Julie Lessman’s A Heart Revealed
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JULIE LESSMAN’S INTERVIEW
1.) What sparked your interest in romance and how has this impacted your writing?
Four life-altering words: Gone With the Wind. You see, when I read that novel at the age of twelve, I was swept away into the world of romance for the very first time. It captured me like no other book had done, and I immediately set out to write (along with thousands of other love-struck young girls, I’m sure), what I hoped would be “the great American novel.” Obviously my dreams of grandeur didn’t go anywhere, but I did write 150 single-spaced pages of a story that became the basis (some forty years later!) for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.
Today, I like to think that not only are Margaret Mitchell’s fingerprints are all over me in my religious devotion to passion, but God’s as well—merging my passion for romance with my passion for Him.
2.) You’ve joked about being the “Queen of Rejections.” Can you tell us a little about that?
Uh, yeah … anyone who attended the 2005 ACFW 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 a contract for me within six months. Imagine my shock and awe when a few years later I stood on the same stage on which I’d received that booby prize for the most rejections, to receive ACFW’s Debut Book of the Year. Go ahead— pinch me!
3.) What would you like your readers to take away from your books?
The MOST important thing I pray readers take away from my books is the reality of how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. These books may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It IS possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the 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 this 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!” J He’s been the love of my life ever since.
4.) 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 a first resort 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://julielessman.com/from-the-heart/.
5.) Your husband and children are the light of your life. Do they enjoy your stories?
Well, yes, most of them … 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’s only read two or three books in 30 years, and my book actually kept him up till the wee hours of the morning AND made him cry! Now, I’m not saying the ability to make your husband cry is necessarily a good thing, but in this case, it was pretty special!
Now my daughter? Another story altogether! Although she was 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 But … my son the financial advisor? He’ll probably read one of my books when I include baseball statistics or financial advice!
6.) Can you tell us a little bit about your newest book, A Heart Revealed?
A Heart Revealed is book 2 in “The Winds of Change” series, and it’s the forbidden love story of the oldest O’Connor brother, Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor, and his sister’s best friend, Emma Malloy, a battered married woman. Here’s my blurb:
The ring on her hand belongs to one man …
But her heart belongs to another.
As a battered woman, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston ten years ago, seeking shelter for a heart badly bruised by both her husband and guilt. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor who wrestles with demons of his own, fear and shame almost destroy her … until she is finally set free by a heart revealed.
7.) What makes Emma and Sean’s romance unique?
Emma and Sean’s romance in A Heart Revealed is not my typical romance where boy meets girl and sparks fly. Instead, it is a ten-year friendship that grows spiritually and emotionally, ripening into unconditional love where two people sacrifice themselves for the other. In many ways, A Heart Revealed is a departure for me—a heroine who is scarred, both inside and out, and a forbidden love with minimal romantic interaction. You see, Emma Malloy is married, a battered woman who fled Dublin to seek shelter for a heart badly bruised by an abusive husband. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor with demons of his own, fear and shame wreaks havoc in her life until God finally sets her free with “a heart revealed.”
8.) What do you hope readers take away from A Heart Revealed?
One of the basic themes of A Heart Revealed is “honesty is the best policy.” Every character in this story is struggling with some form of honesty with people they love, whether it’s guilt, delusion, deception, secrecy, manipulation or outright stubbornness. It is my hope that Sean and Emma’s story will not only “reveal” the grace and mercy of a loving God, but the healing power of His truth … which truly does set us free.
9.) Tell us about Emma, the gentle and scarred heroine in A Heart Revealed. How did you come to write a story about her?
Believe it or not, I never planned to write Sean and Emma’s story until three-quarters of the way through A Passion Redeemed, when Charity brought Emma home for dinner. The moment I wrote the following very innocent lines in that book, I felt a spark of something that I KNEW would grow into an amazing love story someday.
Marcy smiled and passed the rolls. “Sean, Charity brought her good friend home to stay. Emma, this is Sean, my oldest.”
Sean stood and extended his hand across the table, his smile as broad as his reach. “Welcome. Anyone who can put up with this sister of mine has to be the genuine article.”
Charity smacked him.
Emma blushed. “Nice to meet you, Sean.”
“Emma, Charity tells me you and she met at Shaw’s and that you’ve worked there forever.” Faith dolloped potatoes on her plate, then handed them off to Collin.
Emma gave her a crooked smile. “Yes, I was actually Mrs. Shaw’s top sales clerk before Charity came on the scene. Dublin’s gentry took one look at her and pushed me aside.”
“Oh, pshaw. Don’t believe her. It took me a solid six months to catch up.” Charity removed a roll from the basket, eyed the lighter one on Brady’s plate and switched it with hers. He stared her down, but she ignored him.
“What happened to your face?” Katie asked.
“Katie Rose!” Marcy, Faith and Charity’s voices rang in shock.
Emma smiled. “No, it’s a natural question and one I don’t mind answering. I got in the way of a pan of hot grease, I’m afraid.”
Katie’s eyes bugged. “How did you do that?”
“Katie, zip it,” Charity warned.
“Someone accidentally threw it in my face.”
Forks, knives and spoons stilled as all eyes focused on Emma.
Charity cleared her throat and elbowed Sean, who stared as if Emma had just announced she was from the moon. “So, Sean, Mother tells me you finally wrangled a promotion.”
He chewed slowly, his eyes still fixed on Emma. He swallowed and turned to his sister. “Yeah, I did. Don’t look now, sis, but you’re rubbing shoulders with the Assistant Manager of the largest hardware mercantile in south Boston. Not to mention future manager of a new store.”
One of her brows slanted up. “Well, well. Must be those dangerous good looks drawing all the ladies in to buy nuts and bolts.”
He grinned and chomped on a roll. “Must be.”
Oh, and by the way, Emma’s name was originally Myrna. I know, I know, not as appropriate as “Emma,” but keep in mind that originally, Emma was to be just a comical bit character in the beginning of A Passion Redeemed. However, just like Cluny McGee was only meant to be a bit character in A Passion Denied (but charmed me into making him a huge subordinate character), “Myrna” charmed me as well when she came to Charity’s defense over and over again. I fell in love with her gentle loyalty so much, that I made her a critical part of the story in A Passion Redeemed.
10.) How can readers find you on the Internet or get in touch with you?
I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so they can contact me through my Web site at 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 including one right now to have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots” (http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots/), which is a very laid-back, Friday journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/), a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.
Be sure to pick up her Daughters of Boston series.
Also, book 1 in this series, A Hope Undaunted, is NOW FREE as an e-book on CBD.com, Amazon Kindle, Sony e-reader and B&N Nook for a limited time, all of which you can download on PCs, Macs, Droids, i-pads, i-phones, etc.,
It’s best to read them in order, as they build upon each other. You will find Julie’s books to be the top-of-the-line, first-rate romance books!