Today I’m interviewing Janell Butler Wojtowicz, the author of Embracing Hope. Welcome Janell!
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I’m a concrete sequential personality, which means I prefer regimens. I like my desk organized; all emails, phone calls and social media dealt with; devotions finished; the radio tuned to KLOVE; and window coverings open. I deal with interruptions as they come, but if I can bunch them up to take care of all of them at once when I take a break, I’m pleased. Allison, my heroine in “Embracing Hope” is like me in that sense.
How long does it take you to write a book? I’ve only published one book. It took me nine years from typing the first word to launching “Embracing Hope” to the masses in November. I spent practically every evening after work and 4-6 hours Saturdays and Sundays the first two years pounding on the keyboard. Fortunately, my husband didn’t mind; he would ride his moped or watch NASCAR. Life interrupted—job changes/losses, family issues, moving an entire household, publishing apathy. I’d haul the manuscript out when I felt inspired. At one point I didn’t look at it for a year, and when I dared to, I was afraid it would stink. It didn’t! I’ve worked on two sequels. The second one (90% done) has gone a lot faster; the third (50% done) has been written in fits and starts.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I love to walk in the regional park preserve across the street. I usually walk about four miles 4-5 times a week. Walking keeps me sane. I’ve even developed dialogue and scenes for my books on my treks.
Where do you get your ideas for your books? I watched a BBC version of “Jane Eyre” and that night dreamed the beginning, pivotal scene in the middle and the ending of what became “Embracing Hope.” The concept for a sequel came from a friend who teased me about writing a series. It took me just a few minutes to realize who the sequel would be about.
Is there a message in your book you hope readers will relate to? As the title illustrates: Hope. And it’s not the wishful thinking type of hope. It’s tangible. It requires action: goal-setting, taking steps to achieve those goals. In “Embracing Hope” the steps the hero had to take to find hope were mentoring, a gritty missions experience, bravery in a crisis, and forgiveness that seemed impossible. He had to look beyond himself. The result was he gave tangible hope to others, he discovered what God wanted him to do with his life, and he found hope through the love of a strong woman.
What are your future projects? Finish books 2 and 3; develop books 4 and 5, which are just twinkles in my eyes.
What kinds of research do you do for your books? “Embracing Hope” is set on a Christian college campus in Omaha, Nebraska. I attended and worked at a Christian college for a total of 16 years, so my research was based on personal experience. I have family in Omaha who I’ve visited, grew up on a farm, and lived in small rural towns, so the novel’s settings were also experiential. Book 2 took more research (substance abuse treatment centers), but I know a little about treatment centers from my work in higher education and at a Christian inner-city nonprofit. I had to fill in some gaps with internet-based research.
Did you always want to be a writer? Since childhood. I liked writing essays and papers (except for the research aspect of index cards, bibliographies, etc.). It seemed only natural that I’d major in written communication in college. I spent 10 years in community newspaper journalism in Iowa, 12 years in Christian higher education PR, and four years in local government public information. The last seven years I’ve balanced writing novels with freelance writing and editing.
Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper. The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?
Twitter – @janellwoj
Author Facebook – www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj