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Interview With Julie Lessman

In 2008 award-winning author Julie Lessman took the inspirational romance genre by storm with her first book, A Passion Most Pure, which takes an honest look at the spiritual side of romance and passion. The Daughters of Boston series continued on with A Passion Redeemed and now, with her latest book, A Passion Denied.

Julie, what sparked your interest in romance and how has this impacted your writing?

Four life-altering words: Gone With the Wind. You see, when I read that novel at the age of twelve, I was swept away into the world of romance for the very first time. It captured me like no other book had done, and I immediately set out to write (along with thousands of other love-struck young girls, I’m sure), what I hoped would be “the great American novel.” Obviously my dreams of grandeur didn’t go anywhere, but I did write 150 single-spaced pages of a story that became the basis (some forty years later!) for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.

Today, I like to think that not only are Margaret Mitchell’s fingerprints are all over me in my religious devotion to passion, but God’s as well—merging my passion for romance with my passion for Him.

In some of your prior interviews, you describe God as the biggest romantic of them all. What led you to this conclusion?

Are you kidding? All it took was one pass through the Song of Solomon, and I was convinced that the God who created passion and intimacy did so to mirror the intensity of His own love for mankind. 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. 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. It is my hope that my novels will strike the balance between romantic and spiritual passion, and by interweaving the two, bring the reader into an intimate relationship with the true author of romance.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?

This may sound silly, but I would say contests. Judges’ feedback helped improve my story until I started finaling in contests, which then gave me the confidence and motivation to push harder. And, it was finaling in the Golden Heart contest in 2005 that I attribute with landing my agent, Natasha Kern, who despite the 39 rejections I had garnered on my own, turned around and sold me in a 3-book deal six months later. Now that’s an agent of true talent!

How do you balance your writing time with other responsibilities?

Uh, not well, I’m afraid. When I am writing under deadline, I try to write every day, but with a husband and two children and also being primary caretaker for a 90-year-old aunt, that’s not always possible. But I write like a fiend when necessary to get the book done (i.e. sometimes till 4:00 AM if I’m on a roll), and then it always seems as if there are weeks and sometimes months between when I don’t write at all. Very weird, I know.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

Well, let’s put it this way, without God, there would be no books—period. God is not only my reason to write, He is my inspiration, my motivation, my confidence and my talent. Like Michael W. Smith sings in his incredible song, “Breathe,” God is “the air I breathe.” I love romance, make no mistake, but without God in the middle, it is flat, empty, pointless. So I guess you could say that although I write books heavily laced with romantic passion, they are also intensely spiritually passionate as well, with God always firmly anchored in the middle.

What are your challenges in writing?

Oh, gosh, tearing myself away from e-mails and other Internet-related activities that literally steal my time away from writing—that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

But I would have to say the toughest challenge 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. One of my favorite Scriptures that I try to pray daily is 2nd Corinthians ll:3—“Do not let “my mind be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Sigh. Easier said than done.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Well, certainly the most memorable was when I got “the call” while I was in the middle of praying with my prayer partners. My cell phone rang, and it was my agent Natasha Kern telling me wonderful things about how my book had kept several of the editors on the pub board up until the wee hours of the morning because they couldn’t put it down. I repeated everything she said so my prayer partners could hear, and they were screaming and jumping in the background. I felt dazed and humbled and delirious with gratitude for God’s hand in my life. Believe me, after 42 rejections and another publisher giving me a slice-n-dice rejection the week before, this phone call was balm to my battered soul.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

I am the most motivated to write while I am on the treadmill listening to worship music. Suddenly, as if God is whispering in my ear, I get wonderful ideas for scenes, lines, plots while singing my heart out to the Lover of my soul, so I have to believe it is His Holy Spirit infusing me with passion—and plots—to write for Him.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

Well, I do think I am unique in the Christian market today because as a drama queen, I tend to be more extreme in my expression of both romantic passion and spiritual passion. What I mean by that is my writing is more romantically tense and descriptive than most of what I see in the CBA market, but I also feel that it may be more deeply spiritual as well. I am not shy about either romance or God in my books, which I think gives them a kind of “sweet ‘n sour” effect—two seemingly opposite subjects that I believe merge to heighten a taste for God. You see, when it comes to both passion and spirituality, I don’t just breeze across romance and God in my books with the mention of a kiss or a Scripture passage here and there, but I try to incorporate the lessons I have learned in my walk with God into my characters’ lives as well, hopefully giving them a spiritual passion that rivals the romantic passion they ALWAYS encounter. ☺

Finish this question. My idea of a romantic evening with my hubby is…

Dinner out at a really romantic steak restaurant followed by snuggling on the couch to watch a movie (preferably romance!).

Any parting words?

First, I would like to thank ACFW for ALL that it does for its writers, day in and day out, and then, thank you as well, Dineen, for your excellent questions.

Secondly, I would like to say that in Book 2 of The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed, Charity O’Connor learns that she is “the apple” of God’s eye, that He’s crazy about her, just like He is about each of us. When I became born-again, He impressed that message into my heart so completely, that I actually have always felt like I, Julie Lessman, am a puzzle piece from the heart of God. Without me, His heart is not complete, because I hold a special and unique place with Him. As children of God, that is how it is for EACH of us, and my hope and prayer is that somehow, someway, my books will relay that message. Because bottom line, there is NOTHING more romantic than a love affair with God. ☺

Thanks for sharing with us, Julie!

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