Friday, November 16, 2007

Interview with Revell Debut Author Julie Lessman

I'm so thrilled to have Julie Lessman visit my blog today. She was kind enough to answer some questions, so I hope you enjoy getting to know her better. Julie is a fellow Seeker (see our group blog) and an amazing prayer warrior. When I need prayer, she's the first one I go to.

You can see her debut book cover to the left. I can't wait for its release in January!

Welcome, Julie! :)

Julie Lessman ~ Author Interview:

How did you come up with the premise for this story?

Hi Missy, it’s so good to be here! Thanks for inviting me to your blog. What a great question—and one I’ve never been asked before, so it really made me think! My debut novel, A Passion Most Pure (due out January 2008) is the story of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family in pre-WWI Boston where a love triangle occurs between two sisters and the bad-boy hero. As one of 13 children (in a family that included 10 girls!), I guess you can say I experienced my fair share of sibling rivalry. I often butted heads with my sister who was two years older than me. She was … ahem … quite voluptuous and very attractive to boys while I was … well, basically not! :) I was so skinny, in fact, that when I played on a girls’ softball team, my older brother commented: “What position do you play? The foul line?”

Needless to say, the idea of competing with my beautiful sister for a boy’s affection was deeply rooted in my childhood, which is actually when I started writing this novel, at the age of 12, after reading Gone With the Wind. Suddenly my passion for romance was awakened, and although I only penned 150 pages of a single-spaced manuscript at that time, the story is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you look at it!), almost forty years passed before God breathed new life into that early attempt and inspired me to finish my childhood novel of passion—only this time the “passion” would be for Him! :)

I know you’ve joked about being the queen of rejections. Can you tell us a little about that?

Uh, yeah … anyone who attended the 2005 ACFW Conference will remember me as the poor slob who waved her hands wildly in the back of the room when Brandilyn Collins asked who had the most rejections in a year. I won hands-down with 19 (at that time) and went on to garner in excess of 45 (both agent and publisher rejections, including three received AFTER I signed a 3-book contract with Revell Publishing!). Even my agent, Natasha Kern, blanched a bit when she first signed me, realizing after the ink was dry just how many times I’d been rejected. I believe the word she used was “daunting.” But apparently not too daunting for her amazing skills as an agent because she landed a contract for me within six months.

Where do you write? Any place special? Any quirks you have while creating?

I write in a tiny computer room that my artist husband and I share. It has a big window that lets in gobs of light and lots of fun distractions like chipmunks and deer (we live in a woodsy area). It’s a pretty small room, though, so most of the time, we are back to back, which is kind of nice because I like to lean back and kiss him after I put lip gloss on, which is OFTEN! That would definitely qualify as one of my quirks—lipstick and lip gloss. I wear it everywhere, even to bed (the lip gloss, I mean). Also, I always have a candle lit next to a favorite picture of my husband and me before we were married. How’s that for romantic inspiration? :) It sure works for me!

Do you have a day job, too?

You mean the one I shouldn’t quit in case I can’t write? (grin) Yes, I am a part-time writer for a travel company and am blessed to have the most wonderful job-share partner in the world (love ya, Carol Ann!). We alternate working two to three days a week, which definitely cuts down on my writing time at home. But my boss and the writers I work with are so amazingly encouraging and supportive, that I don’t know what I would do without them. Every one of them has read my books and provided invaluable feedback. I will miss them if I ever do well enough to quit … which, of course, is every writer’s dream—to be able to write novels fulltime.

What are a couple of your all-time favorite books? (I know what one of them will be! )

Well, number one is no secret—Gone With the Wind. This is the book that launched my romance-writing career at the tender age of 12! :)I think I may be one of the few people around who actually LOVED Scarlett O’Hara … and don’t even get me started about Rhett Butler! (grin) Another all-time favorite of mine is To Kill A Mockingbird—incredible storytelling!

Some of my Inspirational favorites are Francine Rivers, of course, particularly Redeeming Love and her Mark of the Lion series—both awesome! I absolutely love Liz Curtis Higgs’ Scottish trilogy, Fair is the Rose, Thorn in My Heart and Whence Comes a Prince, as well as Kathleen Morgan’s Child of the Mist and Daughter of Joy. And Kristin Heitzmann’s Diamond of the Rockies series is another favorite. Newer authors that I particularly like are Tamara Alexander, Deeanne Gist, Mary Connealy, Camy Tang and Deb Guisti.

I’ve heard that your books are more sensual than most inspirational romances. Can you tell us a little about that?

Well, I really shy away from the word “sensual,” because this book is NOT about sensuality. It is about real people with real emotions, desires and temptations, doing their best to deal with them according to God’s precepts. Yes, “passion” is a driving force in this novel—but I am talking about passion for God as well as romantic passion. Flat out—I just love romance, but ONLY when God’s in the center. And trust me, He IS in the center of A Passion Most Pure—big time! First and foremost, it’s about the heroine’s romance with God, and then secondly, how her romance with God affects her relationship with the hero. And, as a baby boomer who thinks romance does NOT end at the age of 30, I’ve also incorporated a love story between the heroine’s parents, who have an inspiring and deeply tender relationship. Because no way should the kids have all the fun! Go baby boomers! :)

What’s been the most exciting thing about your very first book (baby) coming out?

Without question, the most exciting thing has been God’s faithfulness in giving me the desires of my heart! Having this book published is just another confirmation that God is as good as His Word. He says in Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Delighting in Him—bubbling over with love for Him—is the key. I learned that at the age of 23 when I went from a hardnosed agnostic to turning my life over to Jesus Christ. Back then (and now), I was pretty much a bottom-liner—by that I mean if God’s Word said “delight” in Him, I did it with a vengeance, anyway I could—reading His Word, applying it the best I knew how, repenting when I failed, and praying for fervor. And it worked!

I remember this one day I was witnessing to a friend. She bought me lunch and I really wanted a lemonade, but I didn’t want to add that to her bill, so I ordered water instead. I got up to refill my water at the soft-drink fountain bar and, of course, the water spigot was on the lemonade tab. I pushed my cup up against the tab with my finger poised on the little white lever that dispensed the water, and a thought came to me that I could have lemonade and no one would know. In that split second, my fervor for God rose up so strongly, that I literally rammed the water spigot until my finger hurt. At that exact moment, a rush of joy flooded through me so forcefully, that it was almost a physical sensation, taking my breath away. This is delighting in Me, came the thought in my head. Now I know this story seems odd, being about a soda fountain and all, but it goes to show that God is creative and meets us right where we are at, and quite frankly, I will never, ever forget it.

Now, thank God the scripture says “delight” in Him to get the desires of your heart and not “obey” because that’s a pretty stiff requirement for any human being, and I certainly would have been up a creek. Instead, He has blessed me with the desires of my heart—from a wonderful marriage (quite a feat for a 28-year-old who was the only one not married in a family of 13 kids!) to two amazing children (hard to do as an infertility patient), and now this—a book in which I can unleash my passion for Him along with my passion for romance (a true testimony to God’s faithfulness after 45 rejections!). :) Quite simply, God is absolutely the best, and in my opinion, no romance … nor any romance writer’s life … is complete without Him.

Julie, thanks so much for being here today!



Cara Slaughter said...

Julie, it's fun to learn more about you and your writing. I can't wait to read your new book. I love historicals, including GWTW!

Mary Connealy said...

Julie what great answers. Maybe by the time you've got A Passion Most Pure launched with dozens of blog interviews behind you I will begin to get to the mystery that is you.

I love the idea of being passionate about faith. I think that's something a lot of us feel but your gift for expressing it so perfectly makes every word you write worth reading.

I can't wait for A Passion Most Pure.

Mary Connealy said...

btw, I'd have commented earlier but I've been gallivanting because I ... uh ... had the day off. :)

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks Cara and Mary for your comments. I'm pretty right out there, so a few more interviews and there won't be any mystery left. Kinda scary.

And, Mary, I'm glad you got the day off ... but I thought you had every day off! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I'm so jealous of you and your days off! :)

Thanks for stopping by, Cara and Mary!


Belinda Peterson said...

Geat interview. Sounds like a book I'd like to read.

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Belinda! I see from your Blogger profile that you write Contemporary Christian Romance. Well, "A Passion Most Pure" is a historical novel, but the romantic tension is VERY contemporary! What I mean by that is I try to depict the hard moral choices that today's Christian woman have to make, in a strong, realistic manner. So I hope you enjoy the book. Let me know, okay? Since you are a contemporary writer/reader, I would be very interested in your feedback.

Pam Hillman said...

Great interview, Missy and Julie. Julie, I thought it was so sweet that you keep a candle burning near the picture of you and your hubby.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, thanks, Pam. Yeah, "sweet" ... or patheticly romantic, however you look at it. :)

Christy LaShea Smith said...

What a great interview Missy and Julie! I was just excited to read that Julie started this book when she was a kid after reading GWTW. I love GWTW! And I was reading it when I was about that age too - maybe a year or two younger. What is it about GWTW and those pre-teen years?!

I can't wait to read your book. The title alone sounds great.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Christy ... a fellow GWTW fanatic!! I like you already. But I doubt you were reading GWTW when I was ... uh, unless the picture on your blog was taken a long, LONG time ago! :)

And regarding the title, "A Passion Most Pure," the original title was "A Chasing After the Wind," taken from a Scripture in Ecclesiastes. I had always wanted a Scripture title that had the word "Wind" in it. I wonder why? Anyway, Revell said that A Chasing After the Wind didn't reflect "the passion of my characters or plot," so they upped the stakes by putting the word "Passion" in the title, which I now feel is perfect. Because two things this book definitely has are passion and purity! :)

Thanks so much for stopping by!