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An Interview with Julie Lessman

Julie Lessman shares on her website that she has a passion for God and a passion for romance. Since the age of twelve she’s been in love with the idea of being “in love” and gives the pivotal staircase scene in Gone with the Wind all the credit as well as the Song of Solomon from the Bible. Her passion for love and faith show up on the pages of her books and in her captivating characters.

Where do your story and character ideas come from?
My two newest books—A Love Surrendered and my Christmas e-book entitled A Light in the Window: A Irish Christmas Love Story—are the final two novels in the O’Connor family saga that began with The Daughters of Boston series and ends with the Winds of Change series. So … I suppose I need to explain where I got the original idea for this family epic since each book springboards off the prior one.



As some of my readers already know, I started writing the first book in this saga, A Passion Most Pure, at the age of twelve after reading Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. I immediately knew I wanted an Irish family coping with a war (like GWTW), but didn’t have the audacity to try another Civil War epic like Margaret, so I settled on WWI instead.

As the 12th child in a dysfunctional family of 13 kids, I also knew I wanted to portray a family the way God intended a family to be—flawed but steeped in faith. The result is the saga of the O’Connors, a passionate but imperfect family of six children who love God and each other in the best way they know how, all interwoven with a secondary love story between their parents. The first three books in The Daughters of Boston series highlight the love stories of each of the three oldest daughters, and the second series, Winds of Change, focuses on the youngest daughter and two sons. Oh, and the Christmas e-book? Ah … that’s the prequel I’ve been longing to write and finally did, which details the tumultuous love story of the saga’s happily married parents, Marcy and Patrick O’Connor.

How do you go about brainstorming the twists and turns in your books? (or What's your favorite way to brainstorm the scenes in your book?)
My favorite way?? Oh my goodness—on the treadmill! Not sure if it’s all those endorphins flying or the motion rocking my brain, but ideas come at me so fast on a treadmill that I have to keep a pen and paper handy just to keep up. It’s so effective, in fact, then when I am stuck on a scene and bit blue about it, my husband will prod me to the door that leads downstairs to the treadmill, which I suppose could just be him trying to get me out of his hair, but I don’t think so. ☺

I would have to say the coolest brainstorming experience I’ve ever had was when I was writing my fifth book, A Heart Revealed. You see, this is a love story about a friendship that slowly ripens into romantic love between the hero and a heroine who was abused and battered by her husband. Only problem is—the rat husband is still alive back in Ireland. As an author who thrives on surprise endings, I didn’t want to do the obvious, so one autumn day I’m sitting on my lower deck brainstorming when I looked up into the sky and said, “God—you are the God of creativity and you have an ending for me that I just know will blow everybody way. Would you mind sharing it with me, please?” As God is my witness, within ten seconds, an idea fluttered into my brain like those scarlet and gold leaves that were fluttering all around me. The idea was SO masterful and SO genius, that I literally jolted straight up in the chair and started laughing, knowing that I could have never come up with anything like that on my own. And do you know that to this day, no one has guessed the ending so far? Now that’s the kind of brainstorming partner you want!

Is there a story behind this series?
Actually, there is. My debut book that started this whole family saga, 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.

But the sister with whom I had the most rivalry is my sister, Ellie, who was two years older than me. And yes, the vixen sister in A Passion Most Pure—Charity O’Connor—is loosely based on Ellie because like Faith and Charity in that book, Ellie and I often butted heads because she was … ahem … quite voluptuous and very attractive to boys while I was … well, basically not! I mean, this is the sister with whom I had hair-pulling fights while growing up, and even one or two as adults (imagine me in a suit and heels, rolling around the floor in a fight with her during our twenties)! I spent over thirty years praying for her and trying to reach out until ten years ago when she became a born-again Christian. Now she is a beautiful sister in the Lord as well as in blood, and truly one of my most ardent intercessors and supporters. I love her more than I can say.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
In a nutshell? God. He is the one who takes us on this amazing journey, which I have found in the long run, is really just a U-turn to lead us back to Him in a deeper, more passionate way than ever before.

Through God’s grace, I’ve encountered so many “significant” things during my publication journey that I wrote an entire Clint-Eastwood-ish blog on this for Seekerville—including all the reverberation of guitar strings, jangle of spurs and haunting wah-wah voice—in “The Good, the Bad and the Really Ugly: Memories of a Published Writer.” It gives writers all the ups and downs I encountered on the road to publication and beyond, all neatly listed in a format of the “good” things I did to get published and after, all the “bad” things I did, and all the “really ugly” things to avoid.

Who is your writing support system?
First and foremost, God, then my husband, prayer partners and the ladies of Seekerville. I’d be lost without each and every one of them.

What do you do when you're not writing?
Uh … sleep, eat, read, spend time with my grandbaby, and watch an occasional movie with my husband. I’m actually pretty boring right now because I have so many deadlines at the moment, but when I do get free time, I love to read, bike ride with my hubby, watch old movies and musicals and go out to dinner with my family and friends.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
One of my favorite Scriptures that I try to pray regularly is 2nd Corinthians ll:3—“Do not let “my mind be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” The reason this Scripture is a favorite is because the toughest challenge I’ve had as a writer has been staying grounded in what God wants for me versus what I want for me. Sure, I would love to be a bestselling author, but what does God want? I am learning (very painfully, I might add) that I must become less so that He can become more. But I will be the first to admit, that as a human being who thrives on the positive feedback of readers, this is a challenge that has taken me by surprise. My love for God has always been deeply passionate, but never have I encountered anything as difficult as this—staying focused on God rather than my books.

BUT … the good news is that after almost five years of being published, I have finally turned a corner on that nasty problem, thank God, through a combination of prayer, fasting and a pretty amazing book entitled The Well by Mark Hall, pastor and lead singer for Casting Crowns. You see, my church has been urging each of its 6,000 members to read this book, and once you do, it’s pretty obvious why. Like Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, He is the only source of “living water,” and to try and draw our confidence, peace, hope and joy from stagnant holes such as success, people’s approval or talent will never truly satisfy and will only make us sick.

What trivia about yourself would few people know?
HA! I used to be a Duck Tape Queen! I’ve used it for every and anything—from wadding around a rod to lift sheers up an inch off the floor (my husband HATED that one!) to taping it over itchy labels in a blouse or mending a tear in my purse. You see, I’m dirt-practical like my father used to be. Although he was an eye surgeon, that man would throw a wad of string over the telephone wire outside his bedroom window so he could tell which way the wind was blowing, and like father, like daughter, I guess. :)

Your tagline is “Passion With a Purpose.” Can you explain why you chose it and how you came to write passionate Christian romance?
Well, I thoroughly explain both my “calling” and how I came to it in a blog I wrote for The Seekers entitled “Life on the Edge …” that I encourage people to read, but basically I feel I am called to draw people to an intimate relationship with God through “passion”—both romantically and spiritually.

Let’s face it—passion is powerful. It can drive a woman into the arms of a man, or a person into the arms of God. In truth, romantic passion gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God. After studying the “Song of Solomon” in the Bible , I’m convinced that the God who created passion and intimacy did so to mirror the intensity of His own love for mankind. It is my belief that romance laced with God’s precepts is also powerful—it can draw, woo and win advocates to its cause with the stroke of a keyboard.

Unfortunately in today’s amoral society, the days of Ozzie and Harriett are long gone and the bottom-line is, Dorothy—we’re not in Kansas anymore. Which means we have a whole generation of women who have been spoon-fed the world’s agenda on morality, which is NOT good. Most of the young women I know today who are in a relationship are intimate with their boyfriends—and I’m talking “Christian” girls here, many of whom would not read a Christian romance to save their souls. But … they just might read one if it had the same level of passionate romance as their secular romance, all the while teaching them God’s precepts in a powerful emotional message. It is my hope that my novels strike the balance between romantic and spiritual passion for the broad base of readers searching for its message, and by interweaving the two, bring them into an intimate relationship with the true author of romance.

Any parting words?
I want to thank ACFW for all they do for Christian authors and Christian fiction and for allowing me this incredible opportunity. I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so they can feel free to 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 one right now to win a Kindle Fire.

Also, I have a cool blog 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 they 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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