Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Day 2 Interview with J.M. Hochstetler - The Writing Life


Award-winning author J. M. Hochstetler, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, grew up on a farm near Kokomo, Indiana. A graduate of Indiana University, she is a publisher, professional editor, and lifelong student of history. She is the author of the American Patriot Series, set during the American Revolution, and with Bob Hostetler coauthored Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series. Her contemporary novel One Holy Night, is a modern-day retelling of the Christmas story.


Joan is giving away a copy of her new novel, Valley of the Shadow, or any one of the previous books in the American Patriot Series. For details on how to enter the drawing, click the link at the end of this post.


A reader once asked me this question, and I thought it was a good one. Is there ever a time when you feel like your work is truly finished and complete?

Never. No matter which book it is—either published or in process—it’ll be finished when they pry my cold, dead fingers off the keyboard!

Describe your workspace.

I have a small office, alas. I need a much larger one because it’s always terribly messy. Squeezed into this space are 2 bookcases overflowing with research books, an antique rocking chair that will be refinished one day but is currently draped with my lovely antique wool blanket and a picture of my lighthouse at Nubble Beach off the coast of Maine (and yes, it is mine!). I have 2 desks and a smaller square one all arranged together to form an L, which overlooks the pond in our back yard. My computer, printer, research books, and drifts of stickies and scraps of paper scrawled with notes reside there, along with several pots of pens and pencils. A small stand sits below it at each end to serve as shelves, and my office chair is in between. Next to the desk on one side is a printer stand on top of which sits my antique typewriter, with office stuff stored below. On the other end are two file cabinets topped with books, a basket filled with assorted papers I need to cull out, and a fern.

On the wall behind me are 2 folding tables, one large, one small, that hold my sewing machine and assorted craft supplies, mainly for scrapbooking, with 2 antique wood folding chairs pulled up to them. Beside one end of the tables is a stack of small basketweave trunks full of more craft supplies. The walls are covered with historical maps and pictures. And, of course, there are boxes of books shoved into the corners. Needless to say, if I allowed anyone to see this squirrel’s nest I’d have to kill them. Thus no pictures.

Describe your dream workspace.

Oh, that would be a spacious, sun-drenched, secluded suite with ceiling to floor windows. It would be stocked with a full library and a desk that stretches along 2 of its creamy, stuccoed walls. One alcove would be home to a daybed for naps, another to a well-stocked, expansive craft nook, and another to a well-stocked kitchen and bathroom so I’d never have to leave the place. French doors would lead out into a lush garden filled with exotic flowers on one side and on the other side a bank of bougainvillea-draped windows would overlook the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Actually, it would be built on the side of a cliff on one of the Greek isles . . . sigh . . .

If you could be a character from your favorite historical novel, who would you be?

That’s a hard choice because I have several equally favorite historical novels. But I’d probably choose Jane Eyre. I love everything about the story, particularly Jane’s character. She’s described as being plain, and yet there’s something about her that makes you visualize her as beautiful in a simple, ethereal, understated way. I love how her romance with Mr. Rochester is so restrained and yet has such intensely passionate depths.

What is the biggest misconception the general public has about authors?

That we’re famous and make lots of money for doing nothing except scribbling words on paper off the top of our heads. Or possibly dictating them to a secretary. For most of us, nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad.

What is the biggest misconception beginning writers have about being published?

That their first book will be delivered straight from the printer to every bookstore in the world and will immediately hit the top of the NY Times bestseller list, and they’ll be famous and make lots of money for occasionally scribbling words on paper off the top of their heads. Or possibly dictating them to a secretary. If only it were that easy!

What would you like readers to gain from reading your book(s)?

More than anything, I want them to offer readers an authentic and winsome witness to our gracious God and create in their hearts a thirst for the living water only a relationship with Jesus Christ can give.

Thanks for joining us here on Novel PASTimes, Joan. Any final words for readers or writers?

To readers I want to say thank you for devoting part of your busy days to reading the stories we weave and for the encouragement to continue in this calling that I’ve often personally received. I hope our stories transport you to intriguing times and places and introduce you to characters who capture your heart and convey deep truths that inspire and point the way in your life’s journey.

To my fellow authors I want to say thank you for the encouragement many of you have been to me personally and for sharing your own stories that I’ve grown to cherish. Never stop writing!

Thank you so much for having me on Pastimes! I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you.

Joan is giving away one of her American Patriot Series novels. The winner gets to chose which one. To enter the drawing, click the link below and follow the instructions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

6 comments:

Caryl Kane said...

I love Joan's idea of a dream work space! Lots of creativity would flow in that environment!

psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Caryl, can't you just see yourself there? Of course, it might actually make it harder to work at the computer because I'd want to go wandering off to explore. lol!

Katy Kauffman said...

I love historical fiction, but I haven't read anything in the "patriot" era. So thank you for this interview. I met Bob Hostetler at a writers conference once, and took his class! God bless you.

Bonnie Roof said...

Yes, the visual of that beautiful work place is so pleasing and inviting. I'd love to know more about your lighthouse, Joan!! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity - would love to have one of your books!!


bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Katy, the Revolutionary era is a goldmine of fascinating people and events. It provides tons of fodder for stories, and I think you'll enjoy digging into it. Isn't Bob a hoot? It's been fun working with him, that's for sure. He's a real professional, not to mention quite a joker. lol! Good luck in the drawing!

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Bonnie! I'm so glad you dropped by, and good luck in the drawing! "My" lighthouse is the Nubble Beach--or Cape Neddick--Lighthouse at York, ME. I first made its acquaintance during a vacation with my family in August 1963 when I was a mere child. I made some sketches, then in art class that fall did an oil painting that won an award at hour high school art show. Last fall Jay and I took a trip out there and stopped to see it. It still looks the same. Love, love, love it! By a delightful coincidence, I found a plate at an antiques store last spring with a lovely image of the lighthouse in a soft blue that now hangs over my dresser in our master bathroom. Talk about serendipity!