Janice Willett
Janice Willett

By Christina Leslie | Staff Writer

The first thing you notice about author Janice Willett is her smile. Broad, serene, even a bit bemused, it seems to emanate from the inside out, growing as she recounts the leap of faith which led her to self-publish the book, “Affairs of the Heart.” In a recent interview with The Monitor, the first-time author shared the twists and turns of the decades-long quest to publication of her book.

“I learned a lot about trust in God,” Willett admitted, recalling her transformation from 33 years as a nursery landscaper to life as a faith-based writer. “I was so used to regimented routine, controlling things. Everything had its time and place.”

Baptized Catholic, Willett and her sister had been raised in their mother’s Presbyterian faith. She remained an active Christian and taught preschool Sunday school classes, but left organized religion after her twin sons were born. A move to Howell and a medical emergency in June, 1998, prompted her to visit the Monmouth County town’s St. Veronica Parish to pray to the Lord for healing and peace.

A priest anointed her with Holy Oil and suggested she visit the church’s adoration chapel. That visit, regular Mass attendance and participation in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes at the Howell parish led her to a more active practice of her faith.

Because she has often felt that God provided answers when she prayed for them, she decided to go to church to sit in silence and hopefully gain some insight. Willett recalled, “I made a commitment to God when I got so sick. I said, ‘Fix me, and I’m all yours.’”

Visiting the church daily for more than three months, she began to write down the responses that she perceived that God was offering. She believed that these answers were meant to be compiled into a book.

“I wasn’t sure he chose the right person,” she admitted in the book’s preface. “The Lord was challenging me to step outside the box, out of my comfort zone, which required me to set aside my fear of failure and ridicule by nonbelievers and do exactly as I was instructed.

“My family, my friends told me, ‘You are really putting yourself out there,’ and it scared me,” continued Willett. “I realized that, if I’m not putting myself out there, not telling the whole story, then how is it going to help anyone else?”

Leaving her career, sorting out some personal difficulties and drawing upon her life’s savings, Willett put total faith in God as she began the two-year process of writing “Affairs of the Heart.” The slim tome contains 72 short, Scripture-based reflections about love, humility, purpose, peace and living with God as the center of one’s life.

The first-time author was not without trepidation; “When I left my whole life as it was and followed God, it was really scary,” she admitted. “I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t know how I was getting there or when I was getting there. I had to rely on blind faith. It took me a good year to say ‘I surrender.’”

“None of us are doing anything alone,” she continued, a pendant bearing the words, “So Very Blessed” dangling from a chain around her neck. “If we could remember that, it would get us through a lot of situations in a more peaceful and efficient way.”

Willett wrote the book to “bring everyone back,” she said. “Understand we are all brothers and sisters, he is one God, everyone’s God, and we should stop fighting over him. He is reaching into our hearts and speaking to our hearts.”

The book, first published in 2013, is about to enter its second printing, and Willett has embraced her new role as a faith-based writer. Still a parishioner in St. Veronica, she is active on multiple social media platforms, has recorded an audio version of the book to benefit veterans, is about to release a soft-cover book for caregivers entitled “Dying without Crying” and is writing a book on forgiveness to be titled “Remove the Thorn.”

Willett opened the front cover of “Affairs of the Heart,” revealing a well-worn prayer card with the words of Jesus imprinted upon its reverse: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)”

“He is always asking to come in,” Willett said. “When we all realize we are not supposed to hand [solutions] out, but invite him in, that’s when the healing starts.”