It is my honor to introduce to you JoAnn Durgin! If you've never read her novels, you're going to want to!
JoAnn is the author of the beloved Lewis Legacy Series, as well as the popular Wondrous Love Series, and the Starlight Christmas Series. Her standalone novels include Catching Serenity, Heart’s Design, Echoes of Edinburgh, and Perchance to Dream. A former estate administration paralegal, JoAnn now writes full-time and lives with her husband and family in her native southern Indiana.
Joi: Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?
JoAnne: I suppose it was inevitable that I’d become a writer although I didn’t say, “I’m going to be an author one day!” I’ve always loved to read and write. In college, I studied journalism and English. My studies taught me the basic mechanics, but writing fiction is entirely different. Like anything else, writing takes practice to become proficient, especially to develop that unique writer’s “voice.” I first began writing novels when I was a stay-at-home mom for six years in Philadelphia. My husband was a youth pastor, and it was more financially feasible for me to stay home with our three small children. I wrote a book in a week, and that’s when I seriously caught the writing bug. Sent it to a publisher and got enough positive feedback to keep going. I quickly drafted out a number of manuscripts but put the writing on hold—but not the passion for it—for over a decade when we moved to Boston. I feel the Lord honored my commitment to my family when the first publisher to see the completed manuscript of my debut novel, Awakening, accepted it for publication. The story behind that—how I lost half of the story but the Lord gave it back to me—is on my website (link at the end of this interview).
Joi: I've read Awakening, and I love it!
Joi: How did you select your genre?
JoAnne: I think it’s more that the Lord called me to write Christian romance, and I embraced the call. It wasn’t a conscious choice on my part to write Christ-centered fiction. I didn’t need to think about it because it just naturally evolved. When I first began to pen novels, there was never a question in my mind that I would write stories of hope and grace that give glory to the Lord. I love a good love story, but always, in addition to the love story between a man and a woman, I incorporate the love of the heavenly father. And, without fail, there’s always a happy ending!
Joi: What is your writing day like?
JoAnne: Alternately fun, crazy, frantic, but always fabulous. I’m blessed to be living the dream. Trust me, I realize how few authors can say that! I’m not rolling in money, but that’s never been my motivation. The Lord gives me exactly what I need, no more, no less. Writing is my passion, and He worked through events in my life to pave the way and make that happen (a story in itself; authors always have stories!). I was able to transition (I dislike the word “retire”) from my full-time paralegal position in August of 2014, and I’ve never looked back. Yes, it was a leap of faith, but it was also taking the step with the knowledge that I’m doing what He’s called me to do.
Joi: How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
JoAnn: Promise not to throw anything at me, but I don’t. Not really. Let me explain. I print out and keep research notes in my file cabinet, but I don’t otherwise plot or plan. The most important part is prayer. Every single time I sit down to write, I ask the Lord to give me the words He wants me to tell. And then I begin. And then I edit. And then edit some more. Honestly? Nothing thrills me more than sitting in front of the computer and allowing the words to flow. I don’t suffer from dreaded writer’s block, and I love to see where the Lord and my imagination will lead. I’m blessed with a highly organized mind, and I’m determined and disciplined (for the most part). It’s been a thrill ride to bring each character and his/her journey to life.
Joi: What’s the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
JoAnne: Colin Young, a memorable character in the third book of my four-book Christmas series, demanded equal time. He told me in no uncertain terms, “I need my story told.” I adore that guy, and I couldn’t deny giving my dear Colin his own happy ending. With that charming British accent, how could I resist?
Joi: Love it!
Joi: Do you have a list of characters that you’re saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
JoAnn: I have a list in my head, yes. In a series, most of my characters have already been introduced in a previous book, so I have an existing story world on which to build. For entirely new characters, they come to life as I write. I love exploring their backgrounds and getting into their mindset. Call me weird, but I especially love writing from the male point of view! To be fair, however, I do keep notes on professions and places where they might live—newspaper and Internet articles, interviews, that type of thing.
Joi: What does your work space/office look like?
JoAnn: Our oldest daughter moved out of the house recently, so now I have my own home office! I splurged on a new computer, furniture, the works (trust me, it was time). How I ever managed to work full-time and write books in our bedroom is beyond me. Now I have a door to close! I’m also framing my book covers to hang on the walls. Like my book manuscripts, the office is a continual work in progress.
Joi: What is your go-to snack when writing?
JoAnn: Triscuit crackers with cheese wedges or Alouette garlic spread. Love it! I’ve also been known to go to the movie theater just to buy a bucket of layered butter popcorn. It’s seriously one of my favorite indulgences in life. I do love fruit, too, but it’s not normally my snack of choice (perhaps it should be!).
Joi: Oh, dear one, you are hysterical!
Joi: If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
JoAnn: My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Some might be surprised that I didn’t name a Christian book. It’s difficult to name a favorite Christian fiction book, but I love TKAM for many reasons, primarily because of the strong character of Atticus Finch. The book is a commentary on racial injustice and good vs. evil. However, it is the quiet honor in Atticus, combined with his deep, abiding love for his children, which always impressed and impacted me. I worked for attorneys for years, and I honestly believe it’s due in part to my admiration for Atticus. We recently returned from a trip which included a stop in tiny Monroeville, Alabama, home of Nelle Harper Lee, the novel’s author. While there, we attended a local production of the play based on the novel. It was something that I’ll never forget—a “bucket list” kind of thing, and—even better—it was my husband who made all the plans. He knew it would be special for me, and it was a memorable time.
Joi: If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
JoAnn: I don’t crochet (I used to cross-stitch, though). There are tons of good books out there geared for writers. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass is one that has tons of great advice and examples for writers. If you’ll allow me one more, I personally learned quite a bit early on by reading Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin.
Joi: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JoAnn: Thank you so much, Joi, for hosting me on the blog!
Joi: It was my pleasure! I enjoy your books! Thanks for faithfully writing them, bringing laughter and joy to Christian Fiction!
JoAnn: My most recent release is Love So Divine, Book 2 in my Wondrous Love Series. It’s the love story of an inner-city youth pastor and a ballerina. His father is addicted to gambling and her father builds casinos. It’s done incredibly well for me, and I’m especially pleased since it’s one of my most evangelical books. I’ll be happy to give away a copy to a blog reader (maybe more than one!) if they will leave a comment telling me why they enjoy reading contemporary Christian romance.
Next up is Abide, the next book in my Lewis Legacy Series. It’s releasing in the next week, and I have a sequel to Heart’s Design, called Gentle Like the Rain, releasing in the Whispers of Love anthology in late June. For only 99 cents, readers will get all-new, full-length novels from 12 Christian romance authors! You can look under my book listing on Amazon and find the pre-order for this anthology. It’s an incredible offer, and a great way to sample new-to-you authors.
Hearing from satisfied readers is one of my favorite things in life. I hope readers will feel free to contact me: