Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Interview and Giveaway with JoAnn Durgin!!

Today we have JoAnn Durgin on The Diamond Mine! Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of both of JoAnn's Julianna Desmond books!   

So, here we go with the interview!

Hi JoAnn! Welcome back to The Diamond Mine! I’m curious about why a successful writer like you decides to write some books under a pen name. How did that decision come about, and how did you pick your pen name of Julianna Desmond?

Thanks so much, Nancy! It’s been a while since I’ve visited The Diamond Mine, and I’m blessed to say I have a few more books in release now. I’ve had authors and readers question the sanity and/or wisdom of writing under a pen name. The simple answer is this: after the release of my 25th book, I was ready to try something fun and different. I’ve been creating memes on social media, and I’ve significantly grown my Author JoAnn Durgin page on Facebook from 1,450 followers last year to nearly 21,000 today! Only the Lord knew all those years ago when I was in college that my training in advertising would one day pay off in a unique way. The memes began a ministry all its own, but its success is slowly beginning to impact my book sales overseas.

I’ve always loved the creativity of book cover design, and I’ve always been as involved with that process as I can. In searching through photo websites, I discovered many photos of pretty girls in gorgeous dresses; the expressions on their faces, the dresses, the backgrounds of the photos…all of these things immediately drew my attention and seemed to call for their story to be told! The style of these photos is quite different from my other covers. So, the idea was “born” to write a series of unrelated, standalone books with similar titles to tie them together.

As far as my pen name, I’ve always loved the name Julianna (which combines the name Julie, my best friend from school days, with my name). Desmond just seemed to click, and it’s my same initials (JD). 

What benefits do you find in writing under a pen name?

Maybe you should ask me that after another couple of releases! Seriously, it’s simply…fun, and writing something fun relaxes me. I spent an hour on Facebook private messaging a reader one night who was convinced there was something in these pen name books that I wouldn’t put in one of my other Christian romances. Otherwise, why did I feel the need to write under a pseudonym? These books are my same writing style with my trademark humor and God-honoring romance. Since these are standalone novels, I am free to write about whatever I want—setting, professions, anything!

However, I’ve discovered it’s much more difficult to sell a book by an “unknown” author, so I quickly acknowledged Julianna Desmond is, well, me, and I linked my name to the books on Amazon so I could include them on my author page. And then found out some of my regular readers still didn’t know about them! Visibility is everything. The books have done well, and I’ve also established a Julianna Desmond Facebook author page. 

You're right! Visibility is so important. I really need to learn marketing techniques, but I'm kind of tech-challenged! :)
Tell us a little about your two Julianna Desmond books.

Both books feature heroines who are creatively talented and meet God’s “perfect match” for them. Georgia in Only A Heartbeat Away is an up-and-coming writer who is unexpectedly thrown into the spotlight of literary circles when a top critic names her soon-to-be released debut novel as brilliant and one to watch. The dress on the cover of the book is almost a character in itself. She meets her hero, Grayson, wearing that dress, and the fun ensues! If you read the book description, you’ll see what I mean. But that’s also one of the points of the book—the idea that we should not judge a book by its cover. Things are not always as they seem.

Madalina (Madi) in Only A Breath Away is the daughter of a costumer and lighting technician at the famed Met Opera in New York City. She’s literally grown up in the shadows of the famous opera house and is now waiting in the wings as the stand-in coloratura soprano hoping for her “big break.” Her hero, Julian, owns a Manhattan breakfast bistro frequented by the Metropolitan Opera singers.

What interesting story lines! 

How is your writing experience different now, so many books later, than it was when you first started?

When my debut novel, Awakening (Lewis Legacy Series, Book 1) released in late 2010, independent publishing was still rather frowned upon. I published four books with the first publisher before the rights were returned to me, effectively pushing me into publishing the books myself. That was one of the best things that ever happened, and it was a turning point in my writing career! Unlike many authors, I love marketing and advertising, and the freedom to discount the books, or offer them free, turned the tide. The books took off, and I was able to retire from my full-time paralegal position in August 2014 to write full-time.

Wow! That's awesome. I think that's really inspiring that you headed out on that path.What advice do you have for a person who may be thinking of writing a book?

Write, write, and keep writing. Get your story down on paper. You can edit it later. Keep the ideas flowing and pound that baby out. One thing I always do when I sit down to write? Pray and ask the Lord for guidance. I’ve been blessed in never once suffering from that dreaded “writer’s block.”

Great advice! What do you love best about writing?

The creativity. There’s nothing I love more than sitting down and seeing where the Lord and my imagination will lead. I’m a dedicated seat-of-the-pants author. Outlines absolutely stifle me. I love writing twists and surprises into my books, but when I first begin writing, I have no idea what will happen to my characters. Without a set plan, I have the freedom to take the journey with them, and I believe that lends immediacy and a “you are there” element to my stories.

That's so cool! You just described the way I approach writing, too. Isn't it fun?  :)
So, what is your least favorite aspect of being a writer?

The fact that I need to stop sometimes to sleep. I’m most creative in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve always been a night owl, but I need to force myself to go to bed. To be honest, reviews are the real bane of my existence as an author. I’m very sensitive and negative reviews are hurtful. I don’t allow them to discourage me, and I realize they’re inevitable as an effect of my books getting “out there” in the marketplace. On the flip side, it’s that same sensitivity that helps make me a better writer since I feel things deeply and personally.

I think most writers get hurt by negative reviews, but as you say, it's inevitable once  the books get more readers. I too am a real night owl and I love the way those quiet hours when most people are asleep seem to give rise to heightened creativity! 
How do your story ideas come to you?

Real life, newspapers, television, movies, airports, grocery stores—I always keep my eyes and ears open, and I’m an avid people watcher. Awakening is very loosely based on my story with my husband, Jim. Heart’s Design was one of my first stories that I resurrected, dusted off, edited, and released a few years ago. The “germ” of the idea came from an article in the travel section of the Philadelphia Inquirer when we lived there. Second Time Around (Lewis Legacy 2) is based on the same “real life” story of the Christian couple whose story was told onscreen (without the Christian emphasis) in The Vow. Ideas are literally everywhere!

Yes, I agree! 
Do you have a favorite character among all the ones you’ve created?

That’s a tough question for any author, especially for a romance author since it takes two, after all. I can’t name a hero without naming his heroine. However… The core character in my Lewis Legacy Series is Sam Lewis. Since his character is loosely based on my husband (we’ve been married 30 years now), Sam is incredibly special to me, and Awakening is the book of my heart, especially since it was my first published book. Sam’s younger brother, Will, is a NASA shuttle commander (his book is Pursuit, Lewis Legacy 8), and I dearly love his character. That book is truly one I doubt I’ll ever top in terms of…well, everything.

That's so sweet!  
What are you working on now?

I’m releasing Thee Will I Honor, the second book in my three-book Treasured Vow Series, on Memorial Day. Its forerunner, Thee Will I Cherish, released in August of last year. Set in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, this book’s central character, First Lieutenant Matthew Martin, is a wounded Army veteran of two tours of duty in Afghanistan who returns home and struggles to find a new direction and purpose. Strong family ties, humor, romance, mystery, suspense…it’s all there. I believe it’s also one of the most intense and socially relevant books I’ve ever written. I trust my readers will agree!

It sounds wonderful, and I'm sure your readers will agree! You're certainly a prolific and talented writer, and I've really enjoyed this interview. Thanks JoAnn!!
Readers, please leave a comment and you'll have a chance to win some free copies of JoAnn's books!

Here is a short bio of JoAnn, followed by her social links:

JoAnn Durgin is a USA Today Bestselling Author of over 27 contemporary Christian romance novels, including her signature Lewis Legacy Series, The Wondrous Love Series, The Treasured Vow Series, two Christmas series and standalone novels. She was voted by readers of FamilyFiction Magazine as one of the “35 Essential Christian Romance Authors” for 2018. She has also released two novels with the pen name of Julianna Desmond. A former paralegal, JoAnn lives with her family in her native southern Indiana.



Twitter:  JoAnn Durgin@Gr8tReads


Kay Garrett said...

Really enjoyed reading the interview with JoAnn Durgin. Loved the way she took what so many would have thought as a disaster of being without a publisher, took it by the horns so to speak and turned it into a positive things by becoming her own publisher/promoter. It just goes to show that she loves what she does and it definitely shows. Being a "seat of your pants" author and writing "you are there" books is what makes JoAnn's books so desirable.

Thank you for this great opportunity to win two books that I have on my TBR list.
2clowns at arkansas dot net

Library Lady said...

I very much enjoyed reading your interview.
What I would like to know is,
Who is the genius who thinks up the beautiful covers for these books.
Books in my day were just plain & boring on the outside and not attractive at all.
Thanks for entering me in your giveaway.
Janet E.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Thanks so much for the opportunity to be on the fabulous Diamond Mine blog! I'm sorry I'm late to the party because I'm releasing a book on Memorial Day (and it's now 11:27 p.m. the night before!).

I appreciate your kind comments, ladies. Kay, I truly do love writing, and the honor to be able to write for the glory of the Lord is my passion. Library Lady, I created the two Julianna covers. It starts with the "right" photo, and it was very easy since these covers didn't demand any blending or special techniques. I've always had a hand in creating all my covers (as I mentioned in the interview). It's another creative outlet that I dearly love.

Thank you again! I hope you'll have the opportunity to read these two books as well as any of my other books. Blessings to you!


Linda Rainey said...

Such a nice interview,Jo Ann.
I always learn something about one my favorite authors and friends.
Sorry I didn't see the interview sooner.
Yesterday I spent the day with family are dedication of a war memorial in my hometown.

JoAnn Durgin said...

Thank you so much, Linda! Glad you enjoyed the interview. No need for apologies! I'm glad to hear about a new war memorial. That's what's most important, honoring those who have fought for freedom and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Blessings to you, my friend.

Natalya Lakhno said...

Thank you for the interview Nancy and JoAnn!! Enjoyed it :) I’ve recently learned about JoAnn’s second identity lol Love her books! Thank you for your writing ministry and putting God in the center! Blessings!

JoAnn Durgin said...

Hi Natalya! Thank you so much. I appreciate your faithful readership. Blessings!

Natalya Lakhno said...