Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest Author: Julie Lessman

It's not often you run across a very passionate (while still wholesome, of course) Christian romance. Julie Lessman, a debut author, has written a fantastic novel "A Passion Most Pure" which explores the edges of the envelope, if you will. She includes romance and passion, while clearly sharing where the moral boundaries are--and that there is reward for doing things God's way. As a married writer myself, I especially enjoyed her married couple thread in the book and how she painted them as passionate and staying in love throughout their long marriage.

Here's a bit more about her:

Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. Her first book in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, was released January 2008, to be followed by the second in September 2008, A Passion Redeemed, and the third in February 2009, A Passion Denied (working title). Visit her Web site at www.julielessman.com

Here's our interview:

When did you first start writing? What got you started?

Four life-altering words: Gone With the Wind. 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 (grin), but I did write 150 pages of a story that became the basis (some forty years later!) for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.

Tell us about the process for finding a publishing house for “A Passion Most Pure.” (i.e. Did you find an agent first? Did you rewrite based on early feedback? etc.)

I gotta tell ya, the whole “getting published” process made me CRAZY!! It’s like one long, arduous exam you have to pass, and I knew that if I wanted God to bless me with a good grade (publication), I had to pray a lot and keep my attitude right. So I tried hard not to complain (uh, that’s one test I had to take over and over again! J), and I focused on sending out about 20 queries to publishers, all of which were rejected.

I then decided to try the contest route (for valuable feedback, ego boost and hopefully getting my ms. in front of publisher judges). I didn’t final in the first seven contests I entered, but received invaluable feedback that I prayed about and then implemented, resulting in numerous rewrites. After that, I began finalling a lot, including in the 2005 Golden Heart. Since the GH is such a prestigious contest, I knew I had to make hay while the sun shined, so I sent out TONS of queries to both agents and publishers with a “2005 Golden Heart Finalist” sticker on the envelope. And, bingo! That’s how I got my agent, Natasha Kern—one of the best in the business and, gulp, one of the few agents who gave me the time of day!

In retrospect, I would recommend focusing on getting an agent first. I learned this the hard way (three years and 39 rejections on my own) before I finally hooked up with Natasha who sold my book in a 3-book deal after only six months. Many of the publishers I queried on my own took as long as three years to reply simply because they are SO busy and SO inundated with manuscripts. Ironically, after I got published, I discovered that the unagented proposal I sent two years prior to my current publisher (following an ACFW conference appt.) was STILL in the publisher slush pile!! If it hadn't been for my agent (who my editor respected and trusted), I honestly believe I would not be published today, but still in that deep and dusty pile.

What made you decide to write inspirational romance novels?

Because I LOVE romance, but to me, it’s not romantic unless God is in the middle. For my tastes, there’s nothing “sexy” about sin in a romance novel or movie. I’ve had people tell me that Bridges of Madison County was one of the most romantic films they have ever seen. Are you kidding me??? Since when is adultery romantic, no matter the situation! Maybe that’s just me, but I personally can’t enjoy romance (in a movie or book) unless it is according to God’s precepts OR unless it uses sin to point the reader TO His precepts. That’s the reason I love Inspirational Romance so much. And, yes, “faith” (or spiritual passion) is the key component in my novels … with romantic passion hot on its heels!

I love that, Julie, and I can soooo relate! So, for a personal question, how much of you is in the stories you write? Specifically for “A Passion Most Pure,” but then also generally, as a writer.

Uh, well, (chew lip here) quite a bit! There’s a part of my personality in each of the three sisters in the Daughters of Boston series. I like to think of Faith, the sister heroine of A Passion Most Pure, as my spiritual self. She has an intimate relationship with God just like me—she talks and prays to Him as if He is her best friend, but she gets angry with Him too. I like to refer to it as being emotionally engaged with the God of the Universe—we laugh with Him, tear up at His goodness to us, and worship Him with all of our hearts. In fact, Faith and I are SO much alike in the spiritual aspect, that a good friend of mine told me that reading A Passion Most Pure was “like going to lunch with me.” I’m hoping that’s a good thing! J

Charity, the sister heroine of Book 2, is my rebellious and “passionate” self, before I came to the Lord. I was a wild child of the seventies, like so many of us before Jesus got a hold of us (as he does Charity in Book 2)!

Lizzie (or Beth), the sister heroine of Book 3 is my dreamer self. Lizzie is a bookworm bent on fairytale romance, just like I used to be as a little girl, sneaking downstairs to watch romantic movies after my parents went to bed. In her story, Lizzie has to learn (just like I did) that true romance, the kind that really satisfies, comes from following God’s precepts, not the world’s.

Generally as a writer, my stories or poems or posts (or whatever I write!) are an emotional and spiritual kaleidoscope of who I am. I have a lot of passion (for God, for romance, for life), so that fervor is infused into EVERYTHING I write. Which is why I had to stop sending Christmas cards over twenty years ago. Because I couldn’t just sign my name; I had to write a book in every single one, which meant starting in July!! J

Ooh, I loved hearing about all your upcoming books while you shared that. When does your next book come out (the sequel to “A Passion Most Pure”)?

Charity’s story, A Passion Redeemed, hits the stores in September 2008 (just in time for the ACFW book signing at Mall of America, YEAH!!!).

Any plans for after this series?

Well, I plan to write a fourth book in the “Daughters of Boston” series since there are four daughters in the O’Connor family, but I haven’t sold it yet, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen there. But I would definitely like to do more series. I love writing about families in depth, exploring the emotional highs and lows of a large family (as one of 13 kids, I wonder why!).

I especially enjoy incorporating the love affair between the mother and father of the family because that is so critically important in today’s society and so overlooked. You should never stop having a love affair with your spouse—it’s the greatest thing a mother and father can give to their children—a tender and passionate love between each other. And it’s so much fun for me to incorporate in my books the wonderful lessons I’ve learned with my own husband, humbling though they may be!

Eventually I would like to write a book about my own family, growing up with 13 kids (10 girls and three boys), which would be more of a slice-of-life, bittersweet piece of autobiographical fiction. But family saga/romance is where my heart is, so I am sure I will be coming up with plenty of ideas in the future.

A family with 13 children?! Wow! And I totally agree about the romance in marriage comments (and emphasis in A Passion Most Pure). Very important. My first book was a married couple romance—“Love Letters.” Tell us: What is your biggest dream in writing?

That readers would take away from my books the reality of 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. Believe 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!” J He’s been the love of my life ever since.

Thanks so much, Annette, for hosting me on your Web site. This was a lot of fun, and I hope your readers will have fun too!

Hugs, Julie

Thanks for visiting and for the fun interview! We wish you all the best!

Readers, if you've read "A Passion Most Pure," leave a comment. Julie's going to be checking in.

12 comments:

Myra Johnson said...

Julie, it's always fun to read more about how your book came to be. And now I can't wait to see how your personality comes through in the next couple of novels! Talk about a split personality!

Thanks for having Julie as your guest today, Annette!

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Julie. I loved A Passion Most Pure. I can't wait for the sequel. Such a perfect ending, that left me wondering what would happen until the last moment.
And there were plenty of characters in that book for sequels. Four??? How about ten? You could write all of their stories.
I hope you do.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm reading Julie's book now and am loving it! I'm using it for my reward. I get to read if I get all my writing done for the day. :)

But it's been extremely hard to limit myself! LOL

Great interview, ladies!
Missy

Annette M. Irby said...

Missy, I did the same thing---had to keep myself from from reading until I'd fulfilled other obligations. It's hard, isn't it?? But it's worth it!

:) Annette

Cara Slaughter said...

Julie, I loved "A Passion Most Pure" and look forward to reading the next one in the series. Are you planning to write more historicals, or will you switch to contemporaries?

Annette M. Irby said...

Thanks, Myra. Wasn't that fun?

Mary, I'm with you. Sooo looking forward to her next book (September, 2008).

Annette

Julie Lessman said...

Myra ... split personality? Moi? If you only knew! Thanks for popping in, my friend!

Mary, uh, yeah, there ARE lots of characters ... and now that I'm quitting my day job, I'm going to have to write about ALL of them!! :) Thanks for your comment, Mare.

Missy ... I'm a reward? Gee, wish my husband felt that way! :)

Hi Cara, thanks for dropping by. Right now I'm pretty stuck in the historical groove, but I actually had a contemporary started before I sold, so I'll bet I get back to it eventually ...

Annette, gosh, you are WAY better than I am at responding to posts!! Thank God you're covering me! :)

Hugs,
Julie

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Julie, I'm a day late, but was really interested in the whole process of publication for you. That would make a great book in itself. smile.
I loved A Passion Most Pure. Your writing reminds me of Francine Rivers. I love all the conflict amidst the family relationships and how they struggle with their Christian values. That is so real. I can hardly wait till the next book.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

I love these interviews. I always learn something new about my Seeker sis.

Great blog, Annette!

For anyone reading...Julie's writing will blow your socks off.

I strongly urge you to get the book if you haven't. Best part is it's part of a series.

Cheryl

Julie Lessman said...

Wow, Sandra, Francine Rivers??? Are you sure you weren't on strong cold medication at the time??? :)

Seriously, thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words, my friend.

Hugs,
Julie

T said...

I agree with Myra, it is really cool to read how the little Julie writing kernel began.

Got you beat, Sandra. I am two days late. Three days if you live in NY.

Annette M. Irby said...

Thanks, Cheryl. This has been loads of fun!

:) Annette