Welcome to Untamed Publishing's Author Interviews! As a company that caters to the self-published author, we want to highlight and support indie authors. There is a vast array of talent amongst us, and here's the opportunity to connect the readers to their next favorite author!
This interview features, Author Janell Butler Wojtowicz. Let's learn to embrace the beauty of love and hope through Janell's words!
Hi Janell! Welcome to the UP HOT SEAT! Before we begin, please tell us a little about yourself.
I will always consider myself a farm girl as I was born and raised in Iowa. My writing side emerged when I become one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. I wrote short stories just for my amusement as a youth. I attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in Written Communication/Journalism. I returned to Iowa where I worked as a reporter/editor at three small town newspapers for 10 years.
I left the small town rural Iowa life when I married, Frank, a family friend, who lived in Minneapolis. (By the way, my Polish last name is pronounced “Why-tow-vitch.) I worked in public relations at my alma mater; at Leadership Foundations, a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city Christian ministries; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Today, I own a freelance service, A Portrait in Words, and am a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
Frank and I live in New Brighton, Minnesota, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. I have two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law, and three step-granddaughters.
Super impressive! With everything that you have on your plate, why did you make the decision to become a published author?
I never set out to write a novel as I was busy with my career. But the night after watching a BBC version of “Jane Eyre” 10 years ago, I dreamed the beginning, pivotal scene in the middle, and the ending of what became “Embracing Hope.” The next day the dream was so vivid I began writing furiously. I had written a family memoir years before that I didn’t finish or pitch, but this time I thought I had a chance to publish. As the hope theme developed, I knew the novel had a message beyond a good read. Another precipitating factor in stimulating my desire to write a novel was the job I had at the time stifled my creativity and it had to eke out somehow.
What genres do you write or wish to write?
I write contemporary Christian romance fiction
Okay so let's dive right into your work. Tell us about your current book project.
“Embracing Hope” is my debut novel launched in November 2016. There are sequels; one is 90 percent complete; the third is 50 percent complete; the next two are twinkles in my eye. While marketing the debut novel, I’ve been tweaking the second.
What is your upcoming project about? When will it be released?
The first sequel is about the bad boy of the first novel. It’s a story of redemption and renewal. I hope it will be published in a year, but I’ve been focusing most of my time on marketing the debut novel.
Ooh, I'm just as ready to read the second release as I am to read the first. I mean, who doesn't love a good bad boy in their novels? Speaking of your writing style, what makes your writing stand apart from other authors?
I’ve been told my dialogue is strong in that it’s emotional yet realistic. I prefer dialogue and action, and like to put thoughts into action. Also, when writing romance, I’m a believer that love doesn’t develop quickly with boy meeting girl, problems encountered and solved, faith renewed, and the couple married all within six months. I’ve read several novels when the couple was engaged/married in less than three months, which is not realistic (nor recommended by relationship experts). My plot covers 16 months with the wedding (in the epilogue) six months later. I want readers to relate to the story, and the time span and resulting character development is a big part of that. The sequel spans five months, but the epilogue implies the marriage takes place a year later because the couple decides to start over in building their relationship.
What are some of your other aspirations for your writing career?
While I’d like to be a full-time author launching books every 12-16 months, I enjoy my freelance work, which is writing blogs for a marketing firm, editing projects for a Christian nonprofit, and fun one-time projects. They keep my writing diverse and give me ideas for fiction.
Now let's learn a little more about Janell, the author. When it comes to writing, are you a morning person or a night owl?
When I began the novel I had a full-time job so I wrote at night, right after supper until 9 p.m. Since working as a freelance writer/editor, I have time during the day, too, but I still prefer the evenings when the day’s pace has slowed down.
Tell us a unique writing habit that you have.
I’m a concrete sequential so I need everything in order in my home office, in the mechanics of the manuscript, and in my routine before I can focus on the content. I go nuts when margins, fonts and font sizes aren’t consistent. Part of that obsession comes from my years in journalism when I worked with tight deadlines, page layouts and the need for graphic precision.
If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it? Why?
“Once a farm girl, always a farm girl.” Spending 31 years in farming communities then adjusting to city life was a stretch for me even though I went to college in the same city where I now live. The book would offer advice and anecdotes with a bit of humor to make the transition easier for others.
Would you like to collaborate with other authors on a book project?
No, I guess I’m a Lone Wolf.
There's nothing wrong with being the Lone Wolf. Sometimes you just need to release "your voice" to the world. Completely understandable. Now let's get to know a little about you, aside from writing. Outside of writing, what are your favorite past times?
Walking. I live across the street from a park that features trails, an island, natural woodland, prairie and three lakes. (I live in Minnesota, so lakes are a given.) It’s a wooded oasis in the midst of a major metropolitan area. It’s also a popular site for weddings so it’s nice to hang on the fringes of the ceremonies.
Tell us one thing about you that is a little known fact.
I sucked my thumb, on the sly, until second grade. (Blush!) Apparently I was insecure.
Name your top 5 favorite books by indie authors. Why are they your faves?
“Lifelines” by Eleanor Bertin. We were critique partners and reading her book was a stretch for my sensibilities and intellect, but I needed that stretch. She brilliantly married evolution with pro-life issues in the novel.
“Dance of Grace” by Stacy Monson, my first critique partner. Aside from the unique plot about a disabled dancer and redeemed gang-member, I loved the book because I could relate to the setting (Minneapolis) and easily put myself on the sidelines of the action. It focused on an inner-city ministry, and since I have worked with such a ministry both professionally and in my writing I understood the dynamics.
“Entrusted” and “Engaged” by Julie Arduini. I loved “Entrusted” for how it partnered the characters of young love with the lives (and antics) of senior citizens. I pictured my 84-year-old mom at the senior center and even inserted her into my own cast of characters. I’m now reading “Engaged.” This is set against the backdrop of a small town department store that is pleasingly reminiscent of a department store from my youth. In fact, I picture that store as I read the book.
“Icing” by Debra Sue Brice. I was drawn to the book as it features two of my favorites: icing-slathered cupcakes and ice hockey. It was an adorable book of young love complemented by fresh writing by a young author. It made me wish I was 30 years younger and knew how to ice skate!
Before we go, let's talk about some industry tips for the new or upcoming authors. What is one lesson you’ve learned since becoming a published author?
I’ll be blunt: I hate marketing. That feeling surprised me after working in PR for so many years. But PR is different than marketing, and both have changed dramatically in just the last five years. I’ve learned (or tried to learn) to adapt to the break-neck speed and intensity of social media.
What is one myth about being a published author that you learned and would like to share?
You can write, pitch and publish a novel (especially your first) in a couple of years. HA! Try nine years!
Janell, it was a pleasure to interview you, and we look forward to your future works!
Please connect with the author and check out her book, "Embracing Hope".
Janell Butler Wojtowicz
Social Media and Website Connections
Twitter - @janellwoj
Author Facebook - www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj
Blog - http://janellwoj.wordpress.com
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Hope-Janell-Butler-Wojtowicz/dp/1988422043/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1505519896&sr=1-1
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/682248
Barnes Noble Nook - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/embracing-hope-janell-butler-wojtowicz/1125151446?ean=2940153857114
Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/embracing-hope-1
About Embracing Hope
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?
Excerpt from “Embracing Hope”
When Drew got back to his condo after breakfast with Mitch, he took recycling bins from the garage and headed straight for his office. He pulled open the top drawer of the filing cabinet, labeled “Dissertation,” removed all the folders and tossed everything in a bin with a satisfying thump. He turned on the TV for company and for the next several hours sorted through files and books, occasionally reading, mostly shredding. Taking the framed photo from the bookshelf, he wrapped the UConn afghan around it and placed it carefully in his briefcase. Sitting down at the computer, he composed a new email.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve as Dean of Students at Riley University. Riley is an outstanding university devoted to its students and committed to serving God. It’s been a privilege to work here.
However, it is in the best interests of the university and its students that I resign the position of Dean of Students, effective immediately. I will contact Human Resources upon your acceptance of my resignation to complete the necessary exit procedures.
Without hesitation, Drew hit “Send.”
He looked up a phone number on his contact list. “Ed, this is Drew McKinley. Could you give me a call as soon as you can? I need to put the condo up for sale.”
Next he went online and checked flights to Hartford. He frowned at the airfare, but booked a one-way ticket for eleven the next morning. He perused the online career section of the Chronicle of Higher Education and made notes.
Going into his bedroom, Drew hauled out a suitcase from the back of the closet and laid it on the unmade bed. He pulled out clothes from the bureau, placed them in the suitcase and stuffed a couple of suits in a garment bag. The bottle of pills on the bed stand caught his eye. He poured out two, then two more, and swallowed all four without water. Closing and moving the suitcase to the floor, he lay on the crumpled linens. He glanced at the clock: 2:38. Closing his eyes, he let the memories—bittersweet as they were—engulf him.
He saw his preschool teacher leading him to his little desk as his mother lingered in the doorway.
He saw himself as an eight-year-old on his knees next to the bed asking Jesus into his heart.
He saw his mother taking a picture of him in his high school cap and gown.
He saw Kendra grinning across the table in the student union, a dollop of whipped cream from the latte on her nose.
He saw her floating down the aisle on her father’s arm.
He saw Tony behind his desk, interviewing him on a sunny, spring day.
He saw him and Kendra kissing in the gazebo during orientation.
He saw the white casket being put inside the white hearse.
He saw Allison at the Christmas party in the sparkly green dress.
He saw her with Eliza nestled in her arms.
He saw the red car with the bashed-in rear fender in the ramp.
The shrill squeal of the phone sliced through his ears, a crack of thunder shook his bed, and Drew bolted upright in the darkened room. The red numbers of the clock glowed 9:12. He leaped out of bed, but when he stood his legs buckled, and he fell over the suitcase onto the floor. The phone screamed at him again. Like a flood, the dream from the bus rushed back: the storm … the ramp … the exit sign … footsteps … Allison!