Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Featured Author Interview: Julie Lessman

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance.

Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.”

The following is a January 2013 interview with her.

1.         Tell us a little about yourself. 

Well, I’m a baby boomer married to a man who makes me feel like I’m living my own personal romance novel. We have a 29-year-old son and a doctor daughter-in-law (for whom I prayed since my son was a baby) and a precious 15-month-old granddaughter. Our 25-year-old daughter, who graduated from law school and got engaged last year, hates to read so, yes, it’s true—I paid her $20 just to read the first chapter of my first book A Passion Most Pure. I’m happy to say it hooked her, and the rest of the books didn’t cost me a dime! ;)

2.         How did you become a novelist, and did you always want to write? 

My romance-writing career began at the tender age of twelve when I read Gone With the Wind, after which I immediately sat down to begin my own novel, a 150-page, single-spaced manuscript that is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. 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 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!

3.         What do you think is significant about Christian fiction? 

Are you kidding? It puts God smack dab where He should be—in the dead center of our lives. I am a Christian romance writer, and for me, romance is not romantic unless God is in the middle. For my tastes, there’s nothing “sexy” about sin in a romance novel or movie. I’ve had people tell me that Bridges of Madison County was one of the most romantic films they have ever seen. Come again??? Since when is adultery romantic, no matter the situation! Maybe that’s just me, but I personally can’t enjoy romance (in a movie or book) unless it is according to God’s precepts OR unless it uses sin to point the reader TO His precepts. That’s the reason I LOVE Inspirational Romance so much. And, yes, “faith” (or spiritual passion) is the key component in my novels … with romantic passion hot on its heels!

4.         How do you hope your readers react to the stories you write? 

The MOST important thing I pray readers take away from my books is the reality of how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. These books may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the God of the Universe. He’s crazy about us, and if most people really understood that, their lives would turn on a dime and blessings would overtake them. Believe me, I KNOW this firsthand—I used to be a hard, cynical, coarse human being before God pulled me up by the scruff of the neck and said, “Yo, Julie! Get a clue. You’re the apple of my eye!” He’s been the love of my life ever since.

5.         What responses to your novels have affected you the most and why? 

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. So the responses that touch me the most are those that tell me my books deepened their walk with God.

Like the 15-year-old who couldn’t talk to her mom about anything, she said, until she and her mom found common ground in their mutual love of A Passion Most Pure. Or the guy who contacted me to get a signed copy for a friend he wanted as a girlfriend. When he told her he wanted a deeper relationship with her, she actually made him read A Passion Most Pure because “that was the kind of relationship she wanted, with God in the middle.” Or the woman who’d “fallen away” from Christianity and wouldn’t read Inspirational books on a dare, but picked mine up not realizing it was spiritual. She wrote that A Passion Most Pure rekindled her love for God and gave her hope again. These are stories that I treasure in my heart.

One of my favorite stories, however, is the day when I was praying with my prayer partner and 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 intense romantic passion 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 up to a whole other level with God. I had tears in my eyes when I learned she is now back at church and trying to live for Him. Call me “edgy” if you will, but for me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

6.         How has being a novelist impacted your relationship with Christ? 

Oh, my, it has finally brought me to the place in my life where He has become front and center, as it should be. You see, getting published was an emotional roller-coaster that took me by surprise. 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.”

7.         Other than writing great novels, what other goals do you have for your life? 

To become the wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister and friend that God wants me to be. That and biking trips with my husband. :)

8.         What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Oh, you mean how I USED to spend my spare time? That’s easy: watching old movies (Gone With the Wind, That Touch of Mink, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Slept Here are some of my favorites), reading more books, 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. Although … I do enjoy trail-bike riding with my hubby, chatting with friends and family around the fire pit on our lower deck, or just dinner out with people I love.

9.         What can you tell us about your latest novels? 

You bet! Although I usually only have one book release a year, I’m very excited to announce that I have THREE books coming out in a six-month span! A Love Surrendered—the final book in the O’Connor family saga—released October 2012. Then my Marcy/Patrick e-book prequel, A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story released November 2012 and I am SO proud to say that my artist hubby designed the cover and my daughter modeled for it! Then, April 2013, book 1 in my new Heart of San Francisco seriesLove at Any Cost releases, so there’s lots of “Passion with a Purpose”—my tagline—coming, and here are the blurbs for each:
A Love Surrendered:

He broke her sister’s heart. 

Will she be next?

Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt, longing for romance to fill the void of her parent’s death. But when she falls hard for Steven O’Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart, too, when he discovers she’s Maggie’s sister?

[Purchase: Amazon.com | Amazon Kindle]

A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story:

One Woman. Two Men. 

One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.

But who will win her heart?

Marceline Murphy is a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues. But when two of Boston's most notorious pursue her, attraction, dreams and faith only muddle her mind. Can the light in the window illuminate the path of true love?

[Purchase: Amazon Kindle]

Love at Any Cost:

Fooled by a pretty boy once, shame on him. 

Fooled by a pretty boy twice, shame on me.

Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who just as soon hogtie a man as look at him … until Jamie MacKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well lassoes her heart. But when Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than him, Cassie finds herself bucked by love a second time, sending her back to Texas to lick her wounds and heal her heart. In her absence, Jamie discovers money can’t buy love, but love built on faith can set a heart free, a truth he discovers a little too late … or is it?

[Pre-Order: Amazon.com | Amazon Kindle]

10.       What stories can your fans expect from you in the days ahead? 

I am actually toying with the idea of writing a post Civil War series set in Charleston, S.C., with a hint of Gone With the Wind flavor, but we shall see.

And I have every intention of continuing the O’Connor saga someday with those precocious cousins and, of course, Gabe, the O’Connor’s tomboy foster child for whom I have gotten quite a few e-mails from readers requesting her story.  I hope to begin with a trilogy for Faith’s girls, then a trilogy for Charity’s twins Henry and Hope AND Gabe and on down the line, each series taking place during the WWII period. But with all the queries on Gabe, maybe I will begin with that trilogy first ... ;) Of course, each trilogy will include a 2nd-tier love story for the parents because I simply cannot let Faith and Collin, Charity and Mitch and the rest of the former hero/heroine couples go!  I'm just not sure when I will do the cousins' trilogy, but I definitely hope to someday. :)

11.     What would you like to say to your fans in New Zealand, and others worldwide?

Would you believe I’m not crazy about the word “fan” because to be honest, we are all women (with some men tossed in) who love Christian fiction—it’s just that some of us write it as well as read it. I actually prefer the term “reader friends” because when a reader loves my books, that means she and I connect on an emotional level, which automatically makes us friends in my opinion. And I gotta tell you that one of the greatest joys I have experienced in this business are the relationships I have made with readers, in which many have become incredibly dear friends and prayer partners, several of which are New Zealanders, I am thrilled to say. :) You guys are truly what make all the stress and hardships in this competitive business worth it, in my opinion, and I would have quit long ago without you.

12.     Do you have any parting words?

Thanks, Ellie, for allowing me to connect with your readers. I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so if they like, they can contact me through my website at http://www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/.

My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways including two right now to win a Kindle Fire or have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Contest details can be found at http://www.julielessman.com/contest/.

Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots” at http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/, which is a very laid-back, Friday journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing.

Or readers can check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website at http://www.julielessman.com/excerpts/.

Finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.



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