Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. She has also garnered 17 RWA awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her book A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. You can contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at www.julielessman.com.
Savanna: Welcome back to the blog, Julie. I’m so happy to have you here! Congratulations on your newest release, Isle of Hope.
Julie: I have to admit, as a bona fide Baby Boomer, my favorite scenes in this book revolve around the older and secondary hero and heroine, Ben and Tess, because she is adorably perky and he’s such a hermit and grump. So my favorite scene involves them after Ben first discovers his attraction to Tess and kisses her for the first time. Here’s a clip:
Body trembling, she snatched a dishtowel from a stainless steel rack, head bowed and eyes closed to compose herself while she dried her hands at the sink, berating herself for agreeing to come over. “Talk about a lamb in the lion’s lair,” she muttered, spinning around with a squeal when something tickled her neck. Her body flashed hot when she realized it was Ben’s lips.
“Don’t go,” he whispered, caging her in, the smoky look in his eyes all but welding her to the spot. “I might be willing to negotiate, Tess …”
Her heart battered her ribs. “Yeah? Well, I’m no—” The gentle brush of his mouth against hers stalled the words in her throat, robbing her of both reason and resistance when his kiss intensified. Liquid fire coursed through her body at the rush of feelings she hadn’t felt in such a very long time. She wanted to push him away, but her insides melted into submission, rendering all resolve as limp as her body.
“So help me, I want you, Tess,” he said, his voice hoarse as he cupped her face in his hands. Hungry lips lured her eyelids closed when they locked a moan deep in her throat. Her breathing was as ragged as his when he moved in close, melding his body to hers.
“No!” She shoved him back, every muscle quivering with a painful mix of longing and fear. “I can’t do this, Ben—and if you persist, our friendship is over.”
He paused, chest heaving and eyes dark with desire. “You don’t mean that.”
“I do,” she said with a thrust of her chin, “as much as I care for you, we can never be anything more than good friends and neighbors, not with the issue of faith in the way.”
Savanna: I can’t wait to pick up this book soon!! 😉
Why do you love this story?
Julie: Because writing it was therapeutic for me since it’s loosely based on my estranged relationship with my own father, so much of that part of the story is also my story. And to be honest, this is the most spiritual book I have ever written, so much so that even my publisher asked me to tone the spirituality down, which I felt I couldn’t do. You see, this book is the culmination of my 8-month spiritual sabbatical, so I really feel like it’s exactly how God wanted me to write it, which is why I opted to publish it myself.
Savanna: That is incredible, Julie. Talk about a story from your heart! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Name something fun you did this summer. 🙂
Julie: Oooooo … flew to Spokane to visit my son, DIL, and grandkids and took lots of walks to playgrounds and a neighborhood ice cream shop in one of the prettiest fall-color locales I’ve ever seen. Oh, and also moved to a townhome on a lake, which is sheer heaven!
Savanna: And that lake isn’t too far from me! We must plan a lunch date soon! 😉
Do you remember the first time meeting one of your favorite authors? Who was it and can you tell us a bit about it?
Julie: Oh, yes!! The amazing Liz Curtis Higgs has always been one of my top-top favorite authors, so when I ran into her in a Starbucks at the ACFW Conference a while back, I’m afraid I babbled like an idiot (uh … or at least more than usual … ;)). Poor, sweet, gracious Liz — she just smiled and nodded and let me ramble on.
Savanna: I think I felt and acted about the same when I first met you! That is still one of my favorite moments of last year’s conference. 😉
As a contributor to Seekerville, you’ve helped guide and encourage a lot of other writers. Can you share with us a piece of writing advice that has impacted your work?
Julie: Very interesting question! As a matter of fact, I can, but it’s not craft-related, I’m afraid. It’s spiritual “advice” that I learned from my 8-month sabbatical last year, the effect of which had a great impact on how I wrote Isle of Hope.
You know, Savanna, I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but then if embarrassment were a deterrent to me, I’d be a deaf mute, so here goes.
I have been a Christian for over forty years—going from a 23-year-old angry agnostic who once advocated burning Bibles in hotel rooms … to a young woman on fire for God, as told in one of my Journal Jot blogs here. Each and every one of those forty-plus years, God has been my All-in-All, the Love of my Life, and the Lamp unto my feet. And yet, though I knew in my head His will IS the path to our highest pleasure (and even wrote about it in one of my books and in this Journal Jot here), I’m ashamed to say I really didn’t know-know it in my heart until now—after this sabbatical.
Because that’s when I heard the still, small voice as follows, the bulk of which can be found in one of my Journal Jot blogs here:
“Julie, step away from the wheel.”
“Lay it down,” the gentle thought came, brimming with love.
I swallowed hard. “Uh … lay what down, Lord?”
A quiet pause, as if God were waiting for me to finally listen. “Your hopes and dreams. Your need for control. Your need for approval. Put it on the altar, Julie, and step away from the wheel.”
Gulp. “But you don’t understand, Lord—I have books to promote, emails to answer, comments to write.”
“Give me the keys, Julie—now.”
I blink, visions of my daughter wresting the car keys from my hands when I turn 65, like she always threatened to do. My hands begin to sweat as I stall. “I don’t understand, Lord—what keys?”
“The keys to your career. Lay them on the altar like Abraham did and walk away.”
A shiver travels my spine as “The Abraham Factor” looms large in my mind, something my hero Bram Hughes introduces to Logan McClare in book 3 of The Heart of San Francisco series, Surprised by Love. And something I knew God was calling me to do the minute I penned that scene as follows:
Bram propped elbows on the arm of the chair and steepled his hands, staring out the window over Logan’s shoulder, the gloom of night the perfect backdrop for the subject he broached. “You see, I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to the most precious things in my life, the safest place to keep them is in God’s hands. To trust Him to do for them and me the very best thing.” His eyes met Logan’s. “No matter what that is.” He expelled a wavering sigh. “Because if I love someone—really and truly love them—I’ll always want to give them God’s best, not mine.”
Rising from his chair, he nudged Logan’s cup of coffee toward him before he picked up his own. “Abraham from the Old Testament loved his son fiercely, waited decades for God to honor His promise to give him a son in the first place. And then one day, God—Abraham’s ‘friend’, mind you—asks him to lay that precious son on the altar and give him up. Sacrifice him—just like that. And you know what?” Against his will, tears glazed Bram’s eyes as his gaze locked with Logan’s. “That man didn’t balk or miss a beat. Nope. Because Abraham’s trust in God was so strong, he actually told his traveling companions to ‘abide ye here and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship, and come again to you.’”
Bram shook his head, overwhelmed as always at the strength of Abraham’s faith, the certainty that somehow, someway, God’s best would prevail. “And you and I both know what happened, Logan. God stayed the knife in Abraham’s hand, giving him his son back because of his remarkable trust.”
“Trust,” Logan whispered in a low drone, “the very reason I’ve lost Cait.”
Bram nodded, his tone quiet but sure. “And the very thing that will help you find God in a way you’ve never experienced Him before. He wants you to trust Him, Logan, to put your love for Mrs. McClare on the altar where God can do with it what He wills for your good and hers. And whether He stays your hand or not, your sacrifice of obedience will be rewarded with more peace and joy and hope than you ever believed possible.”
Logan’s brows dipped, the deep wedges indicating his skepticism. “And you really believe that?”
Bram smiled, remembering his own lack of faith before God had proven it true. “I do.”
And you know what? So do I. Deeply. Which is why I opted to take my hands off the wheel and give the keys to God for almost a solid year. A God Who not only knows the direction to my ultimate peace and joy, but can steer me there while I relax in the back seat, enjoying the ride. Driving Miss Julie, if you will. And that, my friend, is my advice to any Christian author who asks: Take your hands off the wheel and let Him “drive” you too!
Savanna: That is wonderful advice, thank you, friend. I’m so glad to hear how God has blessed and taught you through the last year. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Any upcoming projects?
Julie: Thank you, Savanna, for hosting me on your blog—it’s been a pleasure!
I love to hear from reader friends, so if they like, they can contact me and read excerpts from my books at www.julielessman.com, or through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest or by signing up for my newsletter. I also have a blog called “Journal Jots,” which is a very laid-back journal to my reader friends, or readers can check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website. In addition, I can be found daily at The Seekers, a group blog of 13 published authors that inspires, encourages, teaches, and informs aspiring writers on the road to publication and beyond. Although Seekerville has been listed on Writers Digest 2013 and 2014 “Best 101 Websites for Writers,” it is also a blog devoted to readers as well.
Finally, I have the following sales/contests currently going on:
AWARD-WINNING IRISH LOVE STORY ON SALE! The eBook for my Irish love story, A Light in the Window—262 five-star reviews on Amazon and winner of three awards—is on sale for only $.99, so I invite you to take a peek at the excellent video my artist hubby did for A Light in the Window, starring my daughter. ALITW Video.
o’connor christmas novellas! ‘Tis the season, and I’m ready for it with two novellas that are part of the Hope for the Holiday’s Historical Collection and the Home for Christmas Historical Romance Collection, both of which include novellas from other award-winning authors for only $2.99 per collection, so I hope your readers check them out.
Calling All Writers!! My writer’s workbook entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets is on eSale for $2.99
CONTEST TO HAVE A CHARACTER NAMED AFTER YOU IN MY NEXT BOOK, A SIGNED COPY, AND CHOICE OF ONE OF MY OTHER BOOKS. Sound good to you? If so, just head on over to the CONTEST tab of my website and check it out.
Savanna: You heard her, everyone. Be sure to check out these awesome links and enter below to win one of her books!
Julie has graciously offered to give away one winner’s choice of any of her books, including Isle of Hope. How fun is that? Enter below and the prize could be yours!
Thanks for entering! Contest is open to everyone, though international winners will receive an ebook only, and the drawing ends November 10, 2015. The winner will be notified by email. Happy Reading, everybody!