Monday, November 14, 2016

Interview with JoAnn Durgin, author of By Grace Draw Near

Autumn season greetings to all of you, my wonderful blog readers! Today, we're going to learn more about this book:

By Grace Draw Near
is a contemporary Christian romance celebrating love, community, faith, and God’s abundant grace. It's written by JoAnn Durgin, a bestselling author. 

Here is the blurb for JoAnn's book: Eric Masterson never expected to be promoted from cyclist to an executive position in his friend Sawyer Mancini’s successful pedicab business. His new job includes scouting out locations in Indianapolis and introduces him to many people with inspiring stories. One of the more fascinating individuals is beautiful Grace Warner, the owner of a downtown art gallery. She demonstrates compassion for others, interprets for the deaf in her church, and seems willing to help everyone else. So why won’t she give him the time of day?

Grace Warner doesn’t know how many ways she can turn down the pedicab executive. No matter how handsome and appealing he is, she knows it’s best to ignore the man’s charms. While drawn to Eric, she can’t seem to get past their brief but memorable meeting a few years prior—a time when they both lived a much different, freer lifestyle. Although he seems a changed man and shares her faith in Jesus, Grace is determined not to remind Eric even as he seems equally persistent in wearing down her resistance.

Can these two find a common ground or are they destined to go in opposite directions?

JoAnn visits the blog today to talk about her new novel, which you can buy on Amazon. She's also giving away one digital copy of By Grace Draw Near! Enter the book giveaway contest by filling out the Rafflecopter widget below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enjoy the author interview! 

Interview with JoAnn Durgin, author of By Grace Draw Near:

Alexis: Tell us about the inspiration behind your novel’s title.

JoAnn: By Grace Draw Near is Book 3 in my Wondrous Love Series. The first is Love So Amazing, the second Love So Divine. Of course, these are lyrics of the well-known hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” For the third installment of the series, I looked at contemporary Christian music artist Chris Tomlin’s lyrics for “The Wonderful Cross,” and it was there that I found the phrase “by grace, draw near.” Since my heroine’s first name, Grace, was already established in the second book, it made perfect sense. I love “God winks” like that!

Alexis: Describe your hero Eric Masterson. Touch on his looks, personality, strengths, character flaws and life goals.

JoAnn: Eric is a multi-faceted guy. As a kid, he was ridiculed because of his bright red hair, so his “retaliation” was to become the class clown. In high school, he joined the wrestling team, bulked up, and enjoyed athletic success. He couldn’t afford to go to college, but he was ambitious and did well. I won’t go into detail or it would be a spoiler. He was affable, and fun-loving, but at one low point in his life, alcohol addiction consumed him and he lived a much freer lifestyle. With the help of AA and a friend named Ben Hawkins, Eric overcame his addiction. Those events paved the way for him to take a job with Mancini Pedicabs, and it was his boss and friend, Sawyer Mancini (see below), who led him to the Lord. In the past, Eric felt as though he’d always be that little kid trying to prove himself good enough, but in Christ he finds his worth and true identity. And now, he’s ready for love. When he gets to know Grace Warner, he senses the strong attraction between them but can’t figure out why she seems intent on keeping him at arm’s length. Have they met before? As Eric seeks to find answers to his questions, he prays he won’t push Grace further away in the process.

Alexis: How did Eric get in business with his friend Sawyer Mancini? Does Eric like his job? Why or why not?

JoAnn: After Eric began attending AA, Sawyer Mancini and Chase Landers (a young youth pastor in Indy and the hero of Book 2 in the series) visit one of the meetings (they’re there for reasons explained in the second book). Sawyer talked with Eric that evening. Impressed by him, and wanting to help, Sawyer promised him a job with his pedicab company if Eric could stay sober for at least six months. Eric stays sober for eight months and then contacts Sawyer. As By Grace Draw Near begins, Eric has worked for Sawyer a number of years. He is Sawyer’s most long-term employee, and Sawyer had promoted him to an executive position the year before. As a “people person,” Eric thrived on being a pedicab operator as well as in his new position which gets him out and about in the Arts Square community of downtown Indianapolis.

Alexis: How does Eric’s job promotion lead him to the heroine Grace Warner?

JoAnn: Part of Eric’s new position is to scout out new locations to operate the pedicab service in Indianapolis. However, Eric is an enterprising guy, and what actually brings him into Grace Warner’s art gallery is a new joint venture he’s proposing to business owners and merchants in the Arts Square. 

Alexis: Why did you make Grace the owner of an art gallery? What does her career say about her personality and business sense?

JoAnn: I thought an art gallery owner would be an interesting occupation for my heroine, and she was introduced as such in Book 2 of the series when she showed the work of a promising student in the young pastor’s youth group. Grace attended a prestigious business school in Chicago and, as the daughter of an accountant, she has a keen mind for business. She’s also very fashionable and stylish...but, as she tells a young girl, she can barely draw a stick figure. Grace goes on to say that those who can’t show the works of other artists. Grace can be reserved and quiet, but as Eric (and the reader) gets to know her better, more facets of her personality are slowly uncovered. She’s been wounded in the past, but like Eric, she’s risen above her circumstances.

Alexis: What is it about Eric that makes Grace refuse to give him the “time of day”?

JoAnn: The only way to answer that question without giving away a major spoiler is to say that Grace and Eric met briefly six years prior to the events in this story. Grace remembers their meeting but believes Eric does not (it was during the time when he was drinking quite heavily). Suffice it to say their first meeting was embarrassing for her, and she’s not about to remind Eric. He senses they must have met before and it drives him crazy trying to figure out what might have happened.

Alexis: What is it about Grace that keeps Eric persistent in asking her out, despite her multiple rejections?

JoAnn: Eric has half-fallen in love with Grace since coming into her gallery on occasion to deliver things to her from Sawyer (Grace and Sawyer serve on the Arts Square Board together) as well as propose the joint venture to her as a business owner. She embodies all the qualities Eric has been looking for in a woman since becoming a Christian. He feels that he and Grace would be good together…if only she will see him for the man he is in spite of his checkered past. But first he has to figure out why she tries to avoid him. The Lord plays a hand in this situation (more of those lovely “God winks”) to unexpectedly bring them together in the same place at the same time for several key scenes.

Alexis: Are Grace and Eric Christ-followers? Give us insight into their walk with God. How does their faith in God impact their story?

JoAnn: Yes, they are both Christians but also fairly new in their faith. As expressed in the story, we should always be learning and growing in our faith. Neither grew up in a Christian home, but Grace had relatives who were strong Christians, including a beloved young cousin who died in the war in Afghanistan. His death had a tremendous impact on her, and she was aware his prayer was that she also come to know Christ as her personal Savior. I’ve already mentioned Eric’s path to the Lord. As expressed in the story, sometimes our journey to faith is made possible by several individuals working behind the scenes in order to bring about His perfect will for our lives. I love that!

Alexis: In what ways does your book celebrate “love, community, faith, and God’s abundant grace” (as it says in your book’s blurb)?

JoAnn: The book is first and foremost a love story—the love of the heavenly Father for us if we only embrace and accept His love through faith in Jesus Christ. His love extends to all. It is also a love story between a wounded man and a hurting woman. As always, I sprinkle my story with Scriptures and biblical principles, and I like to believe I weave them into the story intrinsically so they’re a natural part of the story. I like to make readers think about their own lives and perhaps glean a truth to take with them when they finish one of my books. I also love to build a sense of community with secondary characters and the settings in my books, and the Arts Square community in Indy in By Grace Draw Near is like a small town within a larger city.

Alexis: If you could spend one hour with one of the characters from your book, who would you spend that time with and what would you do? Why?

JoAnn: Eric is so much fun and would be a blast to be around. Grace is likewise fun, but Eric embraces life with such enthusiasm and joy. He also tells it like it is. If you have a problem, he’s the kind of man who’d like to reason through it with you. He’s a true friend. Oh, how I’d love to have Eric pedal me around the Arts Square (although it’s fictional) in Indy!

Alexis: Why did you choose Indianapolis for the setting of your book?

JoAnn: I am a native Hoosier although I’ve lived all over this great country. I knew one day I would set a novel (or a book series) in Indiana. When I was in Indianapolis for my first American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2010, my roommate and I took a pedicab ride. That’s where the seed was planted for this series based around a pedicab company. I thought it was a unique occupation, and I’d certainly never read about a hero who pedaled for a living!

Alexis: What lesson do you want your readers to learn from this story?

JoAnn: There’s no sin too great that our great God can’t forgive. Both my hero and heroine have issues with forgiveness and sinful behavior in their pasts. Another lesson is that things are often not as they seem, and we should be careful not to judge or assume things about others.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, JoAnn! Do you have any closing thoughts?

JoAnn: Thank you so much for hosting me and giving me the opportunity to introduce your readers to my Wondrous Love Series! Readers can contact me through my Author JoAnn Durgin page on Facebook or via my website at

Author bio: 
JoAnn Durgin is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the beloved Lewis Legacy Series as well as Prelude, the prequel to the series. Her other works include the Amazon bestselling Catching SerenityHeart’s Design and its sequel, Gentle Like the RainLove So Amazing and Love So Divine (The Wondrous Love Series, Books 1 and 2), Echoes of EdinburghPerchance to DreamWhisper to My Heart, and the popular Starlight Christmas Series.

A former estate administration paralegal, JoAnn now writes contemporary Christian romance full-time and lives with her family in her native southern Indiana. 

Writing Christian fiction is her passion, and JoAnn loves nothing more than sharing the hope to be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.


  1. Fun interview, and I enjoyed getting a peek at more of the backstory for JoAnn's books. Thank you! I already bought By Grace Draw Near, so won't enter the contest.

    1. Hi Kathleen! I'm happy that you liked JoAnn's interview! :) Thanks for visiting my blog. Take care and God bless you! *Jeremiah 29:11*

    2. Thank you, Kathleen! I so much appreciate your reading the blog and learning more about my characters and their story. I loved your review of By Grace Draw Near. Blessings! :)

  2. Thanks for hosting me on your wonderful blog, Alexis! I appreciate the opportunity to tell readers (and potential new readers) about my books! Blessings.

    1. You're welcome, JoAnn. Happy to host you on my blog and to tell my readers about your wonderful books! :)

  3. I love reading your books and would love to win this one!

    1. Dear Beth,
      I am so happy to hear that you enjoy reading JoAnn's books!
      Did you fill out the form on the Rafflecopter widget and leave your e-mail address? It's the only way that you have a chance to win JoAnn's book, "By Grace Draw Near."

    2. Beth, I sent you a message to enter the Rafflecopter. I hope you'll have the opportunity to read Eric and Grace's story soon! Many blessings to you and thank you for being such a faithful reader!

  4. Enjoyed JoAnn's interview. I have read and loved By Grace Draw Near.

    1. Thank you so much for being one of my most faithful readers, Ann! I appreciate your kind comments about By Grace Draw Near. Blessings!

  5. Thank you very much for a great interview! I enjoy reading books by JoAnn's Durgin and I already bought By Grace Draw Near. I love the message of forgiveness, and it was great to learn more about the characters.

    1. Hi Alexa! Thank you so much for getting By Grace Draw Near. I hope you enjoy the story. Many blessings to you! :)

  6. I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I wanted to thank you for this great article.

    1. Thank you, Binasa! I hope you'll have the opportunity to read Grace and Eric's story. Many blessings to you.

  7. Great interview! I love hearing about the God wink :)

    1. Thank you, Carrie! I hope you'll be able to read about Eric and Grace sometime soon. Blessings to you, especially during this Thanksgiving week. :)

  8. I liked that you pointed everything back to God. His love story with us is the best.


  9. Hi Sonnetta! I try to always point everything to God in my stories. They are love stories not only between a man and a woman but of the love from our heavenly Father. I hope you'll have the opportunity to read By Grace Draw Near. Thank you so much for commenting! Blessings.