Who Is Janette Oke? Learn More About the ‘When Calls the Heart’ Author

Romance fans love When Calls the Heart, the Hallmark Channel drama about life in a small town on the Canadian frontier in the early 20th century. The series, which premiered in 2014, is based on the Canadian West series by author Janette Oke (pronounced “oak”). And though the show has only been around for a few years, the books have a much longer history. Find out more about what inspired Oke to write her best-selling series and more about her career over the years.

When Calls the Heart was published in 1983

Actress Erin Krakow on the set of When Calls the Heart | Andrew Chin/Getty Images

When Calls the Heart, the first book in what would become Oke’s Canadian West series, was released in 1983. The book tells the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a privileged young woman who takes a job teaching school in the Canadian Rockies. Once she arrives in Coal Valley, she must adjust to a new way of life as she falls in love with Wynn Delaney, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Oke followed up the first book with five more novels focused on the same characters or their relatives. The last, When Tomorrow Comes, was released in 2000. In 2014, the first book in the Return to the Canadian West series, Where Courage Calls, was released. It was followed by two more books. Oke co-wrote the books with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan.

She’s a pioneer of inspirational fiction

Oke’s first novel, Love Comes Softly, was published in 1979 and helped create the genre of inspirational fiction. In her books – which are published by Christian publisher Bethany House – characters rely on their religious faith to cope with life’s challenges. Her work has proved to be immensely popular. She’s sold over 30 million copies of her novels and has received awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and other groups.

Her books draw from her own life

Oke was born in 1935 and grew up on the Canadian prairie, she told the Dove Foundation in an interview. She explained that she was born in a “little log house” and attended a one-room school.

“A lot of what I write, it’s very much a part of my background,” she said, adding that she chose to write about the Canadian West because of her long-standing interest in the country’s pioneer days.

What does she think about the TV adaptation of her work?

In an interview with Christian Book Reader, Oke had nothing but praise for the Hallmark Channel adaptation of her work.

“The entire cast and crew are working meticulously to make every scene all that it can be so that viewers can enjoy the story without considering the amount of effort that has gone into the production,” she said. “It is a thrill to see the characters take on flesh and blood and become active and responding. I am so thankful for everyone who is working hard to preserve the integrity and faith I have been intent on presenting in the stories I have written.”

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