PERSONAL: Married; children: one daughter.
ADDRESSES: Home—Boulder, CO. Agent—Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Grinberg Literary Management, Inc., 266 West 23rd St., Unit Three, New York, NY 10011.
CAREER: Author. Has worked as a graphic designer and potter. Instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, 2004.
AWARDS, HONORS: Associateship, Rocky Mountain Women's Institute, 1999.
The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: After working as a master potter and graphic designer, Janis Hallowell was getting "pretty burnt out," as she told an interviewer for CollectedMiscellany.com. She decided to try her hand at writing, and after a number of years produced her first novel, The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn. "I Knew I wanted to write about belief, the folly of belief, the consequences of believing, and I wanted it set in contemporary America," she explained. "So, since the Judeo-Christian influence is most powerful here I knew the story had to relate to the Christian myth in some way. The annunciation of the virgin seems to be at the root of the Christian myth so I went from that and started working the story." The result is a tale about a young girl who a growing number of followers believe to be the mother of a baby who will be the second coming of Christ.
Francesca Dunn is only fourteen when the story begins. A homeless man, coming upon her as she works in a café helping to feed the poor on the weekends, believes that the girl has healing powers. When Francesca seems to be able to cure a man of a heart problem and another person of an ear infection, she quickly gains a following. Adding to the evidence is her apparent pregnancy, although she is still a virgin. Soon people begin to exploit Francesca for money, even as the girl starts to believe that she really might be the next Virgin Mary. However, just when her powers of healing are most needed, she seems to fail in her task. The novel ends with the open question of whether or not Francesca's spiritual fate is genuine.
While some reviewers complimented the themes in Hallowell's debut novel, others found it a well-intentioned but flawed effort. Specifically, they noted that the author does not delve deeply enough into the nature of faith and instead falls back on clichés and "platitudinous sound bites," as a Publishers Weekly contributor put it. Ron Hansen, writing in America, commented that "Hallowell does write gracefully, and she's particularly adept at portraying the secret, tormented life of teen girls. But without a core of faith to heighten its mystery, her novel too often inhabits the outlandish world of supermarket tabloids." On the other hand, Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley asserted that The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn is "an intriguing and memorable" book, while Joanna M. Burkhardt wrote in Library Journal that the author "creates convincing characters in circumstances that are never totally black and white."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, April 19, 2004, Ron Hansen, "Boulder's Miracle Child," p. 37.
Booklist, February 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn, p. 1036.
Denver Post, May 9, 2004, Eric Elkins, "Interview: Janis Hallowell Spiritual Tale 'Francesca' Lets Readers Explore Faith," p. F12.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004, review of The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn, p. 8.
Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn, p. 123.
Publishers Weekly, January 19, 2004, review of TheAnnunciation of Francesca Dunn, p. 53.
CollectedMiscellany.com,http://collectedmiscellany.com/ (November 13, 2004), "Interview with Janis Hallowell."
Lighthouse Writers Workshop Web site,http://www.lighthousewriters.com/ (November 13, 2004), "Janis Hallowell."*