Monday, June 02, 2008

An Interview With Julie Lessman and Book Give-Away

My good friend, critique partner and conference buddy, Julie Lessman, has written a sweeping novel in the spirit of Gone With the Wind. I've had the privilege to see it grow up from rough drafts sent via email to a breath-taking trip back into history through the pages of a published book. To say I'm excited for Julie is an understatement. She is one of the most talented people I know and I couldn't be happier for her success. She's a funny, high-energy lady who is passionate about what she writes.
If you’d like to be eligible to win a copy of A Passion Most Pure, please post a comment and leave your email info (without the "@" and "dot." Example: jcary at gmail dot com) to avoid those bad guys glomming on to your email address!
And now, it is my honor to interview her here and hopefully introduce her to more readers.

Welcome Julie!
Hi, Jenny!
Since we do know each other, I wanted to try to come up with questions you might not have heard yet, ones where I don't already know the answers. Here we go:

When did you first know you wanted to write?

Oh, that’s easy—at the age of twelve after reading Gone With the Wind. That novel so impacted me that I immediately began writing my own romance novel—a 150-page, single-spaced ms. entitled When Tomorrow Comes, which, by the way, is now a Janette Oke title! But that initial manuscript is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. I used to read it to my little sister, Katie, before we went to bed and she loved it. But then adolescence hit, and I soon abandoned paper romance for the real thing as a teenager.

Fast forward almost forty years later—I was sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine July 16, 2001 cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “It’s time to finish your book.” I started writing A Passion Most Pure one month later, finally selling it to Revell after 4-1/2 years and a total of 45 rejections.

Wow! I didn't realize there had been so many rejections. You are up there as a success story with Dr. Seuss!
So then what was the catalyst that put you on the path of edgy inspirational romance writing?

Gosh, Jenny, I’ve never been asked that question before, which is saying something after more than 35 interviews! I would have to say my driving need for love (I used to sneak downstairs at night when I was kid and watch romance movies on the TV when my parents were sleeping) and my very dramatic and emotional nature (I LOVE strong romantic tension, ala Gone With the Wind) were the main catalysts for writing passionate romance. Add to that my driving need for God after I became a born-again Christian, and the only direction I felt I could go was “edgy” inspirational romance.
I longed to write a book for women like me—those looking for more relevancy to their own lives, both in a passionate love story and the struggles encountered between God’s morality and the world’s. The American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Barna Group states, “nine out of ten women nationwide consider themselves to be Christian.” Yet most of these women purchase secular books depicting more passion than is currently found in Inspirational novels. They crave a great love story without the gratuitous sex, and in the case of women like me, long for compelling novels with strong romantic tension that are also threaded with God’s precepts. So basically I wrote what I wanted to read!

Who is your toughest critic whose opinion you respect the most (besides me;-)
Oh, wow, another great question! I would have to say my 20-year-old daughter because she does NOT read (no matter how many books I read to her as a child!!). It’s so bad, in fact, that I actually had to PAY her $20 to read the first chapter of A Passion Most Pure!! Fortunately, I’m happy to say, the rest of the book didn’t cost me a dime (grin). In fact, she actually loved it so much that she immediately read the next two manuscripts—for free!

Maybe that's what I need to do, pay my kids to read my work. Ha!
Next question: Where do you go for inspiration?

To my treadmill. I don’t know what it is about it, but I put my headset on and crank up the worship CD and start singing my heart out to the Lord (or wailing, as my daughter calls it!). And before I know it, I’ve got plot ideas and scenes popping into my head faster than I can jog on that silly machine.

Seeing that I first read your rough drafts for A Passion Most Pure nearly five years ago, where do you see yourself, writing wise, in five years?
God-willing, I see myself wrapping up what I hope will be a total of seven books on the O’Connor Clan. My publisher prefers 3-book series, but there are four Daughters of Boston, so I plan to incorporate the youngest daughter’s story, Katie (who is a pistol that comes of age in the Roaring Twenties) in a second 3-book series along with separate sequels for each of the two O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven. After that, I have had some good writer friends (who have read all three books in the Daughters of Boston series) suggest I write a stand-alone prequel for the parents, Marcy and Patrick, which I would very much like to do.

I know from previous interviews and from our own sharing that you credit contests for helping you to sharpen your writing and make needed connections. Was there anything you did in this writing journey that you would caution others not to try?
The only thing I would caution aspiring writers “not to try” is going the publication route alone—focus on getting an agent first! I learned this the hard way (three years and 39 rejections on my own) before I finally hooked up with my agent who sold my book in a 3-book deal after only six months. Many of the publishers I queried on my own took as long as three years to reply simply because they are SO busy and SO inundated with manuscripts. Ironically, after I got published, I discovered that the unagented proposal I sent two years prior to my current publisher (following an ACFW conference appt.) was STILL in the publisher slush pile!! If it hadn't been for my agent (who my editor respected and trusted), I honestly believe I would not be published today, but still in that deep and dusty pile.

What are you reading right now? Who is your all-time favorite writer (besides, me or any other member of Crit 19;-)?
I just finished up both Cheryl Wyatt’s A Soldier’s Family and Amber Miller’s Promises, Promises (excellent, both!!) because they were the May selections for the ACFW Book Club. And, yes, Jenny, I remember your stories from our ACFW Crit 19 group as well, especially The Huguenot, which I loved!
The check is in the mail, sweetie;-)
Right now I am reading Vickie McDonough’s Spinning Out of Control (also excellent!), followed by Jamie Carie’s Snow Angel, which I heard is wonderful.
My all-time favorite writer? Clearly for me, Margaret Mitchell because Gone With the Wind is the greatest historical novel I’ve ever read, not only for the rich and sweeping Civil War tapestry that Margaret Mitchell created, but for the wonderful impact her haunting love story had on me at a very young age.

If you weren't writing historical romance, what genre do you think you would be writing? Why?
Probably contemporary romance because romance is my passion over and above anything else. I am more of a “Calgon, take me away,” type of gal rather than “slice-of-life,” so I don’t read a ton of Women’s Fiction or nonfiction, mostly lovely, uplifting, heart-pounding romance. The bigger the book, the better, in my opinion (which explains the … ahem … length of my own novels!). Turn my head with romance and nail me with God’s precepts in the process—that’s my kind of book! Like Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love or Liz Curtis Higgs’ Scottish trilogy—Wow, “pure” enjoyment!

I agree--you know I'm a big fan of Liz!
Moving on: You've touched on this a bit already but, once this series is through (and we know there are still two more books coming in the Daughters of Boston series--can't wait!) where will your next series take you (and your readers)?

Well, once I finish off the O’Connor clan, which I hope will take me through seven books, I have contemplated another series about the O’Connor nieces, which would take place during WWII, so that could be fun and still incorporate the original O’Connor family that I love.

Chocolate—dark, milk or white?
Grin. Best question of all! Milk, with white a close 2nd!! And put them together, and you WILL hear moaning. 

Any parting words?
Well, first I want to thank you, Jenny, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership. In closing, I’d like to share a really cool quote I found that some have attributed to Maya Angelou: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.” I absolutely LOVE this quote because it is the total essence of what A Passion Most Pure is all about, and I hope and pray this message will resonate with every person who picks up my book.

Also, I LOVE to hear from readers, so they can contact me through my Web site at, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter. Currently in my newsletter, I am having a contest to win a signed author copy of Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, before it even hits the stores! Also, 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 Thanks again, Jenny, and God bless!

Thank you, Julie! I am so proud of you and honored to call you friend.
To you and to all our readers,
Abundant blessings!


Cecelia Dowdy said...

Great interview! Please enter me into the drawing for A Passion Most Pure!

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cecelia! Good luck!


Melissa said...

I would love to read this book. I've heard many good things about it!

parcelhome at comcast dot net

Mary Connealy said...

Julie, great blog interview. I can not WAIT for ICRS.
Crazy day today though.
Thanks for an oasis in the middle of it Jenny.

Malia Spencer said...

Awesome interview! I picked up A Passion Most Pure recently and loved it. Can't wait to read the next one. :)

Janet Dean said...

Excellent interview, Julie and Jenny!

Julie, I loved A Passion Most Pure. I totally agree that the Maya Angelou quote describes your love story perfectly. I can't wait to read the next book!

Missy Tippens said...

What a great interview! It's so fun to get to know Julie better. :)


Camy Tang said...

Wow, great interview, guys! Julie, I can't believe you had to pay your daughter to read your first chapter! I just withheld food from my husband. ;)

Pam Hillman said...

Loved the interview, Julie. The treadmill???? You've got to be kidding!

No, with your girlish figure, I guess not. Maybe I need to try it!

Loved A Passion Most Pure and can't wait for the next book.

prudence at netdoor dot com

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny. Nice digs you have here. I love the photo of you and Julie. Really cute. Does Julie EVER take a bad picture?

Great interview too. Learned some new things about the famous author.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Melissa, then we definitely have to get one in your hands, girlfriend!!

Mary, I am soooo looking forward to ICRS and breakfast with you and Nora!! Cannot wait!

Malia, thank you so much for stopping by AND for your great comment! I NEVER get tired of hearing that! :)

Janet, you sweetheart you, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I know you're pretty busy these days with your new book, Courting Miss Adelaide, coming out this Sept.!

Hey, Missy, thanks for popping in!

Camy, LOL, you withheld food??? Too funny! Thanks for dropping by.

Thanks, Pammy, for the compliment, but yes, without the treadmill, I would have NO plots!! :)


Debby Giusti said...

Hey, Julie! I loved Passion Most Pure and am eagerly waiting the next saga -- Irish Catholic, big family, war, returning heroes, and of course passion. You've got it all! So glad you found Natasha and that she contacted Revell! A match made in heaven after all the prayer I know you layered over this book. So glad God has blessed your work!

Jenny said...

Hey all,
Just wanted to say Welcome! Glad you all stopped by! This interview was something Julie and I have been plotting for awhile--she's good at that plotting thing, ya know:-). And let me say, if you haven't gotten your hands on her book yet, you are missing out. Right Malia? :-)
Thanks again for stopping by!
Abundant blessings,

Julie Lessman said...

Hi Tina, Thanks for the compliment, but, uh, YEAH, I take tons of bad pictures. Good thing is, I usually have my artist hubby touch them up! :)

And, Debby, I am thrilled that you enjoyed APMP!! It's one thing to have total strangers like your work, but something altogether different when it's a close friend and peer. Thanks, sweetie!

And, Jenny, thanks for hosting me on your Web site, girlfriend. Can't wait to hobnob at ACFW!!


Jessica said...

I would love to be in the drawing as well. Thank you!

jessica_nelson7590 at yahoo dot com

Jenny said...

Julie-girl, that's a date!

bigguysmama said...

Thanks for the interview! I'd love to be able to win a copy of Julie's book! How fun to hear from someone who critiqued her book at the very beginning!

In Christ,

mnjesusfreak at gmail dot com

TK said...

Great Interview, it is neat to learn how different authors inspired and come up with ideas. Please enter me into the drawing. Thanks, TK. vcw1476(at)gmail(dot)com

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great interview. Hi Jennifer and Hi Julie. I know both of you but didn't know you knew each other. What a small world.

Anyway, great interview. A Passion Most Pure is marvelous. I haven't been carried away by a historical like this one in a long time. I loved the era. I loved the characters and I loved the writing. I can hardly wait to read the next one.

Thanks Jennifer for featuring such a great author.

Jenny said...

I didn't know you knew Julie! How funny this small world. So sorry I missed your presentation at CWOW but hope we'll catch up at the next meeting. In the meantime, glad you stopped by.
Abundant blessings,

Julie Lessman said...

Jessica, Mimi, TK and Sandra, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment -- it's SO appreciated!

And Sandra, I didn't know you knew Jenny either, but Jenny is such a live wire that I suspect she knows a TON of people you and know.


Jenny said...

Live wire? Me? Well that explains my electric personality;-)

Carole said...

Jenny, I enjoyed getting to know your friend Julie through your interview, and have wanted to read A Passion Most Pure ever since it was released. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy!

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Carole, for your kind comment and stopping by. Wish everybody could win a copy, but my husband would disown me. :)


lollipops said...

Please enter me. I'd love an opportunity to enter the contest.

vernetlh at yahoo dot com

Julie Lessman said...

Oooo, Lollipops, what a cute name ... makes me hungry just reading your post! Thanks for leaving a comment.


Jennifer AlLee said...

I'd love a chance to win this book, especially since Julie's second book is coming out soon!

Thanks for the opportunity!


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for stopping by! Yeah, book 2 hits the streets Sept. 1, so ya gotta make sure you read it before that!! Too many surprises ruined if ya don't.


Hope Chastain said...

Wonderful interview! Please toss my name in the hat, too! Thanks!

hope _ chastain [at] yahoo [dot] com (no spaces)

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Hope, thanks for tossing your name in the hat! As Jenny likes to say -- "Abundant Blessings"! :)


Jenny said...

Hey! That's my line! :-D

Anonymous said...

Has the contest ended already? Just checking - and adding my name to the entries if you haven't picked someone yet.
Thanks! Jacki
jackiedge at hotmail dot com

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Jackie, so good to see you hear! Nope, the winner hasn't been picked yet, so you're in!


megan said...

Julie, I absolutely loved A Passion Most Pure. How refreshing to read a book with Christian values, that still enables the characters to have real feelings and urges! I read this book in two days because I couldn't put it down. Great interview! I would like to be entered into the drawing for the book. Thanks so much!

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Megan,

WOW, thanks SO much for your kind comment AND for signing up for my newsletter too! I am so blessed to hear you enjoyed the book!

Have a blessed day!


Anonymous said...

Really good interview. Can't wait to read this book. Hope I win.