Friday, September 24, 2010

Interview with an Author: Julie Lessman (and Giveaway!)

Whoever thought the advent of the internet and blogs would allow just about anyone to interview famous people? I feel just a little bit out of my comfort zone interviewing an award winning author! But Julie Lessman is very personable and I've enjoyed emailing with her! Read on to find the answers to my questions... and I bet if you left your pressing questions in the comments she just might answer!  (that will count as entry in the giveaway too so please do!)

These questions have mainly to do with her new book, A Hope Undaunted, which I reviewed earlier this week, as well as the first series, Daughters of Boston, which starts the story.

1.) The characters you create are so real (especially after 4 books!) that I have a really hard time sometimes with the downright "stupid" things they do.  I know it's human nature, but you so rarely read books like this where even the good guys do some really bad things...  1) How easy or hard is it for you to write like this and 2) does it ever make you uncomfortable to write about these painful situations.  I'm particularly thinking of Mr. O'Connor in the 3rd book, but it's there in all the books.

Grin … “stupid things,” huh?? Gosh, Krista, if you knew how close to home that hits, you would cringe. I’m going to go on record right now and say that a large majority of the situations I write about in my books are taken from some personal experience of my own. Yep, you heard me!

For instance, the fight between Marcy and Patrick in A Passion Most Pure, where Patrick comes home from the bar with beer on his breath, resulting in a pretty tense (and eventually passionate) fight/love scene??? Take out the part about the bar, and you pretty much have a real-life scenario from my early life with my husband. In fact, one time a good friend came for dinner and was talking to my husband about that scene in particular, stating that it seemed a little hard to believe. My guy calmly sipped on his Diet Coke before looking my friend straight in the eye with a droll smile. “Believe it,” he said.

So honestly, it’s VERY easy for me to write like this because I write from a wealth of personal mistakes where God opened my eyes and made me a better person for every “stupid thing” I ever did. When He said “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes,” He wasn’t joking. God has taken the minefield of my life and taught me lessons that I try to pass on to my characters and then hopefully, to my readers.

And, no, it never makes me uncomfortable writing about painful situations because I rejoice that I can take a hurt that I have experienced and turn others to God through it. For instance, in A Passion Denied when Marcy goes through such grief over Patrick’s rejection—I’ve been there, done that, and it was the most awful thing I’ve experienced in my marriage. BUT it opened my eyes to just how precious my husband is to me and what a gift from God he has been from the beginning. If my mistakes can help just one person out there realize how powerful God’s intervention is and how obedience to His precepts are the answer to a healthy marriage, than I consider myself a blessed author.

2.) How did you come up with this story arc? Have you known the outline of all the stories since you started the first one or have they kind of grown? Do you create the characters or do they create themselves? :)

Well, the “story arc” originally began when I read Gone With the Wind at the age of twelve. From the moment Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was hooked, and my “romance-writing career” began with a 150 single-spaced manuscript that today is the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. As a young pre-teen girl I knew I wanted an Irish family, a war, and a love triangle just like GWTW, so that’s what I did.

The completion of the story came almost 40 years later while I was sitting in a beauty shop reading a July 2001 Newsweek cover article about how Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. Something in my spirit said, “Now is the time to finish your book.” So I started my novel the next month, and as a seat-of-the-pants writer, the story—and the characters—literally took me where it and they wanted me to go. Ironically, when I wrote book 1 A Passion Most Pure, I had NO plans for a series, but the characters would not let me go, and so I started book 2 A Passion Redeemed soon after, which was a good thing because my agent sold me in 3-book deal on the manuscript for A Passion Most Pure alone. Once the O’Connors were in place from book 1, then, each daughter’s story just seemed to flow from one book to the next with little or no effort.

3.) Why do you always seem to have two guys that the girl must ultimately choose between? In my personal experience and with my friends it rarely seems we get to choose between men! Even one who is the "right" choice and one who isn't.

You’re right, although I will tell you that although I wasn’t much to look at in my late 20s and didn’t date a lot before I got married, I did have to make a choice between my husband and another guy I was dating at the same time (we did that in my day, unlike girls today who only date one guy at a time), so it is possible!

But … you have to keep in mind that this is romance here, not women’s fiction. I am a “Calgon, take me away” type of gal (i.e. my obsession with Gone With the Wind is certainly proof of that), not a “slice of life” type of author, so when I write the way that I do, I am being true to my passion and my imagination, which every author MUST do or they will not be successful. From the moment I fell in love with Rhett, Scarlett and Ashley at the age of twelve, I have been crazy about love triangles because let’s face it, they make for great conflict and emotional angst, which—surprise, surprise—I thrive on as a writer.

So, yes, my situations and the movie-star looks of my characters are not always the norm, BUT the spiritual truths they learn along the way ARE true to life—my life, to be exact—and the lessons learned are VERY real. So if a reader is looking for more true-to-life stories where everything doesn’t always work out nice and neat and the heroes aren’t necessarily hunks, then they are probably looking for women’s fiction with an element of romance, not your typical romance like mine where readers long for a romantic escape into the world of what-if.

4.) How do you write? ie, time of day, location, pen and paper or computer, etc?  How many stories are going to be in this second set of the series?  Do you have ideas for a completely different story that you might write next?

During the summer months (basically May through October), I sit outside on my lower deck that runs the length of the house, overlooking a lush, green wooded area that has sunlight dappling through the trees. It's GORGEOUS, and I always have my feet up on this cushy lawn furniture we have (like now!), cinnamon hazelnut coffee by my side and a fan gently blowing while I sit with my laptop on my ... where else? Lap!! I am usually out there from about 9:00 a.m. (to read my Bible and pray first thing after the treadmill/worship music) till about 8:00 p.m., stopping only for coffee breaks, powder-room breaks (where I manage to read up to four books a month, believe it or not!) or to make lunch and dinner.

The “Winds of Change” series is a trilogy that continues the O’Connor saga from the first series, “The Daughters of Boston.” Book 1 A Hope Undaunted just released this month and is about the fourth O’Connor daughter Katie. This book was a lot of fun to write because Katie is a pistol who comes of age in the Roaring Twenties, right before The Great Depression. Books 2 and 3 will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean (and guess who … Emma, Charity’s scarred friend from book 2!!), and then Steven, all during the exciting era of speakeasies, dance marathons, gangsters, G-men and era criminals like Bonnie Clyde and John Dillenger. Steven will be a tall, brooding G-man-type modeled after Elliot Ness … you know, a la Robert Stack from the Untouchables? I’m very excited because all three plots are very involved, include detailed sub-stories for some of the other character couples and enough plot surprises that I hope and pray will blow readers away!

As far as what I plan to write next, I’m hoping to write a prequel about Marcy and Patrick O’Connor before they were married as well as a new trilogy I am calling “The Cousins McClare,” a poor-man, rich-man scenario among three cousins amid the Irish-political landscape of 1920s San Francisco, prohibition and the Barbary Coast.

Thank you, Krista, for hosting me on your blog. It’s been fun! And 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. It's chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots”, which is a very laid-back, almost-daily journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication. Thanks again, Krista, and God bless!

No, thank you, Julie, for answering my questions!  I love to read, but could never be an author so it's fun to see how it all works behind the scenes!  
And friends if you would like to win an autographed copy of Julie's latest book, A Hope Undaunted, just leave a comment (or a question for Julie!) here and I'll pick a winner on Tuesday evening (the 28th).  - US addresses only.

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 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction”.  She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. You can contact Julie through her website.


  1. Hello Krista,
    What a fun interview! Thanks for the chance to win!

    ~Lauri (lulu)

  2. Holly8:48 AM

    Love the idea of both a Patrick and Marcy prequel and a new Irish family series. It will be fun to see a younger Marcy, with what we've seen in the books so far, I would think there is probably more of Katie and Charity in her than Lizzie.


  3. Thanks for the giveaway! Sounds like a great book.
    bkhabel at gmail dot com

  4. LAURI!!! Sooo good to see you here ... AGAIN!! If you don't watch out, you're gonna win a book this way, girl. Thanks for coming by and good luck in the contest!

    HOLLY ... actually, for some reason I see a young Marcy as a cross between Faith and Lizzie more than Charity and Katie, although Charity comes by her "plotting" nature honestly in the next book, when we see Marcy scheme just a wee bit ... :)

    INSPIRED KATHY ... Thanks for dropping in to enter the contest, girl, and here's to a win.


  5. Joetta7:53 PM

    Yes, I would love to read another book about Marcy and Patrick! keep writing!

  6. So the Marcy/Patrick fight in APMP was based on "for real"??!! LOL
    Still trying to win AHU so please enter me! Thanks!!

  7. I cannot wait to read this one!!

  8. Lady DragonKeeper1:22 PM

    Ooh, would it be bad to hope that no one else (or not too much more people) will comment? =P Just kidding. I'm 0 for . . . I don't know how many of these drawings, but it's still fun to try. Thank you for an unique interview with Mrs. Lessman, Mrs. Eastern (and for a chance to win)!


  9. kristia41:42 PM

    It's always neat to see how different authors go through the writing process. :-) Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to win!

  10. Loved the interview! I love the idea of a prequel about Marcy and Patrick! Would love to read that. :D

    If it's not too nosy, I have a question, Julie . . . how did you and Keith meet? Also, I read somewhere that you have an anniversary coming up, so Happy Early Anniversary!

    Thank you for entering me in the drawing!

    scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net

  11. HI Krista, what a great blog you have...Thanks so much for the opporutnity to read Julie's latest masterpiece.

    To Julie, you know that I will follow you anywhere :) Love learning more about you.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  12. Great interview. I don't know if I could so many personal experiences in the stories that I write.
    I look forward to reading the last three books about the rest of the family. It's such an interesting time period.

  13. JOETTA!!! Trust me, I would LOVE to write a book about Marcy and Patrick as much as you would like to read it, so I am!! Not sure who will publish it at this point, but I'm writing it nonetheless. I mean the Sam/Marcy/Patrick story is just toooo good not to flesh out, you know??? I know, I know ... me and my love triangles!! But you gotta admit, it sure adds romantic tension ... :)

    JACKIE ... uh, yeah, it really was. Early on in our marriage, of course, before kids. I'll tell you what -- you think I'm a drama queen now??? You should have seen me then -- sweet mother of Job, I was a pip. But ... I'm still married after 32 years, so either I'm not as bad as I think ... or my husband has a high tolerance for pain. :)

    THOU ART JULES ... Noooooooo!!!! For real??? That's your addy??? Oh, man, I want to steal it BAD!!! Wanna sell it, by chance??? :) Thanks for coming by, Jules ... and good luck in the contest.


  14. LADY DRAGONKEEPER ... oh, girl, your odds are still really good here, you know?? And with little Kristia following up behind you, you're two to everybody else's one! Thanks for your diligence ... you deserve a win!

    KRISTIA ... you, too, sweetie!! LD has been working you hard. :)

    MICHELLE!!! Now how did you know that??? Did I shoot my mouth off in an interview, because I sure don't remember saying when my anniversary was. But, yes, you are correct ... we will be married 32 years at the end of ... YIKES ... this week!! Do you know that Keith and I have been SOOO busy (both of us, with my Aunt Julie, me with the blog tour/book launch, him with tons of freelance jobs with his design business), that NEITHER of us remembered it was this week. That's pretty sad, isn't it??? That a reader friend has to remind ME when my anniversary is??? Thank you for doing that!!

    And how did we meet? Oh, wait ... that would make a great Journal Jot story on my anniversary, wouldn't it??? Thanks for the idea, sweetie ... I'll let you know this week ... :)


  15. Yes, KAREN, I do, which makes me want to send you a signed copy of AHU right this minute!! :) But my husband would divorce me if I gave away all the books I wanted to, and I've already invested 32 years in this marriage, so I'd hate to start over now! :) Good luck, sweetie.

    CYNTHIA ... see, that's the difference between you and me, girl -- I'm an open book ... uh, which I put in an open book. The way I look at it is all the miserable failures in my life would be hard to take if I couldn't use them to glorify God, you know?? Waste not, want not. Not sure what that means except that it's late and I'm getting slap happy ... :)

    G'night, all off to bed ...


  16. I just went back through this and realized that some how I MISSED this giveaway! WHAT?! SHAME ON ME!!! I am dying for more of Julie's work and I can't believe I didn't enter this giveaway!!! ACK! Well, my question for Julie is this: What is like creating these amazing characters?? Are any of them based on real people in your life?

    Blessings and hugs,
    Mollydedwards ATyahooDOTcom

  17. Hey, MOLLY, good morning! We're going to late service this morning, so I thought I'd check in, and here you are!! Says you posted at 4:45 AM -- YIKES, hope you didn't have insomnia!!

    Are any of my characters based on real people in my life??

    Well, if you've been reading my other interviews out there now (and I know you have!!), you already know that Faith, Charity and Lizzie are based on different facets of my personality (and, no, I do not have a split personality, although at times my husband would disagree ... :)).

    Faith is my spiritual self, Charity is my sensual self before I came to Christ (at least in the first two books, before she comes to Christ herself, then she and I are the plotting romance addicts in the rest of the books :)). And, Lizzie, of course, is my fairy-tale-dreamer bookworm self.

    Katie is actually based on my 22-year-old daughter who is also in law school, has a quick wit and is a list freak, INCLUDING what she wants in a husband!! Other than that, Katie's past with the skin condition and being made fun of in school and the way she came to Christ, are both taken from my life.

    Mrs. Gerson (she appears more in the DOB series) is based on an older version of my spiritual mentor and prayer partner who brought me to Christ, and finally, Marcy and Patrick are unequivocally based on my husband on me, with MANY of the stories told about them based on situations in my life, much to my husband's angst. He's never sure just WHAT part of our lives he's going to read in my novels, you know ... :) Great question, my friend! And here's to a win!


  18. Charlotte11:36 AM

    Thanks for posting your future books in this interview! I was planning to look that info up through your newsletter, but you have saved me the time! I anxiously await each and every book you have published! Please continue praying about writing a Civil War series!
    Luv ya,

    char saltz (at) yahoo (dot) com

  19. GRIN ... CHARLOTTE!!! I looked up "relentless" in the dictionary, and there you were!! ;) I'm wondering if this pit-bull tenacity of yours guarantees your hubby has, like Mitch Dennehy, his hands full! If so, move over, kiddo, because your hubby and mine have something in common ...:)


  20. Hi Julie! Yes, indeed, you did "shoot your mouth off" in another blog interview about your anniversary. LOL! It was on 4 the Love of Books (Abi's blog). In her first question, she asks you to tell her readers a little bit about yourself, and that's when you spilled the beans. ;-)

    Don't feel bad for not remembering. These things have a tendency to creep up on us, don't they? My hubby and I celebrated 17 years on Sept. 4, and I don't think either of us thought about until just a few days before.

    I love your idea of doing a "jot" about how you met! I look forward to reading it. Glad that I could inspire you! ;-)

    Sweet Blessings to you, Julie!

  21. MICHELLE ... Somehow, I knew you'd keep me honest girl!! I can't remember what I had for lunch today, much less what I said in a blog four interviews ago!! :)

    Happy Anniversary to you, too!! Seventeen years is quite an accomplishment ... ESPECIALLY when thirteen of them were before you were a Christian!! :)

    My anniversary is Wednesday, so I will "jotting" about how we met on that day, which will be fun and MOST appropriate!!