J. M. Hochstetler graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Daughter of Liberty, Native Son, and Wind of the Spirit, the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and was a finalist in the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year contest.
Joan is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband, a retired pastor with the United Methodist Church, live near Nashville, Tennessee.
Welcome, Joan. We are excited to have you here. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Thank you so much for inviting me!
I was born in central Indiana and grew up on an 80 acre farm outside Kokomo. My parents were both raised Amish, but they joined the Mennonite Church when they got married. I have one sibling, an older brother. We weren’t Conservative or Old Order Mennonites, so we had cars and dressed pretty much like everyone else, but we lived simply and modestly, with life revolving around the farm, family, and the church. It was really an idyllic way to grow up.
I love to travel and garden and do crafts, with scrapbooking being my latest hobby, though I don’t have nearly enough time for it. My husband and I belong to a Good Sam chapter, and we love to camp with them in our 5th wheel trailer. I don’t do tent camping! Between the two of us, we have 4 daughters and numerous grandchildren, so that keeps us pretty busy.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing seriously in 1977, so it’s been 32 years.
Are you a morning or an evening writer?
I write whenever I can sneak in a few minutes—or when a scene drags me to the computer and forces me to get it down!
Tell us about your latest book. What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
One Holy Night is basically a modern-day retelling of the nativity story. It’s set in the Minneapolis area in 1967, during the Vietnam War, and tells the story of a family, torn apart by intergenerational conflict, war, and illness, that is brought together again by the miraculous birth of a baby.
Have you always written in this genre?
I write mainly historical fiction, so this was a departure for me.
What do you like about this genre?
Contemporaries don’t require as intensive research as historicals unless you’re writing about something extremely technical that you don’t know much about. So in that way, it’s easier. You don’t have to recreate a world that most modern-day readers are totally unfamiliar with. And since I was in high school and college during the period this story is set in, the cultural details were really easy to write.
How long did it take you to bring this book from first draft to printed copy?
One Holy Night began as a short story in 1988, and I turned it into a full-length novel in the late 1990s. It released in 2008, so it was 20 years from initial conception to publication. That’s a bit long!
Was the road to publication challenging?
It was indeed. I started writing in 1977 and didn’t get a publishing contract until 2002, when Zondervan contracted the first 2 books of my historical series. Then I lost my editor, the new editor cancelled my series, and that left me at a dead end. It turned out to be a good thing in the long run, though, because it forced me to found my own small press, Sheaf House Publishers, which has been an adventure and a blessing. My partner, Joy DeKok, and I now have 17 authors under contract, and we have a full list through 2011 and are beginning to schedule projects into 2012. God keeps opening doors and we keep walking through them.
If you could be any character in your book, who would you be and why?
I have to say Julie. She reflects a lot of me, so I have special affection for her. She allowed me to ask a lot of questions about life and God that I ponder on a lot and to share some conclusions I’ve come to.
What is different about your book compared to other books out on the market?
It’s the only Christmas-themed book I’m aware of that revolves directly around the nativity story rather than just being set at Christmas time. It portrays the brokenness of human beings honestly and how it took the miraculous birth of a baby to reconcile us to God and to each other.
What was your favorite book growing up?
There were two I especially loved as a young girl: Lad, a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune, and The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Loved them! They’re wonderful stories for children—and grownups too.
Do you currently have a favorite author?
Well, I have 3 great favorites at the moment, and I can’t decide which I like the best: W. Dale Cramer, Lisa Samson, and Athol Dickson. Their writing just blows me away.
What is the most memorable book you have ever read?
It’s one I read last summer, but I know it’s going to stay in my mind and heart for a very long time: W. Dale Cramer’s Levi’s Will. Absolutely amazingly profound! I recommend it highly.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
My books are available at most local booksellers, but if you don’t find them on the shelf, the staff can order them for you. They’re also available from all the major online sites like Amazon, Christianbook.com, and Barnes & Noble.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
My Web site is www.jmhochstetler.com. I also have several blogs, and you can find the links to those on my home page. The blog for One Holy Night is oneholynight.blogspot.com.
What is up next for you?
I’m always working on several projects at a time. Currently my most active project is Crucible of War, book 4 of my American Patriot Series. Another work in progress is a romance based on my Mennonite background set at the end of WWII, which is being shopped around by my agent. As I have time, I’m also working on the fictionalized account of my Amish Mennonite ancestors who came to this country in 1738. They were pacifists, of course, but ironically they were caught up in the French and Indian War when their home was attacked by a band of Indians in 1757. It’s a truly hair-raising and inspiring story!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to thank you very much for interviewing me! I really appreciate the opportunity to enter into dialog with you and your readers.