. With a fire for God in his belly, he has been her spiritual mentor since she was thirteen, sharing her love of literature and her thirst for God. But when his gangly protégé blossoms into a beautiful young woman bent on loving him, he refuses to act on the attraction he feels. His past won’t let him go there. Unfortunately, “Lizzie” won’t let him go anywhere else … until his dark and shocking secrets push her away.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Gladly, and how fun! I have never had anyone ask that before! Here you go:
Boston, Massachusetts, Spring 1922
Oh, to be a calculating woman! Elizabeth O’Connor sighed. She dodged her way down the bustling sidewalk of Boston’s thriving business district, wishing she were more like her sister, Charity. She chewed on her lip. Regrettably, she wasn’t, a definite character flaw at the moment. And one that would have to change.
She sidestepped a rickety wood wagon heaped high with the Boston Herald, hot off the presses. The freckle-faced boy hauling it muttered an apology before disappearing into a sea of pin-striped suits, short skirts and bobbed hair. On his heels, a young mother ambled along, cooing to a wide-eyed baby in a stroller. The baby’s soft chuckle floated by, and the sound buoyed Elizabeth’s spirits. Spring in the city! Despite the whiff of gasoline and tobacco drifting in the unseasonably warm breeze, she was ready for the promise of love in the air. Her heart fluttered. And maybe, just maybe, a little spring fever would do the trick!
She pressed her nose to the window of McGuire & Brady Printing Company and peered inside. John Morrison Brady was bent over a press, his lean, muscled body poised for battle with a screwdriver in his hand. Her chin hardened, and her smiled faded. That man suffered from a terminal illness that would be the death of their relationship: friendship. Elizabeth straightened her shoulders. And the worst kind of friendship at that—the big-brother kind.
She touched a hand to the wavy shingle haircut her friend Millie had talked her into. “It’s all the rage, Lizzzzzie Lou,” Millie had insisted, the sound of Lizzie’s name buzzing on her tongue like the hum of a busy beehive. A self-proclaimed modern woman, Millie had convinced Elizabeth “Beth” O’Connor to change her name to Lizzie over a year ago—to add excitement to her life, she’d said. And now, in the throes of radical 1920s fashion, Lizzie’s best friend had also convinced her that the chestnut tresses trailing her back simply had to go. The result was a short, fashionable bob, newly shorn just yesterday. Softly waved, it fell to just below her ear, showing off her heart-shaped face and slender neck to good advantage. Or so Millie had said. She squinted at her reflection in the window. She did look older, more sophisticated, she supposed. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. And it certainly seemed as if she had turned a few more heads at the bookstore where she worked. She opened the door, spurred on by the tinkling bell overhead, and took a deep breath. Now to turn the right one …
The reason I now ask for the first page is to give the readers a tiny glimpse that will hook them. And I'm hooked. I can hardly wait to read the book. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thanks for asking, Lena. Readers can contact me through my Web site at http://www.julielessman.com/, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter, which will keep them updated on The Daughters of Boston series, as well as give them sneak peeks at the inside publishing process and info on book releases and signings. They can also just pop in and leave a comment and their e-mail on our group blog at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, a blog about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.”
Thank you, Julie, for once again giving us a wonderful glimpse into your life.
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