It’s our pleasure to welcome Julie Lessman, “The Kissing Queen” of CBA, to the Lightning Blog. In honor of all things that SPARK this February, she’s offering a fantastic giveaway for five lucky readers, and if you ever hoped Gone With the Wind had a different ending, well, she’s your gal. Get your digital copy of SPARK (we’ve rebranded Splickety Love!) right here.

Who is your favorite character in all of literature and why?

Okay, here’s a shocker for you—Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind.

I know, I know, most people think I’m crazy when I say that, but Scarlett was definitely one of a kind. I mean, seriously, how many heroines do you know who were as selfish as she was, yet carried people’s interest in a novel over 1,000 pages long, won a Pulitzer Prize, and made over $400 million as a movie, which when adjusted for inflation is the highest grossing film of all time?

Yeah, I thought so.

When I first read Gone With the Wind at the age of twelve, I was so swept away by the romantic tension between Scarlett and Rhett, that I actually wrote 150 single-spaced pages of what today is my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Scarlett was not exactly a role model, I know, but I loved her strength, her confidence, her inability to be false or phony … and I especially loved the pull she had over Rhett whether he liked it or not. That’s what true romance is—a man who will cherish you and love you no matter your failings.

What story has inspired your writing the most?

Uh-oh. At the risk of being redundant, I have to say … Gone With the Wind, the novel that kicked off my romance-writing career at the tender age of 12! I was so hooked on romance after reading that novel that when I was in high school, I actually dressed up as a nun to go to a free re-released showing of GWTW for the local religious and clergy. One of my friends had a sister in the convent, so she loaned us novice habits and off we went! I sat there mesmerized, shoving free popcorn into my mouth as I watched the tug-o-war between Rhett and Scarlett. It was one of the most fun times of my teens … until we ran into the nuns from our high school! Whew, we got into trouble … but it was soooo worth it!

It was almost forty years before God inspired me to finish my childhood novel of passion—only this time the “passion” would be for Him! It happened in a beauty shop where I was reading a Newsweek 2001 cover article about Christian books, movies and music. It said they were on the threshold of exploding, and my heart jumped. Something in my spirit said, “It’s time to write your book,” and the pull was SO strong, that I started writing A Passion Most Pure one month later. From the moment that I wrote the first line, all roadblocks were gone, and I was off and running into the world of a very close-knit and very passionate Irish family called the O’Connors during the tumult of WWI.

What classic are you ashamed to admit you haven’t read?

Uh … afraid to say for fear I’ll find tomatoes splattered on my windows, but … ahemPride & Prejudice. However, in my defense, I did see the movie with Keira Knightly at least fifteen times, so hopefully that will vindicate me.

If you were a teacher, what classic work would get you most excited to share with your students?

You have to ask? Gone With the Wind, hands-down, because it gives such a vivid and PG-rated view of the worst time in American history—the Civil War. Second would be To Kill a Mockingbird because it and GWTW were my favorite books as a child.

What are your writing quirks?

I don’t suppose it gets much quirkier than writing on a veranda overlooking a lake with my feet up on a chaise three quarters of the year—in Missouri. I’ve been out there writing in as low as 39 degrees in the dark of night with a heater, or as hot as 100 degrees with a fan.

Of course, a cup of hazelnut decaf with Half ‘n Half is a MUST in the winter or peach iced tea in the summer, a box of Kleenex (for the soggy scenes I write), a mirror handy for those facial expressions I’m trying to capture, and … ta-da! … lip gloss! That would definitely qualify as one of my staunchest quirks—lipstick and lip gloss. I bet I apply one or the other 20 times a day because I wear it everywhere I go, even to bed! 🙂

Tell us about your writing goals for 2017.

I am finishing up my Isle of Hope contemporary series with book 3, His Steadfast Love, due out late summer, early fall. Book 1 in that series, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love, is a double love story loosely based on my own dysfunctional relationship with my estranged father. I’m happy to say that Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love is an award-winning novel that made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015 AND currently has a solid five-star rating on Amazon with 194 reviews. Here’s the jacket blurb:

Can a wild girl gone good rebuild bridges with a good boy gone bad?

She’s the girlfriend serving up temptation. He’s the pastor’s kid bent on serving God. Till tragedy separates them for eight long years. Now she’s a woman of faith, back to make amends to the father she defied, the boyfriend she deserted, and the best friend she betrayed. But can a turning of tables—and hearts—lead the way back to “hope” for them all?

The good news for your readers is the prequel novella to the Isle of Hope series, A Glimmer of Hope, has just been revised and is currently available for FREE DOWNLOAD on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Here’s the jacket blurb:

She’s bent on fun. He’s bent on faith.

 Jack O’Bryen kissed the tomboy next door and knew he’d love her foreverthe perfect wife for a would-be pastor. Lacey Carmichael dreamed of marrying the only boy who filled the void of her father’s rejection. But when Lacey goes astray while Jack’s away at seminary, is there even a glimmer of hope for a future together?

My latest release, book 2 in the Isle of Hope series, Love Everlasting, also has a five-star rating on Amazon, and here’s that blurb:

He sets hearts on fire. She’s been burned by love. Can hope survive the flames of the past?

School teacher by day, ghostwriter by night, sweet and shy Shannon O’Bryen doesn’t mind writing romance on the sly, but to live it? No, thank you, not since the man she loved turned out to be a player who broke both her heart and her spirit. Dr. Sam Cunningham is a charismatic player who breaks hearts as regularly as he washes his pearl-white Corvette. But can he convince a woman who’s been burned by love to open her eyes—and her heart—to a love everlasting?

Finally, I hope to rerelease three separate Christmas novellas in 2017 that were originally part of anthologies, plus a prequel novella to kick off a Western Historical series I am writing. It’s called The Silver Lining Ranch series, and it’s the fun and family-oriented story of two suffragists from New York who fall in love with confirmed bachelor ranchers and their family in Virginia City, Nevada in the late 1800s. This is the “Wild West,” so think “Bonanza meets McClintock” with lots of fireworks going on between two couples during the fascinating era of the transcontinental railroad and the Comstock Lode silver mine upon which Virginia City was built. Here’s the blurb:

A Match Made in Heaven? Or Someplace a Whole Lot Warmer? 

She’s stubborn, educated, and looking to give women the vote. He’s bullheaded, successful, and looking to give her a piece of his mind. But when things heat up, they just may give each other a piece of their hearts.

Thank you SO much for hosting me on your blog—it’s been fun! I love to hear from readers, so they can find and contact me at www.julielessman.com, or through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest or by signing up for my newsletter or my Journal Jots blog. I am also part of a group blog called Seekerville that inspires, encourages, teaches, and informs aspiring writers on the road to publication and beyond. Although Seekerville has been listed on Writers Digest 2013, 2014, and 2015 “Best 101 Websites for Writers,” it is also a blog devoted to readers as well. Oh, and readers can also check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website.

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Meet the Author

A lover of all things Irish, Julie Lessman enjoys writing Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together. Award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 romance author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. Winner of 18 RWA awards, Julie made Booklist’s 2010 Top Inspirational Fiction and Family Fiction’s Top Novels of 2014 and 2015. Contact Julie or read excerpts at: www.julielessman.com.