Janet Ruth and I met at a Write to Publish conference a few years ago. We’ve kept in touch via Facebook and through our websites ever since. Recently, Janet asked me to be part of her launch party for her new non-fiction book, Separate for a Reason. Buy Janet’s book now by clicking here.
Separate for a Reason makes a great lenten or Easter gift.Tweet
Separate for a Reason is also available upon request from stores that carry Ingram Spark books such as Barnes and Noble and some Christian book stores.
Here’s what I added to my review on GoodReads and Amazon:
Janet Ruth inspires me to think beyond my comfort of a Christian dominant country. Besides the legal logic of separation of church and state, Janet supports her opinion with scriptural citations. Separate for a Reason is logical, easy to read, and a breath of fresh air on a tired subject. I am blessed to be part of Janet’s launch team. I gifted her book for lenten reading to Christian family members.Adela Crandell Durkee, Amazon book review
Janet and I have some things in common. We are both self-confessed nerds who like books and school. Janet felt like she never quite fit in during high school because she wasn’t “socially smart.” She did have a few close friends. Elementary school is full of fond memories for me. (See OnceaLittleGirl.com if you don’t believe me. Janet, on the other hand, has few memories of my childhood, except for getting kicked in the head on a “jungle gym” in preschool. I wonder if that contributed to her interest in the law.
Janet agreed to answer my interview questions.
Tell us a little bit about your early life: I grew up in sunny cities of Arizona: Casa Grande, Phoenix, and Mesa. My dad worked for an airline, which allowed us to travel a bit. We even lived in Saudi Arabia for a year where my dad worked on planes rented to Saudia Air by his airline.
My family was always active in a local church wherever we lived. My mom was even a church secretary for a few years. I loved going to summer camp at a Christian camp in Prescott, Arizona, and I started teaching younger students at church long before I was out of high school.
I wanted to leave Arizona for college, but finances were tight and it was easier to stay in-state. I attended Grand Canyon College in Phoenix for my undergraduate degree and Arizona State University in Tempe for my law degree. My plan was to become a prosecuting attorney, and I was fortunate enough to win a fellowship that allowed me to work part-time for three months each in the offices of the city attorney, the county attorney, the state attorney general, and the U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Attorney’s Office offered me a job right of law school, and my dream became a reality!
What is your life like now? My dream hit a speed bump when I got married four years later. I grew up in a conservative Christian family, and I knew it would be important for me to put the needs of my new family above my career plans. I left the full-time practice of law when my first child was born, and I gave up my license a few years after my second child was born. I taught part time at a community college in the Justice Studies program for several years, but eventually I became a full-time mom, a part-time volunteer, and an aspiring author.
What was your career path to author? I wrote my first book – a historical fiction novel with a little fantasy thrown in – while I was still teaching part time. I knew so little about the publishing industry, but I did my best to figure out the process of getting my book published. I was unable to interest a traditional publisher, so I turned to print-on-demand self-publishing. It was so exciting to have a printed copy of my book in my hands at last, even if it hadn’t been accepted by a traditional publisher.
I had planned to write more novels, but I felt God leading me in a different direction. Because of my law background, I realized I often had a different perspective on current events than some of my friends and family. I was particularly intrigued by the issues surrounding the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise of Religion Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Eventually, I decided to write a book explaining my perspective on the difficult issues involved.
I’ve written two other books since then, and I’ve updated and republished books I had already published. I’ve also learned a lot about marketing myself as an author, although I still have a lot to learn.
Janets has other books available on Amazon
- Standing Firm
- Brenin’s Crown
- One Nation Under God
Tell me a little bit about your writing process. Writing fiction and non-fiction are very different for me. For fiction, I create a scene and write it down, then write another scene, and eventually go back and put it all in order. For non-fiction, I carefully think through my structure first, write a table of contents, and then write the first chapter. I do a lot of research for my books and try to keep it all organized so I can find what I need when I need it.
How long did it take you to finish Separate for a Reason? Separate for a Reason was easy to write because eight of the nine chapter were written years ago. I edited those chapters and wrote a new introduction and a new ninth chapter. The new chapter did take awhile because it involved so much research. I have 43 endnotes just for that chapter.
The original book that I was rewriting probably took about 6 months to write. I started writing it before the Supreme Court ruled on the Pledge of Allegiance case in 2004. I read every one of the 29 amicus briefs filed on behalf of the government (the ones that wanted to keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance). They gave me a lot of the cases and some of the American history that I use in my book
The subject of your book is quite vast. How did you limit yourself. The original focus was the Pledge of Allegiance case and the issue at the heart of that case. From there, I tried to give enough background information to help people understand the issue from both sides.
Did you have any fears about tackling the subject matter? I had more concerns about the faith arguments in the book than the legal or historical parts. I asked several people, including my pastor, to read through the manuscript and make sure I wasn’t off-base on my claims about what the Bible has to say on these issues.
I didn’t fully realize until after the book was published (way back in 2005) that what I claimed about the Bible was only one way of looking at the issue. Christians who hold to different theologies think differently about how God wants us to live as Christians in the United States. So, not everyone is going to agree with my conclusions. That’s okay, as long as they actually think about the issues and how God wants them to respond.
How do you describe your faith? And how does it guide your writing? I think I have a strong faith, but it is more intellectual than heart-felt. Sometimes I envy Christians who truly feel the presence of God in their lives.
When I was a little girl, I told my pastor that I didn’t feel like a Christian. He asked me what the Bible had to say about becoming a Christian. I said that we had to confess our sins and believe that Jesus died to forgive our sins. He asked if I had done that, and when I said yes, he said, “Then are you going to believe the Bible or your own feelings?” That question shaped my faith from then on, and it shapes my writing, too.
What was your biggest challenge? Writing this book wasn’t really a challenge for me. It wasn’t that different from writing an appellate brief or preparing for a jury trial. The challenge has been getting people to care enough about the issues to read the book. Publishers turned me down because they said no one would read it. Even among my friends, I have found few people willing to review the book or help me promote it. I think this book could make a difference in people’s lives, but I have to find a way to tell them about it and convince them to read it.
How did waiting until this stage in your life influence your writing? I wanted to be a writer even when I was in college, and I minored in speech and writing. I thought I would take a few years off from work when my kids were little and write a book or two. I never thought I would write four books, along with a few articles and devotionals, and still be trying to connect with an audience two decades later.
It’s scary for someone at my age to try something new. I think it’s even scarier to try something again after failing before. I know the risks I’m taking because my previous books have done so poorly in terms of sales or recognition. But I believe in the message, and I’m willing to try again to let my voice be heard.
What are your thoughts on writer’s block? Have you ever experienced it? Writer’s block is a close friend of mine. We play solitaire together and check Facebook and pretend we’re going to do some writing. If I’m writing a book, I can usually stay focused and keep on track, but trying to write blog posts and articles on a regular basis is overwhelming for me. Just check my blog to see how uneven my posting has been.
Tell me about your path to publication. The good, the bad, and the ugly. My first three books were self-published after attempting and failing to find a traditional publisher for them. I have attended many writers conferences and pitched my book ideas to agents and editors. I’ve had several requests for a full proposal, but they’ve always been rejected in the end. I have a new book which I finished early in 2019, and it was also rejected by agents and publishers I met at conferences, but I finally had a proposal accepted by a small publishing house that I found in the Christian Writers’ Digest. The book is now being edited and prepared for publication, and I hope it will be out before the end of 2020!
I could probably write a full book on the ups and downs of trying to get published, but in many ways my path has been unique to me and it may not help others to figure out their path. I recommend to other hopeful writers that they study the craft of writing, that they learn how the publishing industry works, and that they attend at least one conference where they can pitch their book to an agent or editor. Then listen to what they say and move on to the next step!
How did “Write to Publish” help you realize your writing goals. Write to Publish was the first Christian writers conference I attended. I learned a great deal from the classes I took there and from the experts I talked to. I also learned a lot from the other writers attending the conference. I think I’ve been to that conference three times as well as some others around the country, and there is nothing like the encouragement I receive from other writers pursuing the same dream I’ve been pursuing.
How can someone else do the same thing? The best place to find good writers conferences is in the Christian Writers’ Guide. You can also do an online search, but make sure the conference includes professionals from recognizable publishing houses or agencies.
What advice do you have for someone who has the same background/childhood/aspirations as you? I’m a member of an online writers group, and I’ve been part of a few in-person critique groups, too. I try to limit my advice to specific issues that I feel confident about. As far as general advice, I have found that everyone’s path is different. Some will find success easily. Most won’t. Writing, publishing, and marketing are constantly changing, so even if you work at it a long time, you will always be learning and facing new challenges. But you can make some great friends along the way, and you might change someone’s life in a way you never imagined. Only you can decide if it’s worth it.
Here are some places you can follow Janet:
https://www.janetruth.com/ (get a free download when you join her email list)
http://www.godsmasterstory.com/ (learn about her new book coming soon)