Embracing Hope — Janell Wojtowicz

Today we welcome author Janell Wojtowicz as she shares about her latest release, Embracing Hope. Read all the way through to find out how to win a Kindle ebook.

I’ve been asked by many people how much of myself is in “Embracing Hope.” One thought my husband and I were the lead characters, to which I laughed. Another recognized my career path. Like most authors, bits and pieces of me are scattered throughout the novel, from names and past experiences to my “concrete sequential” personality in one of the characters.

Most of the names have significance. The hero’s last name, McKinley, is in my family history. (President William McKinley; yes, the one who was assassinated.) Allison, the ingénue, is the name of the town where I went to high school. Her last name, Bennett, is a salute to Elizabeth Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice”, my favorite fictional character and classic novel.

The primary setting is a fictitious Christian college in Omaha, Nebraska. I have visited family who live in Omaha several times, and like the city. I’m from rural Iowa so two other settings are a small town and a farm in that state. I attended and worked at a suburban Christian college for a total of 16 years. In fact, the university’s name in the novel is in tribute to the first president of my alma mater. Other than that bit of trivia, the real college and its people are not depicted in the novel.

Other bits and pieces of me in the novel are:
• Favorite bird: cardinal
• Most detested food: canned peas
• High school colors: red and black
• Dream vacation: Jane Austen country in England
• My historical obsession: The Titanic
• Favorite colors: purple and lavender

The old adage, “write what you know”, is what I stuck to with my first novel. Having lived and worked in the Christian college environment gave the story additional heart and realism. My rural Iowa upbringing as the family farm was changing into the agricultural industry is evident. The sequels also draw on personal experiences working at a newspaper and dealing with aging parents.

I am what some call a “concrete sequential” personality, as is Allison. We both work best with schedules, “To Do Lists” and outlines. For example, I stumbled across a way to keep track of the novel’s timeline, which spans a year. I use blank calendar sheets to trace what’s happening in the plot—right down to the day. I have spreadsheets on each scene’s POV in an attempt to tell each character’s story equally. I list all the character names to make sure none start with the same letter(s) that might confuse readers and aren’t names of family, friends or acquaintances. Imagine the horror of naming a drug addict after my cousin, which I did in my junior high “masterpiece.”

Maybe my concrete sequential habits border on obsessive, but as I’ve navigated through this whole experience, I’ve found that all of writing is an obsession! Am I right?

Question for Readers: How has writing become an obsession to you? Leave a comment and we’ll draw one winner randomly to receive a free ebook copy.

Tough Questions:
1) What can readers expect from me next? Second in the series (90% done) about the “bad boy” of “Embracing Hope” seeking to overcome his abusive childhood and deal with his father’s terminal illness. Third in the series (50% done) about middle-aged singles reunited through obligations to elderly parents; he’s divorced, in debt, jobless; she’s successful, beautiful, confident. Fourth in the series (a twinkle in my eye) about a man introduced in #2 searching for his birth parents, and a woman introduced in #3 battling her mother’s prejudice.
2) How readers can help make it successful? Reviews, since I just launched in November. Referrals, of course. My publisher maintains that the book is more than a good read; it could help readers going through their own difficulties. Readers would see steps the characters took to overcome the hardships, and as a result would receive some direction for their own situation. Just recently a reader gave a copy to a niece whose family was having problems as she thought the issues presented might offer some insight.
3) How did I start writing? I always liked writing. When I was in junior high I wrote a short story about a teenage girl addicted to drugs, which was a real stretch for me since I was a sheltered Iowa farm girl who didn’t like taking aspirin! But I had an imagination, watched enough TV and read plenty of YA to develop the story. My cousin, a budding artist, illustrated it for me. It had a gaudy orange construction paper cover with a hypodermic needle splashed across it. I never thought I’d write a novel, although I did write a memoir 20 years ago about growing up in the 1960s-70s in Iowa. My mom, who prefers non-fiction, likes my memoir and wishes I would have published it first.

About “Embracing Hope”
University dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. Falling in love again is the last thing on his mind. Even as grad student Allison Bennett deals with financial hardships and academic challenges, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Student senate president Chris Whitney carries around the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a just-below-the surface temper.

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. As a result, 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. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota, where she divides her time between writing novels and her freelance writing service, A Portrait in Words.

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Click embracing-hope-page-1 for link to Chapter 1 of Embracing Hope

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