I am happy to introduce Janell to you today! She is so sweet, and I happen to really like her book. She puts little snippets from her own life inside of it – read her guest post to find out more. Thank you Janell for chatting with us today!
About the Book
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?
The number one thing that I liked about this book was that it was realistic. The Christian college campus scene we like to picture is one where everyone gets along, acts like perfect Christians, and just leads this happy go lucky life. And while we would like to think it could be that way for our children, the fact is that for some it is just not! So thank you to this author for keeping it real. We all make mistakes, have heartaches, and have family that do not act in a Christian like manner. But as the author repeatedly pointed out, it is how we react that matters.
I enjoyed Drew and Allison both as characters and as friends with a hopefully budding romance. They seemed to compliment each other so well. The author chose to take her time with their romantic interests in each other and I felt that was needed. I do not care for the stories that have a widower jumping head first into a relationship by chapter two. I just don’t see that happening in the real world. In this story, Drew was allowed to process all the emotions that are normal for a widow just developing feelings for another. The were real, they were raw, and they were just what the story needed.
I think widowers and college students alike should read this book, as well as the romantic genre reader. It provides hope, a good lesson, and lots of encouragement. Although it took me awhile to read because of its length, it was well worth it in the end! I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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. 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.
Connect with Janell:
Twitter – @janellwoj
Author Facebook – www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj
Author Guest Post!
I’m proof that the old adage, “Write What You Know”, is true. I could never write fantasy, sci-fi or mystery because my imagination and interests don’t run in those directions. I’m among the handful of people in this world who has never seen “Star Wars” or read the Harry Potter series.
So with my debut novel, “Embracing Hope”, I wrote what I knew: daily life at a Christian college. Not only did I attend one, I worked at one for 12 years. It was easy to put myself into the shoes of employees and students at fictional Riley University because I had walked in them. As a student, I had struggled to pay for college and dealt with difficult classes. As an employee, I worked with academic administration, staff, and students through my job in the PR department.
As a result, I put nuggets of real life and myself into the novel.
- A spring break missions trip: I never went on one, but I wrote dozens of articles and news releases on them.
- Daily chapel: Been there, did that for four years as a student; attended a few on assignment as an employee.
- My favorites are scattered throughout the story: cardinals, Jane Austen, the Titanic; the names McKinley and Riley.
- While I was writing the novel, my father died of brain cancer three months after diagnosis. Suddenly I understood grieving a parent, which is what had happened to Allison, the ingénue in “Embracing Hope.” Two real life events are referenced as Drew, the hero, seeks answers to his wife’s death: a young man killed in a plane crash (my nephew), a father-to-be who died of leukemia (college acquaintance). Naturally, those experiences colored my writing as the plot developed.
I didn’t set out to write a novel. God gave me a nudge through a dream, but that’s another story. Although I’ve been a professional writer for almost 35 years, most of my work had been in non-fiction, such as local government policy and Emerald Ash Borer (Google it if you’re curious.) Writing fiction, especially contemporary Christian romance, was such a switch. I had a lot to learn about the genre, but the creative freedom it gave me was almost overwhelming—which is why the first draft was a whopping 230,000 words. The finished product is 97,000 words. Hacking away at the manuscript wasn’t that painful as I had edited myself or been edited my entire career.
I also had the freedom to put my faith and the gospel message into the story. I look at the novel as more than a romance. It’s a story of forgiveness and hope in the Lord. I’ve come to see it as my ministry, and based on insights I’ve gotten from readers, it’s been a blessing and inspiration to them. Mission accomplished!
When you “live” with your characters for nine years, they become a part of you. Sometimes I felt like I had three personalities: Drew, Allison, me. That was a good thing because I got inside their heads to develop their characters. But it was also a bad thing: I desperately wanted to make their lives easier. Many times I’d stop typing, brush away a tear, and wonder, “How can I put Drew through all this? Why does that need to happen to Allison? They’re both utterly miserable!”
Then I’d sit up straight, return to the keyboard, and push on knowing all their suffering would be worth it in the happy ending.