Welcome to the Mine, JoAnn! As you know, we’re digging for diamonds in Christian fiction, and your books are gems. Would you say they’re diamonds?
Thanks so much for hosting me today! My theme verse in my writing journey is based on Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (NASB).
I like to think my writing shines and resonates with the truth and hope to be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s my hope that my unique writing voice holds gems of truth from God’s word. When panning for gold at the “diamond mines” in Tennessee, you sift through the sand and dirt to hopefully discover hidden treasure buried beneath. Likewise, I love layered stories where the characters eventually discover those invaluable nuggets of truth . . . but they often have to go through the refining fire before they emerge whole and strong.
Refining fire and layered stories… your books sound awesome already. I know you write contemporary romance as well as a series. How did you start writing and did it evolve into a series or was it planned that way?
My joke is that I wrote Awakening in two weeks and it took 12 years for it to be published. The full story is on my website at www.joanndurgin.com. In short, it was the last book I wrote before putting my writing aside—but not the passion for it—for over a decade. When I pulled it back out (literally from under the bed and blew off the dust bunnies), I started to look it over. Having written it so long ago, it was like looking at it through fresh eyes, and it was almost as though someone else had written it.
Although I only found half of it (you must read the story on my website to see how the Lord gave the rest of it back to me!), I could tell it would be a good beginning for a series where the core characters could become mentors to the volunteers of their Christian workers called TeamWork Missions. Each subsequent book contains the love stories of one (or sometimes more) of the TeamWork members. The fifth book in the Lewis Legacy Series releases late this month. The entire series is written but needs significant editing. Then I have another series lined up behind it…
Quite a project… sounds interesting. And I love how your first book was written! I think I wrote my first book in almost three weeks. Of course, it was very rough. Kind of like yours, I bet. Do you have any books out there not related to the Lewis Legacy Series?
Catching Serenity, my latest release and the book I’m highlighting today, was written with the idea of giving my readers something apart from my series. I’m happy to say it’s also been quite successful for me. It’s a standalone, full-length novel with mystery as well as romance. All of my books feature an element of humor mixed in with the adventure and drama—all the elements I believe you need for a satisfying story: (1) it makes you laugh; (2) it makes you cry; and (3) it makes you think.
I’ve also published a couple of fun Christmas novellas with Pelican Book Group (the third in that series to release this year) and I have an upcoming novella, Echoes of Edinburgh, also releasing with Pelican in late September.
Wow! Books, books, everywhere! How in the world did you write (and publish) all those books?
First of all, I couldn’t write and publish books without the Lord’s sustaining grace. I’ve never suffered from writer’s block, and I pray I never do. Writing and publishing involves long hours and a dedication to see a project through to completion. A measure of talent, a willingness to be teachable and accept criticism all factor into the process, as well as dedication, perseverance and commitment truly makes all the difference.
What a blessing… I would love to be able to write like that. I’m sure every writer would. Thank you for sharing your words with the world, JoAnn. If you had one thing you could say through your books, what would it be?
God demonstrated His great love for us by sending His very own beloved, precious Son to die for us. That is the greatest love story we’ll ever know, and from that redeeming love stems our capacity and ability to love others as He first loved us.
What’s your latest book about?
The best way to tell you about it is to give you the blurb for Catching Serenity (what you’d read on the back cover). Here it is:
A woman torn apart by secrets.
A man held prisoner by the truth.
Can the greatest love of all
set them both free?
Serenity McClaren had it all before her life crumbled around her like the sand castles on her beloved beach, causing her to flee Croisette Shores and the only home she’d ever known. Nearly five years later and living in Atlanta, she receives a mysterious, unsigned note: Come home, Serenity. Things aren’t as they seem. Time to find your answers. Returning to South Carolina, she prepares to face her demons and the ailing father she left behind, hoping to make peace with both.
Child psychologist Jackson Ross is a man with a surprising past. He’s ready for the quiet life and eager to establish his practice in the quaint, coastal village. After he hires Serenity to decorate his new office, he’s drawn to the beautiful and enigmatic woman yet sees she’s haunted by a past she can’t escape. Wanting to help her, he begins to suspect one of his young patients may hold the key to unlocking Serenity’s secrets. Jackson follows his instincts and discovers the shocking truth, but how can he tell the woman he’s grown to love what he knows—and set her free—without compromising his professional ethics and losing her forever?
Can we get a glimpse?
Gladly, and here’s a portion of the first chapter.
Come home, Serenity. Things aren’t as they seem. Time to find your answers.
Ever since she’d received that unsigned, cryptic note in Atlanta six weeks ago—scrawled in loopy, cursive letters with no clue as to its sender except the postmark from Croisette Shores—the words lingered in Serenity’s mind, never far from her conscious thought. Lifting her face to the early May sun, she dug her toes in the sand, luxuriating in the sensation as the warm grains filtered between her toes. How she’d missed her lovely little South Carolina town.
The slight breeze lifted strands of her hair in an airy dance and a happy squeal caught her attention. A pregnant woman held the hand of a toddler girl who skipped beside her, giggling when the gentle waves kissed her toes. Uninhibited and joyful, the sound of the child’s laughter transported Serenity back in time to the carefree days when she’d played alongside her parents on this same stretch of beach. Days when it seemed the world was ripe with possibility and opportunity. Days when making a sand castle and discovering a beautiful seashell, simple yet intricate in its complexity, thrilled her like nothing else.
Shielding her eyes with one hand, Serenity scanned the beach. Freud? A gorgeous gray and white Siberian husky skirted the shoreline, dodging the seaweed and marine life deposited by the receding waves. A magnificent creature, grace in motion, but who would name a dog Freud? In its own way, though, it was rather cute. She couldn’t remember ever seeing this particular breed of dog in Croisette Shores before. His coat was well-groomed and short, and thank goodness she sat far enough removed to avoid the sand he sprayed in his wake.
“Come here, boy!” The man jogging behind the dog captured her attention as he slowed to a walk, a red Frisbee tucked under one arm. The last time she’d given any man more than a passing glance seemed like a lifetime ago. In some ways, it was. This one definitely stood out in the small crowd of beachgoers. Tall, broad-shouldered and muscular, his wavy dark hair was long enough in back to curl over the collar of his light blue polo. She guessed he must be late twenties or early thirties. Barefoot with the bottom of his khakis rolled on his calves, he looked the part of a well-to-do tourist renting a luxury cottage on one of the private beaches. Cheeks flushed with color, he hadn’t yet developed the sun-kissed tan of the locals.
Stopping, he tossed the Frisbee and laughed as the dog darted after it, venturing into the tide. Amazing a dog that size could jump so high. Serenity sat up straighter, fascinated, as the two repeated their game. The man moved a bit slower, appearing to favor one leg, and a slight grimace creased his attractive features. Was he in pain? She startled a few seconds later when the Frisbee skidded to a stop at her feet, showering her with sand. Freud lunged in her direction—quickening her heart rate tenfold—and scooped the plastic disc in his mouth before bounding off again. Willing her pulse to slow, Serenity brushed sand from her shorts and tugged down on her pink cotton tee.
“Sorry!” the man called to her with a friendly wave. “He’s harmless. Hope he didn’t scare you. Are you okay?”
She waved back. “I’m fine, thanks.” She wasn’t worried about the canine so much as her reaction to Freud’s companion, but how nice of him to consider her feelings. The guy had a killer smile and strands of dark hair whipped over his forehead. Couldn’t he at least have a high-pitched or nasal voice? No, it had to be deep, smooth and rich as melting chocolate. Good thing she generally avoided chocolate.
When do you find time to write? (The pharmacist said to the author…)
Wow, a pharmacist? That’s amazing. Ever tried penning a medical thriller? I think your profession would open a world of writing ideas! I’m an estate administration/wealth transfer paralegal in a large law firm in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. However, I spend nearly every lunch hour working on my current manuscript, writing blogs, or doing some type of marketing work. My mind is almost always spinning with plotlines, characters or something related to my writing. I spend many hours in front of my computer at home or with the laptop in my bed. But the Lord’s given me this desire to share stories and He keeps me going. Writing energizes me like little else and it’s my passion.
I guess I’ve never thought of penning a medical thriller before, although I do have a pharmacist as one of my characters. Can’t get too far away from my roots, huh? Anyway… Do you have a marketing strategy—well, other than tossing the pages into the wind and praying they find some eager hands?
That image makes me laugh. Sometimes it does seem like that’s what we do, doesn’t it? Since my former publisher turned over the rights to me for my Lewis Legacy Series books at the end of last year, and with Catching Serenity being independently published, I’ve enjoyed having complete control over the marketing and advertising (not to be confused with being a control freak, of course). Unlike some authors, I love marketing. The Lord knew the best marketing “job” for me is marketing my own books! I’m navigating the waters now, but I’ve found a several websites that have been tremendously successful for me. Awakening was offered free on one website a couple of months ago and more than 47,000 readers downloaded it! That was astounding to me, and it served to multiply the sales and increase the visibility of all of my books as a whole (including a boxed set of the first four series books).
What a great idea! I’ll have to remember that and Isaiah 55:11. After all, the Lord’s Word doesn’t return void…even if it is free. Thanks for stopping by the Mine. I believe we have a diamond, folks. Are you open to questions, JoAnn?
Of course! I love interacting with readers and would be happy to answer any questions. Thanks so much for inviting me to visit. Many blessings to all of you, and thanks for your support of Christian fiction and its authors. We couldn’t do it without you!
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About the Book:
A poignant story of faith, hope and love,
and discovering the everyday miracles
from an all-powerful God.
About the Author:
Catching Serenity is JoAnn Durgin’s fifth published, full-length novel. She is the author of THE LEWIS LEGACY SERIES: AWAKENING, SECOND TIME AROUND, TWIN HEARTS, and DAYDREAMS (Torn Veil Books), and Christmas novellas, MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOE and its sequel (coming for the 2013 holiday season), STARLIGHT, STAR BRIGHT (Pelican Book Group/White Rose Publishing). An estate administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky law firm, JoAnn lives with her family in southern Indiana. A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (national and Indiana chapter) and the Louisville Christian Writers, JoAnn’s prayer is that her contemporary romantic adventures will touch hearts and lives with the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. She’d love to hear from you at www.joanndurgin.com or via her "Author JoAnn Durgin" page on Facebook.