JoAnn Durgin is one of those people who just make you smile. Her website is full of peeking armadillos, fun facts, and encouragement. I had the joy of interviewing JoAnn, and we bonded over our mutual love of Donny Osmond (can someone play the song Puppy Love?). JoAnn is going to GIVE A BOOK AWAY to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post today before midnight!! So think of some more questions to ask her, and help me make her feel welcome! And don’t miss her drool-worthy recipe at the bottom.
JoAnn, thank you so much for appearing on the blog today. I know you want to share a recipe with us so I’ll keep the questions short!
Jess: I enjoy the fun facts about you on your website so much. Can you share another unique thing about JoAnn Durgin that maybe even your die-hard fans won’t even know?
First of all, thank you for saying die-hard fans. As a new author, not much more is thrilling than holding your book in your hands for the first time and then receiving “fan” mail. I cherish hearing from my readers. Okay, here’s a few more “unique” things: I sleep with a bed rest behind me and five pillows. Now that you understand I’m a weird, eccentric writer type, I also go to the movie theatre sometimes for the sole purpose of buying a big old tub of popcorn—with layered butter. Don’t worry, my heart is just fine! I’ve always been rather starstruck. Showing my age here, but I can say I saw Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton together on the Broadway stage—close enough to be spit on by Richard! I’ve been almost pickpocketed in London, went on an honest-to-goodness date with a handsome Italian while in Rome, been invited to Easter lunch with Conway Twitty, and it goes on and on. I’ve been so blessed—I’ve seen a lot, met some fabulous people, experienced life to the fullest with my wonderful husband, Jim, and our three kids, and oh, I have all kinds of fun things to know and tell. Stay tuned.
Jess: Your debut novel Awakening tells the story of Sam and Lexa as they rebuild homes together in Texas. Can you tell us a little more about their journey and why it’s so dear to your heart?
I love to point out that it’s Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke; it’s a contemporary romantic adventure, after all. Awakening is truly the book of my heart, especially because it’s loosely-based on my love story with Jim. It’s more the characters are based on our personalities. When Lexa talks with such love about her Nana, that is my grandmother. Lexa’s father is somewhat based on my dad, too; while he could be gruff and unemotional, I knew he loved me, and he was fiercely protective. Sam and Lexa come from different family backgrounds and perspectives in faith. She wants to add meaning to her life, and Sam is a summer director for TeamWork Missions, a Christian organization. My tagline for the book says it all: A God-fearing man, a God-seeking woman. For Sam Lewis and Lexa Clarke, it’s a combustible combination. These two share a strong, fiery chemistry. One of my favorite things is to write witty, back-and-forth banter similar to the classic Hepburn and Tracy movies, and I know the humor is a big reason readers are responding to my books in such a positive way.
Jess: On your website in the summary of your second book, Second Time Around, you say that the characters learn that surrendering all at the throne of grace doesn’t mean failure. What a powerful statement. Can you explain what you mean by that?
My hero, Marc Thompson’s greatest fear is failure. The son of an NBA legend, he’s a self-made, powerful man, but felt like he never measured up in the eyes of his father. Marc is passionate in his quest to recapture his wife’s memories and love after a terrible fall. They’ve only been married two months and to complicate matters, Natalie is pregnant. Failure isn’t an option for Marc. His efforts seem to be working until a big monkey wrench is thrown into the equation, rocking Natalie’s trust. Nothing seems to work, and it seems he’s pushing her further away. That’s where Sam and Lexa step in to help them, along with the TeamWork crew. Then, when it seems all might be lost, Marc has an epiphany—in order to keep Natalie, he has to be willing to give up the reins. He can’t do it on his own, and he needs to surrender all to the Lord. It’s not failure, it’s faith, and is the only way to regain everything he’s lost. It’s a powerful lesson, and a beautiful turning point in their story. This book has so many poignant, emotional, humorous and romantic moments.
Jess: You work as a full-time paralegal, part-time at a local arts theater, and have a family. And you write! Basically you’re kind of like superwoman, how do you do it all?
Something finally had to give when I became a published author, so I gave up the job at the theater. I stay in touch with my wonderful volunteer staff, some of whom are my biggest cheerleaders! I’ve always had a lot of energy, and I’m a night owl, which helps. I’m at my most creative at the wee hours of the morning. It also helps that I write very quickly; I wrote the original version of Awakening in less than two weeks, and Second Time Around in little more than a month. The entire series is written, just waiting to be edited…with another series right behind it, and a few stand-alone books. These stories just flow out of me, and I can honestly say they’re God-given and I’ve never suffered from writer’s block.
Jess: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on your writing journey? Any advice you might offer to those unpublished writers out there trying to break into the business?
Two things made the difference for me: (1) write the point-of-view from the perspective of the character who has the most to lose—makes the writing much more compelling; and (2) join a writer’s organization, whether national, local or both. I learned so much, so fast by joining the American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m also the girl who didn’t take no for an answer. Pray, write the book of your heart, pray, spend quality time polishing it, pray, do your part to get it in front of agents or publishers, pray, and then see how the Lord can work!
Jess: Okay, girltalk. I saw you used to have a crush on Donny Osmond. I fell hard after seeing him in Joseph and the Amazing Dream Coat, what did it for you?
I’m the same age as Donny, and I appreciate how he’s had a fully-rounded career yet stayed true to his values and family. Okay, don’t laugh, but one of the best dreams of my life starred yours truly and Donny. I met him at summer camp, and we shared a tender little kiss under a tree. I think I was 13 at the time. Obviously, it was vivid for me to still remember it. I had his albums (both solo and with The Osmond Brothers). I actually did meet his younger brother, Jimmy, and their mother, Olive, in an ice cream parlor in Louisville once when I was their waitress. I worked there all of a week (that’s another thing–I am a horrible waitress!), and yet I waited on them. Go figure. I saw them in concert several times (in their white satin jumpsuit era). I loved it when Donny won Dancing with the Stars! Want to know something funny? I still have some of my old Fave and Tiger Beat magazines with Donny plastered on the covers. Those articles are hysterical!
Jess: You said that peaches have a tie-in to your book Awakening. Can you share a favorite recipe with us?
Sam Lewis loves peaches. It’s mentioned in Awakening, but becomes much more apparent as the series progresses. If you read the section on my website, And the Man Said Peaches, you will see how the Lord used that specific word (peaches) in my life, and how significant it was on my journey to publication. Amazing.
Here’s a real favorite recipe in my family, and I’m sure Sam Lewis would absolutely love it: Peaches and Cream Pie
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 (3 ounce) package non-instant vanilla pudding mix
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 (29 ounce) can sliced peaches, drained and syrup reserved
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease sides and bottom of a 10 inch deep-dish pie pan.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder and pudding mix. Mix in butter, egg and milk. Beat for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into pie pan. Arrange the peach slices on top of the pudding mixture.
- In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons reserved peach syrup. Beat for 2 minutes. Spoon mixture over peaches to within 1 inch of pan edge. Mix together 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and sprinkle over top.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Chill before serving.
JoAnn Durgin is the author of the popular contemporary romantic adventures, Awakening, and its follow-up, Second Time Around, published by Torn Veil Books. Her third book in the series, Twin Hearts, releases in March 2012. JoAnn, her husband, Jim, and their three children live in her native southern Indiana after living in TX, CA, PA and MA. She likes to say she’s “been around in the nicest sense of the word.” She’s a full-time wealth administration paralegal in a Louisville, Kentucky, law firm, and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Her books are available at every major online book retailer such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both in paperback and electronic versions. Please visit her at http://www.joanndurgin.com/ or on Facebook.