I'm thrilled to have Julie Lessman, a dear friend and wonderful author at Cup of Faith today! Julie, Tina Novinski, Myra Johnson and I met in 2005 when we were Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart finalists. We've become good friends and called ourselves The Golden Girls. Now we hang out with our lively Seekers Sisters at http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/
Julie's first book in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, released in January. If you didn't get to read this excellent book, comment on the Julie's post today to enter the drawing.
Julie 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. A Passion Redeemed releases in September, and the third in May 2009, A Passion Denied. You can visit Julie at her Web site at http://www.julielessman.com/.
Describe your typical day, Julie. Do you need a jolt of caffeine to get going? Or are you up and at ‘em kind of gal?
Are you kidding, Janet? Keith has to practically start an IV into my veins of hazelnut caffeine or I’m pretty much inoperable. Also, before I even open my eyelids, I have to pray for God to help me get out of bed – no joke!!
Do you have a page count you try to fulfill each day? Any tips on productivity you care to share?
Uh, page count? Define it, then I’ll tell you if I have it!! Actually, I am ashamed to say that up until a month ago, I hadn’t written one word on a novel since last September, other than revisions. Believe it or not, promotion has eaten up most of my time (that and working up part-time until last April) .Pretty sad, I know. But I am hoping to kick into gear here real soon on my next 3-book series. And I wrote book 2, A Passion Redeemed, which is almost 500 pages, in 2 months working part-time, so I know I can crank when I have to.
Your covers are phenomenal. How much input did you have with Revell?
Thanks so much, Janet. Trust me, two years of prayer with my prayer partners went into the cover for A Passion Most Pure, so I honestly feel it is anointed. As far as input, I have been blessed to have a lot of input into my covers (now, my publisher, Revell? Uh, not so blessed!). For A Passion Most Pure, the heroine’s hair was originally down, which looked like a prairie romance, so I explained that it needed to be up since this was 1916 Boston, and my artist graciously complied. I also asked her to make the hair more red and the eyes more green, which she also did.
But the most important change was with the hero’s picture. The cover art originally had this namby-pamby picture of Collin and I almost started crying. I asked her if she had any other shots, and she said only one, but that everybody at Revell thought he looked too angry in that shot. I asked her to send it to me anyway, and WOW, it was exactly the look I was going for. Collin IS angry because he wants the heroine, but he can’t have her, so the smoldering look conveyed the romantic tension in the book.
On book 2, the hero’s hair was slicked down and a bit too long, making him look like a pompous English dandy, so I begged my artist husband (God bless him, he lives with a high-maintenance maniac) to lengthen the model’s chin, trim his sideburns and give him unruly blond hair. We even spent 30 minutes scanning the Internet for the perfect hairstyle (a celebrity who shall remain nameless), which Keith slapped onto the hero’s head. Ahhh … MUCH BETTER!! Oh, and since the heroine is supposed to be well endowed, I actually had the nerve to ask the artist to “endow” her a bit more, which they did!
What’s been the biggest change in your life since publication? Does your husband treat you like the CEO you are?
The biggest change is that I have more peace about my writing. Before I was published, I honestly had NO idea if I was any good or not. But now, I feel a little more secure with three books under my belt. That is, until I started writing the synopses for the next 3-book series! YIKES, the doubts are back, which is okay because it just means I have to trust in God that much more. And believe me, I do! J And, no, my husband treats me exactly the same as before … except for that tiny glimmer of pride in his eyes.
What is the hardest aspect of being a writer? The easiest?
Easiest: Writing dramatic, breathless and compelling love scenes. Sigh.
Hardest: Trying to get published. Yuck!
How do you keep from being overwhelmed with writing, promotion, family responsibility, and still have time to smell the proverbial roses?
Honestly? For me, it’s pretty hard. I am such a wired individual, that I can go tilt pretty easily. That’s when I RUN … not walk … to the throne of God for true perspective. One of my favorite scripture prayers is from 2 Corinthians ll:3: Lord, do not let me be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
You grew up in a large family. What’s the best and worst thing about having 12 siblings?
Yes, a family of ten girls and three boys, so you can only imagine the PMS churnings going on in that household … especially with a menopausal mom!! For me, the worst thing about having so many siblings was feeling as if I never got enough attention or love … uh, that and the fact that I never got my own room. Six of us girls slept in one long room that had twin beds lined up like a dorm. Which explains why I felt like I died and went to heaven when I stayed in a convent at the age of 15 with my aunt who was a nun. I slept in an 8’ x 10’ room the size of a closet, but it was all mine for two wonderful weeks – sheer bliss!
The best thing about a large family is the closeness you share as you get older and FINALLY realize that family is a true gift from God.
Can you share a favorite memory from your childhood?
Well, as you may know, I actually penned 150 pages of what is today my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure, after reading Gone With the Wind at the age of 12. That said, my favorite memory is of my little sister, Kate, lying on her bed, chin in hand and eyes wide as I read my “novel” to her night after night. As the last two of thirteen children, we shared a room, and that golden-haired nine-year-old provided me with the love and encouragement that I didn’t always receive from my family. Her love has been like God’s love to me—unconditional and boundless, and a true blessing in my life.
What’s your favorite way to spend leisure time?
Watching old movies with my husband, dinners out with good friends and reading, of course!
What’s your favorite food? Color? Car? Your dream vacation?
Favorite food? Turkey and dressing and Spanish rice. Favorite color? Blue. Favorite car? Sebring convertible. And favorite vacation? On a beach, with a book and a breeze … and my husband.
You’re a beautiful witness for God. Can you give suggestions for those who find sharing their faith more difficult?
Thanks, Janet, but you don’t live with me day in and day out, so “beautiful” might be a real stretch … As far as sharing one’s faith, there are as many ways to do that as there are people to receive it. God uses each of us in differently, according to our personalities – the bold ones to shout His message from the rooftops, and the quiet ones to reflect Christ in the gentleness of their lives.
As a person who is definitely one of the “Bolds,” I’ve discovered the secret of praying on the spot. Prayer is absolutely critical to me – I couldn’t survive without it – so whenever I am talking to someone who expresses a problem in their lives, I pray with them immediately, no matter the time or place. I try to do it in a conversational way, eyes open and expression normal, so as not to embarrass them. Most people tell you they will pray for you, but I’d rather get the need into God’s capable hands sooner rather than later or not at all. Of the thousands upon thousands of people I have prayed for on the spot, not one has ever objected and all have been grateful. So I would suggest stepping out in faith and trying that – most people would be surprised at how quickly it becomes a habit.
Your book was rejected a lot. Do you see God at work in the timing of your sale?
Yes, A Passion Most Pure was rejected a total of 45 times (including three late rejections that came in after I already sold!), but God’s timing is perfect. As I mentioned earlier, I started writing this novel at the age of 12, but it wasn’t until 40 years later that 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!
In 2001, I was sitting in a beauty shop reading a Newsweek cover article about how Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. Something in my spirit said, “Now is the time to finish your book,” so I started it the next month. It took five years to get published, but I have to say that the “timing” was indeed perfect! When I was writing APMP, historicals were reported to be “dead in the water,” but they’ve taken a definite upswing in the last year, right before A Passion Most Pure was released. Also, APMP is what I would call an “edgy” Inspirational Romance, meaning it’s a bit more overt and realistic in its romantic tension (of which there is plenty!), a trend that up until a few years ago, was pretty much taboo in the Christian market. So, yes, to answer your question—despite all the painful rejections, I now definitely see God at work in the timing of my sale.
Thanks SO MUCH, Janet, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership. In closing, 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.
Currently in my newsletter, I am having a contest to win a signed author copy of Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, before it even hits the stores! Also, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog of which both you and I are a part and a great blog that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/.
Thanks again, Janet, and God bless!
It was great having you at Cup of Faith, Julie!
Remember readers to leave a comment to have a chance to win a copy of A Passion Most Pure. You definitely want to read this book before you pick up A Passion Redeemed.