It is my great pleasure to have Julie join us today! I "met" Julie a little over a year ago, when she was visiting various blogs and promoting her books. We ended up becoming friends after I told her my story about reading her first book, A Passion Most Pure, little by little when I would go to Borders. Eventually, my dad bought me the book, which I finished (not in Borders!) and absolutely enjoyed! I ended up earning the nickname "Borders Girl" from Julie. =)
This just goes to show you how sweet Julie is! We recently discussed A Passion Most Pure on this blog, and I was once again blown away by Julie's kindness. She took the time to address each one of us who commented personally, and she contributed to our discussion in great ways!
All this to say that Julie is not only a fabulous author, but also a fantastic friend! Here's some more information about her:
"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 www.julielessman.com."
And now, here's Julie!
Amber: What is your favorite summer activity?
Julie: Gosh, Amber, there are SO many—boating, biking, the Muny Opera outdoor theatre or just sitting on my back deck in the woods writing books. BUT … I would have to say my “favorite” summer activity would be laying out in the sun. I love the smell of Hawaiian Tropics coconut suntan lotion while sprawling in a chaise lounge and reading a book or listening to oldies. Of course, this would be ideal by a pool or a beach, but since we live in the woods without either, I have to drag my chaise to the only spot with sun—my driveway! Rest assured that because I am an “oldie,” I have the good sense to strategically park our cars so that neither the neighbors nor passing vehicles are seriously traumatized. =)
Amber: In A Hope Undaunted, Katie must spend a summer with her childhood nemesis. Could you share a summer scene with them that will make us swoon?
Julie: Well, I don’t know if it’s a bonafide “swoon” scene since there is no kissing involved, but here’s part of a summer scene where the gang from the Boston Childen’s Aid Society are celebrating Betty Galetti’s birthday. Keep in mind it’s the era of prohibition, so alcohol is illegal, but women often wore flasks of alcohol strapped to their thighs, which is the case with Bobbie Sue, Betty’s friend. Luke orders “near beer” for everyone, a nonalcoholic beer, but unbeknownst to him, Bobbie Sue secretly pours alcohol in Katie’s drink, making her tipsy. This starts out in Katie’s point of view, then switches to Luke’s:
“Katie, wait up!”
“Oh-oh,” Betty said with a quick glance over her shoulder. “We got trouble.” She pressed her lips to Katie’s ear. “Let me do the talking, you hear?”
Luke huffed to a stop, hands on his knees while Parker trailed behind with a grim look in his eyes. “Betty, Bobbie Sue—Parker’s going to walk you back to the house while I take Katie home. I need to speak with her father.”
Betty and Parker exchanged glances. Pursing her lips, Betty tightened her hold on Katie’s arm. “Her parents are at a wedding tonight, Luke, so no need. Besides, Katie wants to show me something, so we’ll walk her home.”
Luke tucked an arm around Betty’s shoulder. “Sorry, Galetti, I promised her father I’d get her home safe and sound.” He patted her cheek, then tugged on Katie’s arm. “Come on, Katie Rose.”
Katie stumbled against him, nose flat against his rock-hard chest. The smell of musk and soap teased her senses, forcing the blood to warm beneath her skin. She closed her eyes and emitted a soft, little moan, wishing she could stay there forever.
He clutched her with a chuckle. “The near beer set you on your ear, Katie Rose?”
“Luke, I told you, we can walk her home,” Betty attempted to peel her from Luke’s chest, but Katie only released a languid sigh, curling her arms around his waist.
Instantly, his muscles tensed beneath her hold. “Katie?”
She slowly lifted her head and blinked, lost in the hard chiseled line of his jaw, the dangerous cleft in his chin and those blue eyes that always pierced right through her.
He held her at arm’s length, scanning her face with fatal accuracy. His eyes darkened to pewter in the lamplight. “Are you drunk?”
“She’s just feeling the effects of that one drink,” Betty said quickly. She tugged her from Luke’s hold, causing Katie to wobble on her heels. “I’m taking her home, now.”
Luke yanked her back. “Get your hands off her. I want to see her walk.”
He let go of her arm, and Katie swore the group of them were running in circles. She closed her eyes, but the spinning got worse, forcing the food in her stomach to rise.
“Katie!” Her eyes popped open at Luke’s command. “Walk to me—now!”
She stared, incensed at his order and wishing he’d just stand still, for pity’s sake. Her chin jutted up as she propped hands to her hips, ignoring the fact she was swaying as much as he was. “I don like your attitude, Mcgee. Why don you walk ta me?”
Bobbie Sue snorted.
Luke’s jaw hardened, defying his gentle tone. “Katie, will you please walk over here?”
“Musch better,” she said with satisfaction and proceeded to sashay to where he stood, focusing hard on each step she took. A smile sprouted on her lips as she approached … until a ridiculous cobblestone tripped her up and sent her flying into his arms. Inhaling deeply, she was intoxicated by the scent of him and looked up with a silly grin. “They really need to fix that.”
Suddenly she was airborne, swooped up in his arms with cheek pressed hard to his chest. She sighed and let her head drop back in contentment. “Mmm … this is nice.”
A swear word sizzled the air.
“So help me, somebody’s going to pay for this.” Luke seared Betty with a glare. “Did you give her more booze?”
Betty hunched her shoulders. “Not all that much. She’s just a lightweight.”
He swore again. “She’s eighteen, Galetti, and my responsibility. For pity’s sake, she can barely walk.” He seared Parker with a look. “And you? You let them do this?”
Parker shoved his hands in his pockets, the slump of his shoulders clear evidence of his guilt. “I wasn’t there, Luke, because I left to pay the bill. But the bottom line is she did it to herself. Nobody forced her to drink it, unless it was you with all your bullying.” He sighed. “You should know by now you can’t tell Katie what to do.”
“Nope.” A soft giggle bubbled from Katie’s throat, followed by a hiccup.
Luke hoisted her roughly to his chest, blistering all of them with a look that signaled his good humor was long since spent. “You better start praying right now, Parker, that I beat her parents home, or you and I, ol’ buddy, will be licking Carmichael’s boots for a long time to come. That is, if he doesn’t give us the boot first.” He spun on his heel and started to jog toward Donovan Street, grateful he was in shape from the gym. He glanced down at Katie with her eyes closed and a dreamy smile on her lips, and he was tempted to dump her sorry, little carcass on the front porch where her father would find her. Confinement for the next three years—that’s what the little brat needed.
“Luke, we’re sorry!” Betty called, but he ignored it, too furious at himself for talking Patrick O’Connor into allowing Katie to come along. The man had clearly been hesitant, unwilling to break with his daughter’s confinement, but Luke had convinced him she’d earned it. He swore under his breath. He had no one to blame but himself.
A wobbly giggle floated up and he glanced down, his heart softening at the look of innocence on her face as she bounced in his arms. And suddenly, he couldn’t help it—a smile pulled at his lips when she spoke, her words disrupted by every stride he took. “Ar-re … y-you … swe-aring … un-der … y-your … bre-ath, … Lu-ke Mc-Gee?”
“You bet I am. You have that effect on me,” he said, breathing hard and fast.
Her sweet face bunched in a frown. “O-oh, … tha-at’s n-not … g-good, … is it?”
He grinned. “No, ma’am, it’s not.” He slowed as he rounded the corner of Donovan Street, squinting hard to see if her father’s Model T was parked at the curb.
Thank you, God! The street was empty in front of their house, and all was dark except for their porch light. He reached their front walk, huffing like he’d just run the Boston Marathon, then butted Katie with his knee and opened the gate. Her soft giggle rose like a caress. He glanced down, and her eyes met his with a gentle smile. “Thanks,” she whispered, drawing his gaze to her mouth. He swallowed hard, suddenly painfully aware of her body in his arms. With a nervous exhale, he propped her next to the door.
Get her inside, McGee, and into her bed.
The thought took his mind in the wrong direction, unleashing a throb of heat so strong, shame crawled up the back of his neck. “Do you have a key?” he asked hoarsely, his voice little more than a croak.
Amber: Wow! What a scene! I am definitely quite eager to get my hands on this book! To get a better idea of Katie's character, could you tell us what her favorite part about summer would be?
Julie: Going out with her boyfriend Jack and her friends to picture shows, Robinson’s for a soda or just attending a women’s rights rally.
Amber: My rating system on this blog is a seasonal one--with "Summer" being the highest rating. Do you have any advice on writing a savory, "Summer" rating-worthy book?
Julie: My number one piece of advice would be that whatever you write, make sure it’s from the heart and a true passion. If you love women’s fiction, write women’s fiction. If you love mysteries, write mysteries. If you like literary novels, write literary novels.
For years, I was a businesswoman and professional writer who looked down my nose at romance books because I didn’t consider them “literature.” I wouldn’t allow myself to even read a romance, much less write one, but after I turned 50, I felt like God set me free from my snobbery. It’s as if he said, “Julie, romance is your passion—write it for me.” So I did.
As far as more practical advice for writing a “rating-worthy” book for the Christian market and getting it published, here is the list of things that I did, which I think is pretty consistent with a lot of published writers:
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.
Thanks, Amber, for this wonderful opportunity to visit with you and your readers! Anybody who leaves a comment will be entered in a giveaway to receive a signed copy of the book of their choice from “The Daughters of Boston” series OR my latest release, A Hope Undaunted, due out September 1st. God bless!
Amber: Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Julie! What a wonderful way to spend a summer day! Don't you agree, readers?
Be sure and leave a comment with your valid e-mail address for a chance to win one of Julie's books! The drawing will be open from July 9 through July 23, with a winner announced on July 24. Here's to a hot summer day!