Friday, March 14, 2008

Julie Lessman

About the Author:
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.

34 comments:

...Catherella's Castle... said...

Hi Deb and Julie-
This was an awesome interview and so insightful! I am around the 40th page of "Passion Most Pure",(I know! I have so much reading to do! YAY!), so I'm sure as I read I will have all that you said in mind as I get to know these characters better...

So far, I'm loving the book, but unfortunately I had to borrow Deb's book to read, so PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME!!!! (o:


Cat

Purely Sony said...

OK, first I must say that I love this book!!!!!! Loved it! One of my top three favorites! It was so hard for me to put it down I just wanted to keep on reading (not many books do that for me). Thank you Julie for this wonderful book and I can't wait to read book #2!

Deb - Great interview and great questions! I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Thanks so much Deb!

P.S. Please pick me :-)

Becky said...

First of all, Deb...excellent interview. You asked everything I wanted to know, but never would have thought to ask! (And thank you for turning me onto this book!)

Julie, it was so great to get to know more about you and your book(s), and I appreciate so much your passion for the Lord interwoven so naturally into the story. I'm about 1/3 of the way into it, and am enjoying it tremendously. I love the family dynamic!

Thanks again, ladies...it was a very enjoyable interview.

Julie Lessman said...

Cat, I don't give a rip if you borrowed the book or got it from the library ... I'm just THRILLED you're reading it!! Thank you!!! Word of mouth is my best friend at this point, so I am eternally grateful to Deb for talking my book up and giving me this great opportunity.

And Purely Sony, I don't believe I have ever met anyone who uses more exclamation points than me!!! :) My first crit partner (agent, Kelly Mortimer) about had a stroke with A Passion Most Pure in the beginning because like you, I do love my exclamation points!!! :) Thank you SOOOO much for your warm praise -- it means the world to a newbie like me.

Becky, I am glad you are enjoying it so far ... let's hope you feel that way by the end of the book too ... :) Thanks for your kind comment and your support.

Deb, you and your friends are THE best!!!!!!! (take that, Purely Sony!!!!!!!!)

Hugs,
Julie

Jessica said...

Ever since I heard of this book, I've been wanting to read it. The title intrigued me because for many years it was so difficult to find an awesome, spine-tingling romance that glorified God. Whether I win this contest or not, this book is definitely on my reading list.
Thanks for the interview, Julie!

Ausjenny said...

Great interview and i have to giggle at the names you had for Collin and Charity.
Im also thinking i need to watch meet me in St. Louis today.
i did enjoy reading your interview here.
Oh i have read the book so dont enter me. I am also hosting Julie on my blog on Sunday.

Nora St. Laurent said...

Great Interview. This book sounds good. Please put my name in the hat.
Thanks

Mary Connealy said...

I loved A Passion Most Pure, Julie I can't wait for the sequel. I feel like I was there at the beginning, I knew you when...

Because you're writing is extraordinary. Don't put me in the drawing. I already have two, one to keep and one to share.

Julie Lessman said...

Jessica, yep, I definitely LOVE "spine-tingling romance," and I hope and pray that it glorifies God!! Thanks so much for your comment.

AusJenny, yeah the names were pretty lame, weren't they? And, yes, you SHOULD watch Meet Me in St. Louis!! Wonderful movie!

Nora, I wish I could hand out a free book to everybody who posts, but my husband would string me up, I'm afraid, so I'll wish y'all the best instead!!

Mary, you doll--and one of Barbour's TOP authors--thank you for stopping by!! Mary Connealy -- look her up, guys, she's good!!

Hugs,
Julie

Janna said...

Okay, this is like the best book of the year, please enter me - I have one copy (not autographed) that is currently being circulated amongst family and friends and just in case I never get to see it again :-( I must have a keeper copy for myself!

Janna
ryanx6[at]msn[dot]com

Anonymous said...

That was such an enjoyable interview to read that I think I would also enjoy reading your book. Would love to win it.
Andee S. Davis

Anonymous said...

This book sounds awesome and I would love to get entered in the drawing to win a copy of it.

Thanks,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

Carole said...

I love the way you were inspired by Gone with the Wind, Julie! I live on the south side of Atlanta in an area that is considered to be "Gone with the Wind" country, and also have a fascination with all things GWTW.

I have wanted to read your book ever since reading its description several weeks ago. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I'd really love to read this book! Great interview. I'm hearing wonderful things about this book.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Janna, your sweet comment is cream in my coffee this morning, "darlin'"!! Thank you for stopping by!

Andee and Jo, thanks SO much for your interest and your comments ... I have one lonely author copy of APMP left in my box for this contest, just looking for a good home ... but if you don't win here, be sure to check out AusJenny's site on 3/17 because I'll be giving another signed copy away there once I get a new box of author copies. AusJenny's Web site is: http://ausjenny.blogspot.com/.

And oh, Carol, I'm telling ya -- if I could be bought on contests like these, it would definitely be by a GWTW fan such as yourself!!! But, sigh, the high cost of serving God first, man second!!:)

Hugs,
Julie

Lindsey Freitas said...

This is exciting - I'd love to read this book! Please enter me in the giveaway!

ladyufshalott [at] yahoo [dot] com

Thank you!

Lindsey

Jennifer AlLee said...

Great interview. I love the story of Julie dressing up like a nun so she could see GWTW for free! You've got the makings for another book right there.

Please throw my name in the hat: jallee725 [at] hotmail [dot] com

Many blessings to both of you, ladies!

The Daily "B" said...

Thank you all for stopping by! I hope all of you win... well, at least one of you. =)

Becky said...

Deb and Julie,

I just had to come back by and say that I finished the book...and WOWZA! I totally LOVED it!

I don't want to spoil it for anyone else, so I must refrain from saying exactly which parts...but the ending was FABULOUS! Full of surprises I never would have expected. WELL DONE, Julie. Well. Done!

I'm SO looking forward to #2!

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Lindsey, thanks for dropping by and good luck to you in the contest.

Jennifer ... we HAVE to get you a copy, girl!!! You guys, Jennifer has a great blog you should check out at http://jenniferallee.blogspot.com/ and has book giveaways all the time!

Oh, Becky, I cannot tell you how MUCH your comments mean to me!! Being a debut author is an emotional roller-coaster for sure -- one day your rankings are up on Amazon.com, the next day you type in my author name and the site says "Julie who?" Hearing from people who have read the book and loved it is a real blessing to me. If you are prone to posting reviews on Amazon.com, I would LOVE to have a few sentences from you on there, but if you're not comfortable with that, please don't worry about it. Right now, word of mouth is my best friend, and I'm counting on you and Deb to tell others what you think, okay? Bless you!

Hugs,
Julie

Been There, Done That said...

Dear Julie,
I read the book and I loved it so much!!!! It kept my attention through the whole book that I read it in one day. Couldn't put it down. Julie, you are a talented writer and right from the beginning I was hooked. I read alot just like Deborah, in fact that's probably where she gets it from!! Thanks Deb, for telling me about this book and lending it to me. Can't wait for the next one. I loved the fact that God was the center of this family's life (except of course Charity) and that no matter what Faith wanted she wanted God's Will and blessings first. That is so important. Thank you for showing your readers that with God, anything is possible, even our dreams.

bigguysmama said...

Me too, me too, me too. I'd love to win a copy of this book so throw me in with everyone else! Thanks for the opportunity to win a book with so many exclamation points!!

In Him,
Mimi
mnjesusfreak[at]gmail.com

Hope Chastain said...

Please throw my name in the hat, too! I've really been wanting to read this one. Love GWTW. Love MMISL! (Clang, clang, clang went the trolley.... I grew up singing most of the songs from that one!) One way or another, I'm sure I'll find a copy, but I'd love to win an autographed copy!!!!!!!!!! (I like exclamation points, too! Only I have to restrain myself in my mss.) ;-)

hope _ chastain [at] yahoo [dot] com (no spaces)

The Daily "B" said...

Were coming to the end of day 2, one more day before a name is drawn! woohoo!

Thank you all for stopping by and supporting Julie, she deserves it!

Kathy at Sumballo said...

I haven't had a chance to read this book, although I've heard good things. sumballo [at] gmail [dot] com

Julie Lessman said...

Jennifer Hudson Taylor, I missed your comment up above -- my apologies and my thanks for your kind words and for stopping by Deb's blog.

And "Been There Done That," ONE DAY???? Wow, you must have taken the Evelyn Wood Speedreading course!! :) Seriously, THANK YOU for your encouraging words -- they mean more than you can know, especially now that I have quit my day job -- YIKES!! And are you Deb's mom? Is that what you meant by "that's where she gets it from"?

Mimi, I sent a book out to a "Mimi," but I guess it wasn't you! Let's see if I can get it right this time ... :)

Hope, what a WONDERFUL name!! One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 15:13 -- "Now may the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." And you're a GWTW freak too? Oh man, this is tough!!

Kathy, thanks for dropping in to leave a comment! Wish everybody could win!!

Deb, thanks again for hosting me on your blog -- this is soooo much fun!!!!

Hugs,
Julie

Hope Chastain said...

Have to admit, Hope Chastain is a pen name...I'm actually named for Hebrews 11:1, which does have hope in it! :-) Did you like the film or the book of GWTW better? I like the film, despite its leaving out the rest of her children...(Just unfair! I think they only did it because it was already going to be four hours long, because my mom had paper dolls from the film, and all the children were in there...now lost to the mists of times and moves, alas!)

There's only one good way to choose when so many people want your book, and that's to put all the names on little slips of paper and draw them out of a hat. I have several hats I've used for the purpose when having author-sponsored book giveaways on my blog. One is a wide-brimmed straw, one an Army pith helmet, and I think I even used a cowboy hat once. I'll have to remember to use that hat if I give away any westerns! LOL

Queen Catherella said...

Hey Guys,
Here's a progress report, I'm in the middle of the book now... I should have been farther, but LIFE keeps getting in the way!!!! UGH. I woke up this morning with the book on the bed beside me... I must have drifted off to sleep while reading ---- NOT because it was in anyway dull or boring, but my eyes refused to keep up with the rest of me! Sooo good and boy oh boy, all the men in this book sound so scrumptious - physically at least!!! Julie, you do have a way with words!!!!

ok, going back to read some more!

Again ---- PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME!!!!! (o:

Patty said...

I've been looking forward to reading this book, so hopefully I can win it.

pleblanc_1 at charter dot net

Julie Lessman said...

Hope, pen name or no -- it's a GREAT name!! And I guess I would have to say I liked the film of GWTW better because I've seen it more times than I've read the book. But book or movie -- WHEW! What a romance!!!

Grin, Cat, yeah, I know -- the guys are hunks for sure. I love 'em all -- Patrick, Collin and Mitch. Patrick is the closest of the three to my husband, and actually, Marcy & Patrick's marriage is based on what Keith and I are blessed to have, arguments and all (at least the arguments in the early days). There are even a couple of scenes that I stole ... uh-hum ... from our past.:) But then I think most authors steal from their own lives, don't they??? I can tell you one thing, though, it sure caught my husband by surprise when he read my book! :)

And, Patty, thanks for posting a comment. I wish you and everyone who posted all the best.

Hugs,
Julie

angela said...

I missed the contest, but loved the interview. I especially loved the story about the nuns. Too funny. I'll be buying this book first chance I get.

Shauna said...

STILL waiting on Amazon. I, too, missed the blessed event. ;0) But I did get to read the interview and loved it! Absolutely wonderful.

Julie Lessman said...

Angela and Shauna, so sorry you missed the contest, but there's another one going on over at AusJenny's Blog that goes on until March 30. Here's the link -- just scroll down to March 17 and leave a comment:

http://www.ausjenny.blogspot.com/

Hugs,
Julie

The Daily "B" said...

Shauna - Check your PM's at Dee's.