Julie Lessman may be one of the most determined people you will ever meet. Not to mention one of the most positive. Read about her journey as a writer—and as a Christian—and she will inspire you too.
Visit Julie’s Web sites this week for a chance to win her books, a critique, a Kindle and much more. Links below.
You aspired to writing for a number of years, studying creative writing at Washington University. But you also endured stacks of rejection slips. How many times did you “quit” writing fiction—and what kept you going?
Uh, yeah…anyone who attended the 2005 ACFW conference will remember me as the poor slob who waved her hands wildly in the back of the room when Brandilyn Collins asked who had the most rejections in a year. I won hands-down with 19 (at that time) and went on to garner in excess of 45 (both agent and publisher rejections, including three received AFTER I signed a three-book contract with Revell Publishing!).
Even my agent, Natasha Kern, blanched a bit when she first signed me, realizing after the ink was dry just how many times I’d been rejected. I believe the word she used was “daunting.” But apparently not too daunting for her amazing skills as an agent because she landed a contract for me within six months. And as a side note to encourage other aspiring authors out there—after being rejected 45 times, A Passion Most Pure went on to win the American Christian Fiction Writers Debut Book of the Year last year on the same stage (figuratively speaking) that I received the booby prize for the most rejections four years prior. Now… how’s that for encouragement??? : )
But I’m happy to say that through it all, I never quit writing, and the reason is that when God infuses you with a passion for something, you just cannot NOT do it! Like my passion for Him when I was a new Christian? At times I was so frustrated with God in the early days that I just wanted to chuck the whole thing and go back into the world, but I couldn’t. My passion for God and His goodness wouldn’t let me, compelling me to seek Him and only Him. That’s how it is with writing for Him too—I felt compelled to continue despite endless rejections and obstacles, praising God each and every time I’d find those #10 self-addressed stamped envelopes in my mailbox. I wasn’t always successful, but I tried to keep my eyes fixed on Him, not the rejections, because He is the “author and finisher of our faith”… and our writing! : )
How does your faith play into your writing?
Well, let’s put it this way, without God, there would be no books—period. God is not only my reason to write, He is my inspiration, my motivation, my confidence and my talent. Like Michael W. Smith sings in his incredible song, Breathe, God is “the air I breathe.” I love romance, make no mistake, but without God in the middle, it is flat, empty, pointless. So I guess you could say that although I write books heavily laced with romantic passion, they are also intensely spiritually passionate as well, with God always firmly anchored in the middle.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Yes, as a matter of fact. I was forced to quit college after the first year due to an increasingly difficult home life from which I sought to escape, a detour that cost me the college degree I needed to find a job as writer. So I became a secretary instead…AT the company that I not only met my husband and love of my life, but at which I eventually became a travel writer despite not having a degree. A pretty good example of “all things working together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose,” wouldn’t you say?? : )
Let’s talk about your new book! A Hope Undaunted is the first in your Winds of Change Series for Revell (September 2010). Please tell us about it.
Although the “Winds of Change” is a brand-new series, it does continue the saga of the close-knit O’Connor family, picking up with the youngest daughter’s story at the tail end of the Roaring 20s into The Great Depression. Anyone who has read The Daughters of Boston Series knows that Katie O’Connor is a spunky, sassy little girl with a sharp wit and dry humor, but never more so than when she butts heads with her childhood nemesis, Cluny McGee. Here’s 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—smart, 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?
Besides providing entertainment, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away from this book?
That God IS “a hope undaunted” incarnate, and what I mean by that is that He IS the “God of Hope” according to Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Now I ask you, if God Himself is the “God of Hope,” then don’t you think that means He wants to fill us—his children, the “apples of His eye”—to overflowing with hope as well? Hope in Him and the fact that He loves us and has a plan to bless us in our lives? Well, that’s what my heroine Katie O’Connor discovers in A Hope Undaunted, as does her family at the onset of the Great Depression, and it’s my deepest hope and prayer that in the telling, it’s also a message my readers will discover too.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Well, my favorite “comfort food” is turkey and dressing and I’m not really sure why, but since that’s not easy to come by, I do crave an occasional piece of chocolate, my favorite being Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Rollo’s chocolate-covered caramels, Hershey Bars, Mr. Goodbar or Junior Mints. Any one of those things will take me down every time, diet or no! : )
This website features writers as well as musicians, so I like to mix it up a bit. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
Oh, man, my family would be rolling on the floor about now if they read this. Uh, no—no apparent musical talent whatsoever, I am sorry to say, and I’m pretty sure my neighbors share that opinion since I tend to sing off-key when I listen to worship music on my iPod out on the deck. My daughter likens my singing to the wails of an injured cat. So you can imagine how THRILLED I was when my son married into an incredibly musically talented family since musical ability is so closely linked to intelligence. All I could think of at the time was—YES!!! The gene pool has been saved!!
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Smile. A love song.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Oh my, what an interesting question and one I have never been asked before, which is saying something since I have done over 90 interviews with over 750 questions!!
Mmm…I would have to go with a merge of the “strong female lead” and the “little girl trying to walk in high heels” because I have a pretty strong personality (“intense” might be a better word!), but I also used to dress up a lot when I was a little girl, pretending to be Scarlett O’Hara or Miss America or the girl at the party every guy wanted to meet.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets.
Well, as readers may notice, all the dogs in my books (with the exception of a scruffy terrier mutt in A Hope Undaunted), are golden retrievers, and that’s because we had goldens all of our lives. Unfortunately, our golden named Bunker died last Easter weekend at the age of 15, a ripe age that is almost unheard of for large dogs, but I believe in praying for longevity for our pets, so I did, and it sure worked. They are wonderful animals!
Thanks, Julie! It’s a pleasure to have you at DivineDetour!
Thank you, Kathy, 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 at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/.
My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways including one right now to have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots” (http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots/), which is a very laid-back, almost-daily journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing.
Then I can be found daily at The Seekers blog http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication (and I’m doing a book/critique giveaway there tomorrow, Wed., 10/6, as a matter of fact).
Finally, I have a KINDLE giveaway going on right now that will take place at my Facebook party this Thursday, Oct. 7 at 7:00 PM CST where I will be chatting with readers and giving away signed books and gift cards every ten minutes for an hour. Details can be found at http://www.julielessman.com/contest/.
Thanks again, Kathy, and God bless!
You are such an inspiration, Julie. God Bless you as you write for Him.
Good morning Julie and Kathy! Wonderful interview! I like how you describe your “Divine Detour”, Julie. God certainly works all things together for good.
That was a great question about what role you would play in the story of your life! I’d be the girl next door. 🙂
Thank you for an opportunity to win a book from the amazing, Julie Lessman library!
scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net
I love reading interviews and while I’ve known Julie for years, I learn something new in each one. This one especially has been a treat because of the great new and thought provoking questions. Thank you!
p.s. love the photo of you with your German Shephard! Lots of us dog lovers out there!
Great interview Julie. I admire how you kept persevering even in the face of so many rejections. I think I would have been so deflated that I would not have continued trying to submit my manuscript. I also love what you said about God–that if you did not have faith and God in your life–then your stories would be flat. That is true. God is the center of everything–even if people do not realize that.
cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net
Just popping in to learn more about Julie! How I love her books, blogs, interviews! I already won this book….about to begin reading…Julie always ships them to winners quickly!! She is so sweet to take time for us readers.
Hi, Julie! So sorry to hear about Bunker! Aren’t dogs the sweetest though? We just bought my two sons cocker spaniel pups a month ago, their names are Jack and Max and boy oh boy! They are sweet but derned if they aren’t like having two more boys! LoL! They fight just like my sons do! LoL! Thanks for the opportunity to win book 2 in the DofB series!
Mollydedwards AT yahoo DOT com
Hi great to read another awesome interview!! 🙂
I love the way God orchestrates our lives if we are open to Him! How amazing, isn’t it! Thanks for sharing from your life, Julie! You are such a blessing to so many!
I enjoyed reading about Julie’s detour. Isn’t it amazing how a detour can seem so terrible yet lead to something so wonderful! Thanks for such a great interview, and for the giveaway!
~Lauri M (lulu)
Thanks, Karen!! The dog pictured with me is actually a Shiloh Shepherd. They look a lot like a GSD but larger. He topped out at about 130 lbs. Julie, I love that you pray for your dogs.
Great interview…really encouraging as i’m going through a ‘detour’ right now adn i’m waiting to see how God work sit out for my good.
Love and Blessing
Rachel A. x
The questions were awesome! I loved them!
It gave me a chance to learn even more about Julie!
Thanks for gifting us with your blog!
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kathy Harris, Kathy Harris. Kathy Harris said: "Undaunted" author Julie Lessman talks about her personal divine detour, today at http://tinyurl.com/28dw3my […]
LEANN … aw, THANK YOU, you sweet thing — I am blessed to hear that, and God bless you too, my friend.
MICHELLE … “the girl next door,” eh? You know what — your picture looks like that. I bet you were a cheerleader or prom queen too, weren’t you??
KAREN … before you are done, girl, you are going to know more about me than my husband!! 🙂
LAURI … YES!! I have lived long enough (with God) to learn to trust “detours” a little more than I used to. I still don’t like them … but I figure God can and will always bring good from them.
CYNTHIA … AMEN to that — God IS the center to everything — preach it, girl!!
JACKIE!!! Oooo-ooo … you’re starting AHU??? YIKES … saying one you like it!!
MOLLY … Oh, YES … I LOVE dogs!! And “Jack and Max”?? Cute, CUTE names!!
ELIZABETH … well, you guys GOTTA be getting a wee bit tired of hearing all about me, but it least it will give you SOME insight into why I write my books like I do — I’m crazy and passionate, about God and romance!! 🙂 Thanks for coming by, my friend.
KATHY … doesn’t everybody??? Pray for their dogs, I mean? Our first golden got cancer at age 9, and the vet gave him 3 months to live. We laid hands on him and prayed, and he lived two more years till the ripe, old age of 11, seemingly healthy as can be!! So when we got our second golden (Bunker), I started praying for longevity when he was about 9, and God gave us 6 more glorious years with him!! How many goldens do you know that live to 15???
RACHEL … Hang in there, girl, God WILL bring you through to something better than you ever imagined! Saying one for you RIGHT NOW!!
CHARLOTTE … Gosh, you learn anymore about me and I won’t be able to surprise you in my books anymore because you’ll start to know how my mind thinks … a VERY scary thing, by the way!
I keep hearing about these books from my sister since I enjoy historical fiction, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything from this time period. The closest (off the top of my head) might have been the “Kit Kittridge” books from American Girl (forever ago, haha) which was set during the Great Depression. Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to win. 🙂
KRISTIA … I am SO glad that you and your sister won at my Facebook Party — FINALLY!!