Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure is her first novel.
Julie graciously agreed to an interview. I know you will find her as delightful as I did!
1. After reading on your web site, it is easy to see that growing up in a large family strongly influences your love for writing about families. What are some of the strongest influences from your own large family that appear in your stories?
Well, faith in God would have to be one of the biggest influences in being raised in a devout Catholic family of 13 kids, although we had our fair share of squabbles over who got to do dishes rather than saying the family rosary! J Another strong influence of a big family is the wealth of personalities involved, which helped in creating unique characters for each of the sisters in my series. Also, I find that I incorporate a lot of the “feel” of a big family (i.e. noisy dinners full of chatter, holiday feasts for an army, and fist-fights with sisters! J).
2. Sibling rivalry was strong between you and a sister over the attention from boys as you were growing up. Did God redeem that rivalry in your adult life, and could you tell us how your adult relationships compare to your childhood relationships? How has God worked in your own family?
Wow, Kim, what a great question! Yes, yes, YES, God redeemed that rivalry between my sister, Ellie, (upon whom Charity is loosely based) and me about five years ago, which is a true miracle. I mean, this is the sister with whom I had hair-pulling fights while growing up, and even one or two as adults (imagine me in a suit and heels, rolling around the floor in a fight with her during our twenties)! I spent over thirty years praying for her and trying to reach out until five years ago when she became a born-again Christian. Now she is a beautiful sister in the Lord as well as in blood, and truly one of my most ardent intercessors and supporters. Ellie is a gift from God, and I love her with all of my heart!
3. 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 what you feel forms the basis of a God-centered love. What did you find about Scarlet that drew you to romance? Loving someone she couldn't have or taking so long to realize who she really wanted?
Excellent question! 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
4. Your husband and children are the light of blessing in your life. Do they enjoy your stories?
Well, yes, finally! You see, my husband Keith wouldn’t read A Passion Most Pure until he could hold a published book in his hand because he hated the gargantuan binders I’d use. But once he did, I was shocked at his response. He admitted he was nervous because what if he didn’t like it??? I still remember the first day I caught him reading it—it was so weird seeing this big, hulking guy holding a romance novel. But the moment he looked up, his eyes locked on mine and he mouthed the words, “It is soooo good!” Needless to say, my heart swooned! I mean, the man only read one other book in 30 years, and my book actually kept him up till the wee hours of the morning AND made him cry! Grin.
Now my daughter? Another story! Although she is an A student in college, she despises reading, so I actually had to bribe her with $20 to read the first chapter of A Passion Most Pure. But I am happy to report that it hooked her, and the rest of the book and the other two didn’t cost me a dime! J
5. Are you close to your large group of siblings as an adult? What do they think about your writing?
Very much so. We actually get together for prayer luncheons, which is really cool, especially since both of my parents have been deceased for years. It’s mostly my sisters, of course, although my brothers do join us occasionally. My family has been so supportive and encouraging, but I do think they were shocked when they finally read the book. I mean they knew I had an imagination like a runaway train, but they tell me they truly had no idea! J
6. You feel very strongly about giving all of who we are to God - our talents, our passions, our very heart's desires. That is so very hard to do. How does this translate in relation to our spouses and helping them reach their own goals?
One of the key Scriptures in A Passion Most Pure is Deuteronomy 30, choosing life (applying God’s precepts) over death (our own), and Vs. 11 comes right out and says “it’s not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” Why? Because Vs. 14 says “it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Notice it says “mouth” first, “heart” second. I believe that speaking God’s Word over and over helps to put it in your heart so you can obey it. And once you do, look out! Blessings galore!
The Word says, “Wives, submit (i.e. respect) your husbands.” That means praying (via God’s Word in my mouth) for God to help me “respect” my husband, then putting feet to my prayers by looking for ways to show him that respect (i.e. feeding the dog so he doesn’t have to, working at being on time because I know that’s important to him, keeping my mouth shut when I want to pick at how he drives (sloooooowww rather than crazed like me!). The bottom line is that God’s Word WORKS … WHEN we apply it!