Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. 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, followed by the second in September 2008, A Passion Redeemed, and the third in February 2009. Visit her Web site at http://www.julielessman.com/.
Interview with Julie Lessman for Passion Most Pure
What inspired you to be a writer?
Four life-altering words: Gone With the Wind. When I read that novel at the age of 12, 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.
I am curious as to how you came up with the concept of this story line. Did something spark your imagination?
Well, as you know, 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 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. I often butted heads with my sister who was two years older than me. She was … ahem … quite voluptuous and very attractive to boys while I was … well, basically not! J I was so skinny, in fact, that when I played on a girls’ softball team, my older brother commented: “What position do you play? The foul line?” Needless to say, the idea of competing with my beautiful sister for a boy’s affection was deeply rooted in my childhood, which, as I mentioned above, is when I started writing this novel at the age of 12, after reading Gone With the Wind.
What made you center the story on an Irish family?
Grin. One guess … Gone With the Wind. The idea of an Irish family (The O’Hara family in GWTW), and Scarlett, in particular, seeded my fertile imagination like nothing had ever done. From that point on, I LOVED anything Irish and especially anything that had to do with GWTW. So much so, that when I was in high school, I actually dressed up as a nun to go to a free showing of GWTW for the local religious and clergy. One of my friends had a sister in the convent, so she loaned us novice habits and off we went! I sat there mesmerized, shoving free popcorn into my mouth as I watched the tug-o-war between Rhett and Scarlett. It was one of the most fun times of my teens … until we ran into the nuns from our high school! Whew, we got into trouble … but it was soooo worth it (at least at the time!).
I compared the O'Connor family to a family that was portrayed in a 1944 film, titled Meet Me In St. Louis. This movie was based on the Smiths, a real family. I was unaware that you lived in St. Louis. Did the Smiths ever come to mind?
No, I can’t actually say that they did, although Meet Me in St. Louis is a favorite movie of mine, especially since I am from both St. Louis and a large family. But I truly appreciate the compliment, because, yes, I can see the similarity now that you mention it. Uh, all except the closeness between the sisters, which I assure you, gets remedied BIG TIME in Book 3, A Passion Denied. That book of all three in the series, typifies the true big-family fun of Meet Me in St. Louis because everybody gets along … well, almost. J
How do you choose your character’s names?
Mostly, I just go with what feels right. For instance, in the original manuscript I wrote at the age of 12, the heroine’s name was Faith O’Connor, just like in A Passion Most Pure (which, of course, is based on that early manuscript). Of course, I wasn’t a girl of “faith” then, so I’m not sure why I named her that, but I did. Ironically, it suits her perfectly in A Passion Most Pure because she is the consummate woman of “faith.”
Both of the parents’ names, Marcy and Patrick, were also from that early manuscript, and I think I named “Marcy” after a girl I knew in grade school (I know, I know, it doesn’t really sound like an Irish name, which is why I included that her full name was Marceline). And “Patrick” was just “the” Irish male name to have back then.
But I did rename Faith’s rival sister, Charity, and the bad-boy hero, Collin, because their names were … are you ready?? Del, short for “Delatha,” and “Bart.” Don’t even ask me what I was thinking at the age of 12 except that I do remember liking the TV show Maverick, which featured a handsome character named Bart Maverick. I finally settled on Charity’s name because Faith had a twin named “Hope” who died at the age of nine, and I was going for “Faith, Hope and Charity.” And Collin’s name, pure and simple, came from a listing of Irish male names. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I LOVE Collin Firth …
Is there a part of you in your characters?
Uh, I’m afraid so! Faith, the sister heroine of A Passion Most Pure is basically my spiritual self. Both of us have an intimate relationship with God where we talk and pray with Him as naturally as if He were physically in the room. He’s our best friend as well as our Savior and the true love of our lives. 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 hope that’s a good thing—not real sure! J
Charity, the sister heroine of Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, is my rebellious and “passionate” self, before I came to the Lord. I was a wild child of the seventies before Jesus got a hold of me (as he does Charity in Book 2).
Lizzie (or Beth), the sister heroine of Book 3, working title A Passion Denied, 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.
Has the fact that you are writer changed the way you read a book?
Unfortunately, yes. I have been to so many writing classes and seminars, read so many writing books, entered so many contests and had so many critique partners, that I have learned A LOT about writing in the five years it took for me to get published. So, I have to admit, I am a bit picky about what I read. I am crazy about romance, but also crazy about God, and I found there wasn’t much in the Christian market that combined the two passionately enough to satisfy me. So I … uh … wrote my own.
Have you ever suffered from “writer's block”? If so, what releases your creativity?
Gosh, I haven’t been writing long enough to encounter too much of that yet, thank God, but I did “hit the wall” on Book 3 of my Daughters of Boston series (A Passion Denied) while I was reading the work of another author who I greatly admire. Unfortunately, the other author’s book was SO good, that every time I sat down at the computer, I felt like puking on the keyboard because mine didn’t measure up. Now I know we are not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but we are human beings after all, and I gotta tell you, I got discouraged and couldn’t write for three months.
What releases my creativity? Pressing into God. When I got blue while writing Book 3, I felt like he wanted me to “fast” reading all other books but the Bible and just seek Him in prayer, which I did. And He is faithful. I experienced a spiritual break-through and picked up where I’d left off on Book 3. Now, even though I had considered Book 3 my least favorite of all three books, most everyone who has read it so far says it’s the best of all three novels, which I totally attribute to God’s wisdom and direction! And now I love it too!
What is your favorite pastime?
Oh, you mean how I USED to spend my free time? That’s easy: watching old movies (Gone With the Wind, That Touch of Mink, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Slept Here are some of my favorites), reading more books, gardening and hosting elaborate dinner parties a la Martha Stewart. I’m pretty driven in whatever I do (anal might be a better word). And, yes, I’ve been known to pipe guest’s initials into their twice-baked potatoes, cut napkin rings out of real lemons to hold lemon green beans, and sketch a layout for how the food would be placed on the plate. Which was fine when I was younger and had the energy to do it, but these days, sitting at my computer with a candle burning and a cup of Hazelnut Cinnamon coffee is my pastime of choice.
One last question, what is one thing that you want to bring to readers from this series, The Daughters of Boston?
The MOST important thing I pray that this series “brings” to readers is 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. And as I said before, 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.
Deb, thank you SO much for having me on your blog! This was fun! Hugs, Julie
Julie - Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I'll be counting the days until the 2nd book in the Daughters of Boston trilogy is released. I agree, this was fun! - Deb
**A PASSION MOST PURE GIVEAWAY**
Leave a comment between March 14th - March 16th. Names will be drawn and a winner will be picked on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th! If you do not have a blog where I can contact you, please leave your email. Good Luck!
If you don't win, you can buy this book here.
My thoughts on A Passion Most Pure here.