I’m thrilled to welcome back popular author Julie Lessman! Not only is she a talented writer of fiction, she gives some of the best interviews around. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your time with Julie!
Julie Lessman is an author who has garnered much 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. She is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. You can visit Julie at her Web site at www.julielessman.com.
JA: Please tell us about your latest book, A Passion Redeemed.
JL: Gladly! A Passion Redeemed is Charity’s story—the sister everybody loves to hate—but I have to tell you, it is my FAVORITE of all three books in the series! Charity is sooo wonderfully flawed, that she was a real pleasure to redeem. And in answer to all the readers who have e-mailed that they wanted to slap Charity, rest assured that she gets hers in A Passion Redeemed and then some! :o)
Here’s a brief overview of A Passion Redeemed:
Depth of beauty … shallow of heart, Charity O’Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. She sets her sights on a man who wants nothing to do with her, and although the sparks are there, he refuses to fan the coals of a potential relationship with a woman who ruined his life. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won’t play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants—one way or another.
JA: Charity played a major part in your first book, A Passion Most Pure. Without giving it away for those who haven’t read it, she wasn’t the most likeable person. What unique challenges did that present in telling her story?
JL: Well, I basically had to take a Scarlett O’Hara-type character and make people love her, a considerable challenge that worried both my agent and editor. They were concerned that people hated Charity so much in A Passion Most Pure (I think it was author Camy Tang who said she wanted to see her maimed!), that she would not be a likable heroine. But to tell you the truth, Charity ends up being one of my favorite O’Connors, and in book 3, A Passion Denied, my sister and I both liked Charity the best because she is a real hoot!
How did I make her likable? Since this is her story, I was able to show a side of her nobody saw in book 1—through tender relationship with her grandmothers and others, through wounded introspection and her painful past, and through other character’s love for her. Her great grandmother tells the hero that “She’s an enigma, our Charity. A real puzzlement. She begrudges fiercely and loves fiercely.” Though readers only saw the “grudges fiercely” side of Charity in book 1, they definitely see the “loves fiercely” side of her in book 2—not only in her love for the hero, but for grandmothers, her dear friend Emma, and finally, her family.
JA: As for the man that Charity sets her sights on, he’s determined to have nothing to do with her. What’s your favorite thing about this man (who I’m not naming, again out of deference to those who haven’t read the first book… what are you waiting for? Read it!)
JL: OMIGOSH, I absolutely LOVE this hero! He’s gruff, hot-tempered and no nonsense—what’s not to love? And he’s Irish! But I think the thing I love about him most is his relationship with God, which grows throughout the book. He grouses at God just like I do at times, coming just shy, no doubt, of a thunderbolt from Heaven!
JA: What do you hope people take away when they finish reading A Passion Redeemed?
JL: I seriously hope that women, especially young, single women, will come away knowing that lust is not love, and that only when God is our primary focus in everything—romance, career, marriage—can the rest of our life come into true focus as well.
JA: What’s next for you in the writing arena?
JL: I just finished final edits on the third book in the series, A Passion Denied, and boy, was that a hard one to write! But most of my friends and critique partners like it the best of all three books, so we shall see what the public thinks!
Currently I am putting together another 3-book proposal for my publisher that will finish off the saga of the O’Connors. Book 1 will be the story of the youngest daughter, Katie, which will be fun because she is a pistol who comes of age in the Roaring Twenties, right before The Great Depression. Books 2 & 3 will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven, during the exciting era of speakeasies, gangsters, G-men and era criminals like Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillenger.
JA: I loved A Passion Most Pure, but some readers thought it got a little racy. What was the overall reaction it received? Any particularly memorable fan emails?
JL: Oh, my, yes!! I have to admit, I was worried when I got my first 1-star review on Amazon (and thankfully the only 1-star I received on Amazon so far, which is offset by 46 5-star reviews!) because it began with the sentence, “This is simply a horrible book.” My daughter even joked about readers picketing outside of our house. Fortunately, the negative reviews have been few and far between, but the wonderful e-mails and reviews have been in the hundreds!
My favorite reader response? Gosh, there have been so many, but the following lines from a reader’s e-mail made me cry because THIS is the reason I write. The reader said:
“I just wanted to write to let you know that in all my life, I've never before read a book that has inspired me to change my life as much as this one has! The desire to turn my life over to God has never been this strong. Thank you for making such a strong impact on both me and my family!!” Oh, my—brings tears to my eyes every time! :o)
JA: I’m going to go off the “writing” path for a moment and say how much I love your book covers. Bravo to the Revell art department! They are simply beautiful. How thrilling is it when you get the artwork in your hands for the first time?
JL: Thanks so much, Jennifer. Well, it’s a cold chill that morphs into a warm rush! Trust me, two years of prayer with my prayer partners went into the cover for A Passion Most Pure, and Revell’s excellent artist, Cheryl Van Andel, allowed me maximum input, so I honestly feel the covers are anointed.
For A Passion Most Pure, the heroine’s hair was originally down, which looked like a prairie romance, so I explained it needed to be up since this was 1916 Boston, and Cheryl 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’s cover, the hero’s hair was slicked down, 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 my husband slapped onto the hero’s head. Ahhh … MUCH BETTER!! I sent my husband’s rendition to Revell, and Cheryl kindly went along with the changes. Oh, and since the heroine is supposed to be well endowed, I actually asked Cheryl to “endow” her a bit more, which she did! :o)
JA: When you’re not writing, what’s the most fun thing you can think of doing?
JL: Reading—preferably on a sunny beach with my husband by my side!
JA: Last but not least, how can people keep up with your latest publishing news?
JL: Thanks so much for asking, Jennifer, AND for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership. 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 at http://julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/. The newsletter comes out three times a year and will keep readers updated on The Daughters of Boston series, as well as give them a chance to win books, get sneak peeks at the publishing process, and info on book releases and signings.
Thanks for coming back and hanging out with us, Julie. May God continue to bless your writing journey!
WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of A Passion Redeemed just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on August 25th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!