Monday, September 6, 2010

A Birthday Party For Julie Lessman's A Hope Undaunted!!

windowtomyworld


It is with great pleasure I welcome Julie Lessman back to my Window! Today we celebrate the release of A Hope Undaunted! (I haven’t read this one yet!) Julie is a very passionate woman when it comes to writing and her relationship with the Lord, and she combines those passions into unforgettable stories that point the reader’s heart toward the Creator and Giver of all passion.


So please, welcome Julie Lessman to my Window and let’s CELEBRATE her latest book!


Oh, and stick around…Julie comes bearing some great gifts for three lucky fans!!


A Hope Undaunted begins a new series of books in your writing career. Can you briefly tell us about the book and what served as the story’s inspiration?


The inspiration for this story began in book 3 of “The Daughters of Boston” trilogy, where I introduced a 14-year-old street orphan by the name of Cluny McGee, who was only intended to be a walk-on character appearing in a couple of lines of one scene. But this endearing “street brat” with the puny body and bravado air won my heart so quickly, that I made him a major subordinate character who quickly becomes the bane of Katie O’Connor’s existence.


So when I began writing A Hope Undaunted, it just seemed a natural progression for a sassy and grownup Katie O’Connor to once again butt heads with this “pest from her past.” My inspiration for Katie O’Connor’s character comes from my own 22-year-old daughter Amy who, like Katie in the book, is in law school, has a sharp and witty tongue, and is very list-oriented to the point of having a “list” for what she wants in a husband, just like Katie.


As far as the story itself, I think the jacket blurb tells it best, so here it is:


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?


Set at the end of the 20’s, this story is set in an era of great social and economic change. What research did you have to do to write the story? What did you discover that surprised you along the way?


Oh, tons of research! You can’t write about a fascinating era like the Roaring 20s and Great Depression and not include the radical shift our country underwent both socially and morally. WWI left the youth with a desire to cut ties with past tradition and live for today, producing a “flapper mentality” where young women wore scandalous short skirts, cut their hair and indulged in smoking, drinking and promiscuous behavior. Add Prohibition to the mix and the trauma of The Great Depression, and you have an era rife with flappers, gangsters and suffragettes forging the way in equal rights for women.


Also, I had to do a lot of research on The Boston Children’s Aid Society, which is the main setting of the book where Katie and Cluny McGee work together for the summer. I needed to know what this organization did (and its affiliate, The Boston Society for the Care of Girls) and how they fit into my story. Not only that, but Katie is bent on championing women’s causes during a time when women’s rights was in its infancy. The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote, and the Suffragettes proposed a Equal Rights Amendment for the first time in 1923, so there was lots going on that I needed to incorporate into the story.


I guess the thing that surprised me the most was how immoral the Roaring 20s were, almost like a precursor to the “free-love” era of the 60s and 70s. Also, I learned interesting things such as the last orphan train was in 1929, women were legally declared as “persons” in the famous 1929 Persons’ Case in Canada, and sunglasses were invented in 1929 when an entrepreneur named Foster Grant sold them on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.


Word on your blog states that A Hope Undaunted is a rather hefty tome…500+ pages! What do you say to readers who may be intimidated by the length of the story? Did its length surprise you as this is the first in a trilogy?


Uh, yeah—500 pages, but not by choice, I can tell you that. I always start out hoping to be around 400 pages or so, but the story just takes me away. Not only that, I have a number of subplots going on with other family members, so I figured this series might be a wee bit longer. But as a person who LOVES long books (i.e. Gone With the Wind at 1,000 pages) I guess I have never understood being intimidated by a long book because if a book is good and captures you, why wouldn’t you want it to go on forever??? Like C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough, or a book long enough to suit me.” Amen, brother!! And to be honest, I’ve had a lot of people say that although my books are long, they’re pretty fast reads due to the whirlwind dynamics of this very “passionate” family. J


But … readers will be happy to hear that I have promised my husband to write shorter books in the future, somewhere around 350 to 400 pages. Grin … yeah, good luck with that! J


The O’Connor family was featured in Daughters of Boston series (another trilogy), and now its members appear in the second trilogy…do you dread the day you have to say goodbye to this family? Has God already prepared your heart for that day?


Oh, Kim, you have no idea!! These people are family to me and a part of me dreads letting them go, but yes, God is preparing me because already I feeling myself pulled toward another new series. But I guarantee you, I will revisit the O’Connors now and then by rereading the books and then, who knows? Maybe down the road I’ll be able to pen a series about the O’Connor cousins during WWII!

There continues to be a lot of debate on whether or not the passion in your stories is appropriate for the Christian market or if it is too edgy. After three passionate stories, what is your response to this argument? Do you think it is a valid argument?


You know, Kim, because I do get hit with this argument a lot, I actually wrote a Seeker blog in response to my critics, which lays my heart out pretty well, so I won’t try to repeat it here, just give you the link. It’s a blog called “Life on the Edge,” and I hope and pray that detractors of edgier Christian fiction will understand where I am coming from after they read this blog where I bare my soul on this subject. The link is http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2009/05/life-on-edge.htmlon-edge.html.


Do I think it is a “valid argument”? Honestly, I think anytime someone defends the cause of Christianity in any way is validation of his or her commitment to Christ, which is always a good thing. And, yes, I do think it is a “valid argument” to head off the possibility of Christian fiction traveling that slippery slope where it is no different from secular fiction or where Christian fiction promotes sin or temptation.


Unfortunately in today’s amoral society, the days of Ozzie and Harriett are long gone and the bottom-line is, Dorothy—we’re not in Kansas anymore. Which means we have a whole generation of women who have been spoon-fed the world’s agenda on morality, which is NOT good. Most of the young women I know today who are in a relationship are intimate with their boyfriends—and I’m talking “Christian” girls here, many of whom would not read a Christian romance to save their souls. But … they just might read one if it had the same level of passionate romance as their secular romance, all the while teaching them God’s precepts in a powerful emotional message.


But “valid argument” or no, I have to follow my heart and do what I believe God has called me to do. You know, up until recently I often wrestled over the level of romantic passion in my books whenever I’d get a one-star review that railed against me with phrases like “scum reading” or “smut is still smut.” But something amazing happened about six months ago when I was crying out to the Lord, begging him AGAIN to show me if I was on track with Him or not. His response was one of those anointed “thought conversations,” you know, where God speaks to your heart in a very clear and firm way? It went something like this:


“Julie—how long have you been praying about the level of passion in your books?”


I blinked, pausing to give it some thought. “Well, since I first signed the publication contract, Lord, about four years ago,” I whispered, squinting up at the blue of the sky as I sat on my back deck.


The thought came again. “Yes, and you have prayed all that time with your prayer partners and on your own, asking me over and over to guide your hand on the words that you write. A Christian publisher gave you a 3-book deal, changed nary a word of passion in your first book, and you have an eagle-eye editor who double-checks every single word that you write. When are you going to realize that My hand is with you?”


Tears pricked my eyes, and I have to admit that I felt a little bit like that joke where the guy is perched on his roof, praying for God to save him from a flood. Three boats came by to save him, but he sent them all away, determined to wait on God. When he finally drowned and went to heaven he asked, “Lord, why didn’t you save me?”


“What are you talking about,” the Lord said, “I sent three boats!”


Trust me, I got the message, loud and clear—I’m doing what He’s called me to do!


What is the most significant thing you have learned on your writing journey? How has it impacted your life?


The most significant thing I have learned—and the toughest challenge—has been the critical truth that I have to stay 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.


I often tell fellow writer friends that I would give anything to have a spiritual lobotomy of sorts, where I could surgically remove that part of my writer’s brain that focuses on good reviews, book sales and contest wins. Wow, that would be SUCH a blessing! But the reality is that I am a human being with a lot of flaws, and quite frankly, that’s the way God wants us—so flawed that we are forced to cling to Him, which I do, trust me! 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.


How do you encourage others with a passion for books and writing? Any advice you’d like to share?


Primarily with Scripture and prayer. For instance, on my website (in the “From the Heart” section at http://www.julielessman.com/from-the-heart/), I list tons of Scriptures for writers, along with prayers that I wrote to go along with them, so I would encourage aspiring writers (and published writers!) to check them out at the bottom of that page.


As far as advice, I have a list I put together of the things that I did to get published as an Inspy romance writer, so hopefully that will steer some others in the “write” direction! Here’s the list:


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.”

7.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.

8.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.


What is God doing in your life that excites you right now?


I am excited because God has confirmed to my spirit that yes, I am an author for Him, but I am also an encourager, which is a high calling that is just as important to God as my writing. I have beat myself up for so long over all the time I spend on encouraging friends through e-mails, my Journal Jots (almost daily journals to my reader friends at http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots/), or just replying to readers through my website, that I now realize God has called me to do this, at least for a season. Trust me, that realization has been very freeing in the face of mountains of deadlines staring me in the face! Because if He has called me to do it, then He will certainly given me the strength and time to do it too … and He has!



Thank you, Kim, 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 http://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. Also, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog of which I am a part, at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/. It is a blog about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” Thanks again, Kim, and God bless!


And now for some great gifts!! Julie is offering THREE gifts for those stopping by today!! Three lucky winners will have their choice of an autographed copy of A Hope Undaunted OR a critique of their writing (5 pages from your work in progress!) - YOUR CHOICE!! Dear Julie knows how to throw a party!


So leave your comment on this post to be entered to win!



About Julie:


Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction” at http://www.borders.com/online/store/ListView_best2009favefiction. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. You can contact Julie through her website at http://www.julielessman.com/.





35 comments:

Kav said...

Great interview, Kim. I'm anxiously awaiting A Hope Undaunted's arrival at my Christian bookstore. I'm thinking it might be another week. We also seem to be a couple of weeks behind in new releases which drives me crazy!!!!

Julie, I appreciate your drive and determination to write true to yourself under the direction of the Lord. Your words have certainly blessed my life.

Virginia C said...

Hi, Julie & Kim! Julie, congratultions and best wishes for "A Hope Undaunted"! I always smile when I think of you and your books. You are the "undaunted"! You write from the heart, and your faith and your passion for life and love shine through in your words and in your smile! Thank you for not only having the courage of your convictions, but for having such joy in being alive! Women and men are imperfect beings, yet we manage to have our moments of glorious insight. Keep writing from the heart. You touch so many people whom you will never meet, but you will leave a unique lasting impression : )

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Julie Lessman said...

KIM!!! LET'S PAR-TEEE!!!! Thanks SOOOO much, my dear friend, for hosting this birthday party for A Hope Undaunted ... looking forward to a great week here!

KAV ... Wow, girl, SO appreciate those very kind words -- THANK YOU!! And bummer that your town is behind in getting Undaunted. I don't know if you have a Sam's Club where you live, but Sam's has had the books for a couple of weeks now. But who knows ... maybe you'll win it here?!! Good luck in the contest.

VIRGINIA!!! SOOOOO good to see you here, my friend and I love, love, LOVE that title "The Undaunted"!!! VERY cool and I just may adopt that, if you don't mind!! :) Your words bless the socks off of me, because I try with everything in me to write from the heart. Pretty much what you see is what you get with me, so I appreciate wonderful reader friends like you who NEVER stop encouraging me. Bless you!

Hugs,
Julie

Kim said...

What a way to celebrate Labor Day Julie!! I just received my copy in the mail, and I can't wait to start reading!

I hope everyone will have a good time this week as we celebrate A Hope Undaunted! I'll choose a winner - excuse me, winners, next Monday!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Julie, So fun to learn more about one of my favorite authors. I already have all your books, but you can enter me for a critique. smile.
Love HOPE UNDAUNTED. A great read and the passion is perfect. I'm like you, God made us with passion in our hearts. Keep on writing such great stuff. Hugs

Mocha with Linda said...

A Hope Undaunted is sitting by my chair as I type. Now I'm even more eager to read it!

Great, great interview as always. It's such fun getting to know authors a bit!

Ruth Ann Dell said...

Hi Kim and Julie

Thank you so much for the interesting interview.

Julie I love, love,love long books, so I'm thrilled to hear Hope Undaunted it over 500 pages. Please don't make the others in the series shorter than this.

Blessings

Ruth Ann

hspruitt said...

Wow - great interview with lots of information! I would love to win a copy of Julie's book.

Thanks!

Sheri

hspruitt [at] juno [dot] com

Linda Henderson said...

I enjoyed your interview very much. I haven't read any of your books yet, but I would love to read A Hope Undaunted.

seriousreader at live dot com

Julie Lessman said...

SANDRA!!! Are you kidding, honey?? You should be giving ME a critique!! But thanks for coming by, my friend. And hey everybody, you're gonna want to keep your eye on my good Seeker bud, Sandra LeeSmith here because she has a new book coming out next year called Price of Victory!! Go, Sandra!!

LINDA!! Oh-oh, I always get a wee bit nervous when respected reviewer/bloggers are getting ready to read my books ... YIKES!! Hope you enjoy it Linda ... along with your "mocha"! :)

RUTH ... I am SO glad because you are definitely going to get your wish on AHU and on book 2 in this series, A Heart Revealed, as well. Sigh. I can't seem to write a short book to save my soul, apparently. :) Thanks, Ruth, for your kind words.

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

SHERI ... thanks SO much for buzzing by and I wish you the very best in the contest!

LINDA ... OH, I just LOVE new readers, girl, so if you don't win in this contest, I've got several others going -- just check out my website calendar for the links and check back regularly because I have a TON of giveaways coming up not yet listed.

And, Linda, if you win, I will be happy to send you A Hope Undaunted, but I want to warn you that this is really a series that is best read in order. A Hope Undaunted is actually a continuation of the O'Connor saga begun in "The Daughters of Boston" series. As a result, I strongly recommend reading book 1 in that series first, A Passion Most Pure, due to a number of big surprises that would be ruined if you read these books out of order.

That said, A Hope Undaunted is a stand-alone book, but if you win, I would be happy to send you a signed copy of A Passion Most Pure instead unless you are dead set on A Hope Undaunted. APMP was American Christian Fiction Writers Debut Book of the Year last year, so I think it's the best place to begin reading about the VERY passionate O'Connor family. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Koala Bear Writer said...

Great interview! I really must get my hands on one of Julie's books because I LOVE long books and I think she's right about writing edgier fiction. Thanks for all the links too; I'll have to come back to check those out.

Jackie S. said...

Love Julie's book; loved the interview. (and love LONG books)
Please enter me; would prefer #2 A Passion Redeemed in DOB series so that I can have the complete series. But AHU would certainly be ok! Thanks!!
jackie.smithATdishmailDOTnet

Cynthia said...

Thanks for the great interview. Julie, thank you for putting that passion into your writing. I've read too many Christian books where I question why the main characters get together when their feelings are not portrayed in a way that I can feel it. I love the way that I can tell how your characters feel about each other and the way they have to deal with the same temptations that we do.
Can't wait to read A Hope Undaunted. Thanks for the book drawing.
cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

Julie Lessman said...

KOALA BEAR WRITER ... oh, honey -- you like long books AND edgy fiction??? We were MADE for each other, girl, so here's to a win in this contest because I think we could be a match made in heaven, you know??? Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the contest!

JACKIE!!! You're making the rounds, girl, and that's an awfully good way to win free books!! Good luck, sweetie, because I would like nothing more than to a free book to you!

CYNTHIA ... thank you, my friend, and I feel EXACTLY like you do! In today's amoral society, I want to read about God's precepts applied to real temptation because it's a message our young women SOOO need to hear! Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the contest.

Hugs,
Julie

Krissie said...

Very enjoyable interview! I'd love to win a copy of your book. Thank you.
CalifKitties (AT) aol.com

ChristyJan said...

What a fun interview. I'd love to be entered to win.

hawkes(at)citlink.net

karenk said...

looking forward to reading katie's story....thanks for the chance :)

julie...you are the best :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, KRISSIE, and I would LOVE for you to win a copy of my book too!! So if you don't win here, I have tons of other giveaways going on now and in the future, so you may want to check out my website calendar. Good luck!

CHRISTYJAN ... thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Here's to a win!

Aw, KAREN ... you are too, sweetie, and you are somebody I especially would like to see win because of your support of me and these many blog interviews -- thank you, my friend.

Hugs,
Julie

Ann Lee Miller said...

I'd like to win a copy of A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Denied, or a 5-page critique.
Thanks!
Ann_Lee_Miller@msn.com

Julie Lessman said...

ANN!!! You are QUITE the busy bee, my friend, so THANK YOU for hitting all my blog giveaways this week, girl!! We definitely have to get you a full signed set of my books, and you are well on your way, I think, right??? I'm giving away a signed book and/or a critique over on Seekerville today, so don't forget to head on over, ya hear??

Hugs,
Julie

Bluerose said...

I just love finding blogs and authors from my home state!! :)

I've only got a few more chances to win A Hope Undaunted!!! I've been trying to hold out to see if I could get an autographed copy, but if I don't win it, I'll have to hope the Sam's Club in the next town over has it. My crazy books-a-million doens't. If not, Amazon will be calling my name! :)

bluerosesheart at yahoo dot com

Bluerose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolynn W. said...

I agree with you Julie! I love long books! You could write 1000 pages and I would keep reading. I'm so thankful you keep writing your stories for us!
I pray God blesses you and your writing even more in the coming years.
carolynnwald[at]hotmail[dot]com

Julie Lessman said...

TAMMY!!! Hold on, girl, there are lots of giveaways left ... you can win this, I just know you can!! Thanks for coming by, and here's to a win.

CAROLYNN!!! Did you get your signed copy of AHU yet??? I sent it out Saturday via Media Mail and most everybody has gotten it except you guys in Canada and Rel Down Under, so hopefully any day now ... And at 505 pages, it should keep you reading for a while. Uh, unless you're like one of my sweet reader friends who started reading it at 3:30 PM the day she got it and finished at 8:30 PM -- YIKES!! That's 100 pages an hour. Wish I could write that fast ... :)

Hugs,
Julie

Casey said...

To have Julie read my work??? (on the verge of fainting dead away) Can I say anything other than THRILLED????? Don't think there is another word in the English language, so be sure and enter me please. :D

Email in profile.

adge said...

Goodness, this is a popular party. I enjoyed the interview! Julie's books are long but I usually read them in 2-3 days. And I have to tell you, I even store some of her words in my inspirational quote book for future help. Please include me in the giveaway. I would love to win A Hope Undaunted. gasweetheart211[at]netscape[dot]net

Cindy W. said...

Great interview Kim! I hope I'm not too late for the party! Would love to have a chance to win one of Julie's books!


Smiles,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

Julie Lessman said...

CASEY -- I would LOVE to read your work, girl!! I love your blog, so I know I would love anything you write, so bring it on!! :)

ADGE!!! OMIGOSH, you store some of my words in your inspirational quote book for future help???? WOW, that is the ultimate compliment -- THANK YOU!! That will have me smiling for a while, guaranteed! :)

CINDY W ... no, ma'am, you are definitely not too late, so thanks for swinging by and good luck in the contest!

Hugs,
Julie

Amber S. said...

JULIE!!! I'm planning on starting to read A Hope Undaunted today!!! :D Yippee! I just finished Making Waves last night (which was GREAT, by the way!), and now I can't wait to dive into your book!!! (Lots of exclamation points, as you can see!)

Anyway, have you read Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren? I think you would love it, Julie! ;)

I would LOVE to be entered for the critique!!! Please and thank you!

Talk to you soon!

~Amber

stokes[dot]a[at]suddenlink[dot]net

Michelle said...

Thank you for entering me! I'll jump at any chance I can get to win a Julie Lessman book!

Sweet Blessings,
Michelle
scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net

Julie Lessman said...

AMBER ... WHOO-HOO!!!! I hope you like it, girl. I know that A Passion Most Pure is your favorite of my novels, so let's see if I can give you a new favorite, okay??? And I have Making Waves sitting on my extensive TBR file and have been chomping at the bit to get to it as it is, much less hearing you rave about it too!! And I love Susie Mae Warren, so thanks for the recommendation, girl! Good luck in the contest!!

MICHELLE ... I'll tell you what, we just HAVE to meet someday, you know that??? You ever planning to swing by Missouri any time soon ... or going to ACFW next year, WHICH will be in my home town of St. Louis!! Thank you for stopping by and FOR all of your incredible support.

Hugs,
Julie

Carolynn W. said...

No Julie, I haven't recieved my copy yet. But I sure hope it comes this week. Can't wait!

HandyFamily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

Thank you all SO MUCH for stopping by and making this such a special party!

Sorry I was delayed in posting the winners!

They are:

Ruth Ann Dell
Bluerose
Linda Henderson

CONGRATULATIONS ladies!!