|Love at Any Cost, The Heart of San Francisco Series #1|
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Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him. Hoping a summer visit with her wealthy cousins in San Francisco will help her forget her heartache, Cassidy travels west. But no sooner is she settled in beautiful California than Jamie McKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well, captures her heart. When Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than he is, Cassidy finds herself bucked by love a second time. Will Jamie discover that money can't buy love after all? And can Cassidy ever learn to fully trust her heart to a man?
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied.
Favorite Verse: Psalm 139:23-24—Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
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Christianbook.com Interview with Julie Lessman
You are known to be passionate with your writing. Does Love At Any Cost hold true to your passion?
Uh … yes … and no. What I mean by that is both of my prior series, “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series are VERY romantically passionate (i.e. lots of romance scenes between both single couples and married couples) as well as VERY spiritually passionate (i.e. lots of point-blank spiritual lessons I have learned in my own life rather than more subtle underlying spiritual themes).
However, in this new series, “Heart of San Francisco,” I have taken a much lighter approach with more humor and less romantic passion (no married couples) and more subtle spirituality. So, yes, there’s still the trademark Julie Lessman drama and angst and passion, but certainly less than before and on a much gentler scale.
Why did you select the San Francisco location for your setting?
I have always loved San Francisco, so when I started brainstorming a new series, it only made sense to not only switch up cities (away from Boston where my last two series were located), but coasts as well, so San Francisco immediately came to mind. I love its beauty, its uniquity, its charm, and when I delved into its history, I was thrilled to discover that it had a huge Irish contingent as well (30% of the population at one point). So as a final confirmation, I ran a contest on my blog where reader friends could vote for either San Francisco as the locale for my new series or Savannah, and San Francisco ran away with it two to one!
How much does Love At Any Cost come from your background and experience?
Not near as much as “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series did, which in some ways could be called a very loose biography of my life. By the time an author gets to her 8th book, she pretty much runs out of her own life scenarios to incorporate, so these plots were truly the product of prayer and creativity. However, the spiritual lessons in my books are ALWAYS taken from my own life, so they are very real.
How much research did Love At Any Cost take?
Quite a bit, but you know what? I actually enjoyed it very much, which is saying something for a gal who hates research. I attribute the fascination of San Francisco for my avid interest because truly, its history and its landmarks are so striking and fun that I would lose myself in the research, totally amazed.
For instance, several of the scenes in this series take place at Sutro Baths, the largest and most magnificent bathhouse in the world at that time with seven seawater and freshwater pools beneath a four-story glazed roof of 100,000 panes of stained glass. The baths were a veritable Atlantis where ten thousand bathers could experience a love affair with the sea all at one time, enjoying toboggan slides, swings, flying rings and trampolines. And all this in 1902, no less!
How much of the story is factual information?
The story itself is fiction, but the underpinnings of it—San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, the Vigilance Committee, the Barbary Coast, Nob Hill, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf (originally called Meiggs’ Wharf) are all taken straight out of 1902 San Francisco.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Love At Any Cost?
Well, besides Sutro Baths, I learned how Fisherman’s Wharf was the brainchild of entrepreneur Henry Meiggs who defrauded the city of San Francisco by building the wharf with stolen city funds before he absconded to South America with the remaining money. And then the prestigious and historical Palace Hotel opened its doors in 1875, servicing celebrities and luminaries from all over the world. It offered the utmost luxuries such as redwood paneled hydraulic elevators -- known as "rising rooms" and electronic call buttons in the rooms to summon a member of the hotel's large and attentive staff. I also discovered that Chinatown was quarantined for a brief time during a Bubonic Plague epidemic in San Francisco that occurred from 1900 to 1904.
What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?
I’m toying with the idea of a trilogy set in Charleston, South Carolina involving a plantation widow and her daughters, but nothing is set in stone as of yet.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading the Love At Any Cost?
The Scriptural theme for Love at Any Cost is Matthew 6:21—For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” which fits the hero Jamie MacKenna perfectly. His pursuit of money and material things—no matter how noble, such as his desire to provide a surgery for his crippled sister—leads to discontentment and emptiness. The message I hope to convey is a message both the hero and heroine learn very well—that true treasure lies in pursuit of God, leading to fullness of joy and fulfillment.
What organizations are you involved with?
I am a proud member of American Christian Fiction Writers of America and the Faith, Hope & Love chapter of Romance Writers of America.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Oh, goodness, tearing myself away from e-mails and other Internet-related activities that literally steal my time away from writing—that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
But I would have to say the toughest challenge has been staying grounded in what God wants for me versus what I want for me. Sure, I would love to be a bestselling author, but what does God want? I am learning (very painfully, I might add) that I must become less so that He can become more. But I will be the first to admit, that as a human being who thrives on the positive feedback of readers, this is a challenge that has taken me by surprise. My love for God has always been deeply passionate, but never have I encountered anything as difficult as this—staying focused on God rather than my books. One of my favorite Scriptures that I try to pray daily is 2nd Corinthians ll:3—“Do not let “my mind be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Sigh. Easier said than done.
Who is the person who most influences your writing?
Initially, that was Margaret Mitchell because it was her incredible novel, Gone With the Wind, that inspired me to write in the first place at the age of 12 when I actually penned 150 pages of what is today my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure.
But as far as people who influence me now, that would be my husband Keith, who reads every one of my books at least twice to give me feedback and the benefit of his opinion, which I have learned to trust immensely. It’s because of Keith that I am toning down the romantic passion in my stories because he feels that a less passionate, less complicated, less spiritual, and way shorter romance novel is more in keeping with the CBA market. We’ll see …
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
The most? Oh, that’s a no-brainer—writing love scenes, of course! I like tension, lots and LOTS of romantic tension, so when I write those scenes, my keyboard is smoking because my fingers fly. In fact, one of my friends wanted to know why I couldn’t just write a nice, “sweet” love scene. Duh, because I would fall asleep! Even my husband noticed the fast and furious pace of my love scenes—he said he would be meandering along in a nice, easy passage and then, bam! A love scene would hit, and before he knew it, he was 20 pages down the road!
What do you do to get away from it all?
LOL … sleep, eat, read, and watch an occasional movie with my husband. I’m actually pretty boring right now because I have so many deadlines at the moment and a wedding coming up. But when I do get some free time, I love to read, bike ride with my hubby, watch old movies and musicals, and go out to dinner with friends.
What were your favorite stories as a child?
When the bookmobile came to our school once a month in grade school, I would have a stack of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney-style books almost as tall as me. And then one day, my life was irreversibly changed forever when I picked up a copy of Gone With the Wind. This is the book that launched my romance-writing career at the tender age of twelve and the number one book I adored as a young girl! I think I may be one of the few people around who actually LOVED Scarlett O’Hara … and don’t even get me started on Rhett Butler! My second favorite book was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee—incredible storytelling! And my third? Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt. Sigh.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks, Dianne, for this wonderful opportunity! I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so if they like, they can contact me through my website at http://www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/.
Also, I have a cool blog feature on my website called “Journal Jots” at http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/, which is a very laid-back Friday journal to my reader friends that will give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Or readers can check out my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books on the “Excerpts” tab of my website at http://www.julielessman.com/excerpts/. Finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.