Interview with JoAnn Durgin

» Posted on Nov 26, 2010 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with JoAnn Durgin

This week I’m hosting A.K.Arenz with Mirrored Image and JoAnn Durgin with Awakening. If you want to enter the drawing for A.K. Arenz’s Mirrored Image, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (November 28th) evening.

Interview with JoAnn Durgin:

1.What made you start writing? I loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a young girl; the adventures of the teenage sleuth fostered my imagination and stirred a desire to tell my own stories. I often pay loving homage to Nancy in my books, including Awakening. I’ve always been a reader of classics more than pop culture favorites. I was a copy editor in high school and graduated from college with a journalism and English degree. I discovered Christian fiction in the late 1980s and tried my hand at full-length fiction in 1991. I write to fill a void I see in many contemporary Christian romance novels. My heroes and heroines face problems together and forge a strong bond of friendship and love in the process, instead of keeping them apart until the end when they fall into one another’s arms and then it’s over. But, trust me, there’s plenty of roadblocks along the way. I also infuse my stories with more than romance – there’s plenty of humor, adventure, conflict and emotion, as well as those endearing character quirks that make a character jump off the page and into the hearts and minds of readers.

2.How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book? I’ve been writing novels since 1991, but didn’t actively pursue publication until November 2008. I picked up the last manuscript I’d written a decade ago and started submitting it to agents, believing it could be the start of a series. That book was Awakening. I submitted it to new Christian romance publisher, Torn Veil Books in March 2010 and received my contract on May 1, 2010. Even though I attracted the attention of several big-name agents, I am still unagented. Check out the story behind Awakening on my website, It’s been a fascinating journey.

3.How do you handle rejections? Not well. The Lord’s working on me in that regard. Writing is so personal because the characters are real, a part of me. They have to be in order to have them jump off the page and into the hearts of readers. Especially because Awakening is loosely based on my love story with my husband, Jim, I take criticism to heart. I’m not looking forward to reviews, but I’m trying to develop an “armadillo” shell around me. The Lord has blessed me with diligence and resilience. I don’t let rejection keep me down long. As a writer, you’ve got to pick yourself up and keep going. Those qualities have helped me get to the point where I am now with the upcoming publication of my first book – hopefully, the first of many, Lord willing.

4.Why do you write? The main thing I try to keep in mind is that I’m writing first and foremost for the glory of the Lord. He is truly my Partner. He gave me my stories, and He has opened the “right” doors and paved the way for me in His time and in His own unique way. If I stay true to Him in my books, He’ll continue to bless my efforts. It’s an awesome responsibility, and I want to be up to the challenge. My house might sometimes be messy, but my family has learned to pick up the slack. I couldn’t do it without their love and faithful support.

5.What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing? Reading. I am a voracious reader and have spent a ton of money on Christian fiction in the last couple of years, especially. I like to keep up with what’s new, what works, trends, new authors. I also spend quite a bit of time on e-mail with other authors in the American Christian Fiction Writers, both on the national and statewide level. I also love to travel and am thankful I had the opportunities to travel both abroad and domestically before marriage and children. My travels and exposure to different cultures, languages and people has given me a solid, overall perspective of God’s big, beautiful world. And how wonderful it is to live in America.

6.What are you working on right now? My current writing life can be summed up in a four-letter word – E-D-I-T. It’s as crucial as writing the story, but it’s not my favorite part of the process. I’m two-thirds of the way through one of the books in my second series; I started a new, stand-alone book not long ago just because I missed the pure creativity of starting something from scratch. Any way I work it, this one is a romantic suspense. I’m a true SOTP (seat of the pants) writer. I love to sit in front of the computer and see where the Lord – and my imagination – lead. It’s fascinating to see what develops, and that’s what makes it so exciting.

7.Do you put yourself into your books/characters? Yes, especially in Awakening since it’s loosely based on my love story with my husband, Jim. A lot of the goodness, unwavering faith and strength of character in Sam Lewis is Jim. Some of the stubbornness in Lexa is based on yours truly, but I like to believe I share her resourcefulness. A little bit of me – whether it’s from my background, travels or experiences – seeps into my characters somewhere along the way. You can tell a difference when a writer is fully invested in the characters and it translates into a much better, more involving story.

8.Tell us about the book you have out right now. Awakening is releasing very soon if not out at the time of this blog, and I’ll post updates on my website. Awakening features a God-fearing man and a God-seeking woman. For Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke, it proves a combustible combination. She signs on for a summer assignment with TeamWork Missions, believing she’ll be sent to an exotic foreign destination. Instead, she’s sent instead to sweltering San Antonio to rebuild homes destroyed by flooding. Burned by betrayal, TeamWork director Sam can’t afford to be distracted by a woman who defies his rules, finds trouble at every turn and questions God’s purpose in her life. But when they meet, sparks fly! This contemporary (1997) romantic adventure has it all – great characters, humor and emotion interfaced with drama and adventure. Hang on tight. The adventures of Lewis and Clarke are only just beginning!

9.Do you have any advice for other writers? The Lord has a purpose for your writing, but try to keep in mind that everything is in His time, not yours. But it’s always a fascinating process. I used to have a sign hanging in my kitchen that read, “Lord grant me patience, but hurry!” In our world of instant gratification, it helps to know the road to publication can be long and winding. It takes dedication and a commitment to work hard at your craft. It takes a spirit of humility to absorb and process the critiques of others and a spirit of discernment to weed out the good from the not-so-good advice. Above all, keep your eyes on the Lord and write the story He’s given you to write. Write for no one but Him. If you do that, He’ll open the right doors and your work will reach the hands of the readers of His choosing. And they will be blessed.

10. How important is faith in your books? Faith is the reason I write. I can’t imagine writing without that element. Through my characters and stories, I like to uplift and encourage others. I feel there’s a preoccupation with the angst in life – the harsher, bleaker aspects. My books aren’t fluff, but they show how Christians face situations in their lives, resolve problems and deal with others in a God-honoring way. I’m not afraid of bringing real life difficulties and situations into the lives of my characters. My characters aren’t perfect, by any means, but they try to live as the Lord leads. They often stumble and fall, but then they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep on going. That’s in large part what makes them so endearing. I can’t write a book where the reader has to search to find the biblical truth or meaning, but neither do I beat the reader over the head. Biblical truths are presented in a natural way. I’ve had non-Christians read Awakening and tell me they like the way faith is woven into the story, almost like a character in itself. That’s truly one of the best compliments I could ever receive.

11. What themes do you like to write about? I write about love since God first loved us enough to send His own precious Son to die for us, the ultimate gift of sacrificial love. Love is shown between many characters in different ways in my books, but nothing is sweeter or more exciting than a blossoming love between a man and a woman. Another theme I particularly favor is redemption – demonstrating how the Lord can use us for His glory in spite of where we’ve been or what we might have done. Brotherhood is a good one. In the second book in the series, Sam develops a very close Jonathan-David relationship with the husband of one of his TeamWork volunteers. It’s a deep, abiding friendship, the kind that sustains us through the hills and the valleys of life. Forgiveness of past hurts and sin is another theme. I write about the universal themes that bind us together as human beings. Through the struggles of my characters, I hope to portray how Christians can face each challenge with renewed strength and hope. We often falter, but we also need to be there to help each other. And when there’s no one else, if we call upon Him, He’s always there.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why? One of the books in this first series, Pursuit, is my personal favorite. It’s about a NASA shuttle commander, Will Lewis, younger brother to Sam Lewis of Awakening (my core character in the series). Will comes back to his faith and realizes it’s not the universe according to Will, but everything belongs to the Creator. He prays the Lord will use him during his NASA mission as a testimony to his crew and to the world. He’s a geeky scientist who can’t talk to a woman to save his life, and then he meets the contemporary Christian singer next door. Will faces a turning point, and you see how much love has changed him when he’s prepared to give up everything he’s ever worked for in his life – all for love. And that’s even before the shuttle blasts off to the International Space Station! Yes, Houston, we have a problem. What Will does, and how he shows the world Who’s Boss is unbelievable. It makes me cry every single time I read it (in a good way). He’s my character who undergoes the most profound personal transformation. I did quite a bit of research and developed a tremendous appreciation for our NASA star sailors – their training, their intelligence, their humanity and how brave they truly are.

13. What is your writing schedule like? I write whenever and wherever I can find a few precious minutes of privacy. I work a full-time paralegal position, a part-time position at the Kentucky Center for the Arts (Broadway plays, orchestra, opera and ballet, and manage a busy family. My lunch hours are often spent writing, editing or e-mailing. It’s a good thing I’ve always been a night owl and require little sleep. My most productive time is between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. when the house is quiet and there are no distractions. It’s my own little slice of heaven on earth, and I cherish it. Thank goodness, it’s also when I seem to be most creative. It doesn’t happen every night, but I try to spend at least a few minutes every night doing something to enhance or further my writing career.