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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Don't Give Into the Fear of Writing: Author Interview with Janice Boekhoff

My interview today is with an author whose  have been finalists in the ACFW Genesis Contest, the Carol Awards, and a win in the Utah RWA Great Beginnings Contest. Read on to discover what works for her in writing. 

Like many authors, writing was not your first job out of college. In your bio, you show one of your jobs was as a Research Geologist. What did that actually entail? 

Yes, I loved my job as a Research Geologist for the Iowa Geological Survey. I did everything from well drilling to creating geologic maps to monitoring the state-owned beaches. In fact, my first few publications were contributions to technical papers and an educational book on groundwater. I’ve always loved science and can’t help bringing it into my fiction.

Did that job make you decide you wanted to write books about archeology digs and finds?

They say write what you know, so my first series, The Earth Hunters, features a different type of geologist for each book (book 1-mining geologist, book 2-paleontologist, and book 3-volcanologist). Also stemming from my geological interests, I’ve had a lifelong love affair with dinosaurs. My new series (coming out on September 20th) features a woman who is wrongly convicted and sentenced to live on an island prison full of dinosaurs.

When did you first start writing?

I started writing around 2009 after my last child was born. I’d left my geology position to stay at home with my children several years prior. With three kids under five, my body was busy, but my brain was bored. I started writing to exercise my neurons and quickly became addicted.

What drew you to writing suspense genre?

The suspense and science fiction genres were natural for me because I’ve always been fascinated by extreme situations. As a whole, I watch way too much true crime TV and action films.

 Your current series is called Earth Hunters. What exactly does that mean?

The Earth Hunters series is a reference to all of the geologists who do their best to understand our earth. The environment is their passion and they hunt for ways to protect it.

You're a member of both RWA and ACFW. How have your writing skills benefitted from being a member of these organizations?

I have been more active in ACFW than RWA, but I keep my RWA membership because I enjoy their magazine and all of the chapter contests. I’m also a member of the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of RWA and they host great webinars.

 These organizations have helped improve my writing in two ways: 1) recommendations for good craft books, and 2) contests. Competing against other writers and examining feedback from judges about where I fell short has taken my writing to the next level. Even though it’s hard to take criticism, I never shy away from it. It’s the only way to get better.

What tips do you have for writers finding critique partners?

I found my primary critique partner in my hometown. There wasn’t a local writers group, so I started one. Someone else invited Crystal Joy to a meeting, where I told everyone I was looking for a critique partner. She volunteered to try it out. When we first started, I was more advanced in the craft, but she quickly grew in her skills. Now, I wouldn’t think of publishing a book that hasn’t had her eyes on it.  

What is the hardest part of writing for you?  

Definitely inner monologue. I’m a plot girl and I think I write fairly natural dialogue. I know how to move the story along, but I have to make sure the character’s journey doesn’t get lost in the process. That’s when it helps to have a romance writer as a critique partner. We fill in each other’s gaps. She lets me know when the emotions are lagging behind the action. In return, I help her see when she needs to add in more obstacles for her couple to overcome.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

It has to be the first time I was a finalist in a contest (ACFW Genesis Contest). The contest coordinator left a message at home and my husband called to tell me while I was at gymnastics with my daughter. The ladies sitting around me thought somebody had died because I started crying. Not just misty eyes, mind you, my face was a drippy, snotty nose mess. It was the first time someone who didn’t know me had judged my writing as worthy.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?

Writing in the midst of rejection has always been hard for me. Eventually, I came to the point that every writer does when I stopped writing for other people and started writing for both God and myself (otherwise I would have quit).

In this business, rejection comes in many different forms: editors, other writers, haters on Amazon, even friends and family who want you pursue a more lucrative career. When I write, I try to put all of that on hold. Yes, I have to deal with those things when I come out of my book world, but while I’m in the book, none of that matters.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?

When I first started writing, I was surprised and frustrated by how subjective people’s opinions can be. One agent would tell me I was overwriting and another would say I didn’t explain things enough. One agent said my story premise was far-fetched, another loved its uniqueness. You have to glean what you can from the feedback and move on.

What has frustrated you the most?

 The most frustrating thing, therefore, is when you get no feedback at all. I really appreciated those editors/agents who communicated with me even when they didn’t take on my work.

When I’m overwhelmed by conflicting opinions, I search out other writer’s stories. Many of them had their work rejected only to have the same work go on to have success (some are bestsellers). Those stories encourage me on a daily basis.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?

That fear is the biggest enemy. Fear of rejection, fear of not writing enough, fear of not being good enough, fear of putting yourself out there—it’s all destructive, not only to your work, but to your soul. We must destroy the fear as if slaying a dragon by giving it no place in our lives.

There is such freedom in the act of creating a story. Anything can be made real within those pages. When I give in to the fear, I give away that freedom.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?

In a spiritual sense, the best advice I’ve gotten is to write with God instead of merely for God. The difference seems subtle, but when we invite God into the process, we accomplish His purposes rather than our own. Allen Arnold has a wonderful allegory exemplifying this in his novel The Story of With.

As far as writing craft goes, the best advice I’ve gotten is to trust the reader. They don’t have to be spoon-fed and many would rather you didn’t. Part of the fun for readers is taking the roller coaster ride of possibilities through a story and figuring out the nuances without the writer stepping in to make sure they “got it.”

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?

I’ve met so many people who tell me they want to write a book, but they are waiting for time to do so because they know they will get obsessed with it. I completely understand because I can be obsessed in book creation mode as well. But if you want to write, let the obsession come. It’s the only path to creating something that will speak to other people in a lasting way.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?  

My newest book is the first in a science fiction series was just released this week. Extinction Island (Jurassic Judgment book 1) indulges my love for dinosaurs. A woman who can’t remember her best friend’s murder is convicted and sentenced to live on a secluded island full of dinosaurs and other convicts. As she approaches the island, she spots the one witness who might have the answers to her amnesia. Can she find him and expose the truth before she meets a bloody end?

Sounds intriguing! If you’d like to find out more about the book Janice mentioned in the interview, The Story of With by Allen Arnold, here is the link:

 If you’d like to learn more about Janice’s writing, here are some links to get you started.

Extinction Island pre-order (special price of $0.99 until release day):



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