How did you start out your writing career? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Nope, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I read Gone With the Wind at the age of 12 and was immediately 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 (grin), but I did write 150 pages of a story that became the basis (some forty years later!) for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.

How did you get the idea for “A Passion Most Pure”? Did you come up with that title? If not, what was your working title name?

Well the idea of a love triangle between two rival sisters and a bad boy came to me pretty naturally as one who experienced a lot of sibling rivalry in a family of 13 kids (three brothers and nine sisters). And yes, (grin), the “bad” sister, Charity, is loosely based on my older sister, Ellie, because like Faith and Charity, Ellie and I often butted heads because she was … ahem … quite voluptuous and very attractive to boys while I was … well, basically not!

After Revell said the original title had to go, I came up with the title of A Passion Most Pure … along with about 80 others (yes, I am a bit anal), but I admit that I did not like it at first. My daughter remarked, “Mom, will anybody really buy a romance novel with the word ‘pure’ in the title?” Unfortunately, I wondered the same thing, but Revell knew what they were doing and I now feel the title fits perfectly—reflecting not only romantic passion that strives to remain pure, but passion for God, which really is “A Passion Most Pure.”

My original title was A Chasing After the Wind, from Ecclesiastes, which is pretty much the theme that is woven throughout the book, and so Revell let me keep that Scripture on the opening page. For me, “wind” is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, which fits because Faith is "chasing after the wind," that is, the Holy Spirit or God's leading in her life. Collin, too, is "chasing after the wind," but in his case, it is the wind of futility, chasing after his will (sin) rather than God's, which according to Solomon, is "meaningless" and nothing more than “a chasing after the wind.” I do, however, have a less spiritual reason (and maybe a bit silly one) for having originally chosen that title. Because of my obsession with Gone With the Wind—I always wanted to write a book with the word “wind” in the title. J Mmm … maybe down the road a bit …

Some writers plot out what they are going to write step by step and others say they write by the seat-of-their- pants; which style of writing best describes your writing? What inspires you to write?

Well, A Passion Most Pure was definitely pure “seat of the pants” writing, which is basically the type of writer I am. I did, however, write a very loose synopsis for books 2 and 3, A Passion Redeemed and A Passion Denied, but both books evolved WELL beyond those synopses, so I would still consider them SOP writing. However, I am in the process of pitching another 3-book series to Revell about the last three O’Connors (Katie, Sean and Steven) for which my editor only wanted a synopsis on book 1 and short blurbs on books 2 and 3. Unfortunately (or in this case, fortunately), I had great difficulty getting passionate about this project until I wrote a very detailed synopsis on each book. Now I am totally psyched about doing this series and have a feeling that I may end up loving it even more than the first!

And what inspires me to write? God and romance … in that order! (grin)

(Julie and her hubby)

Did you find it difficult to write the steamy scenes in your book? What were the restrictions in what you could write about; placed on you because you are part of the Christian Market? You seem comfortable writing romance; it seemed kind of risky for that time period?

Grin. Well, first, let’s not call them “steamy,” or you will rile some feathers. What we are talking about here is realistic romantic tension, but all done according to God’s precepts. And, difficulty writing romantically tense scenes—me??? Uh, no. It comes naturally, I’m afraid. As a little girl, I used to sneak downstairs to watch romantic movies after my parents went to bed, totally enamored with the idea of romance and falling in love.

As far as CBA restrictions, I was told to avoid drinking, playing cards and naming denominations (i.e. the O’Connor family is Irish-Catholic), as well as overly overt love scenes. So initially I created two versions—an ABA version (which is what Revell bought because my agent inadvertently sent that version) and a much tamer CBA version. As far as the romance scenes being too risky for that time period, however, my research showed that wasn’t the case at all. In 1916, the world was transitioning from the Victorian era to the WWI era, an era that actually ended up ushering in the promiscuity of The Roaring Twenties.

What was your favorite scene in “A Passion Most Pure”? Which one did you have the most fun writing? Why?

Oh, wow, what a hard question! I mean I have TONS of favorite scenes—favorite romantic scenes that race my pulse, favorite spiritual scenes that make me cry, and favorite family scenes that remind me just how blessed I am to have God in my life. But, I know you don’t have all day (grin), so I will mention my favorite romantic scene (or one of them!).

It would have to be a scene in the kitchen between the heroine, Faith (a woman who is bent on marrying a man who loves God), and the bad-boy hero, Collin (who has a grudge against God). It’s a scene of strong romantic tension where Collin realizes he loves her but can never have her because God stands in the way. He slams a few chairs around and forces her to admit she loves him, which she does, but it doesn’t matter. She will not be unequally yoked, and the piercing knowledge of this crushes him. The scene is a riptide of swelling emotions—from humor and teasing to anger, passion and fear, finally ebbing to quiet acceptance when both realize the love they share can never be.

Can you tell me of 2 “wow” moments you have had on your journey to being published and now afterwards? What made them “wow”moments for you?

(Julie's prayer partners)

The best “wow” moment on my journey to being published was when I got “the call from my agent. I was in the middle of praying with my prayer partners when my cell phone rang. My heart dropped when I heard Natasha’s voice, but when she told me the pub board went great and she was 99% sure we had a sale, I started crying. I repeated everything she said so my prayer partners could hear, and they were screaming and jumping up and down in the background. Believe me, after 45 rejections and another publisher giving me a slice-n-dice rejection the week before, this phone call was balm to my battered soul.

A second “wow” moment would have to be when I received the following e-mail from a reader, which made me cry because THIS is the reason I write. The reader said:

“I just wanted to write to let you know that in all my life, I've never before read a book that has inspired me to change my life as much as this one has! The desire to turn my life over to God has never been this strong. Thank you for making such a strong impact on both me and my family!!” Oh, my—it brings tears to my eyes every time!

I know your second book “A Passion Redeemed” is to be released on bookshelves soon (exactly when)? How was the writing experience different when you wrote your second book as opposed to what happened to you in writing the first?

Book 2 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed, will be in stores in mere days—September 1, 2008! Book 1, A Passion Most Pure, took eight months to write and uh … five years to revise and finally sell)! J A Passion Redeemed, on the other hand, was totally different. I wrote this almost 500-page book in just two months, and that was while working a part-time job! Maybe it’s because I was so fascinated with Charity and absolutely LOVE the hero, but the story just seemed to flow out of me. My sister read it in eight hours, telling me it was a very fast read, and a friend of mine said the same thing, telling me that in book 2, she feels I “hit my stride.”

What project are you working on now? When will that be out?

Currently I am putting together another 3-book proposal for my publisher that will finish off the saga of the O’Connors. Book 1 will be the story of the youngest daughter, Katie, which will be fun because she is a pistol who comes of age in the Roaring Twenties, right before The Great Depression. Books 2 and 3 will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven, during the exciting era of speakeasies, dance marathons, gangsters, G-men and era criminals like Bonnie & Clyde and John Dillenger. As far as when it will be out, that depends on God and my publisher—IF and when they buy it!

Could you please share some of your faith journey with us?

Sure, but I guarantee you wouldn’t have liked me back then. I was a hardnosed agnostic from a devout but dysfunctional family of 13 kids, a family rife with mental and physical abuse, depression, mental illness and suicide. At the age of 23, I was so angry at God that I actually advocated burning Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. As a wild child of the 60s and 70s, I tried everything to be happy—from drugs, astrology and tarot cards, to transcendental meditation, witchcraft and promiscuity—you name it. My vocabulary—and my morals (or lack thereof)—would have made a sailor blush. According to the world’s standards, I had everything going for me—a hunky boyfriend with a Corvette and a boat, a great job, my own apartment (at a time when other friends still lived at home), and I was acing an advanced writing course at Washington U., a prestigious college in St. Louis. But I wasn’t happy. I felt a lot like Peggy Lee singing, “Is that all there is?”

Then one day, this annoying gal at work approached me. She had a lesser job than me, was divorced with a kid and no boyfriend in sight. I hated her because she came in humming every day, happy as a lark while I was utterly miserable. And then it happened—one life-altering moment when she and I were alone—I looked up from my typewriter and said, “Just what in the heck (except my language was a bit saltier back then) makes you so happy all the time?” She said, “I’ve been praying you would ask.”

Oh, no, a Jesus freak, I thought to myself, but I found myself going to lunch with her, badgering her with questions and accusations. I don’t remember now if it was weeks or months, but either way, I met Jesus Christ through the remarkable patience of a God-sent angel by the name of Joy—pretty appropriate name, eh?

Since then, my life has been a journey of “joy,” because EVERYTHING with God at the center is joy—especially romance! For me (and for my main character, Faith, in A Passion Most Pure), God’s close and intimate presence in our lives is as natural as breathing, just like the lyrics from this Michael W. Smith song –“This is the air I breathe, Your holy presence living in me.” Jesus Christ transformed me, a hard, cynical agnostic (like Charity, the rival sister in A Passion Most Pure) into a person of joy and hope and love (like Faith, the heroine). This is a story I never tire of telling, and hope to do so in all the books I am privileged to write. You might say that A Passion Most Pure is my love letter to a God whose love took me from the dark into His glorious light, and I hope and pray it brings Him—the true passion in my life—the glory He so richly deserves.

Did you have a say so in picking put the cover to this book? If so, what where the covers like that you turned down?

Trust me, two years of prayer with my prayer partners went into the cover for A Passion Most Pure, so I honestly feel it is anointed. As far as input, I have been blessed to have a lot of input into my covers (now, my publisher, Revell? Uh, not so blessed!). For A Passion Most Pure, the heroine’s hair was originally down, which looked like a prairie romance, so I explained that it needed to be up since this was 1916 Boston, and my artist graciously complied. I also asked her to make the hair more red and the eyes more green, which she also did.

But the most important change was with the hero’s picture. The cover art originally had this namby-pamby picture of Collin and I almost started crying. I asked her if she had any other shots, and she said only one, but that everybody at Revell thought he looked too angry in that shot. I asked her to send it to me anyway, and WOW, it was exactly the look I was going for. Collin IS angry because he wants the heroine, but he can’t have her, so the smoldering look conveyed the romantic tension in the book.

On book 2, the hero’s hair was slicked down and a bit too long, making him look like a pompous English dandy, so I begged my artist husband (God bless him, he lives with a high-maintenance maniac) to lengthen the model’s chin, trim his sideburns and give him unruly blond hair. We even spent 30 minutes scanning the Internet for the perfect hairstyle (a celebrity who shall remain nameless), which Keith slapped onto the hero’s head. Ahhh … MUCH BETTER!! Oh, and since the heroine is supposed to be well endowed, I actually had the nerve to ask the artist to “endow” her a bit more, which they did! J


What are some of your favorite food choices, inquiring minds want to know?

Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi Regular

Brownies or Cookies?


Soup or Salad?


Beach or Mountains?

What is your all time favorite movie, and book? Favorite Children’s book growing up? Favorite line from a movie?


Grin. Favorite movie? Gone With the Wind. Favorite book? Gone With the Wind. Favorite Children’s Book? Gone With the Wind (since it was one of the first books I read as a child!). Favorite line? “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” … from, of course, GWTW!

What is your favorite Holiday and why?

Definitely Easter because Christmas always ends up being so rushed and commercial, but Easter seems to be the time when I am really able to focus on what Jesus Christ did for me—and all of us—on the cross.

What is one special quality, talent or event you’ve experienced that would surprise people? Please explain.

I guess you might say that one “special quality” I have that always surprises people is that I am bold when it comes to prayer. Prayer is absolutely critical to me – I couldn’t survive without it – so whenever I am talking to someone who expresses a problem in their lives, I pray with them on the spot, no matter the time or place. I try to do it in a conversational way, eyes open and expression normal, so as not to embarrass them. Most people tell you they will pray for you, but I’d rather get the need into God’s capable hands sooner rather than later or not at all. Of the thousands upon thousands of people I have prayed for like this, not one has ever objected and all have been grateful.

What is the neatest place you have ever visited and why? What made it so neat, special, memorable to you?

Kauai, because the air smells like flowers and the beaches are breathtaking.

If you had all the time in the world and just as much money; to do anything you wanted, what would you do?

Grin. Go to Ireland.

What is your favorite color?

Used to be purple. Now it’s blue.
(Nora Says) Hey,my favorite color IS PURPLE TOO!! When did it switch to blue (which happens to be my husbands favorite color). I know you probably don't think this is important but I sure hope I don't switch to blue!! (I've been a purple fan for too long)Ha! Ha! Enquiring minds just have to know Julie!

I always loved purple best and, in fact, used to wish that the drinking fountains at grade school had grape juice rather than water! I'm not sure when purple kind of waned for me, but I think it has been since I have gotten older and crave things that are softer, gentler, less in-your-face bold (since I tend to be that way sooo much and wear myself out! :)), and blue is certainly more of that. So, just wait till you get to me MY age ... blue may start looking pretty good to you too!

If you could interview or hang out with someone for a day who would you pick? Why?

Are you kidding??? Jesus Christ. Because I SO want to get to know Him better and better!

Julie, thanks for letting the ladies in my group to get to know you better. I appreciate you hanging out with us and we are DEFINATELY looking forward to you speaking to our book club next year live. Everyone is marking their calendars.

Are there any last comments you would like to leave us with?

Thank YOU, Nora, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readership. In closing, I’d like to share a really cool quote I found that some have attributed to Maya Angelou: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.” I absolutely LOVE this quote because it is the total essence of what A Passion Most Pure is all about and it applies in reverse for Charity, too, in A Passion Redeemed—she has to seek God first before she can find true love. I hope and pray that this message resonates with every person who picks up my books.

Also, I LOVE to hear from readers, so they can contact me through my Web site at, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter, in which I feature book giveaways. Finally, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog of which I am a part that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at

Thanks again, Nora, and God bless!

Your the best Julie. Thanks for taking the time to share your heart and thoughts with us - what a powerful testimony you have. I really apprecaite you telling us about that. Thanks for giving every an opportunity to win a copy of your book. I know that many of them have already purchased a copy already. They won't have an excuse that they didnt' have time to read your book (I think I've given plenty of notice Ha! Ha!) It is the longest book we have read for book club yet. We are excited about it. We are all looking forward to reading your book and meeting you.

Blessings on your writing journey friend, it's always a delight to talk to you.

Nora :D

.****DISCLAIMER: Entering the give away is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.Void where prohibited; open only to U.S. residents, odds of winning depend on number of entrants****



  1. I am part if Nora's Tuesday night book club. We got to purchase your book for $5.00 and I was excited about that, but I am more excited about reading a good love story. (Someone in our club has already read it. I hope I can find it when it's time.)

    Regina Orr

  2. Julie, We are so excited about reading your book. Nora has spoken so much about "A Passion Most Pure" that we are anxious about the opportunity to get together and discuss it. Tricia

  3. Nora - that was one great interview :) Julie - what KIND of cookies?! :)

  4. Awesome Inteview! I'd would love to win this book and I already have someone in mind to give it to after I'm done with it!
    cmrobin(at)bellsouth(dot) net

  5. Thanks for the great interview! I can't wait to get my hands on Charity's story!! Thanks for the chance to win:)

  6. Nora,

    Don't include me in the drawing as I already have the first two books and am nearly half through A Passion Redeemed.

    I did want to encourage anyone who doesn't own or hasn't read A Passion Most Pure to grab a copy ASAP. It is one of the few books I read after a very good debut novel put some of my old favorites to shame that actually measured up in terms of great writing.

    I can't wait to finish A Passion Redeemed either.


  7. S Salava/Shelfari FriendAugust 27, 2008 at 1:16 AM

    Would LOVE to read this book!!!!

    Great interview!

    Thanks for introducing me to Julie!!

  8. Julie,
    I love to read Christian fiction. Your book sounds like my kind of tea. I, too, am a Christian writer. I write mostly books for children. However, I am working on my cancer survivor story at the present time. I am hoping to get it in print soon. Would love to sit and chat with you. You sound like an easy person to talk with.
    Betty Ward Cain

  9. Regina, Tricia and Liv -- gosh, I didn't know all you guys were here or I would have commented earlier!! But thanks for dropping by and trust me -- I'm excited about you reading my book too!!!!! :)

    Oh, and Liv, my favorite cookies are spritz, Russian tea cakes and underbaked chocolate chip cookies!! :)

    Robin, you go girl -- give or lend that book to AS MANY people as you can find, okay? Word of mouth is everything in this business. :)

    Carolynn, the reviews are coming in on A Passion Redeemed and as far as Charity is concerned, they're all over the map (hate her or love her), but at least the reviewers so far agree on one thing -- they love the book! Thank you, God!!! :)

    Melissa, you sweetheart, I cannot WAIT to see what you think of Redeemed ... especially being a Gone With the Wind freak like me!!

    S Salava/shelfari friend -- boy, I'm glad Nora introduced you to me too!! But even more, I am SO GLAD that I have become friends with Nora, because I seldom meet people with the caliber of enthusiasm and energy as that woman has. CANNOT WAIT to meet her next year at the bookclubs in Atlanta!!!!!!!!

    Betty, I am saying a prayer for you RIGHT NOW that you get that cancer survivor story in print because we need more those encouraging stories out there!! And are you going to be at ACFW by chance in September in Minneapolis???? Because if you are, maybe we could talk there. American Christian Fiction Writers is having a mass book signing (127 Inspy authors) at the Mall of America on Saturday, 9/20 from 1-3. Here's the Web site:


  10. Wonderful interview! I enjoyed learning more about the backstory of the books. Can't wait for Charity's story.

  11. Nora,
    I'd love to win a copy of Julie's book after reading that amazing interview! Thank you for offering.

  12. Delighted to meet you Julie and Nora. Author interviews give such a warm introduction to new books. I smiled as I read the question and response to the "love scene" issue. It brought back memories of my own book The Scent of God: A Memoir and my publishers remark about my reticence to elaborate on the "first time". You've got to share a bit more. I did and am still uncomfortable with that one paragraph.

  13. Julie,
    What a great interview. I so enjoyed learning about how you came to Christ.

  14. Nise, Smilingsal and Beryl -- thank you SOOO much for your kind comments!

    Smilingsal, you're making the rounds, you sweetheart, you -- I like to see that -- THANK YOU!! :)

    Beryl, omigosh, what a GREAT TITLE for a book -- The Scent of God!!! It so intrigued me, in fact, that I checked it out on Amazon and it sounds like something I need to buy. WOW, what a story!!! And double WOW ... what great reviews!!


  15. Loved the interview and I know I love the author already even though I haven't read the book because GWTW is my favorite book and movie, too!!!! Great interview!!! See ya next year!

    Gail Mundy

  16. Thanks for the interview! I really enjoyed reading it and I completely agree with Julie about going to Ireland.

    danelli04[at] hotmail [dot]com

  17. Merrillee!!!!! Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Looking forward to seeing you at ACFW!

    Gail, oh my, I KNOW I would love you, too, if you are a GWTW fan, girlfriend!! And I suppose when you say "see you next year," you mean at Nora's book club in June 2009??? If so, I've got a BIG hug reserved for you because I cannot WAIT to see you guys!!


  18. WOW, Julie, I didn't think about how tall your husband would be. What a shock to see he stands head to shoulders taller than you. Is he just tall or are you just smaller? I love reading about how your books came about and your preferences on things. I'm a brownie fan myself, though if cookies are there, I'd not turn away from them. Is there a choice of A Passion Most Pure or A Passion Redeemed? If so, I'd like to ask to be entered in the drawing for your second book. Thanks, Nora, for the interview. What amazing questions you came up with!
    Thanks SO MUCH. Pam Williams
    cepjwms at yahoo dot com

  19. WOW, Pammy, you do get around!! :) And, yeah, at 5'3", I am a shrimp next to my 6'1 husband, which I really like. I LOVE tall men ... uh, what a surprise, since all my heros are 6' and up!!! Oh, and this drawing is for either APMP or APR -- your choice!


  20. Julie,

    After reading your personal testimony, I so look forward to reading your book. I, also, love the scripture you chose for your cover page. It, too, shows your heart for God!


  21. Hi again Ms. Lessman! No, I haven't got to read your 1st book but I have it on hold at the library. I can't wait to read both of them. From reading the previews for them, they look very good. They remind me of Tracie Peterson books. If you've read her books, you probably know she writes historical christian fiction too.

  22. Julie; Thanks for sharing your heart and answers to the fun questions with my readers. It has truly been a delight and privledge to know you. I'm so excited about you visiting and speaking to my book clubs next year. THE LORD IS GOOD!!!

    I'm also excited by all the people that have taken the time to share with you and make comments. Wow!! Praise Him! Thanks for your genersoity in giving a book to this group. Your the Best!!

  23. Okay, Danelle, your family and mine -- Ireland in the future!

    Julee, I LOVE the spelling of your name -- it reads WAY more fun than mine!

    Wow, Alycia, anytime anybody wants to compare me to a big name like Tracie Peterson, have at it!! I've read Tracie, and she's great!!

    Nora, you sweetie, thank you SO much for hosting this interview. There aren't many people I anticipate meeting in person more than you. Next June, my friend -- you and me, up close and personal!!


  24. Nora & Julie:
    What a great interview. I can't wait to read the book. I look forward to meeting you in person Julie when you join us (Nora's club) next year and can't wait to introduce you to my book club (NorthMetro FBC). I know the girls will love meeting you.


  25. Oh boy, Sheryl, I guarantee not as much as I will enjoy meeting them and Nora and you! I am REALLY looking forward to it. But I will give you all fair warning -- I am a bit of a character, but hopefully there will be a few laughs involved. And the timing is pretty good too, isn't it, with book 3, Passion Denied, just out the month before? Yeah!!! Can't wait!!


  26. Sheryl,

    I can't wait to meet YOU and your book club either!!! AND, I am soooo looking forward to meeting Nora in person too! Should be a great week next June!


  27. Your interview was just so delightful. I am really looking forward to reading your books. They sound so wonderful!


  28. What a fantastic interview, Julie! I learned alot about you and can't wait to meet you at ACFW -it is right around the corner!!!

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

    PS - please enter me :-)

  29. Loved your interview.

    Please enter me in the contest.

    Thank you,

    Becky C.


  30. Hey, Jo, thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment!

    JANNA!!!!! I can't wait to meet you and Cara too!! Big, BIG hugs coming your way ...

    Thanks, Becky C, and good luck in the contest!!


  31. Hey, Jo, thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment!

    JANNA!!!!! I can't wait to meet you and Cara too!! Big, BIG hugs coming your way ...

    Thanks, Becky C, and good luck in the contest!!


  32. Hey, Jules. Great interview. Isn't Nora the best???

    Don't put me in the drawing. I've got my copy. And I am LOVING A Passion Redeemed.
    I got it just before Labor Day weekend and ended up with 13 people in and out over the weekend, my kids and their friends. Loved it. But I kept being forced to stop reading.



  33. Cool interview, Nora & Julie! OMG--I'm from St. Louis, too! My guess is that your fav cookie is oatmeal--from Dad's Old Fashioned Cookie Factory--a St. Louis tradition. I look forward to reading the book...I'm coming, Nora! Love ya, Claudette

  34. Hey Mare, so good to see you here, and YESSSSSSSSS, Nora is THE BEST!! How did we luck out getting to know her, anyway??? So glad you are enjoying APR -- anxious to see if you hate Charity as much as some of the readers do.

    And, Nora, my apologies for a Blogger snafu -- the last two comments from "Amy" are actually from me. Everytime my daughter Amy comes home, her Blogger account seems to mess up mine and I don't even know it until the post appears. Sigh.


  35. Loved the interview, Nora. It's nice to know that a romance novel can be "clean" and not full of smut!!

    Hey need to go back to having purple as your favorite color. You'd not only be in the great company of Nora, but me too. LOL!!

    Chris G. (in Nora's Monday night club)