May 20, 2009

Julie Lessman Interview - A Passion Denied

Originally Posted at Bibliophile's Retreat by Melissa Meeks


One of my favorite people and favorite authors, Julie Lessman has taken the time to share about her latest book with fans and soon to be fans alike. Warning- if you haven't read any of her Daughters of Boston books yet - start at the beginning with Faith's story. I've reviewed the first two and will be posting a review of A Passion Denied very soon.

For those not familiar with Julie or her books yet here's a brief intro to the author and her most recent book then on to the interview for everyone's benefit.
Use the book cover to purchase a copy and read reviews, use her photo to visit her website. And don't forget to visit my contest post today too for a chance to win one of these three books. I am giving away all three but to three different winners. To read more about A Passion Most Pure (Book 1) and A Passion Redeemed (Book 2) you'll find my reviews listed in the left sidebar and the links above will get you to the bookseller page for more reviews or to buy a copy.

About the Author:
Julie Lessman is a new author who has garnered much writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. She is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Visit Julie at her website sign up for her newsletter by clicking the picture to the right.

About the Book:
Book 3, A Passion Denied, is the story of Faith and Charity’s little sister, Lizzie, a shy bookworm who dreams of a fairy-tale romance. It unfolds a man’s dark past and a young girl’s shattered dreams … and the God who redeems it all.
Elizabeth O’Connor is the little sister John always longed for. With a fire for God in his belly, he has been her spiritual mentor since she was thirteen, sharing her love of literature and her thirst for God. But when his gangly protégé blossoms into a beautiful young woman bent on loving him, he refuses to act on the attraction he feels. His past won’t let him go there. Unfortunately, “Lizzie” won’t let him go anywhere else … until his dark and shocking secrets push her away.

And Now my questions to Julie:
1. I’ve noticed your wrap up and endings come at the last minute as God often comes through in our lives at the last minute. Was this parallel to real life intentionally placed in your stories and is it difficult to write all the heart wrenching struggles leading to those endings?
Gosh, Melissa, I wish I could say I was that deep, but I pretty much just sit down and write. With book 1, A Passion Most Pure, I literally let the story take me where it wanted to go—I had no synopsis, no plan, no outline. The only thing I did have was 150 pages of the novel I wrote at the age of twelve after I read Gone With the Wind. So I followed that as far as the characters, the locations and the love triangle, but otherwise, the story just poured out on its own, and I really didn’t know where it was going until it took me there. I don’t believe in “channeling,” but that’s the closest thing I can liken it to, although I’ve never done it since I believe channeling is of the occult. Sometimes I would start a scene with a certain direction in mind, and then BOOM … the characters would take me somewhere else that surprised even me.

As far as Book 2, A Passion Redeemed and book 3, A Passion Denied, the first thing that came to me for both of them was the final scene, which is a little weird, I guess. I literally wrote those scenes first, then started the books. A Passion Redeemed literally flew out of me—I wrote it in two months, working part-time at my day job, but A Passion Denied was more of a struggle, taking longer than eight months. I hit the wall on this book because 1.) I was reading another author whose incredible talent made me feel like I wanted to puke on my keyboard whenever I read my own writing. And 2.) Because I was attempting not only to tell a very complicated and dark love story about the third daughter, but I was also weaving in second-tier stories about the parents and each of the other sisters.

And is it difficult to write all the heart wrenching struggles leading to those endings? Sometimes, but mostly not because writing romance for God is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and it is sheer pleasure, not work.

2. Were any of the new characters in A Passion Denied surprises to you when they first appeared in the story as you were writing or did any of the recurring characters from A Passion Most Pure and A Passion Redeemed surprise you in some way in this book, if so how?
Oh, great question!! And, YES, I was really surprised by both Cluny McGee and Father Mac. I had NO idea Cluny McGee was going to play such a main role in this book, which is shocking since he ends up being the love interest for Katie O’Connor in book 4 (or book 1 of the next series). That just shows you what a bona-fide seat-of-the-pants writer I am rather than a plotter. But I LOVE Cluny McGee and thought both he and Father Mac added a lot of depth to the story as far as I was concerned.

I added Cluny just to show Brady’s kindness to kids, but the kid dazzled me (like he dazzles Katie in the next book), so I just had to take him through the story. As far as Father Mac, originally Brady’s “secrets” were a LOT darker, but Revell made me change them because they said the plot was too dark for an Inspirational Romance. In hindsight, they were right, but it was Brady’s original dark past that made me create Father Mac in the first place, because I knew I needed an authentic authority figure to counsel Brady for such a serious problem as he originally had.

As far as original characters surprising me? I would have to say that would be Brady. John Morrison Brady ended up being a far more complex character than I dreamed he would be. I have to admit, he was my least favorite of the heroes going into this story (because he was NOT a bad boy like Collin or Mitch, and I tend to like bad boys … have you noticed??). I saw him as a Billy Graham-type hero, good to the core, so I knew I had to give him a past that was bad to the core as well, to give him depth and dimension that would shock everyone in the book, including the reader. But he ended up shocking me as well—weathering the pain of his past with an amazing strength and dependence on God and a true humility that he always failed to see. He is the deepest of these three heroes in the series, and a stabilizing force in each of the books.

3. I’d have to say Lizzie is my favorite of the O’Connor girls perhaps because she reminds me of myself quite a lot minus the sisters. For those out there who are only children or have only brothers and haven’t read The Daughters of Boston series yet can you give us a taste of what life in a family similar to the O’Connor clan is like with a short vignette?
Grin. Yeah, you’d pretty much be at my house when I was growing up, except without all the closeness of the O’Connors. I was #12 in a family of 13 (three boys and ten girls … talk about PMS gone wild!), so imagine 15 people at a Last Supper-style Formica table with long red vinyl benches on either side. Like a school of sharks waiting for meat to hit the water. If you didn’t grab for the grub, chances are there wouldn’t be anything left. Can you say “plague of locusts”? To this day, buffets put a twitch in my eye because I feel like the food will run out.

But one of my fondest memories, though, is when my older sisters would go to prom. We had a long, almost spiral staircase that each of my sisters would float down in their shimmering formals as tuxedo-clad boys waited in the foyer, corsages in hand. I had so many sisters, that we could have held the prom at our house, seriously! But as a little girl who watched with wide eyes, prom was always a magical moment for me, ever the romantic at heart!

4. Can you share about a favorite character or two and what draws you to them – one of your own or someone else’s?
Boy, I know this is going to freak a lot of readers out, but the character who draws me the most is Charity O’Connor. I think the reason is because she is SO much like I used to be (without the beauty) as a young girl and woman before Christ. I love Faith O’Connor, but in all honesty, she is more like the woman I am today—heavily dependant on God, emotionally involved with Him and a person who prays at the drop of a hat, so I almost feel one with her. But Charity—goodness, my heart goes out to her and the woman I used to be—selfish, manipulative, lost. I think that’s why she fascinates me so much, because I look at her (and women like her) in the same way I suspect God looked at me back then—with eyes full of love and hope that we all can become new creatures in Christ Jesus. And quite frankly, I think she is just downright funny and quirky and such a hoot that she makes me laugh. Mind you, many of the things she did/does are thing I did as a young woman who didn’t know God, so Charity comes by all her quirkiness quite naturally, I’m afraid.

5. Does Katie’s story coming next year have a title, does the new series have a title and can you give us a teaser for that book?
Well, I originally wanted to call the new series, The O’Connors of Boston (since two of the stories will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven), but my publisher doesn’t want any reference to Boston or the O’Connors due to marketing strategies. They feel a new series really has to be presented as a “new” series, even though in my mind it is a continuation of the O’Connor saga, which they had no problem with me writing. That said, I have not come up with a series title yet, but it will probably be something tied to perseverance or hope due to the time era of The Roaring 20s/Great Depression.

The original title for book 1 of the series (Katie’s story) is Refuge From the Storm from Isaiah 32:1-3, which talks about streams of water in a “thirsty land.” But this is just a working title right now and not really one I like.

As far as “teaser,” there is a short excerpt in the back of A Passion Denied, which those who have the book can read, but I would like to give you an excerpt now that details the first love scene in the book between Katie and Cluny McGee, in the office of the Boston Children’s Aid Society. Here we go:

“Katie, are you okay?” He loosened his tie and stared, concern creasing his brow as he watched her, her body slumped at the window with a hand to her eyes. She didn’t move, and the tightness in his gut increased. He approached quietly, afraid he would startle her. “Katie?”
“Oh!” She whirled around, staggering against the sill with a hand to her chest.
He clutched her arm to steady her, and the color drained from her cheeks. Softening his hold, he absently grazed her skin with his thumb, then ducked his head and smiled, eyes tender as he studied her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. Are you all right?”
She nodded stiffly, her gaze glued to the massive hand on her arm.
Worry wrinkled the bridge of his nose and he braced both palms on her shoulders, convinced something was wrong. Her face was white and her breathing labored, and he could swear he felt a hint of a tremble. “No, I can feel it. Something’s bothering you.” He pressed his hand to her forehead. “Are you sick?”
She jerked back from his hold and butted up against the window, arms crossed and hugging her waist. “No!” she said too quickly to suit him, clearly avoiding his eyes. “I mean maybe a little dizzy, but nothing serious. I just need to go home …”
He shifted, suddenly concerned it had to do with him. He plunged his hands in his pockets and softened his tone. “Katie … is it me? Did I say or do something to upset you?”
She shook her head, gaze bonded to the floor. “No, please, I just need to—”
He nudged her chin up with his thumb, and her lips parted with a sharp intake of breath. And then he saw it. The gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft rose in her cheeks, the skittish look in her eyes, flitting to his lips and then quickly away. Comprehension suddenly oozed through him like heated honey purling through his veins, quickening his pulse. Could it be? Was it possible that cold, callous Katie O’Connor was beginning to warm up? To him, of all people—Cluny McGee, the leper from her past? The thought sent warm ripples of shock through his body, thinning the air in his lungs. His gaze gentled, taking in the vulnerability in her eyes, the fear in her face, and all he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her.
As if under a spell, his gaze was drawn to her lips, parted and full, and the sound of her shallow breathing filled him with a fierce longing. “Oh, Katie,” he whispered, no power over the pull he was suddenly feeling. In slow motion, he bent toward her, closing his eyes to caress her mouth with his own. A weak gasp escaped her as she stiffened, but he couldn’t relent. The taste of her lips was far more than he bargained for, and he drew her close with a raspy groan. With a fierce hold, he cupped the back of her neck and kissed her deeply, gently, possessive in his touch. His fingers twined in her hair, desperate to explore.
And then all at once, beyond his comprehension, her body melded to his with an answering groan, and he was shocked when her mouth rivaled his with equal demand. Desire licked through him, searing his body and then his conscience. With a heated shudder, he gripped her arms and pushed her back, his breathing ragged as he held her at bay. “We can’t do this,” he whispered. He dropped his hold and exhaled, gouging shaky fingers through disheveled hair. His gaze returned, capturing hers and riddled with regret. “Believe me, Katie, as much as I want to, I’ve learned the hard way to take things slow. I should have never started this, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Forgive him? She stared at him through glazed eyes, her pulse still pumping in her veins at a ridiculous rate. She never wanted this, couldn’t stand the sight of him, and now here she was, tingling from his touch and desperate for more. Addicted to the “King of misery.” The very thought inflamed both fury and desire at the same time, muddling her mind. Dear Lord, she was torn between welding her lips to his or slapping him silly. With a tight press of her mouth, she opted for the second and smacked him clean across the face.
His jaw dropped a full inch, complemented nicely by a slash of red across his cheek.
Her chest was heaving, but at least it wasn’t from his touch. She narrowed her eyes and clutched her fists at her side, not all that sure she wouldn’t slap him again. “So help me, if you ever touch me again, you will be the sorriest person alive.”
He slowly rubbed his cheek with the side of his hand, exercising his jaw as if to make sure it still worked. His eyes glinted like blue glass, sharp and deadly. Even so, the swaggering smile of old eased across his face. He bent forward, his tall frame looming over her like a bad omen, and his voice held that cocky drawl so reminiscent of his past. “What’s the matter, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “does my ‘touch’ … make you nervous?”
The heat in her cheeks went straight to her temper. She iced him with a cool gaze. “Nervous? Around you? Hardly. You can dress up in a suit all you like, Cluny McGee, but to me you’ll always be the same cocky riff-raff—a street brat with a twang in your voice and grime on your face.”
She knew her words hit their mark when a red blotch crawled up the back of his neck like a rash gone awry. A nerve pulsed in his temple, but his smile never wavered despite the steel edge of his jaw. One blond brow jagged high in challenge. “Is that a fact? Well then, how about a little experiment, Katie Rose? Kind of like the experiment we had when you were eleven and I bet you couldn’t be nice?” He leaned close, his voice as hard as his eyes. “What d’ya bet I can make you nervous now?”
She shoved him out of the way. “I’m going home.”
“Not yet,” he whispered and pressed her to the wall with an iron grip. His voice, like the dominance of his size, was a force to be reckoned with. “You always packed a wallop for a little girl, Katydid, but this time you picked the wrong street brat. You can turn your nose up at me all you want, but we both know that slap wasn’t so much about an innocent kiss …” He bent close, his eyes on fire and his breath hot against her lips. “As how it made you feel.”
His words seemed to vibrate through her, low and thick in the air. She shuddered, and the force of his savage hold trapped all protest in her throat.
“To you I’ll always be riff-raff, something vulgar and crude. Well, welcome to my world, Miss O’Connor. And, please, let me show you how we do it on the ‘streets.’ Because if I’m going to take a beating, you can bet your bottom dollar on two things for sure. One—I’m going to get my money’s worth.” A dangerous smile surfaced as his gaze focused on her lips. “And two …” His mouth hovered just above hers while his voice trailed to a whisper. “I’m gonna make you real nervous in the process.”
In a catch of her breath, he took her mouth by force, his late-day beard rough against her skin. A faint moan escaped her lips and all resistance fled, burned away by the heat of his touch, leaving her weak and wanting. His mouth roamed at will, no longer gentle as he devoured her, ravenous against the smooth curve of her throat, the soft flesh of her ear. With a guttural groan, he jerked her close with powerful arms, consuming her mouth with a kiss surely driven by the sheer will to ravage.
And then in a frantic beat of her heart, he shoved her away. She gasped, numb as she thudded against the wall. His chest was heaving and his eyes were hard, focused on her with cool disregard. “There. Now that makes two of the sorriest people alive.” He grabbed her purse from the floor and threw it on her desk, then rubbed his mouth with the side of his hand. “You better run home, Katie Rose. God knows the riff-raff that roam the street this time of night.”
He turned and walked into his office, slamming the door hard.
She stared, her body still quivering from his rage. Closing her eyes, she sagged against the wall, too stunned to move and too shaken to care. She pressed a trembling hand to her mouth, her lips swollen from the taste of him. She was doomed, she realized, and the thought shivered through her like a cold chill. She wanted a man she didn’t really want, and the very notion weakened her at the knees. He had called her one of the sorriest people alive. She grappled for her purse and put a hand to her eyes.
And God help her, she was.

Wow what a treat, a nice long teaser from the next book. Thanks Julie for taking the time to share with us and for such a big bite of what we can expect next.

7 comments:

Courtney said...

Great interview! Absolutely loved the passage from Katie's story and can't wait to read it! My favorite book so far as probably been the A Passion Most Pure, just because I had no idea what to expect when I checked it out from my library. I was pleasantly surprised and could hardly set it down! :0)

I'd love to win A PASSION DENIED.

courtneylp1323(at)aol(dot)com

Carolynn W. said...

Oh man Julie, the excerpts you share with us are just so good! Makes me what to read ALL your books right now! Too bad we have to wait a year until Katie's book comes out, we'll all be desperate for our Julie Lessman fix by then :). Thanks for the great interview!
carolynnwald[at]hotmail[dot]com

Linda said...

I'm amazed that this series came from a book you started at age 12. I have much to say, but not in a novel form. But I sure love to read them!!
Sign me up.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interview. Very interesting.

crittyjoy said...

what a great interview and a fantastic sneak peek...make me even more anxious to read Katie's story and I am so glad we will see Cluny again :)

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Courtney -- we'll see what we can do to get A Passion Denied in your hands, okay?

CAROLYNN!!!! "Desperate for a Julie Lessman fix"??? Oh, I like the sound of that ... :)

LINDA, thanks for stopping by, and I would sure love for you to read them too! Keep hitting the blogs, girl, you're due ... :)

ANONYMOUS, thanks for dropping in and good luck in the contest!

CHRISTY!!!! Always LOVE seeing your name on these blog interviews, so thanks for stopping by, my friend. And I'm glad you will see Cluny again too -- he's a favorite of mine!

Hugs,
Julie

Chicki said...

Julie,

After reading your post over at The Seekers today, I wanted to throw my name in the hat here also. I have to see how you convinced a publisher to contract an edgy inspirational novel.

Post a Comment