Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest books. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Rachel Hauck is Kristie D. My assistant Amy will be in touch for your mailing address.
This week we welcome Julie Lessman. To win a copy of the Julie Lessman book of your choice, leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
Well, I’m a baby boomer (how’s that for side-stepping the age issue?) married to a man who makes me feel like I’m living my own personal romance novel. I have a 27-year-old son and a doctor daughter-in-law (for whom I prayed since my son was a baby). I also have a 22-year-old daughter currently in law school who hates to read, and, yes, it’s true—I paid her $20 just to read the first chapter of my debut novel A Passion Most Pure. I’m happy to say it hooked her, and the rest of the book and the other three didn’t cost me a dime! I quit my day job a few years back to write fulltime and now work back-to-back with my artist husband in a really tiny computer room. Uh, can you say “cozy”?
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
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.
Dreams of being published? Oh, yes, I mean really—is the sky blue?? As mentioned above, I started writing at the age of twelve, but never really got serious until July 2001—that’s when I was sitting in a beauty shop reading a Newsweek magazine cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “Now is the time to finish your book.” I started A Passion Most Pure the next month, finally selling it to Revell 4-1/2 years and 45 rejections later.
Tell us about your books.
Well, my first series is entitled “The Daughters of Boston,” and each of the three books focus on one of four daughters in the O’Connor clan, a very close-knit and passionate Irish family during the pre-World War I era. With titles like A Passion Most Pure (American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Book of the Year), A Passion Redeemed (Inspirational Reader’s Choice Finalist) and A Passion Denied (Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction), I don’t have to tell you that “passion” is a key component in my writing—both in passion for God and for romance.
My brand-new series, “Winds of Change” just released this week with A Hope Undaunted, which is the fourth daughter’s story that takes place during the Roaring 20s and Great Depression. Here is the jacket blurb:
What happens when the boy she loved to hate … becomes the man she hates to love?
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O’Connor is the epitome of the new woman–smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband–good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Cluny McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Oh, that’s easy—the treadmill! I put my worship music on and go crazy, singing my off-key heart out much to the angst of my family. But there’s just something about those physical and spiritual endorphins that shakes my creativity loose, so I keep a pen and pad of paper handy when those scenes roll through my head. As far as routines, a cup of hazelnut decaf, lip gloss and Kleenex (for the soggy scenes I write) are a must, with peach or black cherry candles for winter writing inside and a giant fan for writing outdoors on the deck in the summer. I don’t write everyday, but when I am in the heat of production, I will write from about 10:30 AM till midnight or even 5:00 AM as I near the end of the book, stopping only for meals.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Uh, no. I wish I’d known what an emotional roller-coaster it was going to be AFTER I got published. Like a lot of unpublished writers, I thought all the anxiety and self-doubt would dissipate after I signed on the dotted line. I mean that would validate me, right? Give me confidence as a writer? But I discovered (AGAIN!) that true confidence is not in accolades from your editor or a really good review, but instead in where your heart is with God. HE is my confidence when my sales rankings on Amazon.com are high or low, which is why I CLING to the following Scripture from 2 Corinthians ll:3, praying it almost every day: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
What are your biggest distractions?
Oh, without question e-mails and blog interviews. Whenever I have a new book out, I seem to spend more time on e-mails and responding to blog-interview comments, which is time-consuming but something I really love to do because it allows me to connect with reader friends. But when I am on deadline, I have taken to turning Outlook off throughout the day and only checking here and there AND trying to stay brief … which … ahem, for an author who writes 500-page novels, is not easy.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The best? When I got “the call from my agent. I was in the middle of praying with my prayer partners when my cell phone rang. My heart dropped when I heard Natasha’s voice, but when she told me the pub board had a rare unanimous vote with several editors reading my book into the wee hours, I started crying. I repeated everything she said so my prayer partners could hear, and they were screaming and jumping up and down in the background. Believe me, after 45 rejections and another publisher giving me a slice-n-dice rejection the week before, this phone call was balm to my battered soul.
The worst? That would be on book 4, A Hope Undaunted, when I thought I was looking at a total rewrite due to a main plot twist that my editor felt defied the tenets of romance. But after a lot of prayer, it turned out to be a really simple fix, so God bailed me out … again!
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
Like the most? Writing dramatic, breathless and compelling love scenes. Sigh.
Like the least? Trying to get published. Yuck!
What advice would you give to new writers?
Since I get asked that a lot, here is a list I compiled of the things I personally did to get published:
1.) Join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers at http://www.americanchristianfictionwriters.com/), FHL (Faith, Hope & Love at http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/) and RWA (Romance Writers of America at http://www.rwanational.org/), both to get connected with other like-minded writers and to learn a lot about your craft.
2.) Take a fiction-writing class or attend a writing seminar or conference.
3.) Join a critique group (you can do that through ACFW).
4.) Purchase and study writing books such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas, AND invest in a great thesaurus such as The Synonym Finder by Rodale Press (my writer’s bible!!).
5.) Enter contests for invaluable feedback, growth, confidence, networking opportunities and to get your name out there.
6.) Frequent websites/blogs that deal with writing, such as The Seekers (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/), a group blog that I belong to whose theme is “On the road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.”
7.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.
8.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Thank you, Suzanne, for hosting me on your blog. It’s been fun! And I LOVE to hear from readers, so they can contact me through my Web site at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots”, which is a very laid-back, almost-daily journal to my reader friends that would give your “bleaders” (love that word!!) an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
Thanks again, Suzanne, and God bless!