Friday, October 7, 2011

with JoAnnn Durgin

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, JoAnn!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

There’s life before writing? Really? Seriously, like most authors, I’ve been a lifelong, voracious reader, fascinated by the power of weaving words together to create fiction. I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries and Louisa May Alcott books as a young girl, and then progressed to the classics. They provided a solid background and basis for crafting a story and fueled my passion for writing. Mark Twain has always been a favorite of mine with his sharp wit, sarcasm and humor. I learned more in the first four months after joining the ACFW about the mechanics and techniques of fiction writing than in all my journalism and English courses. I can’t thank my fellow writers enough for guiding me in the right direction to refine my stories. I’m still long-winded, though, and doubt that will ever be curtailed.

I started writing full-length contemporary Christian romances as a young mother in Philadelphia and made some strides and gained attention from an editor. After a move to Boston and two children later, I caught the attention of a few literary agents. But that’s as far as it went. I was a pastor’s wife wearing many hats in the church and at home, and so I made the conscious decision to put my writing (but not the passion) aside for a decade in order to focus on raising our children. Even though I wasn’t actively writing during that time, I was learning life lessons and the wisdom that can only come from a busy life as a wife and mother. I feel the Lord honored my patience (something I have in short supply sometimes) in waiting in the fact that Awakening sold to the first entity/publisher that ever reviewed the entire manuscript. I understand very few authors can say that, and I’m so blessed. Everything in its time.

What books have you recently enjoyed reading?
I’ve been reading a lot of terrific historical fiction in the new releases by Karen Witemeyer, Laura Frantz, Tracie Peterson and Tamera Alexander. My good friend, Elaine Marie Cooper, has written a series about the fictional Massachusetts colony of Deer Run, and I’ve adored reading the first two books. At the recent American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis, we were gifted with an advance copy of Smitten, by fellow Hoosier romance authors Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter and Diann Hunt, as well as Kristin Billerbeck. A contemporary collection of four romance novellas, it releases close to Christmas and is just the type of book to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. I had the privilege of meeting Janice Thompson at the ACFW Conference, and am currently reading Hello, Hollywood! You can always count on Janice for an uplifting book with humor, something I greatly admire and try to put in my books.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Funny you should ask. In The Lewis Legacy Series, I refer several times to Sam’s Grandma Lewis’ secret peach pie recipe. Sam’s love of his favorite fruit is apparent throughout the series, sometimes manifested in unexpected, amusing and even amazing ways. Several readers have already asked if I’m going to reveal that “secret” peach pie recipe in a future book. It’s a long series, but I should go ahead and start experimenting with recipes now in order to find just the “right” one! The sixth book would actually be a great one to share the recipe.

I personally love cherries, and adore this tasty dessert with a very boring name: Cherry Dessert. Pour two cans of cherry pie filling in a 9’ x 13’ dish; spread a yellow cake mix over the pie filling; melt 1-1/2 sticks of margarine or butter and pour over the top (try to make sure it covers all the cake mix), and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes until the cake mix is browned nicely on top. Can be enjoyed either hot or cold.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
As long as it wasn’t trying to eat me, or otherwise harm me, I’d probably hand it a broom or a dust cloth and ask it (nicely) to get busy. Monsters are generally tall – something I am decidedly not – and could probably get to those hard-to-reach places on tops of windows and doors. We’re very monster-friendly in our household, and my family would love it. Our Diva Dog, Callie, might challenge a new “pet” in the house and grumble a bit, but she’s all bark.

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
Other than my wedding day to my husband, Jim (the inspiration for the character of Sam Lewis, and yes, yours truly is more or less the feisty but resourceful Lexa Clarke) or the births of our three children, I have to say one of the most idyllic days of my life was the one I spent in Venice, Italy. A college student at the time, I’d lived in London for 10 weeks, and our group was on a three-week tour of the European continent. Ah, to be so young and carefree again…! I adored Rome, and Italy will always be my favorite country to visit. As we rode the boat over to Venice, the handsome gondoliers were cleaning their boats and singing along to Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy? That’s an image you don’t forget. The weather was picture perfect, and I fell in love with the colorful, handcrafted Murano glass beads when we toured the factory. During the afternoon siesta, we bought fresh fruit and sat around a fountain, basking in the sun. A shopkeeper invited us into his shop where Earth Wind & Fire’s Sail Into September was playing. To this day, when I hear those songs (and I still do on occasion), I break into a huge smile. That trip helped reinforce how much we take for granted here in this country, and it was a good lesson to learn, especially at that point in my life.

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
Honestly? Homework with my 15-year-old son. Can’t do the math, but thankfully his older sister can help. After about the third grade, I’d reached my limit, which is ironic since I work with numbers on a daily basis in my paralegal position. Ironing is a household chore I dread and hardly ever do unless forced. In terms of writing, I’m a total SOTP (seat of the pants) author; nothing is more challenging or exciting for me than to sit in the computer chair and see where my imagination, and the Lord, take me. Editing isn’t nearly as fun, but it’s all part of the process and critically important to the finished product. In terms of my writing, reconstructing scenes is the worst. I’m doing that now since our computer pretty much crashed while I was at the ACFW conference. It’s interesting, though, how sometimes it’s better the (you can groan now) second time around. Onward and forward!

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
Not everyone is going to like my writing. That’s a hard lesson to learn. My joke is that I need to develop the thick, armadillo skin (a reference to the pesky armadillo in Awakening). I hit a nerve with one particular blogger who couldn’t even finish my book, and that hurt. Although I’m a positive person overall, rejection and criticism stings, but I keep plugging away and keep in mind that I’m really only writing for an audience of One. That helps keep it all in perspective. Then there’s the flip side: just today I received a message via my website from a reader telling me Awakening was the best book she’d ever read, and how it had all the elements for a satisfying Christian romance and filled a need for her in a unique way. Thankfully, the overall reviews have been extremely positive. I give all the praise and glory to the Lord; he is my Co-Partner in this writing journey, and He gives me the characters and their stories to share. Each time I sit down to write, I pray and commit my time, and my words, to Him. I’ve always said if I could touch one heart in some way for the Lord with my books, then I’ve done my job. Nothing gives me more joy or satisfaction than writing; it’s truly my passion.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Twin Hearts is the third in The Lewis Legacy Series and picks up the story of twins Josh and Rebekah Grant. It’s been four years since his mentor and friend Sam Lewis threw Josh Grant out of his San Antonio Mission camp. Josh is a man redeemed with some apologies to make. Haunted by the bittersweet memory of his final meeting with another TeamWork volunteer, Josh meets with her to apologize and gets the shock of his life. Could turning his deepest sin into his greatest blessing be God’s answer for his hurting heart? Josh’s twin sister, Rebekah, is torn between two men: dashing British aristocrat Adam Martin and loyal but shy TeamWork friend, Kevin Moore. What Kevin lacks in terms of Adam’s style and panache, he more than makes up for with his heart-stirring kisses and soul-searching conversation. When Adam pressures Rebekah for an answer to his marriage proposal, she has a major decision to make. Juggling both suitors is wrong for so many reasons, but what’s a girl to do if she wants to marry and have children in this lifetime? Twin Hearts is expected in the early spring, but with its title being what it is, we're aiming early February (just in time for Valentine's Day). ;-)

You can purchase Second Time Around from Amazon.

JoAnn is giving away a copy of Second Time Around. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.


marybelle said...

I know exactly how you feel about Math homework. I dreaded it every night. Unfair to parents I always think.

Love cherry & peach pies.


Lisa Lickel said...

Fun to see you here, JoAnn; I love everyone's take on the questions. Your dessert sounds yummy. Best wishes with the new book.

Lisa Lickel

Amy said...

Great interview. I have yet to read your first book, as soon at it is in stock on my favorite web store I promised myself I would get it. Thanks for the giveaway.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Rebecca said...

Oh this book looks absolutely amazing. I would love to read this. It sounds superb. Thanks for the chance to win this.


Amanda said...

That cherry dessert sounds Awesome! I'm going to have to try it, thanks for the recipe. I'm rather jealous about your European tour- sounds delightful! One day, perhaps. If I ever get to travel, perhaps I'll be able to visit Venice. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Congrats on the book!

apple blossom said...

sounds like a good book count me in thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Patsy said...

The cover is so pretty! Would love to read this book. That cherry dessert sounds yummy! I love cherries.


wfnren said...

Really want to read this book, would love to win it.


ann said...

Delicious sounding dessert and a good book what more could I want -
hope to win

amhengst at verizon dot net

JoAnn Durgin said...

Hi everyone, and thanks for stopping by today and the great comments! So, I'm in the middle of preparing an inheritance tax return as we speak on Friday morning (see why I need the creative release of writing?), and craving cherry dessert. Tip: it's best warmed with melting vanilla ice cream. I'm going to have to make some this weekend; it really is the easiest thing ever to make! Blessings~

lgm52 said...

enjoyed the interview. Would love to read your book!

Linda Kish said...

I would love to win a copy of this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Jo said...

Great interview. Please enter me in the giveaway.


Tracy Smith said...

Great interview as always. Please enter me for the giveaway. Thanks soo much.

countrysunset40 (at) aol dot com

Judy said...

I love the cover on this book!
Second Time Around sounds like a good read.

I haven't read any of JoAnn's books as she is a new author to me.

Thanks for the interview, we get a little glimpse into the author's life!


Marianne said...

JoAnn is a new author to me, and the i haven't heard of her publisher, either. i would love to win this book.


JoAnn Durgin said...

Thanks for the great comments, everyone! I'm so happy you stopped by. I wish you could all win the copy of the book, but if not, I hope you'll get a chance to read Awakening and/or Second Time Around. And I hope you'll pray for and support Christian authors. Blessings.

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