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
Besides when you came
to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Your questions are very thought-provoking, Lena
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I’ve gone from being a “wannabe” unpublished writer to the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
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
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.
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
, called Twin Hearts
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
in my husband’s hometown of Newport,
. 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 Maine
What would be your
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
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…
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. San Antonio
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
, Marc and Natalie’s century-old home is based on our house in
and I pay homage to the Boston
area in this new book. One of my upcoming books takes the reader to London, England
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
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
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
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.
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
Thanks so much for allowing me to share with you
today! May each of you enjoy a blessed holiday season! Blessings always. Matthew
My pleasure, JoAnn.
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Awakening: A Christian Romance Novel (The Lewis Legacy Series, Book One)
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