Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 2 with author J.M. Hochstetler

Welcome back for our second day with author J.M. Hochstetler! You can connect with her through social media and also find her here as one of our NovelPASTimes bloggers. :-) 

How do you think basing stories off people in your own family either makes your work easier or brings more challenges?

In this case, it did both. The basic outline of this story was passed down orally through the family, and a surprising amount was also recorded in various resources at the time it happened. Then in the last 100 years or so family members began researching and recording our genealogy and writing down as many details of this incident and our ancestors’ lives as they could find. Bob and I were greatly blessed to have so much information available. That definitely made the writing easier.

The challenge arose in that we’re writing about our ancestors. As writers we want our characters to be believable, so we need to portray them realistically, with all the strengths and flaws of real human beings. And we want to accurately depict these events with as much realism as our research allows us to. But it’s so tempting to idealize family members from whom we’re descended, to emphasize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, to show them as being heroic and even saintly. We were also concerned that members of the family might not like the way we portray their forebears. But ultimately we decided we had to let the chips fall where they may, and I think the story is the better for it.

Your American Patriot series already has 4 books, but you have plans to write more. Tell us a bit about that series, for our visitors who might not know about it.

The American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive, faith-based series on the American Revolution I know of. I’m concerned about how little people today know about the founding of our nation, and my ambition is to cover the entire Revolution in detail from beginning to end. There’s simply so much terrific, intriguing, exciting material to work with, which makes it easy to create thrilling stories that keep readers flipping pages.

My method is basically to drop my fictional characters into the midst of the historical action alongside the real major and sometimes minor historical people of the day, and see what happens as they interact. In the process I’m covering the experience of women, Native Americans, and blacks in addition to the typical experience of men covered in most history books. My main female character is Elizabeth Howard, the beautiful daughter of Tories, who is secretly a spy and smuggler for the patriots. The lead male character is Jonathan Carleton, a British officer who through the course of the series is captured and enslaved by the Seneca, then rescued and adopted by the Shawnee to become the war chief White Eagle.

The series begins in 1775 with Daughter of Liberty, just before the battles of Lexington and Concord. It will conclude with Book 7, Forge of Freedom, shortly after the siege of Yorktown in 1781, which effectively ended the war. Books 1-4 have been published so far, with 3 more to come in the series. I’m currently working on Book 5, Valley of the Shadow. You’ll find more information on my American Patriot Series website,

Now that’s an amazing undertaking! Historical fiction requires a lot of research – which you’re certainly no stranger to. What’s the most interesting (or unusual, or funny) thing you’ve done in the name of research for a book?

I can’t think of anything funny, but one of the things I most enjoy is to attend eighteenth-century reenactments, which provide more practical insights into the way of life of the day than books and online resources can. A couple of years ago I bought a period-correct outfit for an event I attended, and it was tremendous fun to find out how it actually feels to dress like a colonial lady—namely, what a bother! Seriously, I’d love to do more of it. I have my eye on a certain gown . . . but the stays that would be needed to get the right shape, umm . . . not so much.

Yes, those gowns are beautiful, but they’re probably not the most comfortable things to wear all day. If you could be any character from another historical novel, who would it be and why?

Oh, goodness, that’s a really hard question. The first one that comes to mind is Elizabeth Goudge’s Green Dolphin Street, set in the mid 1800s. I’d love to have been Marianne. I like her younger sister Marguerite much more because of her sweetness and faith, while Marianne has a more difficult personality. But she was the adventurous one who followed the man she loved from the Channel Islands off England to New Zealand aboard a clipper ship, believing (mistakenly) that he loved her and chose her over her adorable little sister. The story and the descriptions of the land and their adventures are amazing, and I’d love to have lived it.

Some of our visitors might not realize that you’re not only an author, you’re also the publisher and editorial director of Sheaf House Publishers. How do you balance everything?!

I wish I knew what balance is and how to achieve it! I have good intentions. I try to compartmentalize everything, devoting mornings to writing and afternoons to tasks related to Sheaf House. But keeping everything in its place is a whole lot harder than it sounds. Both endeavors are very prone to leak into each other and gobble up my time so I feel like there’s a constant tug of war going on in my psyche. But somehow I’ve managed to make it work at least reasonably well—or so I tell myself. My husband might have a different perspective!

What would you like readers to gain from reading your books?

I want readers to be inspired by God’s working in history, and especially in the founding of our nation. We’ve been incredibly blessed, but I’m afraid we’ve wandered far away from the vision and values our nation was founded on, to our detriment. And I’m concerned that today we’ve forgotten the sacrifices our founding generation made to secure the heritage of liberty and faith they handed down to the generations that followed. I pray that my stories will inspire readers to think about who we are and where we came from and turn back to the God who has shown us so much mercy.

I hope your stories are able to do just that. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Persist. Never give up. Always keep working hard to improve your craft, attend workshops and conferences, and make connections with as many editors, agents, and other writers as you can. Believe, trust, and pray a lot. And follow the path God has for you, not for someone else.

What wonderful words to end our time together! Thanks so much for joining us this week and sharing your passion for Early American history.

Canadian and U.S. visitors, don’t forget to answer her question for you so you’ll be entered in our drawing to win a copy of Northkill:

What are the names of the 2 oldest Hochstetler children who were married and living elsewhere at the time of the attack?

Be sure to include your name and email address (spelling out ‘at’ and ‘dot’ to help cut down on spam) with your answer. The drawing will be held on Friday morning.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you again tomorrow!
 ~ Leigh


Bonnie Roof said...

The names of the two oldest siblings are Johannes and Barbara.

I have wanted to read this book since reading a review on another blog - I love books based on actual people/events!!

"Northkill" sounds very exciting, thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!!


J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Bonnie! Thank you for stopping by! I share your love for novels based on real people and events, and I really enjoyed working on this one. I hope readers are as inspired by the story as Bob and I are. Thank you for entering the drawing, and good luck!

CLR Peterson said...

The oldest two children were Johannes and Barbara. I've just discovered you, and am so excited to read your novels (especially since I also write historical fiction set in documented historical settings).


KayM said...

I just wanted to say that I had not previously been introduced to your American Patriot series. It sounds wonderful and I hope to read it soon.

J. M. Hochstetler said...

CLR, well, I'm excited to hear that you also write historical fiction based on real events! It's great to meet you, and thank you for stopping by and entering the drawing. :-)

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Kay, I hope you'll enjoy my American Patriot Series--and this one too. :-)