A Big Welcome to my Friend, JoAnn Durgin!
With a giveaway of her new book providing the winner's willing to do a book review! Easy and fun. Leave your comment and email address
NEW RELEASE: Second Time Around published by Canadian publisher Torn Veil Books
GENRE: Contemporary Romantic Adventure
Welcome, JoAnn. How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?
Like most writers, I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. I think my love of reading has reinforced the passion in me to write and has perhaps silently “taught” me the mechanics of good storytelling. I loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a young girl and was one of those kids with the flashlight under the sheets so I could finish Nancy’s latest escapade (I pay homage to Nancy in Awakening). I also loved Louisa May Alcott books and then progressed to reading classic literature. Mark Twain has always been a favorite of mine with his sense of irony and quick wit. His writing never fails to bring a smile to my lips. It wasn’t until I was a stay-at-home mom in Philadelphia that tried penning full-length romances. I had some success, but then we moved to Boston and my life became absorbed with being a wife, mom and pastor’s wife. I put my writing aside (but not the passion) for a decade in order to raise our kids. The story of picking up my writing again and how Awakening came to be published is on my website; suffice it to say it was the last book I wrote before I put my writing aside. About twelve years later, I could only find half the manuscript, but felt it was the “one” the Lord wanted me to try and publish. How He gave my story back to me (in a dramatic way) and then confirmed it was in His will (see the section of my website called “And the man said peaches!”) is quite a story in itself.
Interesting. What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?
I’ve more or less termed my own unique genre, and I call it Contemporary Christian Romantic Adventure. I write what I like to read: a book that has it all−humor, adventure with perhaps added mystery, great characters, fun, witty dialogue/banter (often in the style of the old Tracy/Hepburn movies, a plot that moves, and a healthy dose of romance. I believe my books fill a niche, a void if you will, in contemporary Christian romance with non-formulaic romance, my own unique voice and brand of humor, and realistic, mature and honest relationships between characters desiring to honor the Lord yet struggling with choices at times. I know some Christian women who hide secular romance novels beneath their bed−not because they want the sex offered in most of those novels, but because they want the pure romance−and they’re not getting it in the Christian romances they’re reading. Above all, I want to give readers hope and show them the joy that can only come from a personal relationship with the Lord. While not wanting to be preachy, I infuse my books with solid, biblical truths woven throughout the book and the characters’ journeys. I appreciate that my publisher lists “A Christian Romance Novel” following the titles of my books. The reader knows when they pick up one of my books, they’ll be entertained, but they’re also going to get a dose of biblical insight and guidance.
Some good thoughts there. How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?
Sound great. What is the spiritual message in your book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?
Second Time Around has grace as its central theme, with Hebrews 4:16 as the key verse: Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (NASB). Other themes are also present−forgiveness being a major one. The pervasive truth I’d like the reader to see is that when we put ourselves aside and give it all to the Savior, He will bless. So many people have trouble surrendering their lives and their troubles to Someone so ultimately more capable of handling it, but when they do, they find the strength, the solace, the comfort, the peace and the joy. As Marc Thompson, my hero in Second Time Around, learns, surrendering all at the throne of grace isn’t failure (his greatest fear), it’s simply faith. It’s a hard lesson to learn for most, but it’s also a very important lesson.
Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through?
I’ve never felt like giving up, and doubt I ever will. Sure, I’ve felt discouraged. One of the hardest lessons to learn (and I’m still learning) is this: Not everyone is going to like my books. Above all, I want to remember this: I write for an audience of One. If my books are God-honoring, and I’ve done the best I can and told the story He’s given me, then let the arrows fly. Again, easier said than done. The Lord knows the hands my books need to fall into, and from what I can tell, that’s happening. There was a glitch in the ratings system on the Barnes & Noble website that sent my rating for my debut novel from a five-star to a 1-1/2 star rating (on Mother’s Day!). They manually corrected it one place, but it’s still messed up overall. That really hurt. I had a blogger who couldn’t finish my debut novel, and yet I’ve had several messages from readers telling me it’s the best book they’ve ever read! It really is a rollercoaster at times, and I honestly wonder if I’ll ever develop that “armadillo” skin (a reference to my first book with a pesky critter). On the other hand, I believe it’s that same sensitivity that makes us more observant and better writers.
Bottom line: being an author isn’t for wimps. We certainly don’t do it for the money. We do it for the love and the passion we have to write, and I think it shows in our writing. There are days I’d love to crawl in a hole and hide, but I’d still want to write while in that hole. My books aren’t literary, but I like to think they’re intelligently written with a good story and a solid Christian message. As much as anything else, they’re the books of my heart, and what the Lord has given me to share. He’s blessing my efforts, and as long as I stay true to Him, I have no doubt He’ll continue to open the doors of His choosing−in His time, not mine. He hasn’t failed me yet. The story of my journey to publication is posted on my website at http://www.joanndurgin.com/, and I hope readers will visit to learn more about my own adventures in writing.
Amen. You've expressed it very well. Who’s inspired you the most?
My grandmother on my dad’s side is one of my heroines. She’s been gone for almost 30 years, but she was funny, humble yet also proud, and possessed a quiet but strong faith. And talk about creative! She was the inspiration for Lexa’s “Nana” in Awakening, down to stringing pearls, sipping iced tea on the summer porch, and even her reference to Heaven as the “happy hunting grounds.” Like Lexa’s grandmother, my “Granny” didn’t care about a messy house or fussing to make everything perfect. When we spent time together, she fully invested herself, her humor and her beautiful spirit in my brother and me. She was so full of life−an avid doll collector and painter, and she knew how to find the joy in every situation. I never saw her upset, worried or cross, although I’m sure she had her moments. Until she died, she was active and lively; she had a heart attack, and the Lord gave her enough time to draw all three sons around her to tell them how much she loved them and her grandchildren, and then she passed peacefully in her sleep. If only the Lord would bless us all to have such a lovely woman in our lives. I was indeed blessed.
Would you explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?
Even though I got the attention of a top Christian agent, I tired of going the rounds, trying to make those first three chapters what someone else wanted them to be. As a result, I lost my own unique “voice” somewhere in the process and had to go back to square one. I’m somewhat impatient as I’ve gotten older, and a couple of years ago, I decided to google “small Christian romance publishers.” I printed out the list and systematically checked the websites. Some were out of business, some wouldn’t work in terms of their needs and current releases, but I was particularly drawn to the name of one: Torn Veil Books. Don’t hate me for this, fellow writers, but I realize I’m in a small minority when I tell you that−based only on an e-mail query with brief synopsis of Awakening, Torn Veil asked me to send the full manuscript. So, I boxed it up and $25 later, in mid-January 2009, shipped it up to Winnipeg, Manitoba (they later told me that process helps weed out the seriously committed–makes sense, but I’d never thought of it that way). My manuscript was the very last one they received before they cut off submissions (they’d started accepting submissions in July 2009). Put it this way: it was the best $25 I ever spent. On May 1, 2010, I opened my e-mail to read the words every writer longs to see−telling me they wanted to publish my book and attaching my contract! I’ll never forget the euphoria of that day!
And no, I don’t think many serious authors can ever sit back and fully relax since there’s always that itch to write. As long as I have breath and can do it, I’ll write and pray the readers will be there to read my words. A valuable lesson, however, is to learn when to sit back and momentarily rest and relax. It’s every bit as important. If I get tired, I put the writing aside. Family is crucial, and my children still live in the home, and they deserve my equal attention. As does my husband, of course. It is definitely be a juggling act, but it can be done.
I love authors tales of getting published. Yours is super. Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?
I adore traveling, and I’m thankful I was able to do quite a bit before I married and had children. I always say the best semester I spent at college was the one where I wasn’t on campus, but part of the overseas program−we lived in London for ten weeks and then toured the continent. Ah, to be so young and carefree… That trip fostered my independent spirit, and I learned how many freedoms we take for granted in this marvelous country we call home. It was a great lesson to learn at that particular point in my life. Italy was my favorite country, and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Maybe one of these years. We’re celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next year, and my husband would like to go on a cruise. I joke that it might be a cruise around the block, and I’d love to return to Hawaii (where we spent our honeymoon). We’ll see… At this point, it’s good to get away for even a night or two, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity every now and again.
As far as hobbies, I used to cross-stitch, but haven’t done so since I was pregnant with our son, Matthew (he’s now 15). Since I work a demanding, full-time job (and a part-time one until this past February when something had to go), all my “hobbies” concern activities with our three children or something writing-related. I’m at that stage in my blossoming writing career where it’s pretty much all about the writing, but I love every minute.
Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?
My website is http://www.joanndurgin.com/. I’m actually starting my own blog in the very near future, as soon as my wonderful website designer can get it set up for me. It’ll be a combination of musings about daily life and the musings of a writer. I’d like to make it for writers as well as readers/non-writers, and I aim to make it very interactive by sharing what I’m currently working on in terms of my writing and asking for suggestions for character names, settings, and that type of thing.
My third book in The Lewis Legacy Series is called Twin Hearts, and I anticipate it will release in the early spring, perhaps earlier. With its title, we’d love to get it out for Valentine’s Day. I’ll keep readers posted on the release details via my website.
Thanks so much for allowing me to share with you today!
JOANN DURGIN BIO:
Awakening, JoAnn’s popular debut novel featuring the adventures of Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke, released in November 2010. Second Time Around, the second in The Lewis Legacy Series, released in September 2011. A winner and finalist in several writing contests, JoAnn is a full-time estate administration paralegal and lives in southern Indiana with her husband and three children. She is an active member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and its Indiana chapter, as well as the Romance Writers of America. It’s her desire to touch hearts with the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. She’d love to hear from you at http://www.joanndurgin.com/ or send her a friend request on Facebook.
And thank you for visiting, JoAnn! Comments, folks!