Friday, February 4, 2011

My Friend JoAnn - Interview & Giveaway

Today’ I’m pleased to welcome new author JoAnn Durgin to my blog to chat about her new book, Awakening. JoAnn has been generous in offering a copy to one reader, so please leave a comment below with an email address for a chance to win.

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About JoAnn

JoAnn is a member of ACFW and its Indiana chapter. Awakening is her debut novel. She was a finalist in the long contemporary romance category of the 2010 RWA/FHL Touched by Love contest, and is a regular blog contributor with Hoosier Ink and Reflections in Hindsight. JoAnn is also an active member of the My Book Therapy Voices and has won or placed in several of their quarterly Flash Fiction contests. She loves to share her passion for the redeeming love of Christ through her stories.

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About Awakening

Lexa Clarke signs up for a short-term summer mission in San Antonio with TeamWork Missions, hoping to make a difference in the world. TeamWork director Sam Lewis has a job to do and can't afford to be distracted by the petite, feisty blonde. But when she tumbles into his arms from the top of a house they’re rebuilding, Sam suspects his life will never be the same. A God-fearing man. A God-seeking woman. It’s a combustible combination.



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What's your latest book?

My debut novel, Awakening, was published by Canadian publisher, Torn Veil Books, in late 2010. This particular story is precious to me because it was written more than a decade ago and is loosely based on my own love story with my husband, Jim. Sam and Lexa are uniquely special to me and become my core characters and mentors in a continuing series as they minister and interact with volunteers in Sam’s TeamWork Missions organization. A lot of the strength of character, unwavering faith and goodness in Sam Lewis is based on my Jim. Some of the feistiness and stubbornness in Lexa Clarke (yes, Lewis and Clarke – they are adventures, after all) is based on yours truly, but I choose to believe I also share my heroine’s resourcefulness and resilience.

Awakening was also the last story I wrote before putting my writing aside for a decade to raise my children. When I unearthed it (literally from beneath the bed and blew off the dust bunnies) in late 2008, I only found half the story. It was like someone else had written it, but as I read it again with fresh eyes, I felt this was the story the Lord wanted me to pursue getting published. Jim and I prayed about it, and I knew He’d give the story back to me if it was, in fact, in His will. Not only did He give it back to me in a dramatic way, but the Lord confirmed it was the one. I hope you’ll read all about my writing journey on my website at www.joanndurgin.com. 

What a fabulous story, JoAnn! So now we know how you came back to it—would you tell us how you knew you wanted to write fiction, and romance in particular, to begin with?

I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, and ideas for novels simmered in my imagination for years. However, it wasn’t until I was a young, stay-at-home mom in Philly that I tried my hand at penning one. I love creating characters and their stories, and making them so real they jump off the page and into the hearts and minds of readers. I write what I call contemporary romantic adventures. Romance is my first love, but as both a reader and an author, I also need more than romance for a novel to be fully-developed and emotionally satisfying. Throw in humor and some witty banter, dramatic conflict, a moving plotline with adventure and a hint of intrigue, and you’ve got my kind of book. That’s what you get with Awakening! It may be a cliché, but I write what I like to read. Following your passion as a writer does make a better book. One of the most precious things in life is that first blush of love, that rush of adrenaline at a glance, a touch, a kiss… I love the hope and joy to be discovered in an uplifting romance.

We are, as Anne Shirley would say, kindred spirits. =) How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?

Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. God first loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins, and it’s through His boundless love that I write. My stories depict people who often stumble and fall but they find grace, forgiveness, love, redemption and hope when they seek to follow the Lord’s will for their lives. The Lord has been so faithful to me in this writing journey, and I know He’ll continue to open the doors of His choosing in the proper time. He’s truly my Partner. Matthew 5:16 is my personal theme verse, and it’s my prayer that my light will shine through the words in my books, giving light and hope to a hurting world. It’s my high honor and privilege to share the stories the Lord has laid on my heart to share with others.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

I’ve been told I have a fresh, unique voice. I try to infuse my sense of humor and unique way of phrasing and expression into every book. I especially love getting into the male psyche, and I’ve been told (by those of the male persuasion) that I do it quite well. That’s high praise! I don’t necessarily follow the “three kiss rule” or formula pathway to romance. But that doesn’t mean there’s not conflict and roadblocks along the way to lasting love. I personally feel it’s a greater test of faith and bonds a couple more when they work through issues and confront problems together instead of keeping them apart until the very end where they share a kiss, proclaim their love and ride off into the sunset. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it, but I’m sure you get my point. I am a firm believer in happy endings, and tying up loose ends of a story, although sometimes I carry storylines over from one book to another in the series. But each book can certainly stand alone.


I don’t kill major characters. I just can’t do it. Peripheral characters sometimes die (and a few are maimed along the way), but I just can’t kill ‘em. Although I realize life isn’t always rosy and can seem downright hard and unfair at times, I don’t believe killing beloved characters is something romance readers respond to positively. From a personal perspective, I don’t like it. At least at this early point in my writing career, I want readers to weep tears of joy or because I’ve struck an emotional chord deep inside, but I don’t want them to cry because they’re grieving the loss of a beloved character. You can have drama and realism without all the killing. Christians can laugh as easily as they can cry.

Very true! (Says the girl who, yes, killed off two main, beloved characters in her Biblical fiction . . . but hey, it was part of my premise! I had to! ;-) That doesn’t mean I like it when other people do it, LOL) Okay, back to you. What's one of the oddest or most interesting things someone has ever said about you?

When I once told someone about all the places I’ve lived and visited, she made the comment, “Wow, you’ve certainly been around.” Given the connotation of that statement, I wasn’t pleased, until I realized that yes, I have been around, but in the nicest sense of the word. Now, it’s actually one of my catch phrases when describing myself. By way of explanation – I was born in IN, moved to TX after college, met my husband (a student at Dallas Theological Seminary – he’s from RI), moved to CA, married in KY, honeymooned in HI, had our first child, moved to PA, had two more children and then moved to MA, then took my (thankfully highly-adaptable) family back to IN in late 2005. While I have a great appreciation for each place we’ve lived, Kentuckiana (where southern Indiana meets Louisville, KY at the Ohio River) is truly “home in my heart.” Jim and I have always followed where the Lord leads, but in our case, He made it abundantly clear in each instance where He wanted us, and we tried to bloom where we were planted. So, in another important sense, “home in your heart” is so much more than simple geography.

I feel so un-traveled. ;-) What lessons have you learned through the publication process that you wouldn't have guessed as a pre-published writer?

Especially working with a new, small, Canadian publisher, I’ve learned that a large part of the post-publication marketing process rests squarely on my shoulders. I understand that’s often the case now even with the big, major CBA publishers. Although I understood I’d need to do certain things to promote the book – establish a website, write guest blogs, do interviews, book signings and speaking engagements – I never guessed the amount of time it takes. But it helps that I’m a born marketer. I always said I missed my calling in my daytime job, even though I’ve always loved working in the legal field. But the Lord knew the best marketing job for my heart – telling others about my characters and my books.

What writing goal have you set for yourself that would be the hardest (or unlikeliest) but most rewarding to achieve?

It’s a dream to be able to stay home full-time and make a living writing. Very few writers have the opportunity and the ability to do that. But, dreams do come true, and I’m living proof. I honored the Lord and my family by putting aside my passion for writing for years, and in turn, I feel that He has honored me by opening the proper doors on this writing journey – and closed a few doors along the way, as well. Ironically enough, I credit being published to rejection (twice!) by a major Christian literary agent and being told by an award-winning, multi-published author to leave Sam and Lexa on the proverbial cutting room floor. Then a layoff from one paralegal job for four months was a gift from the Lord in giving me the time I needed to make the necessary contacts in the Christian publishing market. The agent and author only looked at those first few chapters, which I believe are the hardest to nail down and get just right. I knew that if that one entity of God’s choosing could review the entire manuscript, they’d certainly see the value of the work as a whole. Plus, it helps that I’m tough and don’t like being told I can’t do something. So, I’ll keep plugging away toward my goal of making my writing a full-time, paying occupation.

Gotta be tough in this industry for sure! Do you remember where you were when you got your first or most important call about a book contract?

On Saturday, May 1, 2010, I indulged in a rarity – sleeping in! It was glorious. When I awoke, I did the usual – brewed coffee, started a load of laundry – the normal stuff of life before settling in front of the computer. As usual, I checked my e-mail. When I saw the e-mail from Torn Veil Books, I stared, and my heart rate increased tenfold. If I’d been fully awake and really paying attention, I would have noticed the paper clip indicating an attachment. Holding my breath, I clicked on the e-mail and read the words that changed my life, “We have decided to publish your book, Awakening. Your contract is attached.” So, long story short, I was in my nightgown, still half asleep and then…I gasped and ran to get my husband and family and tell them the news. It was a banner day. Getting my first contract truly was one of the most important days of my life. It was the culmination of years of reading, writing, editing and studying journalism and English in school…and a dream come true. I am so thankful.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from? 

I write because it’s my passion. It’s what I love, and what I feel called by the Lord to do. Put it this way: I can’t not write, although I put my writing aside for a decade for something more pressing – raising my children. But the ideas were always formulating, simmering beneath the surface. Maybe that’s why I’ve never had writer’s block, and hopefully never will. Most of my story ideas are inspired from newspapers, magazines, television or radio programs, my kids, church sermons or Sunday school lessons, snippets of conversations in the grocery store…you name it. Practically anything is fodder for my fertile imagination.

Kindred spirits indeed. =) What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?

No question – finding the time to write is my biggest challenge, especially with a full-time job, a part-time job, and a busy family. The only way I can write is generally to do it between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. It helps that I’ve always been a night owl. I was literally one of those girls under the sheets with the flashlight, devouring the latest Nancy Drew mystery (my $5 weekly allowance would buy three hardback books – it was the highlight of my week!). So, it’s not so much a question of balancing as whether or not I’m feeling creative during those hours. If I can’t sleep and feel the inspiration, I’ll crawl out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to write. Writing keeps me sane. Seriously. It’s my solace, my peace and my time to connect with the Lord. Thankfully, the words just flow. The slogan, “I’d Rather Be Writing” was made for someone like me.

And there the “kindred” ends—my brain shuts off at 9 p.m., LOL.  If you could take your family on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’ve been blessed enough to travel to Europe several times. Of all the countries I’ve visited, Italy was my favorite. My husband has visited the Holy Land and several countries I’ve never seen, but he’s never been to Italy. As a college student, I studied in London for ten weeks before touring the Continent for three weeks and then returning home (with much of an appreciation of our country and the freedoms we often take for granted). Italy impressed me so much with the incredible art work, sculptures, the history of the city with the Roman Coliseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Vatican, the gorgeous landscape of the Italian Riviera and the simple joy of living so apparent in the Italian people.

My day spent in Venice was one of the most idyllic days you can ever imagine, in every possible way. In Venice, there was not a cloud in the sky – sunny, about 70 degrees, a balmy breeze, absolutely picture perfect. American music has always been such an influence there, and I’ll never forget the handsome gondoliers cleaning their gondolas to the tune of Rod Stewart’s, Do You Think I’m Sexy? That’s an image I’ll never forget. I developed an appreciation of the gorgeous Murano glass and still wear the necklace I purchased there. During the afternoon siesta, we bought fruit in the fresh air market, and sat around a centuries-old fountain eating strawberries (until an enterprising shop owner invited us into his shop sensing we were Americans and figured we probably liked to shop – Earth, Wind & Fire was playing on the radio there).

My oldest daughter has had the opportunity to visit Italy, but I’d like to take the rest of my family there so they can perhaps better understand why I always speak so fondly of my visit there. And my younger children might understand and also gain more of an appreciation for everything with which we’ve been blessed here in the United States.

Would you believe that just this week we were considering a trip to Sicily? My former-foreign-exchange-brother has just moved there from Germany and is campaigning to get our family over for a visit. =) We would LOVE to go . . . our bank account isn’t so sure though, LOL. Anyway. What are you writing right now?

I’m two-thirds of the way through the seventh (yes, seventh!) book in the second series, but have been stalled since March when the contest season began, and then with the contract from Torn Veil, the editing process began. I miss the creativity of writing. About two months ago, I started something totally new (and a stand-alone) simply because I had to write. No matter how I work it, this one is a romantic suspense. I have intrigue in my other novels, but this one is different. It’s good to stretch as a writer and try different things. It might work, it might not, but I’m following the Lord’s leading and my instincts. I’m hoping I can continue with it, but I really need to finish the seventh book first. Normally, I write chronologically, but this one, it’s the first time I’ve already written the ending and need to go back and fill in the blanks. I know where it’s going, but it’s been so long since I’ve worked on it that I have to read it from the beginning again to get into the story again so all the details work and it’s cohesive.

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Thanks so much for visiting, JoAnn! Readers, check out her website at http://www.joanndurgin.com, and you can find her book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Void where prohibited. Entry into the contest is considered verification of eligibility based on your local laws. Chance of winning depends on number of entries. Contest ends 2/11/11. Winner will have two weeks to claim prize.

24 comments:

  1. would enjoy reading this book...thanks for the chance :)

    karenk
    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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  2. Please enter me!

    Kait
    momiswayweird(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. It is a relief to know that writing from your heart is a good thing. JoAnn's story seems to be something I would enjoy reading and remember for a long time. Like JoAnn, I have traveled and lived in many places with my husband being a career military officer. Between us, we have eight children and stories that are unbelievable. The stories need to be told because there is something in each story for others to be helped. My personal stories are many and God has told me to write them to help others and to his glory. How can we ignore that. I'm glad that JoAnn didn't ignore God's nudging her at the right time to finish Awakening and publish it. Thanks for this giveaway, JoAnn; and Roseanna for the chance to win it. I hope I do!

    Blessings,
    Barb Shelton
    barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

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  4. JOANN!!! I am halfway through Awakened and LOVING IT!!!! I have about three books before it on the TBR list, but just couldn't wait ... so I didn't!! :)

    You have a full-time job??? YOWZA!! I'd never get any books written if I did ... although I did write A Passion Redeemed in two months working at my part-time job that I have since quit, so I KNOW I can do it if I have to.

    Roseanna ... hope things are going well with Jewel of Persia -- the story STILL haunts me!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  5. Oh, Julie! You found me here (well, I'm kind of everywhere these days!) LOL... You made my day, my week, my month. So THRILLED you're reading it! Not only do I have a hubby and three kids (and a Diva Dog), but also a part-time job. BUT I gave my resignation for the part-time one last week and am working through the end of the month. It was fun - working Broadway shows at the local Performing Arts Center and across the street from my full-time job office building, but still...something had to go!! "Talk" to you soon, my friend. Thanks again! Blessings, JoAnn

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  6. I thought that I had "been around" but I have been a homebody compared to JoAnn. Enjoyed reading about her experiences and road to publication. I would love to win her book since I am always on the lookout for new authors. As a fellow Hoosier, I wish you much success with your writing, JoAnn.

    Roseanna, thanks for the interview and the chance to win this book. I'm also looking forward to your next release.

    janmarien[at]embarqmail[dot]com

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  7. I'd love to win your book! I always ask people how they met their spouse. My kind of book!
    Ann_Lee_Miller@msn.com

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  8. Awakening sounds like a fun book to read. Add me to the drawing. Thanks so much for the chance to win.
    Debbie
    debbiemcla[at]msn[dot]com

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  9. Thanks everyone! So nice to see you here and thanks for leaving a comment on Roseanna's terrific blog. How wonderful it is, and I wish all of you could win the book. Blessings!

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  10. Enjoyed reading your interview and all the places that you have lived. We have been in several states as well .... my hubby used to say that he thought that I was part gypsy as most of the moves were before we were saved. Please enter me in the giveaway.

    Blessings,
    Jo
    ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

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  11. Thanks for entering me in the drawing. The story sounds like a lot of fun, I enjoy humor in all types of writing, but especially romance. :)

    twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com

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  12. I would love to read this book.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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  13. I would love to read this! Thanks so much for the chance!

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

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  14. Carman sent me and I would love a chance to win this book!

    hannah(dot)subrosa(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. Would love to read it!

    photographer4ever832[at]gmail[dot]com

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  16. What a cool opportunity to win a debut novel! I'm always scrambling to "catch up" with an author who's written several books. Maybe I can keep up with JoAnn! Haha. And it looks like such a sweet book!

    Carman sent me.

    Jordan
    lizzielaura17@yahoo.com

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  17. I'd love to read this book! Carman sent me over.

    leanniegehrke at hotmail dot com

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  18. Please enter me! I've wanted to read this book since I first saw it. :)

    booklovercb at yahoo dot com

    And, JoAnn, if you read this, I just want to let you know that I would love to feature you and your book on my blog sometime in an interview/giveaway! Here is the link to my blog: http://continuousdelights.blogspot.com/ :)

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  19. mishi
    I want to read it
    vjpineda@sbcglobal.net

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  20. Am I too late to enter? If not, enter me :) Been so busy...

    homesteading[at]charter[dot]net

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  21. Hi everyone! Anne, as far as I'm concerned, it's not too late to enter! As I've said previously, I truly wish everyone could win. But...if you don't, the electronic version of Awakening is only $5.99 and the paperback is $12.99 (a little less with a 3-4% discount on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble). At nearly 111,000 words, it's a lot of story for the price. I challenge you not to LOVE the ending of Awakening! If you read it, listen to Michael W. Smith's instrumental versions of The Offering, Carol Ann and The Giving as you read that last chapter. I can just see the movie playing in my head with that music as background. I know, I'm a goner, but I adore Sam and Lexa and their story. Just call me shameless and call it a day. LOL... ;-)

    Carman, I actually inquired about you from Roseanna (or it might have been Casey Herringshaw - I've been all over the blog-o-sphere lately) since so many say, "Carman sent me." I'll definitely check out your blogspot! Thanks for the opportunity.

    Blessings all, and Happy Friday!

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  22. Me again. Fair warning: I'm sometimes hard to get rid of! ;-) I just saw the most recent posted review of Awakening on Amazon. Can you see me smiling? ;-) A review of a romance written by a man - I'm thrilled. Blessings all!

    5.0 out of 5 stars Finally!, February 10, 2011
    By Roberto J. Garcia - This review is from: Awakening: A Christian Romance Novel (Paperback)
    JoAnn Durgin has done the impossible. She has written a romance that is even appealing to those who tend to opt out of reading romances. She accomplishes this through her expert skill at drawing the reader into the reality that she has so meticulously created; she keeps her reader engaged in the developing relationship between Sam and Lexa.

    She weaves her deep faith into her story with great levity. The playfulness between her two main characters extends from the beginning of her story to the last sentence. This refreshing love story is inspiring to the seeker as it is to the veteran in the faith. This is a must read for all of those local reading groups that seem to be springing up like mushrooms all across the English speaking world. JoAnn Durgin, I can hardly wait for your second novel in this inspiring series.

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  23. Wonderful story, and I'm looking forward to reading the book!

    Jeff Lehman
    jwlehman@hughes.net

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  24. LOL! How funny. Well, I would love to have you "over". :)

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