I'm so excited to have Julie stop by for another interview! I really really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, Julie! Remember everyone, by leaving a relevant comment you can be entered into this week's contest!
A few months ago you told me you had to make changes from the original version of the story because your publisher felt it was too dark for Christian fiction. What changes did you make and how did you feel about that process? Do you think you were able to keep your vision and message of the story intact?
Well, you see, John Brady was such a godly Billy Graham-type character that I strongly felt I needed to give him an equally bad past. So I had things like pornography and child molestation with his step-sister (which never really happened, mind you, but he was accused of it nonetheless and did time in a New York reformatory) IN ADDITION TO the shocking past he has in the story. But my editor said those subjects were way too dark for an Inspirational novel. So even though I felt that the sister connection was something I needed in order to explain WHY Brady could not “love” Lizzie (the girl he saw as a “sister” despite his attraction to her), my editor asked me to revise it. And in hindsight, I now see that my publisher was right, and the story is not near as heavy and dark as it was before I made those changes.
I have to be honest, though, and tell you that initially, when my agent told me the components I mentioned above were “too dark” for Christian romance, I didn’t agree. I was dead certain that I needed a strong “sister” connection to realistically explain Brady’s reluctance to love Lizzie. And, quite frankly, I was going for the shock factor as well, because I felt Lizzie needed to be shocked enough to “deny” her love for Brady in addition to Brady needing enough shock factor to not forgive himself. So after only slightly toning down some of the disturbing elements (there were tons more, including incest between Helena and Michael, abortion, etc. … okay, okay, I tend to be a drama queen!), I overruled my agent (a very stupid and naïve thing to do, I am learning) and sent the original ms. to my editor. Of course, my editor said the same thing as my agent (sigh, I have SO much to learn about this business!), so most of the “dark” components had to come out, which they did. And now? Well, now I get down on my knees and thank God every day for giving me such a wise and patient agent and editor.
And, yes, I personally do think I was able to keep the vision and message of the story intact after cutting out most of the “shock factors,” but I have to tell you, writing/rewriting this book was a learning/humbling experience I will NEVER forget!
Brady loves God but has a hard time accepting grace. He feels unworthy of Lizzie even though she feels 100 percent committed to him. I have to admit her reaction to his past really bugged me. At this point of the story, do you feel Lizzie truly loved Brady or just her idea of who he was?
Okay, Amy, maybe my response to question one above helps you to understand Lizzie’s reaction to Brady’s past—it actually made sense when his past was as horrible as I originally wrote it, but I have to admit, not as much sense in the final version when I removed most of the “shock” factors. But … it is still believable, I think, given that Lizzie was a naïve, head-in-the-clouds (at least when it came to romance) type of gal. And, yes, I do believe Lizzie truly loved Brady. I think her initial reaction to his past was a mix of shock, hurt that he wasn’t open or honest with her about his past, keen disappointment that he was not the “perfect” man she thought him to be, and just plain, old-fashioned naiveté/immaturity.
I have to admit I wanted her to be more accepting! But Lizzie wasn't perfect either, moving onto another beloved couple, I'm not sure I feel that Faith and Collin's storyline was entirely tied up. Will we get to see more of them in your future novels?
Absolutely—you will be seeing LOTS more of every couple in this series, which I admit, may get a little hairy come book six (Stephen’s story) when I have six sub-stories going on in addition to the main story between the hero and heroine! YIKES! I used to be a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than a plotter, but trust me, I now have an age/birthday/anniversary chart that would boggle the mind.
And, no, Faith and Collin’s story was not tied up in book 3 because there is a thread of the same thing in book 4 (Katie’s story). Will all the stories be resolved by series end? You bet! I write “Calgon, take me away” stories, not “slice of life”! J
I like that style! I love the ongoing storylines! Lizzie is often teased and told by her family she only has a romance novel's version of love in her head. Do you perceive this to be a common problem for women? As a writer of romance yourself, how do you combat the stereotypes and work on portraying authentic relationships?
Well, it certainly was for me as a teen and young women, so I would venture to say it’s the same with young women today. I think all women long for that “happily ever after,” or at least I did and I know my independent 21-year-old daughter and her friends do too.
As a romance writer, I try to combat the stereotypes BY portraying authentic relationships. What I mean by that is, yes, I write romance, which means there will be the stereotypes of bad boys and good girls and the heroes will be hunky and the heroines pretty (remember, I don’t claim to write hardcore women’s fiction here, only uplifting romance that takes the reader away. And honestly, when’s the last time you read a romance where the hero wasn’t attractive in some way???). BUT … in the midst of my “romance stereotypes,” I try to portray realistic emotions and reactions based on my own personal experiences (so I KNOW they’re authentic) or those of my friends and family. The surface trappings of my books may seem stereotyped according to most romance novels (i.e. attractive characters, amorous men (and women), seemingly perfect marriages, etc.), but trust me, the way they respond to each other and God in their thoughts, words and actions are as authentic as if I were penning an autobiography.
The emotional honesty really comes through for me in your books and I thank you for that! I have often received visitors to my site who are looking for books with a comparable style to yours. Sadly, I don't know any. Do you have any recommendations for these readers?
Gosh, Amy, I’m not real sure what you mean when you say “comparable style,” but if you mean books that touch on romance in an edgier, more realistic and relatable way in today’s amoral society yet portray God and faith in a way that is, for me, as natural as breathing—then, no I do not know of many authors out there whose style is like mine. Which is pretty much why I wrote my own novels because I love passionate romance, but I refuse to read it unless it has God in the middle in a passionate way. And quite frankly, I couldn’t find these types of books in either the secular or Christian markets, so I wrote my own. When I tried to get A Passion Most Pure published, it was a catch 22—APMP was too “passionate” for the Christian market, but too spiritual for the secular. Fortunately for me, Revell took a chance on me, and I hope and pray that my books of deep passion for both God and romance are only the first of many to come in either market.
Although their styles are not exactly like mine, some of the authors who have won my heart in the Inspirational market as far as “edgier” and compelling romance are Francine Rivers with Redeeming Love and the Mark of the Lion trilogy, and Liz Curtis Higgs with her Scottish epic trilogy, Thorn in My Heart, How Fair is the Rose and Whence Came a Prince.
I love love love Francine Rivers, especially The Mark of the Lion Trilogy! I almost cried with disappointment when I saw that I have to wait until 2010 for the next book! Can you tell us a little bit about your vision for the new series? Will it have a unifying theme like the Daughters of Boston or "Passion" series as I call it?
Grin, Amy, I’m almost in tears myself! When I signed my contract for this next series, I actually sucked in a deep breath and promised to deliver Revell a book every six months (and more than likely a 500-page book, given my past book page counts and the complexity of the future plots). I did this because as a new author, I knew I needed to get another book out there as soon as possible so readers wouldn’t forget about me. But life got in the way, and I lost valuable writing time with surgery and a subsequent infection, delaying book 1 of the next series till June 2010. But the good news is that books 2 and 3 should follow on the heels of the first book more closely, or at least I hope they will.
My vision for this next series is simply to flesh out the O’Connor family and utilize their drama and … ahem, passion … to illustrate not only how relationships with God can vary within a family (or among people, in general), but also how vital a relationship with God is in the well-being of that family and its true happiness in life.
The themes of The Daughters of Boston and “passion” were themes Revell selected from tons of suggestions I gave them in the titling phase, after the first two books were already written. But for the new series, which I wanted to call The O’Connors of Boston (since two of the stories will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven), my publisher doesn’t want any reference to Boston or the O’Connors due to marketing strategies. They feel a new series really has to be presented as a “new” series, even though in my mind it is a continuation of the O’Connor saga, which they had no problem with me writing. That said, I have not come up with a series title or theme yet, but it will probably be something tied to perseverance or hope due to the time era of The Roaring 20s/Great Depression.
I'm just glad you're okay, Julie...I remember that scare near Christmas!
Thank you SO much, Amy, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readers. Anyone who would like to contact me can do so through my website at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter, in which I feature book giveaways. Finally, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog to which I belong that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/. God bless!