It was my privilege to interview the indomitable Julie Lessman for the September, 2011 issue of FamilyFiction's digital magazine. Known for her 400+ page books, it was no surprise Julie had lots of say that I couldn't contain in my article! I'm delighted to be able to share our complete interview here on my blog.
Julie is generously offering a signed copy of one of her books to a reader of my blog so be sure to enter by completing the form below. She will also be joining in the conversation here about love, romance, passion and God so be sure to chat with Julie by leaving a comment. We would love your thoughts!
Why are you so passionate about writing romance?
Well, as number twelve of thirteen children, I suppose you could say I was starved for love! I read Gone with the Wind as a little girl, and when Scarlett seared Rhett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks, I was a goner. That novel so inspired me that I immediately embarked on my romance-writing career at the age of 12, penning a 150-page manuscript that forty years later became the basis for my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.
Let’s face it—passion is powerful. It can drive a woman into the arms of a man, or a person into the arms of God. In truth, romantic passion gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God. After studying the “Song of Solomon,” I’m convinced the God who created passion and intimacy did so to mirror the intensity of His own love for mankind. It is my belief that romance laced with God’s precepts is also powerful—it can draw, woo and win hearts to the true Author of romance with the stroke of a keyboard. And never has the need been greater.
Look at the world today—it’s obsessed with illicit passion. Hollywood promotes adultery and unmarried couples sleeping together as sexy, and I can count on one hand how many young, unmarried women I know who are still virgins today. Why? Because passion is important! Not just to romance readers, but to everyone on the planet. We were created that way by a passionate God who analogizes His own depth of love for each of us in His very passionate love letter mentioned above, “Song of Solomon.” Unfortunately, the world uses this beautiful, God-given gift of romantic passion to shove sin down peoples’ throats. I want to use romantic passion to teach people God’s precepts and therein, His love. It’s the cry of my heart, and I hope and pray that for my readers, my stories of romantic passion translate into passion for God.
You have written some pretty memorable heroes! What defines a great literary hero, in your opinion?
To me … or to everyone else? Keep in mind my first hero love was Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind—a strong, take-charge kind of man who couldn’t be pushed around by a woman. Now that I’m grown up and married to my own real-life hero, I realize that in addition to being strong and decisive, a true hero has to be gentle and kind to the woman he loves, cherishing her above all else. To me, seeing a strong, male type like Rhett Butler “who wasn’t the marrying kind” give in and marry Scarlett because he loved her and wanted to cherish her, spoke volumes to me. Even as a little girl, I sensed that was what romance was all about—finding a man who couldn’t do without you and to whom you were the most important woman in the world. It wasn’t until I became a born-again Christian at the age of 23 that I learned it was a foreshadow of how God sees romance in Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Now I am not saying that Rhett Butler typified the kind of love Christ had in mind, but he wanted Scarlett so badly, he was willing to give of himself to get her. No other woman alive could do that to him, only her. Now to me, not only is that a hero that makes me swoon, but that’s romance in the most heart-pounding sense of the word.
How easy/difficult is it for you to weave your faith into your stories?
Oh, my goodness, INCREDIBLY EASY!! Let’s put it this way, without God, there would be no books—period. God is not only my reason to write, He is my inspiration, my motivation, my confidence and my talent. Like Michael W. Smith sings in his incredible song, “Breathe,” God is “the air I breathe.” I love romance, make no mistake, but I’m sorry—to me, romance is just not romantic unless God is in the middle! For my tastes, there’s nothing “sexy” about sin in a romance novel or movie. I’ve had people tell me that Bridges of Madison County was one of the most romantic films they have ever seen. Are you kidding? Since when is adultery romantic, no matter the situation! Maybe that’s just me, but I personally can’t fully enjoy romance (in a movie or book) unless it is according to God’s precepts OR unless it uses sin to point the reader TO His precepts. That’s the reason I LOVE Inspirational Romance so much. And, yes, “faith” (or spiritual passion) is the key component in my novels … with romantic passion hot on its heels!
Please explain your tagline, Passion with a Purpose
Anyone who has read my books knows they are a tad more passionate than the majority of Inspirational romance in the Christian market today, and I did this on purpose. You see, I’m the type of woman who loves a heated romance. You know—the heart-fluttering, pulse-pounding emotional tug-of-war between a man and a woman? It draws me, always has, from the early days of Gone With the Wind. But for me, heated romance is not enough. Without God and His precepts in the middle, it’s nothing but lust—heat that burns but doesn’t keep you warm. And guess what? There are a lot of women out there who feel exactly like I do.
According to the American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Barna Group, “nine out of ten women nationwide (90%) consider themselves to be Christian.” Ironically, despite the fact that romance is the #1 genre today with sales approaching one and a half billion dollars annually, most women who read romance wouldn’t choose Inspirational romance to save their soul. Why, you may ask? Well, I can only speak for myself and my friends who wanted more heart-pounding, 21st-century realistic romantic tension interlaced with God’s precepts. As a result, most of my friends, Christian and non, read secular romance, which generally promotes the world’s amoral lifestyle rather than God’s. What’s wrong with this picture? I mean if the world can take something that God created and use it to sell its amoral agenda, then I ask you—why can’t Christians utilize this God-given passion to promote Him and His precepts?
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 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.
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 and guilt. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor with demons of his own, fear and shame almost destroy them … until God sets them free with a heart revealed.
Do you think you will ever write a contemporary story?
I think so, someday. I actually had a contemporary romance started when I sold my first historical and it’s still burning a hole in my hard drive. But I have to admit, I have fallen in love with the historical romance genre, so it’s likely to be a while before that story ever sees the light of day.
Relz Reviewz Extras
Character spotlight on Sean & Emma
Reviews of A Heart Revealed, A Hope Undaunted, A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed & A Passion Denied
Character spotlight on Cluny & Katie
Character spotlight on Lizzie & Brady
Interview with Julie
Visit Julie's website
Buy Julie's books at Amazon or Koorong
Read the article in FamilyFiction's September edition