Romance for the Heart and Soul
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Julie Lessman – My Story
Hello & Welcome!
I’m Julie Lessman, an Inspirational Romance author with a passion for God and a passion for romance. Since the age of twelve, I’ve been in love with the idea of being “in love.” It happened the moment I read Gone With the Wind and Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks. Suddenly I was a goner, spellbound by the emotional ebb and flow of romantic relationships.
As an adult, I quickly learned that true romance is spiritual as well as physical and emotional. And one pass through the “Song of Solomon” in the Bible told me that God was the biggest Romantic of them all, deeply passionate in His love for each of us. Through my love affair with Him, I have discovered that romance can transcend to another dimension where romantic passion and spiritual passion merge, creating a 3-D love story: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
I hope you enjoy my stories … and may they bring you closer to the Father’s heart.
Julie Lessman – Bio
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing 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 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner, and her independent novel, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love was listed on Family Fiction magazine’s “Top 15 Novels of 2015.”
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 and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you pick the tagline, Passion With a Purpose?
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.
Let’s face it—passion is powerful. It can drive a woman into the arms of a man, or a person into the arms of God. In truth, romantic passion gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God. After studying the “Song of Solomon” in the Bible , I’m convinced that the God who created passion and intimacy did so to mirror the intensity of His own love for mankind. It is my belief that romance laced with God’s precepts is also powerful—it can draw, woo and win advocates to its cause with the stroke of a keyboard. It is my hope that A Passion Most Pure is a novel that strikes the balance between romantic and spiritual passion for the broad base of readers searching for its message, and by interweaving the two, bring them into an intimate relationship with the true author of romance.
Why Christian fiction?
Because to me, romance is not romantic unless God is in the middle! For my tastes, there’s nothing “sexy” about sin in a romance novel or movie. I’ve had people tell me that Bridges of Madison County was one of the most romantic films they have ever seen. Are you kidding me??? Since when is adultery romantic, no matter the situation! Maybe that’s just me, but I personally can’t enjoy romance (in a movie or book) unless it is according to God’s precepts OR unless it uses sin to point the reader TO His precepts. That’s the reason I LOVE Inspirational Romance so much. And, yes, “faith” (or spiritual passion) is the key component in my novels … with romantic passion hot on its heels!
Do I need to read your books in order?
Well, technically, no. Each has been written as a stand-alone book. BUT … because both my first series “The Daughters of Boston” and my second series “Winds of Change” continue the saga of the O’Connors, it is really beneficial to read the books in order for two reasons. One, because book 1—A Passion Most Pure-- is a true introduction to this very passionate family, it gives you all the necessary background that will truly enhance your reading experience. And two, because book 1 is not your “typical” romance where you know who the heroine ends up with, it contains several shocking surprises that would be ruined for you if you read the books out of order.
Will you be on book tour?
Not likely, unless I sell a TON of books, so please spread the word! J
I’ll give you a hint: When I was little, my brothers and sisters used to call me “Walking Nervous Breakdown.” Okay, so I’m a bit wired … there’s no harm in that, is there? I mean I do everything fast—I walk fast, I talk fast and I eat fast—a natural byproduct of being # 12 in a family of 13. Imagine 15 people at a Last Supper-style Formica table with long red vinyl benches on either side. Like a school of sharks waiting for meat to hit the water. If you didn’t grab for the grub, chances are there wouldn’t be anything left. Can you say “plague of locusts”? To this day, buffets put a twitch in my eye because I feel like the food will run out. J
And, yes, I am dramatic … okay, “melo”-dramatic, but in my opinion that makes for a good storyteller. I like drama and passion— LOTS of it—especially in my reading material, which is why my books are not sweet, easy reads. But the flip side is that ALL that PASSION and ENERGY are also channeled into my love affair with God, which is a very good thing!
Which aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
Love the best? Oh, easy—writing love scenes, of course! I like tension, lots and LOTS of romantic tension, so when I write those scenes, my keyboard is smoking because my fingers fly. In fact, one of my friends wanted to know why I couldn’t just write a nice, “sweet” love scene. Duh, because I would fall asleep! J Even my husband noticed the fast and furious pace of my love scenes—he said he would be meandering along in a nice, easy passage and then, bam! A love scene would hit, and before he knew it, he was 20 pages down the road!
Hate the most? Groan … trying to get published or trying to promote a book. YUCK!! Dear Lord, just let me write!
How much of yourself do you write into your characters?
Uh, probably more than I should! J There’s definitely a part of my personality in each of the three sisters in “The Daughters of Boston” series. Faith, the sister heroine of A Passion Most Pure, is my spiritual self. Faith has an intimate relationship with God—she talks and prays to Him as naturally as if He is her best friend, but she gets angry with Him too. You might say she (and I) are emotionally engaged with the God of the Universe—we laugh with Him, tear up at His goodness to us, and worship Him with all of our hearts.
Charity, the sister heroine of Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, is my rebellious and “passionate” self, before I came to the Lord. I was a wild child of the seventies, you know, like so many of us. Thank heavens that Jesus got a hold of me (as he does Charity in Book 2)!
Lizzie (or Beth), the sister heroine of Book 3, A Passion Denied, is my dreamer self. Lizzie is a bookworm bent on fairytale romance, just like I used to be as a little girl, sneaking downstairs to watch romantic movies after my parents went to bed. In her story, Lizzie has to learn (just like I did) that true romance, the kind that really satisfies, comes from following God’s precepts, not the world’s.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
From the moment I read Gone With the Wind! That amazing book inspired me to begin my own novel at the age of 12, a 150-page, single-spaced manuscript that is actually the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. In fact, I was so hooked on romance after reading GWTW, 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!).
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I RUN … not walk … to the throne of God! He is my high tower, my place of refuge in ANY storm, be it professional or personal. For me, He has never been a last resort, but the FIRST thing I do when life’s hurried pace overwhelms me. A good example is a story on my Web site about when a doctor told us he thought our college-age son had cancer. Now I am a wired individual under the best of circumstances, so this had the potential to fell me like a tree. But I sprinted to God faster than Jackie Joyner Kersee going for the gold, and the prize was God’s peace. You can read the steps I took in maintaining my sanity at http://www.julielessman.com/from-the-heart/
What themes exist in A Passion Most Pure that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
Well, the most important theme I want readers to see is how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and should be. Like breathing. He should be a first resort, not a last one, and a best friend as well as Lord of your life. That’s how He is to Faith and to me, and eventually to Collin as well.
The main theme of the book is based on the original title, which was A Chasing After the Wind, from Ecclesiastes 2:26. For me, “wind” is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book, Faith is "chasing after the wind," that is, the Holy Spirit or God's leading in her life. Collin, too, is "chasing after the wind," but in his case, it is the wind of futility, chasing after his will (sin) rather than God's, which according to Solomon, is "meaningless" and nothing more than “a chasing after the wind.”
The most powerful theme of the book, in my opinion, is the message of Deuteronomy 30—the choice between life and death, blessing and curse. Simple application of God’s Word—choosing to do things His way rather than our own. Whether it’s praying for someone who just cut you off on the road or choosing to remain silent when a morsel of gossip is salivating in your mouth, a decision awaits each of us every minute of every day. But, oh my, the benefits attached to our obedience are PHENOMENAL!! Blessings will overtake you, which is a lesson my heroine in A Passion Most Pure learns, and eventually each of the sisters in the series as well.
As a Christian author, you don’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?
Nervous? Oh, yeah, we’re talking knee-knockin’ nervous! So much so that initially I created two versions—an ABA version (for the secular market, which is what Revell bought) and a CBA (Christian market) 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.
Your books place a lot of emphasis on the passionate side of love. Why do you think that is so important?
Are you kidding? Look at the world today—it’s obsessed with illicit passion. Hollywood promotes adultery as sexy, and I can count on one hand how many young, unmarried women I know who are still virgins today, Christian or no. Why? Because passion is important! Not just to romance readers, but to everyone on the planet. We were created that way by a passionate God who analogizes His own depth of love for each of us in a very passionate love letter called “Song of Solomon.” And what happens? The world uses this beautiful, God-given gift to shove sin down peoples’ throats, and I, for one, am really sick of it. I want to use passion the way it was intended—to teach people God’s precepts and therein, His love. It’s the cry of my heart, and I hope and pray that for readers, my stories of romantic passion translate into passion for God.
Some people aren’t comfortable or happy with the level of romantic and sexual tension in your books. How do you deal with these negative reactions as both a writer and a Christian?
Well, after I cry … I pray for God to bless the person who criticizes me, whether that criticism is via review or e-mail. The hardest one for me, however, was my first one-star review on Amazon, which began with the line, “This is simply a horrible book.” I cried all the way home from work on that one, worried sick that somehow I had missed God.
Once I settled down, however, I realized that it was God who led me down this path where I could use my passion for romance to create passion for Him. But trust me, I prayed like the dickens for that reviewer for days after that. And I have every confidence that my prayer of obedience is unleashing God’s mighty blessings in that woman’s life … not to mention mine!
Why did you decide to set this story during World War I and how did you choose Boston and Ireland as settings?
Well, as mentioned above, 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 J. 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!
Which character is your favorite in “The Daughters of Boston” Series and why?
Well, while I was writing A Passion Most Pure, I LOVED Faith, of course, because she represents my spiritual side and is pretty much the way I was as a young woman who’d just come to Christ at the age of 23 (albeit a LOT softer)! But as I got into Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, which is Charity’s story, I found myself favoring Charity. I think because she represents the way I was as a lost wild child of the 60s and 70s (albeit a LOT better looking! J), and because she was so wonderfully flawed, that she was a joy to redeem. Charity reminds me just how much God pulled my own life out of the gutter. And readers don’t know this yet, but Charity is a real hoot—funny, audacious, resilient and as passionate about those she loves as those she hates. And she certainly underscores a valuable lesson I learned a long time ago—it’s the unlovable ones in our lives that need the most love.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your writing and publishing journey.
Well, I’m a baby boomer (how’s that for side-stepping the age issue?) married to a man who makes me feel like I’m living my own personal romance novel. I have a son and daughter-in-law (for whom I prayed since my son was a baby) and a daughter in law school who hates to read. And, yes, it’s true –I paid her $20 just to read the first chapter of A Passion Most Pure, but I’m happy to say it hooked her, and the rest of the series didn’t cost me a dime!
I suppose “Edgy Inspirational” describes my writing because it contains a lot of passion—both spiritual and romantic. My publishing journey began in a beauty parlor while reading a Newsweek magazine July 16, 2001 cover article about Christian entertainment. It said Christian books, movies and music were on the threshold of exploding. My heart jumped, and something in my spirit said, “It’s time to write your book.” I started A Passion Most Pure a month later, finally selling it to Revell 4-1/2 years and 45 rejections later.
You frequently mention your love for Gone With the Wind as the point that sparked your love for romance. Scarlet was a pretty selfish, manipulative female—a stark contrast to God-centered love. What did you find about Scarlet that drew you to romance?
Yes, Scarlett was selfish, but what drew me was the pull she had over Rhett—a man who wanted her but couldn’t have her. To me, seeing a strong, male type like Rhett Butler “who wasn’t the marrying kind” give in and marry her because he loved her and wanted to cherish her, spoke volumes to me. Even as a little girl, I sensed that was what romance was all about—finding a man who couldn’t do without you and to whom you were the most important woman in the world. It wasn’t until I gave my heart to the Lord that I learned it was a foreshadow of how God sees romance in Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Now I am not saying that Rhett Butler typified the kind of love Christ had in mind, but he wanted Scarlett so badly, he was willing to give of himself to get her. No other woman alive could do that to him, only her. Now to me, that’s romance! J
In A Passion Most Pure, Faith has an unexpected spiritual mentor in Mrs. Gerson, something that is important to spiritual development in all of us. Did you have a spiritual mentor in your own life?
Uh, yeah, I think she’s up for canonization next month! Honestly, I was such a brat to the woman who brought me to the Lord, that it’s a wonder she had anything to do with me at all. I was a 23-year-old hardnosed agnostic from a devout but dysfunctional Catholic family of 13 kids and so angry at God that I actually used to say I wanted to burn Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. As a wild child of the 60s and 70s, I tried everything to be happy—from astrology and tarot cards … to transcendental meditation and witchcraft—you name it. My vocabulary would have made a sailor blush.
Enter MY Mrs. Gerson—this annoying gal at work who 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. And then it happened—one life-altering moment 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. I don’t remember now if it was weeks or months, but either way, I met Jesus Christ through the remarkable patience of a God-sent angel by the name of Joy—pretty appropriate name, eh? That woman spent two years of her life ministering to me on a one-to-one basis, sometimes two to three nights a week, praying with me, introducing me to God’s Word and teaching me about His remarkable inner healing. I owe her my life.
How long did it take to get your first book published? What was the process you went through?
Uh, you might say that I was the Queen of Rejections—it took 41/2 years and 45 rejections to get published. Anyone who attended the 2005 American Christian Fiction Writers 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 3-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 me a 3-book contract in the first six months.
The process? Well, aspiring writers have asked me that question so often that I actually drafted the following steps I took on my own path to publication. Here they are, and I hope they will help other aspiring authors on their own writing journey:
1.) Join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers at http://www.americanchristianfictionwriters.com/), FHL (Faith, Hope & Love at http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/) and RWA (Romance Writers of America at http://www.rwanational.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 (you can do 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 that I belong to whose theme is “On the road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.”
5.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.
6.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.
Which book (published or upcoming) has been the most fun for you to write and which character is your favorite? And why.
Oh, without question, book 2, A Passion Redeemed, was the most fun book to write—I actually wrote it (almost 500 pages) in two months, and that was working part-time at my day job! It just seemed to flow from me, I guess because Charity is so much like I used to be before Christ that it felt natural to be writing her story. I had to laugh at my husband while he was reading Redeemed because he couldn’t stand Charity. Poor guy, I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’s been married to her (without the incredible physical beauty) for over 30 years! J
Don’t get me wrong, I love Faith O’Connor, but in all honesty, she is more like the woman I am today—heavily dependant 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 quite frankly, I think she is just downright funny and quirky and such a hoot that she makes me laugh.
Were you ever unsure about putting "real" things in the book? For instance in A Passion Denied, the issue with Patrick and Marcy or the very real indiscretions of Brady's past?
No, never, because it’s “real” things that teach us the biggest lessons in life, ESPECIALLY when God is involved. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Brady feels his past his unforgivable and Father Mac tells him that he knew a man who not only committed adultery, but murdered his lover’s husband. And yet, Father Mac says, this man is the only man God calls a man after his own heart. YES!! Three cheers for King David – a man of God who gives fallible people like me great hope. Because I have had more than my fair share of “real things” and dark failures in my life, and it thrills me to no end that God loves me and forgives me despite them all.
Besides writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Oh, you mean how I USED to spend my free time? That’s easy: watching old movies (Gone With the Wind, That Touch of Mink, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Susan Slept Here are some of my favorites), reading more books, gardening and hosting elaborate dinner parties a la Martha Stewart. I’m pretty driven in whatever I do (anal might be a better word). And, yes, I’ve been known to pipe guest’s initials into their twice-baked potatoes, cut napkin rings out of real lemons to hold lemon green beans, and sketch a layout for how the food would be placed on the plate. Which was fine when I was younger and had the energy to do it, but these days, sitting at my computer with a candle burning and a cup of Hazelnut Cinnamon coffee is my pastime of choice.
What are your challenges in writing?
Oh, gosh, tearing myself away from e-mails and other Internet-related activities that literally steal my time away from writing—that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
But I would have to say the toughest challenge has been staying grounded in what God wants for me versus what I want for me. Sure, I would love to be a bestselling author, but what does God want? I am learning (very painfully, I might add) that I must become less so that He can become more. But I will be the first to admit, that as a human being who thrives on the positive feedback of readers, this is a challenge that has taken me by surprise. My love for God has always been deeply passionate, but never have I encountered anything as difficult as this—staying focused on God rather than my books. One of my favorite Scriptures that I try to pray daily is 2nd Corinthians ll:3—“Do not let “my mind be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Sigh. Easier said than done.
And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?
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.
What is your spiritual mission in life?
Deep down in the core of my being, I have a burning desire to reach women like I used to be—women who, yeah, maybe they believe in God, but they are not living for him—not in their lives or in their sexuality. I look at the young women today, mired in an amoral society, and my heart cries out to make a difference in their lives. To show them what God showed me—that unless He is in the center of our relationships, true happiness will be very hard to come by. Unfortunately, most of these types of girls and women don’t read Inspirational Romance. BUT … it is my desire—and I hope, God’s—that the edgy romantic tension in my books will somehow draw women like this to the type of Inspirational Romance that I write. And IF they read it, I am convinced the spiritual message will resonate for some of them.
How do I know? Because I get e-mails all the time, telling me so. And just last week, I was going through a really discouraging time regarding my writing, wondering if I was on track with God regarding the level of sensuality I include in my books. I was praying with my prayer partner about it when her 25-year-old daughter stopped by, a girl I hadn’t seen in a long time but knew that she had strayed from her Christian roots—living with her boyfriend before they got married, not going to church anymore, heavy drinking, etc. This young women proceeded to tell me that when she read my books, she actually got angry at me. Why? Because the spiritual parts convicted her so much that she wanted to throw the books out. But she didn’t, she said, BECAUSE the sensuality and intense romance so grabbed her by the throat, that she was compelled to finish the books. And when she turned the last page of A Passion Redeemed, she told me it had brought her to another level with God. I had tears in my eyes when I learned she is now back at church and trying to live for Him. For me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Do you listen to music when you write?
NOOOOoooooooooo!!!! I have to have COMPLETE and utter quiet, which is a real pain the tush for my sweet husband. You see, he is an artist who HAS to have music on when he works, a real dilemma in the evenings when we sit in back-to-back chairs in our cozy office. So, the man is a saint because he now wears a headset when he has a project, which works out nicely because I tend to talk to my characters and read lines out loud all the time!
A lot of people really hated Charity after reading APMP. Was this the response you hoped for? Did it have any impact on Charity's story in A Passion Redeemed?
Uh, actually, yes! You see, I wanted a Scarlett O’Hara antagonist in my book who would evoke a lot of emotion out of my readers, which Charity obviously did. One reader wrote that she loved A Passion Most Pure, but could I do her a favor—slap Charity for her! Another reader said she had this overwhelming desire to see Charity “maimed or killed.”
So when I told my agent and editor that Charity was the heroine for book 2, they were understandably concerned. But I think (or I hope) that A Passion Redeemed begins to help readers fall in love with this deeply wounded young women who has become one of my favorite O’Connors. In fact, if readers are not totally captivated by Charity in book 2, they will definitely fall in love with her in book 3, A Passion Denied, where she is real a hoot that you can’t help but love!
What do you say to people who think that women who aspire to wait for marriage before they have sex are prudes and/or unrealistic?
Grin. I’d say they don’t know what they’re talking about! Believe me, there’s nothing prudish about my heroine, Faith O’Connor, just as there was nothing prudish or unrealistic about me as a new Christian in my twenties. We’re talking real women with real desires trusting God’s Word to lead them to His best. Easy? No. Doable? Yes, with God’s grace! Before I was a Christian, I was honest enough to know that doing things my way had never yielded me any happiness, only heartbreak. But, WOW, once I started applying God’s precepts, the blessings started to flow and heartbreak took a hike.
You see, I like to think of God as Milton Bradley. He made the game of “Life” and wants us to win (reap His blessings), so he gave us the rules to follow (His precepts). In fact, this is the key message in A Passion Most Pure—Deuteronomy 30, choosing life or death, blessing or curse. It’s really quite simple. If you choose life (doing things God’s way), you will be blessed. If you choose death (doing things your own way), you will be cursed. God didn’t set it up like this to “lord” it over us, no pun intended, but so He could bless us with good things simply because He LOVES us!
This realization came full circle one morning seven years into my marriage. I was still half asleep and feeling down about a nightmare I had. In the dream, I’d been single and depressed about the fact that no one would ever love me. I had been the only unmarried one in a family of thirteen kids until I was 28 years old, so the loneliness and despair in that dream felt more than real! All of a sudden my husband moved in the bed beside me, and the following Scripture drifted in my mind as gently as a whisper from God: “God honors those who honor Him.” I remember lying there with tears in my eyes because once again, God had proved His Word true.
Your books are historicals, but is it possible for contemporary Christian women to fall in love and still remain true to their convictions of waiting until marriage to be sexually intimate?
Oh my, yes! I know because I’ve lived it, proved it … and ALL during one of the most promiscuous decades of the last century – the 70’s! And it’s not like I was moral from the get-go, either. Like most young people back then, I was a wild child of the 60’s and 70’s who came to the Lord when I was 23, so morality was not something I was used to. Trust me, as a brand-new born-again Christian, it was difficult going from “free love” to “chaste love”! But I had this fire and commitment to God burning inside of me just like my heroine Faith has, and like Faith, I prayed A LOT!
Whenever I went out on date, I would set moral boundaries (just like Faith did with Mitch). I soon discovered when guys realized I meant what I said, most of them didn’t take me out past four dates. This happened once with a guy I particularly liked and had had a lot of fun with, so I actually phoned to ask him why he’d stopped calling. He basically told me that yeah, he’d had a great time, too, but that he could “find a girl who would give him a great time and sex too.” I was stunned, but soon realized that what God’s morality was actually doing for me was keeping the wrong guys away (along with the hurt) and saving me for the right one AND the right time (my honeymoon). And let me tell you—it paid off BIG TIME!! I am celebrating 30 years of wedded bliss to a man who makes me feel as if I am living my own personal romance novel.
How do you choose your character’s names?
Mostly, I just go with what feels right. For instance, in the original manuscript I wrote at the age of 12, the heroine’s name was Faith O’Connor, just like in A Passion Most Pure (which, of course, is based on that early manuscript). Of course, I wasn’t a girl of “faith” then, so I’m not sure why I named her that, but I did. Ironically, it suits her perfectly in A Passion Most Pure because she is the consummate woman of “faith.”
Both of the parents’ names, Marcy and Patrick, were also from that early manuscript, and I think I named “Marcy” after a girl I knew in grade school (I know, I know, it doesn’t really sound like an Irish name, which is why I included that her full name was Marceline). And “Patrick” was just “the” Irish male name to have back then.
But I did rename Faith’s rival sister, Charity, and the bad-boy hero, Collin, because there names were … are you ready?? Del, short for “Delatha,” and “Bart.” Don’t even ask me what I was thinking at the age of 12 except that I do remember liking the TV show Maverick, which featured a handsome character named Bart Maverick. I finally settled on Charity’s name because Faith had a twin named “Hope” who died at the age of nine, and I was going for “Faith, Hope and Charity.” And Collin’s name, pure and simple, came from a listing of Irish male names. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I LOVE Collin Firth …
In the acknowledgements at the back of A Passion Most Pure, you mention “Windowsill Jesus.” Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, as a child, I had an imagination like a runaway train! And, of course, I was a very emotional kid (big surprise there). I wanted to relate to Jesus on an intimate and personal level—you know, see Him … feel Him? So I would press my nose against the screen of my bedroom window and squint toward my sister’s bedroom right next to mine. I’d imagine I see Jesus’ sandals kicking in the breeze along with His long, white dress as he sat on her windowsill. That image comforted me so much as a child—and took a lot of heat from me as a bitter teen—that I never forgot it. Through at all (even agnosticism in my early twenties), Windowsill Jesus never let me go, finally bringing me into a truly intimate and personal relationship with God at the age of 23, which became THE turning point for a very lonely and very angry little girl. Ever since, God has been the love of my life.
High point, low point as a writer?
Mmm … a definite low point would have to be the time my husband and daughter hid contest scores under my daughter’s mattress. You see, after that hormone-cancer scare a few years back, I went off hormones. BIG MISTAKE!! I was crying nonstop, and everything ticked me off. So, for my state of mind (and theirs!), my family remained silent while I badgered the poor Contest Coordinator from the Heart of the Rockies contest (who’s out of rehab now, I believe). I didn’t see those scores until three months later, AFTER I went back on hormones and my husband let it slip about the mattress contraband. I wrote about it on the following Seekers blog: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2007/10/caution-hormone-free-zone.html
High point? Oh, man, it was the moment I got “the call” from my agent. I was in the middle of praying with my prayer partners when my cell phone rang. My heart dropped when I heard Natasha’s voice, but when she told me the pub board went great and she was 99% sure we had a sale, I started crying. I repeated everything she said so my prayer partners could hear, and they were screaming and jumping up and down in the background. Believe me, after 45 rejections and another publisher giving me a slice-n-dice rejection the week before, this phone call was balm to my battered soul.