Jul 9, 2008

Interview with Julie Lessman, author of A Passion Most Pure

Originally Posted at Bibliophile's Retreat by Melissa Meeks

Readers lets give a warm welcome to one of my favorite authors and a new friend, Julie Lessman. She's here to share about her book A Passion Most Pure in an interview. Mon July 14th I will also be posting the first chapter of this book and in September I will be posting the first chapter from the sequel A Passion Redeemed. In the meantime check out today's other post for your chance to win a copy of A Passion Most Pure.

Now lets see what Julie had to say:
1) Who do you want to meet and why?
Oh my, are you kidding—Jesus Christ! Of course, I plan to meet Him in person anyway, sooner or later, so my second choice would be Margaret Mitchell because her amazing novel, Gone With the Wind, first sparked my interest in writing.

2) What’s your favorite comfort food?
Okay, this is weird because it’s not like Godiva chocolate or anything normal like that, but my two favorite foods in the WHOLE world that I always crave are Spanish Rice AND turkey and dressing. See, I told you it was weird!

I personally do love chocolate and although it makes the comfort food category for me and high up it actually also ties with Grilled Cheese sandwiches and Tomato soup so you're not the only one with unique cravings.

3) What would be your dream vacation?
Mmmm … a beach bungalow on an unspoiled tropical island with my husband and lots of my favorite things—good friends, great books and old movies.

4) Is there anyone who has influenced / encouraged you to write other than God who ultimately gives us any talents including creativity? Who and how / why?
Initially, Margaret Mitchell because as I stated above, it was her novel, Gone With the Wind, that inspired me to write in the first place at the age of 12 when I actually penned 150 pages of what is today my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. But as far as people I love who encouraged me way back then, that would be my little sister, Kate. As the last two of thirteen children, we shared a room, and at the age of nine, Kate would lie on her bed with chin in hand and eyes wide as I read my “novel” to her night after night. Her interest, love and encouragement meant everything because I was not a favorite of my mother’s, who died when I was sixteen. God used Katie to channel His love and encouragement to me, and continues to do so today. Kate is the first person to read all of my books, and her input is invaluable. Throughout my life, her love has been like God’s love to me—unconditional and boundless, and I love her with all of my heart.

5) Can you give a brief synopsis of your journey to publication with your first book?
As mentioned, the journey began at the age of 12 when I first penned 150 pages of what today has become my debut novel A Passion Most Pure. Fast forward almost forty years later to July 2001 when I was sitting in a beauty parlor reading a Newsweek magazine 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 4-1/2 years and 45 rejections later.

6) What else have you written / are you currently writing (including unpublished works)?
The only things I have written are all three books in The Daughters of Boston series. Currently, I am in the process of writing my 4th book, which will be the first in another 3-book series about the O’Connors. It begins with the 4th daughter, Katie, and finishes with a sequel on each of the two brothers, Sean and Stephen.

7) What first gave you the idea for the Daughters of Boston series?
As you know, A Passion Most Pure is the story of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family in pre-WWI Boston where a love triangle occurs between two rival 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, which initially gave me the idea for a series about sisters.

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 manifested itself in the plot of A Passion Most Pure as well as in the series.

8) What else would you like to share with readers about yourself or the Daughters of Boston series?
The MOST important thing I want to share about The Daughters of Boston series is its core message, which is how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. This book 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. And trust 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!” It is my deepest hope and desire that The Daughters of Boston series will convey that reality to readers of all ages.

9) Share with us one of the craziest things you've done or that's happened to you?
Gosh, as a wild child of the 60s and 70s, my life before Christ (before age 23) is chock-full of “crazy” things that will never see the light of day in print, guaranteed, but one of the more innocent stories I can share is about my driving. In my early 20s, I had this pet peeve about drivers not using their blinkers to signal a turn. In fact, it bothered me so much, that I made myself a big 2”x 2” cardboard sign that said “Ever hear of a blinker, Bub?” Well, one day a huge semi-trailer truck cut in front of me without using his blinker. I was so mad that I screeched into the next lane and gunned past him, holding my sign up out of the window as I passed. Imagine my embarrassment when the semi followed me all the way home, then honked and passed as I pulled into my driveway. I assure you, I got rid of the sign after that.

Now thats a unque one. I never would have had the guts to use a sign like that especially with a semi-truck.

10) What five books would you take with you to a desert island?
The Bible, Gone With the Wind, any Diana Gabaldon book and … I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but all the books in The Daughters of Boston series. Why? Because basically I wrote these books for myself, infusing them with everything I craved in a novel—God, passion and family. And because these stories often mirror my own spiritual and physical journeys—where I have been and where I hope to be—they are almost therapeutic for me to read.

You're the first one to answer this question including your own books but I can totally understand why you'd choose them especially if the other two are as good as or better than the first. I'm anxiously awaiting the next two books and don't know how I'll make it till '09 for book 3 but I also realize you can't rush the writing and revisions either so I suppose I'll manage somehow till it comes out.

11) What concept or scripture is God revealing more deeply to you in this season of your life? And how is that revelation influencing your life?
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.”

12) Why did you start writing and when?
See #1 and #4 above for this answer.

13) How do you choose names and get to know your characters?
Mostly, I just go with what feels right. For instance, in the original manuscript I wrote at the age of 12, the heroine’s name was Faith O’Connor, just like in A Passion Most Pure (which, of course, is based on that early manuscript). Of course, I wasn’t a girl of “faith” then, so I’m not sure why I named her that, but I did. Ironically, it suits her perfectly in A Passion Most Pure because she is the consummate woman of “faith.”

Both of her parents’ names, Marcy and Patrick, were also from that early manuscript, but I renamed Faith’s rival sister, Charity, and the bad-boy hero, Collin, because there names were … are you ready?? Del, short for “Delatha,” and “Bart.” Don’t even ask me what I was thinking at the age of 12 except that I do remember liking the TV show Maverick, which featured a handsome character named Bart Maverick. I chose Charity’s name because Faith had a twin named “Hope” who died at the age of 9, and I was going for “Faith, Hope and Charity.” And Collin’s name, pure and simple, came from a listing of Irish male names.

As far as getting to “know” my characters, that happens as I get into the story. I am a seat-of-the-pants writer (versus a plotter), so personalities unfold as I write.

14) What’s your favorite character / scene from Daughters of Boston series so far?
Oh, wow, what a hard question! I mean I have TONS of favorite scenes—favorite romantic scenes that race my pulse, favorite spiritual scenes that make me cry, and favorite family scenes that remind me just how blessed I am to have God in my life. But, I know you don’t have all day (grin), so I will mention my favorite romantic scene (or one of them!).

It would have to be a scene in the kitchen between the heroine, Faith (a woman who is bent on marrying a man who loves God), and the bad-boy hero, Collin (who has a grudge against God). It’s a scene of strong romantic tension where Collin realizes he loves her but can never have her because God stands in the way. He slams a few chairs around and forces her to admit she loves him, which she does, but it doesn’t matter. She will not be unequally yoked, and the piercing knowledge of this crushes him. The scene is a riptide of swelling emotions—from humor and teasing to anger, passion and fear, finally ebbing to quiet acceptance when both realize the love they share can never be.

15) Do you have any teasers you can share for A Passion Redeemed? (Readers FYI A Passion Redeemed will be releasing in September)
Mmm … if by “teaser” you mean a scene from the book, one of my favorite romantic scenes takes place following Charity’s grandmother’s birthday party. The hero wants nothing to do with Charity, but reluctantly agrees to friendship. Unfortunately, his defenses are down when Charity’s grandmother insists he has a glass of wine for a birthday toast (he’d given up drinking in the last year). Suddenly, against his will, he finds himself (once again) wrestling with his forbidden attraction to Charity as they wash dishes in the kitchen.
Dear God, what was happening? It was as if he had no control over his hand as it strayed from the towel to the soft curve of her neck. A tilt of her head, the blush of her cheeks, and suddenly he was two different men. One whose every muscle, thought and desire strained toward wanting her. The other, a distant voice of conscience and memory, quickly fading with every throb of his renegade pulse. Curse the effect of the wine! What else could explain this driving insanity pulsing through him right now? His fingers burned as they lingered, slowly tracing to the hollow of her throat. Against his will, he fixated on her lips, lush and full, staggered at the heat they generated. What was he doing? He didn’t want this.
Yes … he did.
All night he’d felt it mounting, a desire in his belly that grew tight at the sound of her laughter, the lift of her chin, the light in her eyes. A woman with cool confidence around everyone but him. Call it the wine. Or the fact he hadn’t been this close to a woman for well over a year. Or the intoxicating awareness that his very presence seemed to unnerve her. Whatever name it bore, it had him by the throat, taking him places he’d vowed he’d never be.
She blinked up at him, eyes wide and wondering. He was taking her by surprise and knew it. But no more so than him. He stared at her lips, feeling the draw and unwilling to fight it. His fingers moved up her throat to gently cup her chin, his eyes burning with intent. Slowly, carefully, he leaned forward, his mouth finally reaching hers, his breathing ragged as he tasted her lips.
A soft mew left her throat, and the sound ignited him. He pulled her close, his mouth demanding hers. She moaned while he pressed her to the counter, holding her there as he deepened the kiss. With a deep groan, his arms swallowed her up, drawing her small frame tightly against his. He pressed his lips to her hair, allowing her scent to flood his senses … to consume him.
Just like before.
His heart seized. What was he doing? The more he touched, the more he wanted. But she had ruined his life. Dashed his hopes. Destroyed his dreams. Dear God in Heaven, he wanted her … but he didn’t want her.
16) Are there any closing remarks you’d like to share?
Well, first I want to thank you, Melissa, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership. In closing, I always like to share a really cool quote I found that has been attributed to Maya Angelou because it is the total essence of what A Passion Most Pure is all about: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.” I hope and pray this message will resonate with every person who picks up my book.

Also, I LOVE to hear from readers, so I encourage them to contact me through my Web site, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter.

Readers you can also find her website by clicking on her picture above.

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.” Thanks again, Melissa, and God bless!

I like that Maya Angelou quote you included. It's something I know I need to be reminded of every so often as I get my focus skewed to other things than my Lord and God while He gets pushed aside to make room for them.

You're welcome Julie and Thank you for taking the time to share with my readers.

More on this book:
For a synopsis and author bio go here, Read my review and come back on Monday for the first chapter.


Nora St. Laurent said...

Is this where we sign up for the drawing. Nice site. So much is here. Please put my name in the hat if this is the right place. If not please let me know the right place.

Nora St.Laurent

Jessica said...

Wow, you were of thirteen kids? It's one of my worst fears that I would favor one child over another. I hope it never happens to me. And I'm so sorry you weren't your mother's favorite. That about made me cry. :-( But thank goodness for your sister. God takes care of us, right? :-)

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Nora, girlfriend -- thanks so much for dropping by!! I sure wish we were having breakfast at ICRS next week!

And, Jessica, yeah I worried about favoring one kid over the other with my two kids too, especially after I saw the favoritism in my own family. But you and I are blessed because it makes a huge difference having a personal relationship with Christ, which my parents didn't have, so you and I and our kids should be A-OK! Uh, sorry I made you cry ... :)


ForstRose said...

Thanks again all of you for stopping by.

Julie I enjoyed reading your answers to this interview and look forward to someone else getting to read your wonderful book that has had me craving the next one since I read it back at the first of the year. But at least you and Revell aren't making me wait over a year like another of my favorite author's publisher is. Nov 2007 to Spring 2009 on that series.


Julie Lessman said...

YIKES, Melissa, cannot believe you have to wait a year and half for the next book in another series you love!! There are 8 months between Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, and Book 3, A Passion Denied, and I hope and pray that I can crank out book 4 in the next series (also about the O'Connors) within 8 months too, God willing!


Amy said...

Did I just hear mention of book 4????
by the way that sneak peak is killing me! :)

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