Julie Lessman has thankfully agreed to an email interview where she was very candid about her passion for writing sizzling but sweet books for the wide Christian audience. You will find that next to her love of words and books, she has a sense of humor and a sense of duty to write about love.
Christian Fiction Examiner: Okay. So, A Passion Most Pure had me turning the pages quickly. Which is odd for a book about 300+ pages taking place during WWI. But I think it was the love triangle and passionate scenes. How much research went into writing this book and how long did it take to complete the manuscript itself?
Julie Lessman: How long did it take me to complete the manuscript?? Ha! Would you believe almost 40 years? You see, I actually started APMP at the age of twelve after reading Gone With the Wind. From the moment Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was a goner, and my “romance-writing career” began with a 150 single-spaced manuscript that became the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Hard to believe that almost forty years passed before God breathed new life into that early attempt and inspired me to finish my childhood novel of passion—only this time the “passion” would be for Him!
As far as research, I had to learn the language, dress, mores, etc. of a whole new world, so quite a bit of research was necessary … and quite a bit of juggling dates and plot points, too, in order to stay true to the WWI time period.
CFE: My favorite character, unbelievably so, was Collin. Faith was a close second. Which character was your favorite and which was hardest to write?
JL: Since there are seven books in the O’Connor family saga (including a prequel entitled A Light in the Window for the parents, Marcy and Patrick), I’d like to apply that question to the entire saga rather than just A Passion Most Pure if I may.
I do love ALL of my characters, but there are ones that are easier to write because I connect with them more. For instance, Faith is my spiritual self, so every single spiritual conversation or habit you see her do in the books are taken straight from how I live my life, right down to the anger at God on the ship in A Passion Most Pure. Faith felt like He had boxed her in and ruined her for the world because she had tasted His love and could never go back to living without Him. That’s exactly how I felt at times when I was a new Christian, so Faith comes by it honestly!
But as far as favorites, this is going to shock some people, I know, but Charity O’Connor is right up there. Charity—goodness, my heart goes out to her and the woman I used to be—selfish, manipulative, lost… I suspect God looked at me back then—with eyes full of love and hope that we all can become new creatures in Christ Jesus.
The hardest character to write? Oh, goodness, that would have to be the hero of book 3, John Brady of A Passion Denied, Collin’s Godly buddy from the war. In book 3, Brady is a Billy Graham-type character, full of fire and faith for God, a spiritual rock and anchor for everyone he meets, so I had trouble relating to him because of my own checkered past as an agnostic wild child of the 70s.
CFE: The story would not be as juicy without Charity. The charming, extremely beautiful blond sister. This is the one Collin is courting, but Faith is in love with him and he finds Faith amazing and does not know why. I have not read Charity’s story, A Passion Redeemed, but what inspired you to write her story- or was the series planned in that way?
JL: When I wrote A Passion Most Pure, I never intended to continue on with a series, but by the end of the book, it just seemed a natural progression to continue on with Charity’s story. I’ll be honest, however, both my editor and agent were concerned about Charity’s like-ability as a heroine since she was the “vixen” in book 1. So much a vixen, in fact, that I actually had some readers write and ask me to “slap Charity for them” or wanted to see her “killed or maimed.” Frankly, I was fascinated by the challenge of redeeming her, which was a slow and painful process that begins in book 2, A Passion Redeemed, and continues on throughout the six-book family saga.
CFE: Out of all the books in the Daughters of Boston Series, which was fun to write? More difficult to write?
JL: The most fun book to write? Oh, without question that would be book 2 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed, which is my VERY favorite of all three books of that series. In fact, I SO loved delving into Mitch and Charity’s story that I actually wrote this nearly 500-page doorstop in two months while working a part-time job.
The hardest book to write? Professionally, that would be the third book in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Denied. It was difficult to write for a number of reasons. First of all, I hit the wall on that book because I was reading another author whose incredible talent made me feel like I wanted to puke on my keyboard whenever I read my own writing. And secondly, it was difficult because I was attempting not only to tell a very complicated and dark love story about the third daughter, but also weaving in second-tier stories about the parents and each of the other daughters.
CFE: Any new projects?
JL: Well, I’m very excited about a contemporary I just finished called Isle of Hope. I knew I wanted a locale on the Eastern Seaboard, and I’ve always loved Hilton Head and Savannah, so I prayed about it. Imagine my surprise when I checked a map and found a lovely place called Isle of Hope, Georgia, which is just 15 minutes away from Savannah and is actually a peninsula that becomes an island when the tide comes in. It’s perfect for my story because it’s a charming little community with a rich history. They filmed part of Forrest Gump there and other movies because it’s so pretty. And my story is all about the restoration of hope and relationships, so the title is—at least for me—truly inspired.
CFE: How much creative input do you have over book design?
JL: With my traditionally published books, my publisher does ask for both my input and my feedback, but ultimately the final say goes to them. For my award-winning indie-published book, A Light in the Window, however, I had total control since my artist hubby created both the cover and the video utilizing my daughter as the model. So you might say it was a family affair, and trust me, we had a blast!
CFE: Some authors say early morning is the best time of the day to write. Is this the same for you? Why?
JL: Yes, I’ve discovered that first thing in the morning is the most creative, fluid time for me to write, I guess because my brain is fresh. Also, I’ve discovered that I can spike my creativity by hopping on the treadmill for 30 minutes or so, which really starts the ideas/dialogue percolating in this old brain.
CFE: Any advice for Christians interested in writing romance?
JL: You know, I get asked this question by readers so much, that I have put together the following list of what I did on the road to publication. But I will say that the influx of ebooks has changed things a lot as far as actually getting published, giving writers many more opportunities than before with indie publishing as well as traditional.
Steps Julie took to get published:
1.) Join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers, FHL (Faith, Hope & Love and RWA (Romance Writers of America), 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.
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 , 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.) Pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.
CFE: After reading A Passion Most Pure, I browsed around on your site and found you’ve written a guide Romance-ology 101. What can aspiring writers expect from such a book?
JL: Hey, Erica, thanks for checking out my website! Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets is a short and “sweet” romance-writer’s workbook that offers tips for ramping up the WOW factor with romance that is both sweet and swoon-worthy.
In a world all-too-often dominated by the likes of Fifty Shades of Gray, sweet and inspirational authors have to work a little harder to create that wonderful wholesome sizzle with merely the touch of a hand, a look, or a simple kiss. Romance-ology 101 is simply another tool to help do that, offering insight with such subjects as Getting inside the Hero’s Head with Internal Monologue, Maximizing Use of Beats in Dialogue, Utilizing Dual Point of View, Using All Five Senses for Heightened Effect, Cashing In on the Kid and Pet Factor, and much, much more.
CFE: Fun: First thing that pops into your mind when I say the word: GLOW
JL: HA! My Irish love story, A Light in the Window, because both my daughter and a candle are aglow on the cover!
Thank you Julie Lessman again for sharing your wonderful, enlightening and informational story with the world.
If you want to learn more about what happens in the Daughters of Boston series and Julie’s other books, check them out on Julie Lessman’s website.