Thursday, January 31, 2008

Interview with Julie Lessman

When I contacted Julie for an interview to help promote her debut novel A Passion Most Pure, she responded with such warmth and enthusiasm, that I instantly liked her. Then when I realized she was a St. Louis girl, I knew we had an instant bond! (especially when she asked where I went to school!)
I hope you'll find the following interview as fun as we did!

1) One of the things I appreciated about this book was that it doesn't shy away from tackling the issue of lust. Were you ever nervous about being so frank about it in writing for the Christian market?

Wow, great question! Nervous? Oh, yeah, we’re talking knee-knockin’ nervous! So much so that initially I created two versions—an ABA version (which is what Revell bought) and a CBA version that downplayed the Catholicism and eliminated drinking, card playing and a lot of the sensuality. In fact, I was so nervous that I asked my agent to pitch me to the ABA instead, but she said my books were too spiritual for the ABA. She did tell me, however, that it would be an uphill battle to get my novel published in the CBA, but if anybody could, she could. And she was right. She sold A Passion Most Pure in six months, cinching, a 3-book deal.

2) Why did you decide to set this story during World War I and how did you choose Boston and Ireland as settings?

Well, I started writing this book at the age of twelve after reading Gone With the Wind and knew immediately I wanted an Irish family coping with a war (like GWTW), but didn’t have the audacity to try another Civil War epic :). World War I seemed a good time period because it was 1) unique and seldom done, and 2) far enough from the Victorian era that it wouldn’t restrict me romantically, but close enough to the Roaring Twenties that I could have a moral arena with a choice between being a good girl or bad girl. My original 150-page, single-spaced manuscript (begun at the age of twelve) had the settings of Boston and Dublin, so I kept them for A Passion Most Pure. When I began writing A Passion Most Pure almost 40 years later, I was excited to learn that Boston was considered the heart of Irish America because of its large contingent of immigrants after the potato famine, so it all fit!

3) The rivalry between the two sisters is very heated. Competition between women and especially sisters is a real problem in the body of Christ. Do you have any words of wisdom on how we can deal with this problem?

Oh my, yes! Three simple little words: Apply God’s Word! One of the things that grieves me the most is how so many people in the Body of Christ (myself included) read the Word and study the Word and memorize it cold, but they DON’T APPLY it! Then they wonder why they don’t have peace or victory in their lives. As far as I am concerned, applying God’s Word IS the missing link for victory in Christians’ lives.

It’s really pretty simple. Somebody ticks you off? Pray for God to bless them. Are you jealous of the pretty girl with the great marriage? Pray for God to bless her more. Something bad happens to you at work? Praise God and ask Him to make good from it. I mean, come on! We Christians have the greatest insurance policy in the world—Romans 8:28: And we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose. There is an application of God’s Word for EVERY problem we have, and if we would just “choose life” (God’s way/applying His precepts, which is the Deuteronomy 30 lesson in A Passion Most Pure) instead of death (our way, or sin), we would be in Fat City!!

Case in point—before I was a Christian, I was notorious for flipping people off on the highway. After I became a Christian, I started blowing kisses instead, hoping to irritate those who made me mad. But God nailed me, showing me that blowing a kiss was no different than flipping them off. My heart was still steeped in anger and bitterness—sin, or in this case, the “kiss” of death. So I started praying for those who made me mad on the highway, albeit with gritted teeth. One night, somebody cut me off, and I wanted to honk and ride their bumper and blow them a kiss. But instead, I took my foot off the accelerator and prayed for God to bless them and bring them to Him. Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw myself in Heaven with hundreds of people hugging me. When I asked God why, He said: “These are the people you prayed for on Gravois Road.” That holy thought gave me cold chills, and it underscores something my pastor always says: people are attached to our obedience. That night, God showed me just how much.

4) I have to admit I loved all of the Irish men in this story. Who was your favorite? Patrick, Collin, or Mitch?

Well, I LOVE them all, of course—Collin for his deep sensitivity and emotional nature, Mitch for his gruff, no-nonsense personality and big heart, and Patrick because he is such a masculine man with a deep and unashamed love for God and family. And, of course, each one of them CHERISHES the women they love, and really, isn’t that what romance is all about? But if I were to choose a favorite, it would be Mitch because he tickles me to no end. He talks in short, clipped sentences, is as stubborn as a mule, and so no-nonsense and gruff that you just have to love him!

5) What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

The MOST important thing I pray readers take away from this book is the reality of how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. This book may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the living, breathing God of the Universe. He’s crazy about us, and if most people really understood that, their lives would turn on a dime and blessings would overtake them. Believe me, I KNOW firsthand—I used to be a hard, cynical, coarse human being before God pulled me up by the scruff of the neck and said, “Yo, Julie! Get a clue. You’re the apple of my eye!” :) He’s been the love of my life ever since.

6) How much time do you think you spent in research for the book?

Well, I’m no Bodie Thoene, but then she’s married to a historian, so she’s got an advantage! :) I figure I tallied up a month of research compared to the eight months that it actually took to write the book. I have to be honest, though, my passion is more character- and plot-driven than historical, although I am keenly aware that historical accuracy is key in winning the confidence of historical fiction readers. Fortunately, one of my prayer partners is exceptional at historical details that I may miss … like my reference to chocolate chip cookies in a 1916 scene when chocolate chips weren’t invented until the 1930s. Whoops! :)

7) Did you have a mentor like Mrs. Gerson in your own life?

Grin. Yeah, a dear friend named Joy, and I can tell you now the poor woman had her hands full! You see, I was a twenty-three-year-old, mini-skirted, hardnosed agnostic from a devout but dysfunctional Catholic family of thirteen kids. I was so angry at God that I actually wanted to burn Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. According to the world’s standards, I had everything going for me—a hunky boyfriend with a Corvette and a boat, a great job, my own apartment when other friends still lived at home, and I was acing an advanced writing course at Washington U., a prestigious college in St. Louis. But I wasn’t happy. I felt like Peggy Lee singing, “Is that all there is?”

Then one day, this annoying gal named Joy approached me at work. She had a lesser job than me, was divorced with a kid and no boyfriend in sight. I hated her because she came in humming every day, happy as a lark while I was utterly miserable. One day when she and I were alone, I looked up from my typewriter and said, “Just what in the heck (except my language was a bit saltier back then) makes you so happy all the time?” She said, “I’ve been praying you would ask.” Oh, no, a Jesus freak, I thought to myself, but I found myself going to lunch with her, badgering her with questions and accusations.

Joy spent two years of intensive one-on-one inner healing with me, teaching me the Word, praying with me, showing me God’s love. Since then, my life has been a journey of “joy,” because EVERYTHING with Jesus Christ at the center IS pure joy—especially romance! So you might say A Passion Most Pure is my love letter to a God whose love took me from the dark into His glorious light, and I hope and pray it brings Him the glory He so richly deserves.

8) Tell us something about yourself we might not expect!Grin. I am a Duck Tape Queen! I’ve used it for every and anything—from wadding around a rod to lift sheers up an inch off the floor (my husband HATED that one!) to taping it over itchy labels in a blouse or mending a tear in my purse. You see, I’m dirt-practical like my father used to be. Although he was an eye surgeon, that man would throw a wad of string over the telephone wire outside his bedroom window so he could tell which way the wind was blowing. 

Thanks so much, Amy, for hosting me on your Web site. This was a lot of fun, and I hope your readers will have fun too!


I definitely think we had fun, Julie! Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win the book!


ldperez said...

I want to win! Pick me, pick me! : ) This definitely sounds like a book I want to read.

Carolynn said...

Thanks for the great interview! How true, that all of us need to apply God's Word in our lives instead of just reading and memorizing it. We have to LIVE it, in order to find true happiness!

Hannah said...

This book sounds like a terrific book. Please sign me up to win. :)

Thomas said...

Great interview Amy.


Cherie J said...

Great interview!Would love to win this book. Please enter me in the drawing.

Julie Lessman said...

Gosh, thanks Idperez, Carolynn w, Rochirmil, Thomas and Cherie J for your great comments! Wish everyone could win.


Katie B said...

Thanks for hosting the interview. Great book!

Pamela J said...

I LOVE the verse, Romans 8:28!! A guest visited our Worship Service last Sunday and stayed to visit all afternoon. We were sharing about some of the criticisms we have received from people God's enemy uses to thwart us and all he said was "Alleluia!" Yes. Praise God for the trials because HE WILL make all things work together for good IF we love Him and are called according to His purposes. We know we have been called, so what is left but to REJOICE. Please enter me in your drawing. Thank you. I can't wait to read the book or the next or the next or the next...
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

Enter me, please. This book looks so good!

Unknown said...

here's hoping! hehe christianlit at hotmail dot com :)

heheee everyone hates ------. now i wonder if i'm gonna loathe ---- too... or I'm gonna wanna give her a big hug... i'm usually like that!! :)

Is it September Yet?

Krista said...

wow, a book that actually deals with lust. it's a huge issues, even for women so this is awesome! love to add it to my collection!
teacherkrista at gmail dot com

Audra Marie said...

LOL - fun interview. :) I'm going to have to come back here and visit. :)

Thanks for the chance to win! :)


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