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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Weeds or Wishes with Mary Manners

" The Small Town"

 Life Made for Heaven

Howdy, folks and welcome back to the Diamond Mine for another week of exciting chatter about Christian Fiction. I'd like you to meet a fabulous new friend of mine, Mary Manners. She hails from the beautiful state of Tennessee. In addition to being an awesome writer, she's a generous soul and offered an e-book of her latest release, Promises Renewed in exchange for a few healthy comments. Check out the giveaway details after the interview! How about we get this show on the road?


Renee: Mary, are you ready?

Mary: Yep, thanks so much for hosting me today. I am thrilled to be here!

Renee: Thanks for stopping by the Mine on this glorious day. I was trying to think about what to ask you first. Writing, playing, then I thought about how I tried to write today and  I couldn't bring myself to do it. It was absolutely gorgeous outside. (Not that I could do a whole lot about it, mind you, but still...) The point is that I could not, for the life of me, concentrate on the computer, much less make sense of the words on it! Not with the warm sun shining all around me. What is your biggest challenge as an author, Mary?

Mary: That would be tough. As for me, my biggest challenge as an author is keeping my cat Colby out of my chair! No, really…protecting my writing time is a challenge. With a dog, two cats, 12 chickens, 13 fish, and a husband, there is always something that needs attention. It takes creativity to adapt to the daily challenges, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Renee: Wow. That would be tough. I don't know if I would be able to keep track of that many animals! Plus a husband? Maybe you could teach me about chickens? I want to have chickens one day. Hey, stop the snickering out there! I can hear y'all! As much as I can hear the amount of work and dedication all of this takes, I can also hear the joy in your answer. What is it about your job or jobs that you like the most? Is there anything you dislike?

Mary: How long do you have? I'm just kidding! Truly? I love the freedom. I don’t have to leave my house and battle rush hour traffic every day. I can (and sometimes do) work in my pajamas. And I can drink coffee all day long. I am my toughest boss, as I really push myself on projects. I love receiving emails from readers…so encouraging! The only thing I dislike about my ‘job’ is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to write all of the stories that are waiting to be told.

Renee: Oh, Mary, I love the way you talk about it. I know you are so grateful to have your life. As I'm sure you are aware, many, many authors dream of such. You are blessed. What is it about your home that is unique?

Mary: I grew up in Chicago but relocated to East Tennessee in my early twenties. I love the scenery of the Smoky Mountains and the small town setting, so that’s where most of my stories take place. It works for me, and readers seem to love it as well.

Renee: Ah! So that's where the small town comes from. I love the Smoky Mountains. I've only been there a time or two but I'll never forget it. I want to visit them again. They are special. What do you like to do when you aren't writing? Do you have any hobbies or anything?

Mary: Of course, I love to read (all writers should do their ‘research’). I also run marathons (a nice balance to the time sitting at my desk) and enjoy mowing the lawn and antiquing. My husband and I are closet pickers!

Renee: How fun! I grew up antiquing with my mom. Marathons, uh, no, but I love to check out auctions. They are cool. Not that I have the money to buy anything but they're still fun! I'm into fun. Speaking of that, if you could spend a week anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Mary: I would love to go out west to Montana or Wyoming and spend a week on a ranch. It is on my bucket list. I am a country girl at heart and love the outdoors.

Renee: Really? Well, I don't know about Montana, but there are some awesome ranches here in Wyoming. It depends on what kind of experience you want...fancy, dude-ish, down-home...Wyoming has it all and everywhere. Uh, except people. We don't have a lot those. More cows are wandering around than people. But you know how that is, right? You're outnumbered at your place!

Mary: (laughing) That is very true. But even with my gaggle of pets—my dog named Axel, two cats named Colby and Jax, 12 chickens (all named, of course), and 13 fish, I am trying to talk my husband into a potbellied pig, but so far no luck. Stay tuned, though…

Renee: Believe it or not, I've seen some pigs around here. No matter where you're from,  Tennessee or Chicago, I think you'd be right at home in Wyoming. I guess we'd better rap this thing up, but before we move on to the giveaway, is there a particular quote or saying that comes to mind during times of need or adversity that you can share with our readers?

Mary: “When you look at a field of dandelions you either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes…” Author Unknown. I see the wishes.

Renee: Mary, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today at the Diamond Mine. You are a blessing to Christian Fiction and I am honored to know you.

Mary: I appreciate you inviting me, Renee. To the readers, thanks so much for joining us today. I am always happy to hear from you, my reader friends. I’d love to give away an ecopy of my latest release, Promises Renewed.



Comment below (on blog) to enter giveaway!
(Leave your name and email with comment to validate entry)

One winner selected by random draw on 5/23/18 from valid entries and notified via email. Prize will be awarded by Mary Manners via email within 15 days of selection and includes one e-copy version of Promises Renewed.


About the Book:

A heartbreaking secret stands between Brianna and Jackson, and she plans to keep it that way...
When Brianna Caufield hosts an online auction to raise money for her fledgling youth center, the last thing she expects is to be matched for a date with Jackson Reed. Lured by the fame of an NFL career, the hometown hero and all-star quarterback broke off their engagement without so much as a backward glance. Now, washed-up and wiser, Jack’s come home with renewed faith and a changed heart—and he wants Brianna back. 
No matter how much she still cares for Jackson, Brianna knows the secret she harbors will destroy any chance of a future together. Can Jack find a way to coax the secret to the surface? And if he does, will forgiveness draw them closer together…or will their love be shattered forever?

About the Author:

Mary Manners is a country girl at heart who has spent a lifetime sharing her joy of writing. She has two sons, a daughter, and three beautiful grandchildren. She lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and their rescue dog Axel, two rescue cats, Colby and Jax, 12 chickens and 13 fish.
Mary writes stories full of faith and hope. Her books have earned multiple accolades including two Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, the Aspen Gold, the Heart of Excellence, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.
Mary loves long sunrise runs, Smoky Mountain sunsets, and flavored coffee. She enjoys connecting with reader friends through her website:

Your Rough Diamond Miner:

Pharmacist by day, by night and any other time she can spare, Renee Blare writes Christian romantic suspense from her home in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming where she lives with her husband, crazy dog, and ornery cat. She loves to fish, hunt, or pick away on her old guitar…most of the time next to a mountain lake. 
Life is tough, but Renee finds great joy in it by letting the Lord lead her pen and writing about Christians and their exciting journeys. Most of these tales take place in Wyoming, God’s country. She invites you to come along for the ride and discover for yourself what it means for the wild to meet the Forgiven...
You can always find Renee at her website, blog, or on social media where she loves to interact with readers.
Website/Blog: Wyoming Walkabouts