Here we go folks – it’s 2017! Time to kick off the year with the much-anticipated new interview questions! First to take on the challenge is Janelle Butler Wojtowicz, a new author who’s working on her second novel. Just how long did the first one take? Find out below!
What genre do you write? How did you pick it?
Contemporary Christian Romance – It picked me. I watched a BBC version of Jane Eyre and that night dreamed the beginning, pivotal scene in the middle, and the ending of what became Embracing Hope. I began writing the next day. My version of the brooding Mr. Rochester turned into a grief-stricken university dean whose wife wasn’t insane—she was just dead. After a career in journalism and PR writing news articles and personality profiles, the creativity of fiction in me was itching to get out.
What are your favorite genres to read? Why?
- Classic fiction (Jane Austen, Bronte sisters) – I love their use of words, the challenge of the sentence structure, and complexity of the plots. I never get tired of reading them, and find something new each time.
- Biblical prophecy – I went to Bible studies on Daniel and Revelation a few years ago and it captured my fascination. It’s non-fiction that reads like fiction.
How long did it take you to complete your first manuscript (published or not)?
Nine years from the dream to publishing in November 2016. But it sat on the shelf “fermenting” for probably a total of four years. I began pitching it at about the two-year mark; I sent it to only a dozen. Then life interrupted. I lost my job and discovered that looking for a job and pitching a novel were too much alike—cover letter/query letter, resume/sample chapters, interview/full manuscript—rejection being the end result of both. I couldn’t take any more rejection, so I stopped pitching. I eventually started my own freelance business, which enabled me to find the time and motivation to pursue publishing in 2016.
It took four pitches to small publishers. The first turned me down flat two weeks later. No. 2 offered me a contract within three weeks and I signed it. Five months later the publisher closed its doors; I never got beyond the contract. I gave up—for about three days. Then I remembered I had pitched to No. 3 at the same time as No. 2, but I had withdrawn my pitch when I signed the contract. Wondering if I should approach No. 3 again, I posted the question on a LinkedIn group, many of whom said to go for it. I did.
A few days later a businessman in the LinkedIn group emailed me to offer solace and his advice on publishing as he had published five books. An email dialogue followed as I unloaded my experience and ambitions. It began to dawn on me that he was a small start-up publisher, not an indie, so I did more research on him. He asked to read a few chapters and I sent him my general pitch. He really liked it, thought it had potential, but had a few questions about the plot, so I sent the whole thing. Neither of us set out to publish my manuscript, but after three weeks of questions and a two-hour phone consultation, he offered me a contract. I’m his first fiction. I look back and see God’s hand in all of this, roadblocks included. (By the way, a couple of days after I signed the contract, No. 3 asked to see my complete manuscript. I felt so bad withdrawing my pitch again, but she was very understanding.)
Have your follow-up novels been easier or harder to write? Why do you think that is?
I have a sequel 90 percent done; and a third in the series is 50 percent done. The fourth is a “twinkle” in my mind. The second was easier to write because I had developed the main character in the first novel where he was the “bad boy.” Although I’m still learning (and always will), I’ve studied the genre and fiction writing for years now so I’m not starting from scratch. I’ve developed my own plot development style and outline method so it’s streamlined the process.
What’s surprised you the most about the book-publishing process?
How long it would take. I figured it would take 2-3 years. HA! I felt I needed to get it published before the story got too old. I let the manuscript sit for a year at one point and was afraid it would stink or be outdated when I read it again. But it didn’t stink; the plot wasn’t dated! WOW!
Also, I’m astounded at how many Christian romance fiction writers and books are out there. How do I get mine out there among all the others? It’s intimidating, but I’m working on it.
What’s been the most challenging part of getting a book published?
The motivation to pitch it. The horror stories of authors getting hundreds of rejections, and the ebook and self-publishing explosion that rocked traditional publishing left me totally unsure of what route to take. Two friends kept me going. One was my cheerleader; always encouraging and reassuring me. The other was my coach telling me to keep writing and keep the faith. He was there at the very beginning—the first one to read the first chapter. He would send me inspirational messages and publishing resources (which is eventually how I found the three publishers). He died suddenly in June 2015, and I like to think he had a little chat with God about me when he got to heaven.
For learning the writing craft, which do you prefer – books or conferences? Why?
Actually, I learned the most from my critique partners, both who are published authors, and a professional editor who was a Christy Award judge. All three were gifts from God—so encouraging, so honest in criticism, founts of knowledge. I went to one conference, Write to Publish in Chicago, where I learned a lot about the reality and business of writing. I’m a writer by profession (33 years) so I know the basics of the craft; it was adjusting to fiction that I had to fine-tune.
If you could pick any of your novels to be made into a movie, which one would you pick? Who would you want to play the lead roles, and why?
Obviously, my first (and only, so far): Embracing Hope
Drew – A young Colin Firth (age in the 1995 version of “Pride and Prejudice”). He has the looks (tall with dark and curly hair, gorgeous smile), sophisticated, successful, plays the serious roles to Oscar-level perfection, But, instead of being proud and prejudiced like Mr. Darcy, he’d be sad and pathetic.
Allison – Anne Hathaway. She’s calm, confident, intelligent, wholesome.
Both have a broad acting range to take on the range of emotions that the characters experience throughout Embracing Hope.
If you’d like to learn more about Janell, you can find her online at these links:
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/682248