Grace A. Johnson
Author Interview: Julie Lessman (Plus a Giveaway!)
Y'ALL. St. Patrick's Day may be over, but the Irish fun certainly isn't! If y'all have hung around my blog long enough (or have stuck around my blabbering mouth in person), then I'm sure you know that one of my all-time favorite authors ever is Julie Lessman. (I highly suggest you check out this post to find out why.) This woman...she can write, let me tell you! She's also become one of my best friends, and it is both my utmost honor and deepest pleasure to finally introduce her to you!
Not only has she agreed to an interview today, she is also hosting a GIVEAWAY! You heard that right! If you read through this spectacular interview and think to yourself "Man, I wish I had a Julie Lessman book to read. She sounds like the coolest author ever," then today is your lucky day! Not only does she had several sales going on, she's also giving away one of her indie e-books (which you can check out here--note, the Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series are traditionally published by Revell, therefore they are not eligible prizes) to THREE different winners! All you have to do is leave a comment down below!
Also, Julie is working on her first ever romantic suspense, so you guys get in the insider scoop and the synopsis on what I know is a fantastic novel!
Now, I know I should hurry up and get to the interview, but I do want to add that in here is a lot of great advice for my fellow writers (so don't skim, okay?) Julie is a huge inspiration to me, and I hope that not only will you be informed about publishing but that you will also be inspired to follow your dreams and God's calling on your life!
Without further ado, let's meet Julie Lessman!
A lover of all things Irish, Julie Lessman writes close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, Isle of Hope, and Silver Lining Ranch series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 21 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017-2020, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction.
Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.
GJ: What first inspired you to write?
JL: Well, that would be Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara because from the moment I read Gone With the Wind at age 12, I was hooked on romance. 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!).
Anyway, after reading Gone With the Wind at age 12, it inspired me to begin my own novel, a 300-page, double-spaced manuscript that actually became the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you look at it!), 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! 🙂
GJ: Out of all of your books, which one is your favorite? Why? (Bonus question: who is your most favorite character?)
JL: Well, this make shock you and my readers, but Charity O’Connor, the vixen sister from book 1 of The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Most Pure, is one of my most favorite characters I’ve ever written. Don’t get me wrong, I love Faith O’Connor, the heroine from that book, but in all honesty, Faith is more like the woman I am today—heavily dependent on God, emotionally involved with Him and a person who prays at the drop of a hat, so I almost feel one with her.
But Charity—goodness, my heart goes out to her and the woman I used to be—selfish, manipulative, lost. I think that’s why she fascinates me so much, because I look at her (and women like her) in the same way 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. And Charity does—winning the prize as the character who grew the most spiritually throughout the O’Connor family saga. Plus, quite frankly, I think she is just downright funny and quirky and such a hoot that she makes me laugh. I had to laugh at my husband while he was reading A Passion Redeemed (Charity’s story) because he couldn’t stand Charity. Poor guy, I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d been married to her (without the incredible physical beauty, of course) for over 40 years! 🙂
GJ: Tell me about your tagline: Passion with a Purpose.
JL: I chose that tagline because my books are what I would refer to as “edgy Inspirational,” meaning they are a tad more passionate than the majority of Inspirational fiction in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) market. And I did this on purpose. You see, I’m the type of woman who loves a heated romance, you know—the heart-fluttering, pulse-pounding emotional tug-of-war between a man and a woman? It draws me, always has, from the early days of Gone With the Wind. But for me, heated romance is not enough. Without God and His precepts in the middle, it’s nothing but lust—heat that burns but doesn’t keep you warm.
So when God nudged me from reading secular romance to Christian romance some twenty years ago, the first book I read didn’t have a kiss in it until the last page in front of seven people after the hero proposed. Seriously? According to the American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Barna Group, “nine out of ten women nationwide consider themselves to be Christian.” Unfortunately, the majority of these women would never think to pick up an Inspy romance because they’re looking for more passion than is currently offered in most CBA selections. As a result, it’s a missed opportunity for conveying God’s precepts to a 21st-century population inundated with “mommy porn” like Fifty Shades of Gray, one of the top-selling romance books of all time.
What’s wrong with this picture? I mean if the world can take something that God created and use it to sell its amoral agenda, then I ask you—why can’t Christians utilize this God-given passion to promote Him and His precepts? It is my hope that my novels strike the balance between romantic and spiritual passion for any readers searching for its message, and by interweaving the two, bring them into an intimate relationship with the true Author of romance.
GJ: Have you ever experienced any discouragement as an author? If so, what inspired you to persevere?
JL: Uh … are you kidding?? Getting published was like buckling up in the scariest roller-coaster on the planet, and let me tell you, as much as I LOVE angst, drama and thrills, I have a fear of heights and HATE roller-coasters. Everything happens so fast—you go flying to great heights with contest wins, wonderful reviews that bring tears to your eyes and connections with reader friends that deepen and enrich your life. And then in the next pulse-freezing second, you go crashing back down to earth with 1-star reviews that cut your heart out and a truly awful obsession with Amazon rankings and book sales.
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, wouldn’t it? 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 11:3: Do not let my mind “be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
GJ: What are your thoughts for other aspiring writers on writing and publishing?
JL: First and foremost, pray like the dickens that you can keep your eyes on God and His plan for you, not your success and plan for yourself. Because the reality is that true success—and happiness—is in His plan for you and in pleasing Him, not in yourself. Trust me, this is a lesson I learned the hard way, which is why I literally left my publisher after ten years to take a sabbatical to focus more on God, family, and the sheer joy of writing because I had lost that in the misguided drive for success.
I’ll never forget what Francine Rivers said at an American Christian Fiction Writers Conference when she was the keynote speaker and I was an aspiring author. She basically said, point blank, that she never entered contests even though her publisher wanted her to, and she would never look at reviews or royalty statements either, leaving the latter to her hubby. I believe she even took a break from writing for a while also, to focus more on God. I still remember sitting in the audience, staring with mouth agape, thinking, is she crazy?? As an unpublished author, I couldn’t imagine laying writing aside for anything, nor taking such a disinterest in important things like contests, reviews, book sales. But I soon discovered she was right, so now I try to keep my eyes on God, which I do primarily through Scripture and prayer. For instance, on my website (in the “From the Heart” section at http://www.julielessman.com/from-the-heart/), I list tons of Scriptures for writers, along with prayers that I wrote to go along with them, so I would encourage aspiring writers (and published writers!) to check them out.
As far as advice, I have a list I put together of the things that I did to get published as an Inspy romance writer, so hopefully that will steer some others in the “write” direction! Here’s the list:
STEPS I TOOK TO GET PUBLISHED:
1.) Join a writing organization that focuses on the types of books you want to write. For instance, since I am a Christian romance writer, I joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers at http://www.acfw.com/, FHL (Faith, Hope & Love at http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/, and RWA (Romance Writers of America at http://www.rwa.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 (I did 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 of which I am an alumni whose theme is “On the road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.”
7.) Study this fabulous blog post on getting published by top agent Mark Gottlieb, that will tell you everything you need to know! http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2017/10/are-you-ready-for-literary.html
8.) Go for an agent first, publisher second. The way you do this is to purchase The Christian Writer’s Guide for whatever year you are (or borrow from a library or a spend an afternoon writing info from it at a Barnes & Noble or other bookstore), then send a query letter to any publisher that accepts submissions for your genre without an agent. Most require agents, so you will have to do the same thing with the agents listed in The Christian Writer’s Guide — sending a query letter to them based on their submission requirements (which is usually a one-page query letter, three chapters of the novel, and a synopsis for fiction, and a query letter, three chapters, and chapter-by-chapter outline for nonfiction). THEN, it’s a waiting game, and the traditional publishing opportunities have slowed considerably due to the influx of ebooks from people independently publishing their own books (referred to as indie publishing).
If you want to indie publish (which was once referred to as self-publish, which had a bad name, but "indie publishing" is now respected), then that’s pretty easy. You will need to pay someone to proofread/edit his book (VERY expensive — anywhere from $300 to $1,500 depending on the size of the book), which I think is essential if you are going to be taken seriously. Then you’ll need to hire a formatter to format the book to be submitted to Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing, which is what I use for my indie books) and a cover-design person or company. Once you have both the cover (anywhere from $120-250 per cover) and the formatted Word doc (also anywhere from $75 up), it’s pretty easy to go on Amazon KDP and publish your book (which doesn’t cost anything) because they walk you through it. If you want your book on other sites as well as Amazon (i.e. Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.), do not click on the KDP Select button, which requires exclusivity of your book on Kindle only for 90 days.
For paperback books, it’s a whole ‘nother thing. I use Amazon’s POD or print-on-demand company department, and you’ll have to go through the whole formatting for paperback and cover for paperback process again, along with the costs. Generally POD is not cost effective for anybody but big-name authors who will actually sell paperback books in any quantity to make it worth their while.
GJ: You’ve just finished writing your first ever romantic suspense/mystery. Can you tell me about it and how you were inspired to write it?
JL: Sure. Let me just say as a die-hard romance writer, I don’t particularly like mysteries or suspense because there’s generally not much romance in them, so I don’t read all that many. Then my hubby and I ran out of Hallmark romance movies to watch and all we could find were the Hallmark mysteries, which we started watching out of desperation. But then we got hooked, and I thought—hey, I think I’d like to try my hand at this. So I did, and I have to admit, I had a lot of fun. But … it remains to be seen if my mystery-writing career will go anywhere! ;) Here’s the blurb for the book, which is tentatively titled, The Secret of Emerald Cottage.
Can the mystery of Emerald Cottage
—and the strength of an old woman’s faith—
reveal the secret of true happiness for two people
on opposite shores of God’s ultimate plan?
When international playboy and Irish soccer star Brec McGill learns his long-lost great aunt is in a coma from a drowning accident, he rushes to her side. Not only is he anxious to reconnect with his only living relative he spent summers with as a boy, but her cottage on Lake Loon, Georgia is the perfect respite to heal from game injuries and escape a tabloid scandal. At thirty-three he’s disillusioned with the game, his fiancee, and life in general, craving nothing but a little peace and solitude to get his head on straight. But when he discovers his aunt’s cottage is not only inhabited by a crusty Aunt Lilly he hasn’t seen in ten years, but a pretty prude of a nurse as well, his plans take a nose-dive in the lake. Because suddenly it appears not only was Aunt Lilly’s accident no accident … but somebody out there wants to see them all dead.
GIVEAWAY! Thank you, Grace, for this wonderful opportunity to speak with your readers—it’s been fun! And to thank your readers for coming by, I am giving away winner’s choice of any one of my indie e-books to three different winners, so just leave a comment below, and you’re in the draw.
Also, I have the following freebies/sale currently going on:
FREE E-COPY of my award-winning novel, Isle of Hope (listed on Family Fiction magazine’s Top 15 Novels of 2015), and other giveaways at Mysti’s Book Nook Facebook Book Club. Details can be found on my Journal Jots blog.
FREE DOWNLOAD of the prequel novella to Isle of Hope, which is called A Glimmer of Hope, so take advantage of this free e-book HERE!
99-CENT SALE (90% discount) on my 5-star novel, A Wing and a Prayer for a limited time only HERE.
Thanks and hugs,
I sincerely hope you guys have enjoyed this interview, getting to know one of my favorite authors and greatest friends, Julie Lessman. She is truly an author who glorifies God in all that she does, and for that I hope that you'll support her by checking out her books (even if, by checking out, you're borrowing it from the library)!
Don't forget--you have the opportunity to win a FREE copy of YOUR choice just by commenting below! And if you don't win, don't despair! There are still chances to get a win a copy or download a discounted one (like the ones mentioned above), so follow Julie's blog to get notified of upcoming giveaways!
Thank you so much for joining us today! I have been so blessed by Julie Lessman, and I hope you will be too!