Monday, April 11, 2011

Awakening JoAnn Durgin's Muse

JoAnn's New Book
About the novel, Awakening:
Lexa Clarke signs up for a short-term summer assignment in San Antonio with TeamWork Missions, hoping to make a difference in the world. TeamWork director Sam Lewis has a job to do and can't afford to be distracted by the petite, feisty blonde. But when she tumbles into his arms from the top of a house they’re rebuilding, Sam suspects his life will never be the same. A God-fearing man. A God-seeking woman. A combustible combination.

As  an avid reader her entire life, ideas for novels simmered in JoAnn's imagination for years. 

Then, JoAnn Durgin awakened. 

She says: "I was a young, stay-at-home mom in Philly that I tried my hand at penning a novel. I write what I call contemporary Christian romantic adventures. Romance is my first love, but as both a reader and an author, I need more than romance for a novel to be fully-developed and emotionally satisfying. Throw in humor, a spiritual thread throughout, some witty banter, dramatic conflict, a moving plotline with adventure and a hint of intrigue, and you’ve got my kind of book."

And that’s what you get with Awakening.

She continues: "It may be a cliché, but I write what I like to read. Following your passion as a writer does make a better book. One of the most precious things in life is that first blush of love, that rush of adrenaline at a glance, a touch, a kiss… I love the hope and joy to be discovered in an uplifting romance."

JoAnn goes on to tell how this story comes from her own life.

"This particular story is precious because it was written more than a decade ago and loosely parallels my love story with my husband, Jim. A lot of the strength of character, unwavering faith and goodness in Sam Lewis is based on Jim. Some of the feistiness and stubbornness in Lexa Clarke is based on yours truly, but I also choose to believe I share my heroine’s resourcefulness and resilience. Sam and Lexa are uniquely special to me and become my core characters and mentors in a continuing series as they minister to and interact with the volunteers in Sam’s TeamWork Missions organization. The beginning of a series, the adventures of Lewis and Clarke have only just begun."

Crystal: I went on to ask JoAnn a little about her writing. JoAnn, what makes your style of storytelling unique?

I’ve been told I have a fresh, unique voice. I try to infuse my sense of humor into every book, and I especially love getting into the male psyche. I don’t necessarily follow the “three kiss rule” or formula pathway to romance. But that doesn’t mean there’s not conflict or roadblocks along the way to lasting love. I personally feel it’s a greater test of faith and bonds a couple more when they work through issues and confront problems together. I’m a firm believer in happy endings, and tying up loose ends of a story, although sometimes I carry storylines over from one book to another in the series. But each book can certainly stand alone.

I don’t kill major characters. I just can’t do it. Peripheral characters sometimes die (and a few are maimed along the way), but I just can’t kill ‘em unexpectedly and tragically. Although I realize life isn’t always rosy and can seem downright hard and unfair at times, I don’t believe killing beloved characters is something romance readers respond to positively. From a personal perspective, I don’t like it. At least at this early point in my writing career, I want readers to weep tears of joy or because I’ve struck an emotional chord deep inside, but I don’t want them to cry because they’re grieving the loss of a beloved character. Christians can laugh as easily as they can cry.

 Crystal: Where is your dream place to write? And where DO you write?

My dream place to write would be in a villa in the south of France or the Italian Riviera. Okay, snap back to real life. Where I actually write is in the bedroom, and trust me when I say it’s Grand Central Station. The TV is usually on, the kids come and go, my husband goes in and out, and the dog usually meanders in at some point, looking for food and/or affection. I’ll often put on the earphones and zone out and listen to music while I write. 

Fortunately, I’m able to work in the midst of chaos. Perhaps this stems from reading The Iliad and The Odyssey in the snack bar at Ball State with the jukebox playing and pinball machines pinging in the background…and I somehow managed to ace the test! I’m convinced being able to tune out distractions is another gift of the Spirit. 

Crystal: I graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, as well, so I know exactly where that is.  What's one of the oddest things someone has ever said about you?

When I once told someone about all the places I’ve lived and visited, she made the comment, “Wow, you’ve certainly been around.” Given the negative connotations of that statement, I wasn’t pleased, until I realized that yes, I have been around, but in the nicest sense of the word. Now, it’s actually one of my catch phrases when describing myself. By way of explanation – I was born in IN, moved to TX after college, met my husband (a Rhode Island native and student at Dallas Theological Seminary), moved to CA, married in KY, honeymooned in HI, had our first child, moved to PA, had two more children and then moved to MA, then back to IN in late 2005. 

While I have a great appreciation for each place we’ve lived, Kentuckiana (where southern Indiana meets Louisville, KY at the Ohio River) is truly “home in my heart.” Jim and I have always followed where the Lord leads, but in our case, He made it abundantly clear in each instance where He wanted us, and we tried to bloom where we were planted. So, in another important sense, “home in your heart” is so much more than simple geography. 

 Crystal: Do you have any words of wisdom or a note of encouragement for writers striving toward publication?

My best advice is to first pray and commit your words, and your story, to the Lord. He’s your partner and co-author. And then, simply write. Like anything else, practice and experience are invaluable and make you better at the craft. You learn to cut out the extraneous and develop your own unique style. Read other books, especially in your genre. Learn what works and what doesn’t for you as a reader, and that will help you as you write your own stories. Reading your work aloud, especially dialogue, will help you know what sounds natural or stilted. Infuse your characters with personality quirks, mannerisms, words and habits that will make them unique and endear them to the reader. 

Join a crit group, online writing groups and start blogging on a regular basis. But, above all, be passionate about your characters. If you love and care about them, your story will shine, and the characters will jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers. And your work will get the notice of the “right” agent or publisher. If you’re persistent, and keep your focus on sharing the stories the Lord has given you to share, He’ll open the doors of His choosing, in His timing.

Crystal: Where can we find you on the internet?

I’m on Facebook, and messages can also be sent to me via my website at I’d love to hear from you! I regularly blog on Reflections in Hindsight on alternate Wednesdays and Hoosier Ink on the 30th of each month. Thanks so much for letting me share with you today!
JoAnn Durgin, Author of Awakening

More about:
JoAnn Durgin is a full-time paralegal and lives in southern Indiana with her husband, Jim, and their three children. She is a member of the ACFW and its Indiana chapter. Awakening is her debut novel. She was a finalist in the long contemporary romance category of the 2010 RWA/FHL Touched by Love contest, and is a regular blog contributor with Hoosier Ink and Reflections in Hindsight. JoAnn is also an active member of the My Book Therapy Voices where she has won or placed in several of their quarterly Flash Fiction contests. Above all, she loves to share the redeeming love of Christ through her stories. Visit her at She’d love to hear from you.

Awakening is available in paperback and electronic (ebook) versions at the following:


JoAnn Durgin said...

Thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog today, Crystal!

Story and Logic Media Group said...

I enjoyed learning about JoAnn's writing journey.

Christine said...

Sounds like a wonderful story. I too enjoy reading about love, because I love LOVE. Sounds silly, but it's true. And you are so right, a writer must write the kind of books they like to read. Blessings on this work of your hands.

Caroline said...

Great interview. I enjoyed learning about JoAnn's writing experience. Thanks for sharing.

JoAnn Durgin said...

Thanks, everyone. Christine, I'm like you - I LOVE love, and it's not silly at all. I just wish more people (including those of the male persuasion) could admit it with pride. Sharon, great to see you here, and Caroline, I hope you might check out my book. It's a fun adventure set in San Antonio (can't go wrong with Texas!). Blessings.

Wendy said...

Loved the interview with JoAnn. She is a terrific author, story writer and a great person. I am currently reading "Awakening" and recommended it to everybody.


Kathryn Page Camp said...

JoAnn, I'm completely in awe of anyone who can read "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" in a snack bar.

Elaine Marie Cooper said...

I was traveling all day Monday and so just now read this interview. "Awakening" is such an enjoyable read and I always love your fun interviews, JoAnn! It's still hard to imagine anyone writing in chaos! You must really have a gift for tuning out distractions! Can't wait to read your sequel. :-)

Cathy Shouse said...

I enjoyed this interview, Crystal and JoAnn.

I'm wondering if the manuscript that won the 2010 RWA contest is the book "Awakening."

Now for a "few" other questions. :)

Are you working with an agent and how did you find your publisher? Any other contracts in the works?

Crystal Laine said...

Thanks so much for coming by and leaving JoAnn such kind words and comments.

JoAnn, Cathy asks some interesting questions. What say you? :)

Do check JoAnn's links for more information, too!

JoAnn Durgin said...

Cathy, no, Awakening did not win the 2010 RWA/Faith Hope & Love contest. Because it wasn't the story I entered...but so you won't be misled, I came in third out of three. But for my first ever writing competition, I was absolutely thrilled (and went to Orlando for the event). The story I entered was actually one of the books in this series (it starts out with a more intense situation, and I hoped it would get their attention - it did).

And no, I don't have an agent - yet - but the Lord knows. I'm biding my time for now. The second book in the series may be out as early as this summer, and I have another proposal out there.

How I found my publisher? Believe it or not, I was weary of trying to find an agent, so one night, I googled "Small Christian Romance Publishers" and went down the list, checking out each one and sending a query for Awakening here and there. Torn Veil is the first entity to ever request the full manuscript, and well, the rest is history. They're small, but I've been very happy with them. The Lord knew the "right" one for me.

Blessings, everyone!

Lisa Lickel said...

Nice interview, JoAnn, Crystal. It's good to see you about on the Internet world.