purchases via affiliate links offset the cost of this website. thank you!
Hi reader friends! It’s my pleasure to introduce y’all to a new-to-me debut author today! She is sharing some of her favorites, an excerpt from her book, and a giveaway for y’all!
About the Author
Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. It’s no surprise that she has spent her entire 30-year career in writing, including newspaper journalism, Christian higher education and nonprofit public relations, and local government public information. Much of her writing has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel, Embracing Hope.
Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters.
Favorite way to celebrate a holiday
Janell: Christmas Light Displays! I love driving around my neighborhood at night to see the Christmas decorations. Some displays are garish and cheesy, while others are almost sacred in artistry.
My favorite display is a life-size Santa in a sleigh loaded with gifts, two children in snowsuits decorating a nearby evergreen tree, and a smaller scale yet finely detailed nativity scene spotlighted on the porch. Every window in the two-story house is edged with tiny white lights. What’s cute is on
Christmas Day the sleigh is empty.
Beth: Christmas lights are always fun but I’m not sad we don’t put any up 😉
Favorite character type
Janell: Of the three contemporary Christian romance books I’ve written (one published, two in development), all three of the male leads are rather pathetic: sad, questioning God, struggling with careers and relationships, hesitant in decision-making.
I didn’t intend that in any of the manuscripts, but it was how the stories evolved. The women are strong and pass that strength onto the men.
Beth: I feel a song coming on… “Stand by your maaaaaan…”
Janell: Childhood: I’m a “Little House” fan (Laura Ingalls Wilder). My fondness was a combination of the series being set in the Midwest where I live, and an interest in American history. The setting wasn’t that far removed from my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ eras, so it gave me insight into their lives. I still read the books on occasion. When the Minnesota winters get me down, I crack open “The Long Winter” and quickly realize how good I have it.
Adult: The Isaac Project (Sarah Monzon). I’m a pushover for a love story about an arranged marriage, and a handsome firefighter coming to the rescue of a stubborn woman who is more likely to be wearing a shirt covered in horse snot than a frilly sundress. The humor was adorable and more than once I laughed out loud.
Beth: Excellent choices! I’m a big fan of both!
Favorite fictional couple
Janell: That’s easy: Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. She’s innocent, naïve, poverty-stricken, plain, and in need of love and tenderness. He’s wealthy, rude, ugly, bossy, lingers on the edge of violence, and keeps his insane wife locked up in his castle. It’s the stuff of fantastic fiction that leaves an indelible impression on readers.
Runner-up: Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Beth: I can’t even pick a favorite here.
Favorite character name
Janell: Scarlett O’Hara. She lived up to the name: a sassy stubborn red-hot-blooded woman of courageous Irish ancestry.
Beth: Names are so important!
Tell us all about your debut novel
Janell: Embracing Hope took nine years to write and publish. It had three titles and three first chapter revisions before I found the perfect combination. At one point it was over 230,000 words (talk about over-written). I “trimmed” it down to 97,000, which surprisingly wasn’t that difficult.
The story is a poignant and often painful look into the broken heart and daily—even hourly struggles of college dean Drew McKinley. It spans the turbulent 18 months following the sudden and tragic death of his wife.
When Drew meets Allison, a confident, financially-strapped graduate student and new employee in his office, he’s faced with a reawakening and guilt-ridden heart. He’s betraying his dead wife! He refuses to fall in love! Compounding Drew’s struggle is trying to mentor Chris, the womanizing student senate president. Chris may be good-looking and a smooth operator, but he has a troubled past that threatens his future and the safety of those around him.
As a first-time author, I’m thrilled with my reviews so far. One of the best review comments perfectly summed up the guts of the plot: “To forgive and let God renew the heart when every fiber of the human mind and body says ‘absolutely not.’”
The biggest compliment I received from a reviewer is: “Let me start out by saying that I don’t normally become invested emotionally when I read a novel and I fully expected this to be the typical modern romance. But a few chapters in I realized that wasn’t so and I did become emotionally invested.”
A reader exemplified that when she told me she often felt the need to pray for Drew. And when readers tell me they cry at some point, I know I’ve accomplished my goal. I still sob when I read parts and lament, how could I put Drew through all that misery?
Beth: What an exciting journey!
Take a poignant look into the broken heart and daily struggles of Christian college dean Drew McKinley. The story chronicles the turbulent first year in his desperate journey to understand God’s motives for the sudden death of his wife and his quest to find hope in his future.
Crossing his perilous path are Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office, and Chris, the handsome but egotistical student senate president.
The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart 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?
What are you working on now?
Janell: There are sequels to Embracing Hope. One is 90 percent done and features the Bad Boy redeemed. My publisher and I agreed to wait on pursuing that until I get a grasp of marketing Embracing Hope. (I have no time to finish it anyway.) A third, about 50 percent done, illustrates middle-age love, loss, and life changes.
Minor characters in Books 2 and 3 lead to Book 4. The fourth chronicles a search for a birth mother; all I have so far is a simple outline and one string of dialogue in my head. Book 5 is a twinkle in my eye about two characters: a hockey player and a fashionista (from Book 1).
Beth: Thank you so much for sharing some of your favorites and your latest book news with us, Janell!
Janell Butler Wojtowicz has an ebook copy of her debut novel, Embracing Hope, for one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader!