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  • Melissa Olson

NaNo writing challenge propels Ann Arborite's career in Steampunk Romance; wins 2019 PRISM Award

Updated: Jan 13, 2020

Janette pictured second from right with three daughters.
Most writers have heard about the NaNo Challenge. Every November 1st, people from across the globe commit to writing 50,000 words by the end of the month. Hundreds of thousands start the challenge but very few finish with the results my friend Janette Gryniewicz has produced.

Since the 2015 NaNo, Janette has written and self-published four novels. All of this hard work resulted in Janette winning the 2019 PRISM Steampunk Novel Award for How to Seduce a Spy from the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers of America chapter.

Janette publishes under her pen name Catherine Stein. All of her novels fall within the Steampunk genre. Author Jay Lake describes Steampunk


  • A story set within a world using a real or imagined version of the technology of the 19th century with Victorian-era class and economic structures

  • Technology and devices driven are driven by either steam power or clockwork

  • Plots are adventure-oriented with an emphasis on empowerment and social critique

Janette decided to self-publish her novels after small presses started showing interest in her work. “I learned that traditional publishing is a really slow process and it wasn’t the right path for me. I realized I’d rather have the control myself,” she said.

With three active daughters, it takes a ton of determination and sacrifice to pour as much energy into writing as Janette has the past few years. “When I can’t sleep, I write stories in my head,” she said. “In my writing process, I start with the characters. For my first novel, I wanted to focus on a woman who makes magic potions.”

Janette’s character in How to Seduce a Spy was inspired by Manet’s 1882 A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Janette has a degree from UM in art history and often weaves visual arts into her stories. The first scene in her second book, Not a Mourning Person, is an imaged depiction of the painting Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent.

The Earl on the Train centers on travel while Eden’s Voice is set in Ann Arbor with football as a central theme. For her novella-in-progress, set during the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Janette traveled to the city for inspiration and found a wealth of information at the City Museum.

For new writers, Janette offers this piece of advice: “Don’t freak out if you hear a piece of writing advice that is different from your writing process. Not all advice will work for you. The only way to really figure out what process works is to write.” She suggests writing about topics you find interesting. For her, it’s spies, potions, history, inventing, travel and romance – all of which is encapsulated into her Steampunk body of work.

If you would like to meet Janette, she will be a featured panelist at ConFusion, a sci-fi fantasy convention in Novi. Janette will speak next Saturday, Jan. 18th at noon on the topic, Dressing your Fictional Character and reading from Eden's Voice at 5 p.m.

One a personal note, I’ve known Janette since the first day Leah started kindergarten at our neighborhood elementary school. Our daughters became instant friends and we walked them to school together for years. Janette is one of the most interesting people I’ve met here in Ann Arbor. I love hearing about her days playing trumpet for the UM marching band and playing on a local co-ed hockey team. It’s no surprise to learn that she is finding success by using her bright, imaginative mind!

Learn more about Janette’s work at

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