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It’s officially spring, and Janell Wojtowicz’s new novel, Embracing Hope, looks like a perfect fit for the awakening around us! I’m happy to have Janell visiting with us today to share about the story. Before we begin, let’s take a look at 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?
Welcome, Janell! Let’s start with five fast favorites. What is your:
Favorite Color? Purple
Favorite Season? Definitely summer. I love the warm, quiet, mellow evenings when I walk to the park across the street and listen to an outdoor concert.
Favorite Animal? Kittens
Favorite Movie? BBC Series of “Pride and Prejudice” (1995) which explains my …
Favorite Vacation Destination? My goal is to someday visit Jane Austen Country in England
That would be very fun! While we’re talking about favorites, who is your favorite secondary character from Embracing Hope?
Chris is the bad boy in “Embracing Hope”, my debut novel. When I began writing the novel he didn’t exist, but as the plot developed I knew this had to be a lovers’ triangle. He’s a handsome, engaging, yet egotistical guy who looks at women with the Neanderthal mentality.
I never set out to like Chris, let alone come to think of him as a favorite. The reader needed to dislike Chris; to want to give him a good kick in the pants. I grew to like him because down deep he had the potential to be a good guy. I felt sorry for him and wanted to soften his personality, but resisted for the sake of the plot. In fact, I had to push him to extreme. By the time I sent “Embracing Hope” to my publisher, I hated what I had done to Chris. Why did I put him through all that? Did he really have to be such a scoundrel?
I never set out to write a sequel, but one day my friend teased me about becoming another Jan Karon or Karen Kingsbury. I waved off her suggestion; I could barely handle one novel! But within days of her suggestion, Chris emerged as the sequel, this time as the hero.Just like I did with Drew in “Embracing Hope”, I fell in love with Chris. I softened his personality, and brought people into his life—including a formidable but beautiful woman—to bring out that hidden potential. The road he takes in the sequel is no cakewalk … and … I’ll leave it at that.
He does sound like an intriguing character. Why did you choose this particular setting?
Like they say, write what you know. “Embracing Hope” is set on a Christian college campus. Since I had attended and worked at a Christian college, I knew the environment inside-out.I grew up on an Iowa farm, so setting the story in the Midwest was a no-brainer. I chose Omaha because I have family there. I’ve visited several times and liked the city. I didn’t want to set it in the Twin Cities as readers might think it’s about my alma mater. I went out of my way, though, to make sure the fictional college and its people were nothing like the real college. Part of the story takes place in a small Iowa town and there are references to farming, so that let me insert bits and pieces of me into the story.
It sounds like you are dealing with some tough issues in this story. What do you hope your readers will take away from it?
Hope is one of the Big Three of First Corinthians 13, but it’s often overlooked by “the greatest commandment” of love, and the foundation of Christianity, faith. Yet hope is more than wishful thinking or waiting around for something good to happen. You need to take steps to find hope; it’s tangible. In Drew’s case, he had no hope because he was sitting around wishing his wife was still alive. With help from his pastor and the heroine, Allison. Some of the steps he took to find hope were forgiveness, confession, mentoring, and reaching out to help others who were suffering.
As believers, we do have hope through Jesus Christ. It sounds like you’ve offered some encouragement for those who’ve temporarily lost sight of that hope. Would you tell us a little about yourself? What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved the “Little House” series as a child—and this was before the TV series. I read them over and over. Thanks to the drawings by Garth Williams, I had the Ingalls family embedded in my mind’s eye. I’m from Iowa so the Midwest settings drew me in.I put myself in their shoes as they wandered the prairie. How would I have felt if, as a child, I had to say goodbye to my beloved cousins and grandparents knowing I’d probably never see them again (“Little House in the Big Woods”)? “The Long Hard Winter” made me appreciate how good we had it despite our cold and snowy Iowa winters. Even as an adult I return to the books for relaxing reads and fond memories.
Definitely a beloved series! How has your education and previous career impacted your writing journey?
I’ve always liked to write: school essays, letters, stories. A voracious reader, I was miffed that I could check out only three library books at a time. Buying them was a thrill (and still is). I loved to pick out books from the Scholastic book lists the teachers sent home. Whenever I made the honor roll my Mom would take me to the Christian bookstore and let me choose a book.
Writing a novel wasn’t a burning desire; it wasn’t on my bucket list. I majored in written communication (journalism emphasis) in college and was editor of the student newspaper. I never considered other academic treks. After a decade working in small town Iowa newspapers, I married and moved to the Minneapolis, Minnesota. I worked in my alma mater’s PR department writing for college publications and media relations, then worked in public information in local government. One night in 2007, after watching “Jane Eyre”, I had a dream about a modern-day Rochester and Jane. And “Embracing Hope” was born.
It sounds like you are off on a great adventure! Thanks for taking the time to share with us today, Janell!
Your turn! Were (or are?) you a Little House on the Prairie fan? Books, tv series, both?
More about Janell:
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 journalism, Christian higher education public relations, and local government public information. She is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Janell and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota.
You can connect with Janell online:
- Goodreads –https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16046310.Janell_Butler_Wojtowicz
- Website –http://janellwoj.wordpress.com
- Twitter –@janellwoj
- Facebook –Facebook.com/janellbwoj
You can find Embracing Hope online:
- Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_13?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=janell+butler+wojtowicz&sprefix=janell+butler%2Caps%2C400&crid=2RKNVF7OLH34B
- 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
‘Embracing Hope’ Giveaway:
Janell has generously offered to give away a paperback copy of Embracing Hope. Giveaways are subject to the Giveaway Policy.