Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Spotlighting Janell Butler Wojtowicz and Giveaway

I was born and raised on an Iowa farm, and was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. I attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in, naturally, Written Communication, adding a Journalism Emphasis. I spent 10 years back in Iowa working as an editor/reporter for three community newspapers.

I left the small town 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 the University of Northwestern; 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. 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. 

Book Spotlight 
About Embracing Hope
It’s my debut novel, a contemporary romance. 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?

What the hardest thing about being a writer? 
After pitching my novel to agents and publishers, and a recent hard-fought (and not entirely successful) job search, I realized that the two are almost identical quests in humbling labor-intensive exercises that most often end in futility. Consider the cover letter, resume, portfolio, and interview of a job search. There’s the query letter, synopsis, first chapter, and full read of the manuscript. Both take networking, job fairs and career counselors; writer’s support groups, writers conferences, and critique partners. Both are largely internet-based. Each rejection stabs your heart as you’re told “you aren’t a good fit/your manuscript doesn’t meet our needs.” You wait breathlessly for the email or phone call that could change your life. Finally, success means a new job with a great salary and benefits; a book contract with a huge advance. Then, once there is success, the REAL work begins. On the job, it’s keeping and advancing in the position. In publishing, it’s marketing the book (and others), which is truly the hardest thing about being a writer. I’m still figuring out how to do that. I’ll let you know how it turns out—in 10 years.

What’s the best thing about being a writer? 
I become the characters as I create their personalities, physical features, life moments, families, and community. I experience their turmoil, tears, and triumph. Heck, I CAUSE their turmoil, tears, and triumph! While writing nonfiction has limitations and formulas, fiction has a lot of freedom. If I don’t like where my imagination is going or encounter logistical road blocks in research, I hit “delete,” kill off a character, move the setting to a different state, or give birth to a new character (literally and figuratively). I camouflage or enhance my experiences and those of others to plug them into the plot. 

Is your setting based off a real location? If so, where? Why did you choose this place?
There are two settings. The first is a Christian college in Omaha, Nebraska. I attended and worked at a Christian college in St. Paul, Minnesota; although the fictional college is nothing like the real college in personalities or campus culture. I have family in Omaha, and after visiting a few times I came to like the city. It has the Midwestern culture and climate I’m familiar with. The second setting is a fictional small town, Prairie Ridge, in Iowa. I grew up in Iowa, but the town is my own creation.

How long did it take you to write it?
Nine years from typing the first words on the computer monitor to the launch in November 2016. There were multiple months and even year-long gaps in that time. The chaos of life would interrupt; I’d lose interest it in or I’d work on the sequels. I was obsessed with it during the first two years, which is when the bulk was written—all 230,000 words. Common sense and severe editing brought the novel down to 97,000 words. I went through three complete drafts. 

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
There is a sequel that needs tweaks and major editing before I show it to my publisher. The third is about 50 percent done. The fourth and fifth are twinkles in my eye. All are linked together, but could be stand alone.

What's your favorite season of the year and why?
Definitely summer! I love the long days, lots of sun, warm temps, the rainbow of colors and aromas of nature, long walks, concerts in the park across the street, afternoons with friends at the pool in our condo complex. Travel is easy, which you appreciate after navigating Minnesota winters.

What scripture has impacted your life and why?
Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It reminds me to listen to—and accept--the Holy Spirit’s nudging. When I was faced with leaving a job I had loved after 12 years, He sent me the perfect devotional about being honorable and Christ-like in the situation as I had completed that work. Over the years, I was able to explore new opportunities, expand my career horizons, forge new friendships, and write my novel. I see the novel as another good work He gave me, and I’ll carry it on until it’s completed in His time.

If you could invite any five people to dinner who would you choose?
Jane Austen, James Cameron (Titanic movie director and Titanic explorer), Barry Gibb, Franklin Graham, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Quite an eclectic bunch!

If you could meet one person who has died, who would you choose? 
My sister, Kristy. She died in an accident 10 months before I was born at age 18 months. I often wonder what it would have been like to have an older sister. What would she look like? What kind of relationship would we have? Would our interests be similar or opposite? What talents would she have? How would our family dynamics be different? (I have a brother four years older so there’s a gap in ages where she would fit in.) Down through the years, I’ve imagined that she was alive, and I would plot out her life in my mind. I look forward to the day when we meet in heaven. 

Where can readers find out more about you?
Author Facebook - www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj
Twitter - @janellwoj

Purchase Links

To be enter for an ebook copy of Embracing Hope  commit here , make sure to leave contact info, if no info and I don't know you and you are the winner I will pick another winner 


  1. Thank you for featuring Janell! I also was born and raised in a smaller town in Iowa. I enjoyed reading more about her and her book, and look forward to reading it!

    1. Thanks for stopping in Becky. Where in Iowa? I was born in Charles City and spent most of my childhood near Bristow in north central Iowa.

  2. Sounds like a great contemporary romance. Thanks for the opportunity to read it!

    mindyhoung AT msn DOT com

    1. I'm glad you stopped in, Mindy. You're in the running for the ebook :)

  3. I grew up and still live in a small rural community in Kentucky. This story sounds great!

    1. I sometimes wish I was still living in a small town. The city is nice, but can be overwhelming. Thanks for reading my blog!