Interview with suspense novelist Jeff LeJeune

My special guest today is author Jeff LeJeune. We’re chatting about
his Christian suspense novel Postmarked
Baltimore.
Bio:
Jeff
LeJeune was born among the sugarcane fields of Jeanerette, LA and attended
Hanson Memorial High School nearby in Franklin. While studying at McNeese State
University, a deadly bacterial disease rocked his spiritual world and continues
to haunt him in indirect ways to this day. For ten years he taught and coached
at the high school level in Lake Charles and Austin, and he is now writing
books and pursuing a Master’s Degree in English at the University of
Louisiana-Lafayette.
Welcome, Jeff. Please tell us about your current release.
Author Jeff LeJeune’s
early-life struggle with religion and love is at the forefront of this tragic
yet beautiful story. Perry Burns, a beloved Catholic priest, is rocked by a
letter he receives from Noelle Rose, his lover in a former life. Perry is
tormented by regret and the sacrifices he has made for God, and both his
conscience and a mysterious stranger practically force him into the trip down
memory lane that will stir up every thought and feeling he has worked so hard
to repress. Heaven and hell are on the line, and once again, Perry must choose.
What inspired you to write this book?
I
wrote this at a time in my life filled with confusion and spiritual turmoil. I
felt, at the same time and depending on my mood, the very best of men out there
and the very worst of sinners. This internal war stemmed from a cacophonous
combination of things, but really it all boiled down to my lacking the
emotional intelligence to trust God’s love and commit myself to the love of
another.
That
said, I began at the same time a love story entitled The Candlewax Romance and a play called A Gentleman Named Lucifer. These works would, respectively, explore
the two central conflicts inside me. Eventually, however, the two stories
converged, and I combined the initial writings of each into a new project
called Postmarked Baltimore, begun in
2006. The story explores the dynamics of love and faith in a way especially
relevant to the inner struggles I’ve experienced.
Excerpt from Postmarked
Baltimore
:
June, 1974.
They’d
planned to go to a 1920s theme party even before Perry’s anger began creeping
back into the relationship and exploded over important Joe things like Joe
Namath and Joe Thomas. She’d forgiven him, of course, because she loved him and
had long committed to him in the till
death do us part
way. If there was one thing Perry did not do, it was
manipulate her kindness, or not consciously anyway. He knew he could, but it
wasn’t one of the hundred vices to scratch off his bucket list.
He’d
been sincerely apologetic and had talked to Noelle about Willie Spikes and
Jenny the Waitress. His hard bones seemed to splinter like broken glass and he
fell into the chair in the middle of the apology. She smoothed out the rough
edges yet again. Getting it out and hearing her soothing words was like the
soothing medicine Phoenix Jackson goes to retrieve for her grandson. She talked
to him about some research she’d been doing on a mental illness he might have.
He would be glad to go to a doctor, he told her. Just the mere fact that she
said “mental illness,” thereby assessing him as mad, without setting him off
into a rage showed him something. It showed him he was improving because once
upon a time an assertion like that would have looked more like an accusation to
him.
And you would have unleashed holy hell on her, wouldn’t
you have, Teacher.
The
fight was behind them now, or at least it was for Noelle. They played the 1920s
part from the shoes all the way up to the hair. Perry was handsome, no doubt,
but it was Noelle who stole the eyes of everyone when she walked in. He had to
admit that he’d never seen her more beautiful. He didn’t want to say it, but
she even looked different, like a completely separate woman all-together. Yet
it was still undeniably her.
A local
musician was on the stage, playing a light tune on the piano. Perry led her to
a table near it, and they ordered drinks. They had to sit close to each other
to hear above the music.
“I hope
I make you happy,” she said.
“You’re
my breath,” he said.
“Will
you love me when I get pregnant and fat?”
“Yes.”
“Will
you love me when I’m tired from taking care of the kids and can’t love you like
I want?”
“Yes.”
“I like
the name Ellen for a girl.”
“Me
too.”
“What about
our son?”
“Patrick,”
he said after a pause.
“Think
we’ll have more?”
“Doesn’t
matter. As long as I have you.”
“You’re
never getting rid of me.”
“Promise?”
“I
promise,” she said. “You’ve made me such a better person.”
Perry
wondered how this was possible. How could it be that Joan of Arc could learn
anything from the devil? How could the dirt learn anything from the hooves? But
that’s what Noelle did, and that was what separated her from every woman he
ever knew: She didn’t just shake his world up. She transformed galaxies. And
she was a model of humility in doing it.
“You
ever wonder if it’s all just a fairy tale, that we’re gonna wake up one day and
none of it’s real?”
“It’s
real,” he said.
“It’s
beyond me, this love I feel for you,” she continued, slipping into a monologue
to which Perry was well accustomed, but one he’d rarely witnessed with her. She
was truly in another world tonight. Maybe she was a different woman. It made
him appreciate her even more, that with just one trip back to the 1920s she could
emerge even more buoyant than she’d been before. “How you look at me, how you
make love to me. So many go without this. What makes us so special?”
Perry
just squeezed her hand and kissed her on the head. Immediately that didn’t feel
right. The head kiss felt like he was kissing someone below him. And he
certainly wasn’t the hooves. He took her chin and press his lips to the side of
her mouth, avoiding her thick red lipstick.
“Thank
you,” she said.
“Welcome.”
“You
think anybody else is doing this same thing at this very moment?”
“I sure
as hell hope so,” he said.
Even
when their drinks arrived, he didn’t take his eyes off of her. He had that look
on his face she knew. He had something up his sleeve.
“Didn’t
you say you used to sing in high school?”
Yeees…whyyyy?”
Perry
stood and walked toward the stage, toward the piano player.
“Perry,
no!”
Perry
smiled slyly at her right before he whispered something in the pianist’s ear.
Immediately
the pianist transitioned into singing for Noelle, calling her name to the
melody.
Noelle! Oh-ho-ho Noe-hellllle!
Perry
didn’t even look at Noelle as he smiled his way off the stage and back to the
table next to her, which was already occupied by several guests. They loved it,
these strangers privy to one of those rare movie scenes played out in real
life, and their smiles and approval were practically pushing Noelle out of that
chair. He took a sip of his drink, still not looking at her, still with that
playful, brash look on his face.
The
pianist continued to belt away at Noelle’s name, with such soul and conviction
that some of the men in the room started singing along.
Noelle! Oh-ho-ho Noe-hellllle!
Finally
she summoned the courage to stand. A huge round of applause greeted her; a few
men even cat called.
“What
do you wanna play, honey?” the pianist asked.
Noelle
stood nervously in front of the 1920s microphone for a moment. Then she looked
at Perry. Something must have melted inside her then as she watched him lounge
there, drinking his cocktail with his legs crossed. Like a true 1920s
gentleman. Now asserting her space, she walked over to the pianist and
whispered in his ear.
She returned to the microphone to sing
Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable.” Her eyes never left Perry’s, except to close.
And his never left hers. In those five minutes, everything he saw and felt and
everything about life turned crystal clear. He could have seen the splinters in
the wood on the walls if he’d looked. That’s how he felt. He was cognizant of
every spiritual detail in his life, how it reflected the mundane, how it
reflected the romance he shared with her. He felt lighter, like he wasn’t even
sitting in the chair but floating. Watching her was a transcendent experience,
a prayer unlike any Our Father or Glory Be. Every molecule of air was sharper
in clarity.
What he would do just three days later
was the furthest possibility from his mind.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Book II of a Middle School/YA
series entitled 51 and a murder
mystery called Among the Cane Stalks
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing since I was
four or five years old. Back then I wrote simple short stories about good and
evil, angels and demons, and dinosaurs, of all things. I have written in earnest
ever since and have a real love and discipline for seeing books to completion.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do
you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a full time graduate student
working under a fellowship at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. My aim is
to make writing books my sole career, but I am currently making myself hireable
as a teacher and book editor.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I prefer to be among other
people, particularly other creatives, when I write. It’s like the energy fuels
me onward in my own work. The stereotypical image of the author pounding away
at the keyboard all alone in an upstairs loft just doesn’t suit me. The silence
gets to be too loud. Give me a coffee shop full of other people working on
their own interests any day.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An NBA basketball
player
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am an avid sports fan,
especially football, love to cook rich Cajun dishes, and write screenplays.
Links:

Thanks for being here today, Jeff.
Happy writing!

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