Catholic Mom Book Spotlight

From the Ashes
by Janet W. Butler
Paperback: 234 pages
Sands Publishing; (November 1, 2001)
Buy From Sands Publishing

James Michael Goodwin closed the driver's side door, switched to a public-radio jazz show on the car stereo, then swung the Mercedes through the side streets toward home. He was finished. Fifteen years he'd had, good years playing jazz piano in smoky two-bit college rooms and seedy bars all night. The hard work paid off in time ... and tonight, Boston's upper crust had thrown him a whale of a party. At home, James grasped the ready .38 in his left hand. Felt one last, fleeting jolt of pain as he positioned it carefully at the spot where a pulse throbbed just beneath his temple. Then he closed his eyes, slipped his index finger around the trigger. Caressed it for a moment. And, gently, squeezed.

But death wouldn't take him. His struggle would continue, and he would find himself tested anew by awakening feelings for his new protégée.  She now held all the promise he'd claimed for himself. Could James bear to hear his music played by another? And could he love someone. Anyone. Ever again?

Related Articles Book Club
Additional Catholic Book Spotlights Recommends




LH: I am pleased the share the following Book Spotlight interview with Janet Butler, author of the inspirational romance novel From the Ashes. Janet, please tell us about your family and how you got started writing romances?

JB: My family consists of a long-suffering husband (Patrick) and two grown children...well, at least the numbers say they're grown <G>, as my daughter Jessica is 18 and my son Matt is 21. Matt is a senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Jess is a freshman at College of DuPage. Rounding out the household are Cassie and Gilbert, SRC (Spoiled Rotten Cats). Our extended family includes inlaws, "outlaws," musicians and baseball/wiffle ball players--among others.

As for how I got started writing romances, it was a natural progression. As a kid, I wrote stories that now would be called "fanfic"--stories about my favorite rock and roll stars, etc. Then I discovered the old doctor/nurse romances--early Harlequins--and a whole new world opened up to me. I actually wrote what I thought was a romance book in my very early twenties; it wasn't a real novel, of course, more like a long-drawn-out short story <G>, but it got me on the path. I believe that most of us begin writing novels for one of two reasons: a) we read a wonderful book that transports us and we want to "do that too," or b) we read a perfectly awful book, toss it across the room and mutter, "I can do better than that!" In my case, I began "seriously writing" for both of these reasons.

LH: For our readers who have not yet had the opportunity to read
From the Ashes, please briefly summarize the plot of the book.

JB: I call
From the Ashes a "Star is Born" story: Melody Rowland is a bright beginner on the concert scene, while James Michael Goodwin is looking at the end of his performing career. When they're thrown together as mentor and student, James has to learn to relinquish his music to one who can play it better than he can...and Melody has to learn how to forgive the previously arrogant Goodwin who all but destroyed her self-confidence years before. Because it's an inspirational book, both of these journeys of growth are also journeys of faith, and Melody and James discover that the power of God's love can, indeed, heal anything.

LH: I'm always so pleased to meet new fiction characters who are openly (and happily) Catholic! Tell us how your faith has impacted upon your writing and how you decided to feature it in this story.

JB: I'm openly and happily Catholic, which helps! And fundamentally, I can't keep my faith OUT of my work. It creeps into even so-called "secular" stories-- because it's a part of my life, I write it in my characters' lives as well. It never really dawned on me how different it was to have characters who regularly went to church, who prayed, and who considered the name of God to be something more worthy than a swear word <G> for a long, long time.

As for
From the Ashes and its integral spirituality, well…honesty compels me to admit that this novel didn't start out as an inspirational book, just a plain and simple traditional romance. In fact, I resisted people's advice that I write an inspirational novel for one major reason: the "inspy" market is largely and predominantly aimed at evangelical Christians, not Catholics.

Then, new publishers entered the scene--publishers who weren't bound by CBA guidelines, but who were interested in stories with a spiritual element to them--and I decided to take
From the Ashes and rework it as that kind of an "inspy." When the book won second place in an inspirational manuscript contest, I sensed I was onto something…and what has happened from there continues to amaze me.

LH: I know that you have a musical background. Was it enjoyable sharing this aspect of your personality in this novel? Do any of the characters bear relevance to people in your own life?

JB: The sages always say "write what you know," and so once again, because music is such a part of my everyday life, it's almost impossible for it not to creep into most of my stories in some fashion. But it was truly fun to give people a glimpse into what music school, at least for me, was like--with some fictional embellishment, but not much. The description of that life as "chewing people up and spitting them out" is a direct quote from my college days, as a matter of fact.

As far as whether any of the characters really resembles anyone I know…I can say "not exactly." If you spend time in any conservatory or music school, you'll probably recognize people who are a lot like James, Melody, Barb or Dean Thomas…and there's always some wonderful elderly Professor on campus as well (if you're lucky!).

LH: What special challenges face writers of Catholic fiction? How can readers support Catholic authors?

JB: One of the biggest challenges I've faced as a Catholic writer is trying to find a Catholic publishing house willing to actually BUY and publish popular contemporary fiction, especially romance. Right now, Catholics looking for positive, wholesome stories often just buy books with evangelical Protestant characters in them--because that's what the "inspirational" market is. How much better would it be to have "Catholic inspirational" romances, or other uplifting fiction from Catholic authors, out in the market? Maybe then we'd have something that represents "happy Catholics" out there as well, to balance out the authors who seem to feel that "Catholic fiction" isn't meaningful or "realistic" unless it's actually secular fiction that attacks the Church under the guise of "brutal honesty." Realism encompasses a positive view of the Church and of being Catholic as well, and I have a feeling a lot of Catholics would love fiction that portrayed that side of life…because that's where they truly live.

If I had a magic wand, I'd wave it to persuade some wonderful Catholic publishing house to buy wholesome, entertaining love story manuscripts from Catholic/Christian authors. Trust me, the stories are out there, and a readership is hungry for them. If I've heard that once, I've heard it a dozen times: people read
From the Ashes and ask, "Why aren't there more books like this out there?" To which I have to say, "There are…we just need to find publishing homes for them!"

This may be where reader support can come into play--if you like
From the Ashes (and good wholesome books like it), ask your Catholic religious goods store to carry it with their books. Recommend it to your church librarian, your women's group chairman, and the like. Word of mouth is the best promotional tool there is, and I for one love to speak and sign books for groups. <G>

LH: Thank you again Janet for the inspirational story shared in
From the Ashes. Are there any final thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?

JB: Yes--if you read
From the Ashes and enjoy it, do e-mail me and let me know! Just as a book can touch a reader's life in myriad ways, a note from a reader can touch and inspire an author as well. So don't be shy--we all love fan mail, and our publishers love it (almost) as much as we do!


Related Articles Book Club
Additional Catholic Book Spotlights