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

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.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Today as I worked outside, weeding a flower garden in preparation for warmer weather, I recognized just how busy our huge maple tree has been. All those little seeds everywhere and plenty of them taking root until I got to them. Little green shoots jutting out from the browned and dead maple tree seeds were coming up all over the place. I raked and tugged. They came up easily. They’re new so they’re weak little saplings.

Reminded me how new believers can be. When Christians witness to people and they become new believers, they’re like little saplings: rather vulnerable to being uprooted. They’ll need time, protection and nourishment to grow. They’ll need the right atmosphere (safe from harsh elements) to get strong. Otherwise, any number of enemies could cause them to be uprooted before they dig very deeply into new life.

Jesus explained this in his parable of the seeds. (see Matt. 13) He also lived the wisdom of this by giving of himself to those He discipled. He spent time with them, cared for them, talked them through their life’s problems, and taught them the truths of the kingdom. He invested in them so they could become “rooted and grounded in love.” (see Eph. 3:17)

That’s what He calls us to do.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 26:19-20, NKJV)

It’s not enough to win converts, we must also help them find their way, like someone once helped us. That’s what Jesus did and following in His footsteps, being conformed to His image, requires us to do the same.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Life of Prayer

“I need this.” I’m talking to myself as I print out a meaningful on-line teaching from one of my favorite ministries. The topic? Our first love. Perfect.

I’ve been spending my evenings reading—which is part of my work, but my mornings are busy with children and writing—another part of my work. And the prayer time I get is usually interrupted. Makes for some frustrating days. Any moms out there relating to me here?

So, tonight, instead of working, I’m going to find some resources for prayer/Bible study---topics to refresh my spirit and feast my heart on the goodness of God.

Jesus did this. He made prayer a high (the highest?) priority in His life. Over and over, the gospels refer to Him as getting up while it was still dark and going to pray…. Or going to a secret place alone, which was His custom, he prayed…. (see Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12, 11:1, etc.) Indeed. This is one of those areas I really want to be like Jesus in. I want to go and meet with the Father, the One who adopted me, loves me, accepts me and even adores me…. Amazing.

I want to be a person of prayer. Just like Jesus.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Returning Guest Author: DiAnn Mills

I'm thrilled to welcome author DiAnn Mills back to my dock in the blogosphere. She's here to discuss her latest release: Awaken My Heart. I enjoyed this novel and recommend it to you. DiAnn is a kind and gracious woman and a wonderful writer.

Here's a bit about the story:

Journey back to the early days of southwest history when the Spanish ruled the vast territory of Texas and padres instructed the people in the ways of God. Step into the world of handsome vaqueros and brightly dressed dark-eyed maidens.

The time is 1803. This is the era of Marianne Phillips and Armando Garcia, two people separated by race and culture but destined for love. Marianne is the daughter of a wealthy American rancher, a man who will do anything to please the Spanish and secure his land. Armando is a Mexican peasant, a rebel according to the Spanish. He has committed his life to helping the poor rise from poverty and the oppression of the ruling Spanish. Armando and Marianne . . . Two unlikely people who have little in common. Or do they?

Open this book to a romance that will live in your heart long after the story is told. Curl up in a serape and listen to the strum of a Spanish guitar. I invite you to read with your heart and become a part of a love story that only the hand of God could orchestrate.

Now for the interview:

You’ve been writing historical fiction for a long time. What interested you in the 1803 time period?

I love Texas history, and I have an appreciation for the courageous men and women who built this state. Early Texas is a mixture of native American, Spanish, black, and various European descent. Each race offered us a rich cultural heritage, a heritage that we should be proud.

Tell us more about the theme of Awaken My Heart.

The theme is courage: courage to stand up to political and social factions that vie against God and what He desires for His people.

Armando Garcia is a rebel type of character. Talk about his development as a character, since he’s the hero of the story.

Armando had much to learn about the difference between his own desires and what God required of him. Once he realized his stand needed to embrace truth, he was on the right road.

Marianne Phillips has a streak of rebellion in her. How was it channeled?

Marianne kept much of her rebellion inside because she knew God expected her to honor her parents, and in many instances, her father’s wishes. Once she saw that she had to make a choice between obedience to her father and obedience to God, she found strength to do that which was right.

What do you want your readers to understand about Weston Phillips?

Weston Phillips had the potential to be a good and kind man. He had the intelligence to build a large ranch and the ability to accumulate wealth, but selfishness took the reins. Once the reader completes the novel, he/she will understand Phillips much better.

What is your biggest challenge in writing?

Always the characterization. I crave three dimensional characters who will experience growth. Understanding and acting upon their motivation takes time! Sometimes I simply have to “live” with them for awhile.

I understand that. These people are real! How do you develop your characters?

Through time, patience, people-watching, viewing them through unusual situations, brainstorming, and consulting many books about the psychology of personalities. And that’s just the beginning!

How much of yourself goes into a character?

I attempt to keep myself excluded from the process, but I admit that an opinion or a trait appears now and then.

What is your next project?

I’m currently writing a romantic suspense for Tyndale, the second book in the Behind the Sunglasses Series. I’m also preparing various historical fiction proposals.

You've been a successful and well-published author. How would you encourage fledging writers in their craft?

  • To read in the genre in which they want to write.
  • To read the books written by those authors they admire.
  • To read books about the craft.
  • To write everyday.
  • To become active in a writer’s group.
How can readers contact you?

My website is Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Thanks!

Thanks so much for visiting again, DiAnn. Best wishes in your writing!

Over at Carol Erhardt's blog

This morning, I'm a guest at a fellow Wild Rose Press author's blog--- take a look and feel free to leave comments.

How fun that right after I this, I get to post a guest's visit here --- DiAnn Mills. Watch for news on her latest release --- "Awaken My Heart."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

No Fear of Man

Some of their faces indicated interest. People leaned forward in their chairs, smiled at me. Laughed at appropriate times. Engaged with the topic. Others in the room? Covered in total boredom, like they wondered when naptime was scheduled. Maybe my teaching wasn't a fascinating presentation, but I know the message was from God. And it was about freedom.

Two nights later I watched a musical performance by one of my favorite Christian artists. Same thing. Some not-so-impressed faces. Some people lost in the experience. So, I'm not the only one. Gives me the impression it's not necessarily the presenter. It's the individuals watching.

You know, you can't please everyone at once.

Jesus didn't seem to worry about this. He was most concerned about his Audience of One--the Father. He lived to please Him, to follow Him, to obey Him, to serve Him. He didn't concern Himself with people-pleasing.

Two verses come to mind:

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Galations 1:10 NKJV)

If we're still trying to make people comfortable, at the expense of the Truth, how can say we're serving God? The truth hurts, sometimes. Don't be afraid of it. Don't hide from it. Embrace it and you'll be free and others around you will be too. Here's the command God gave Jeremiah:

“Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD.” (Jer 1:8 NKJV)

In other words, don't worry about the opinion of others. If God has given you an assignment, go forward with it, without fear.

Are you free from the "fear of man?" Are you a people pleaser? Jesus wasn't. Let's ask for grace to live the way He did while in the flesh and walk free from intimidation.