Please tell us something about yourself, Joan.
I’m the daughter of Mennonite farmers. I grew up in an Amish and Mennonite community outside Kokomo, Indiana, and graduated from Indiana University
more years ago than I’m going to admit to. I’m married to a truck-driving retired pastor and have 3 grown daughters and several grandchildren I’m not able to spend nearly enough time with. I also enjoy gardening, scrapbooking and other crafts, antiquing, traveling, and reading.
After serving as an editor with Abingdon Press for many years, in 2006 I founded Sheaf House Publishers, a small specialty press that publishes mainly fiction. I’ve authored 7 books, including book 5 of my American Patriot Series, Valley of the Shadow, which releases September 1. This series is the only comprehensive and accurate fiction series on the American Revolution. My other historical fiction series is the Northkill Amish Series, coauthored with Bob Hostetler. Book 1, Northkill, released in March 2014, and Book 2, The Return, is scheduled to release in October 2016. My standalone contemporary novel, One Holy Night, is set during the Vietnam War.
Northkill was awarded ForeWord Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB bronze award for historical fiction. One Holy Night, which released in a new edition in 2013, won the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year Award and was a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Carol Award.
What sparked your interest in writing?
A dream, strangely enough. It was so vivid and compelling that when I woke up I knew I had to write the story to find out who these people were and why they were doing what they were doing. It turned into an epic medieval tragedy, which one of these days I will finish and publish!
What can you share about your journey to getting published?
It was a looong journey! I began writing in the late 1970s—after the dream. After years of working hard to learn the craft, a whole lot of research, and a number of close misses, I got my first contract for Daughter of Liberty and Native Son, the first two books of my American Patriot Series, which were published by Zondervan in 2004 and 2005. I ended up parting ways with Zondervan, and after I founded my own small press, I brought out the first edition of Book 3, Wind of the Spirit in 2009. Beginning in 2012 I published revised editions of all 3 volumes in the Heritage Edition and added Book 4, Crucible of War. Valley of the Shadow is the latest installment, and I’m planning 2 more volumes, which will carry my characters through to the end of the war: Refiner’s Fire and Forge of Freedom.
Do you have a writing schedule and special place where do you write?
I generally write in the mornings when my brain is fresher and I have fewer distractions. Then in the afternoons I try to focus on Sheaf House business and also promote my books. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, though, and I’m sure you relate to that! Life happens and things get messy. I’ve learned to stay very flexible.
I am blessed to have a dedicated home office. I know not all writers have a separate space available for their work. Although my office is small, I’m very grateful to have it. Without it I’d go crazy, especially when I’m researching and have resources spread over every surface, including the floor!
What words of advice would you give to beginning writers?
Read deeply the kind of books you love to read. Read the way you eat—to live. Then write what you love to read. Write about subjects and themes you’re passionate about. Don’t make getting published your main goal. Instead, learn to write with excellence, and then write the very best stories you can write. The rest will take care of itself.
Your latest book, VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, Book 5 in The American Patriot Series, takes place during the American Revolution. Please tell us a little more about the story.
In Valley of the Shadow, Elizabeth Howard is a prisoner aboard a British prison ship in New York Harbor, surrounded by the warships of the Royal Navy. British General William Howe has summoned Brigadier General Jonathan Carleton to surrender to him or she will be executed. Carleton knows, however, that Howe will never release her, but plans to execute them both as soon as Carleton surrenders. His dilemma is how to find and rescue her within an excruciatingly narrow timeframe when all the odds are stacked against him. From heart-pounding battles on the high seas, to the rigors of Valley Forge and the Shawnee’s savagely fought wars to preserve their ancestral lands, Valley of the Shadow continues the thrilling saga of America’s founding in an inspiring story of despair, courage, and triumph.
God often teaches us something through our writing. Is there a spiritual theme VALLEY OF THE SHADOW?
Each of the volumes in the series has its own theme, and the series itself also has an overarching theme. The theme addressed in Valley of the Shadow is learning to trust God in all circumstances and that literally nothing is impossible for the Creator of the universe. The theme of the series is the life journey to find one’s true home in God’s kingdom. While enduring the anguish of war and separation, Elizabeth and Jonathan discover that, even more than the grand ideal of liberty and the deep intimacy of earthly love, their hearts seek the eternal city of God, where they will no longer be aliens and strangers, and that true peace and lasting freedom are found in God alone.
Can you tell us anything about the next book in the series or a current work in process?
Currently I’m working on The Return, book 2 of the Northkill Amish Series, which I’m writing with my fifth cousin, multi-published author Bob Hostetler. This series is a fictional treatment of the well-known story of our Hochstetler ancestors who emigrated to this country in 1738 seeking religious freedom. They were drawn into the French and Indian War when Indians attacked their homestead in 1757. Three members of the family were killed and 3 were carried away into captivity, returning years later. Readers can find more information at www.northkill.com. The Return publishes in fall 2016, and as soon as it’s off my desk, I’ll get back to the last two books of the American Patriot Series.
Thank you so much, Joan, for being my guest. I know folks will enjoy your stories.
Thank you so much for having me, Janet! It’s been a pleasure to visit with you and your audience.
To enter the giveaway for a free copy of VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, please leave a comment along with your email address. The winner will be notified. Giveaway ends September 4th, 2015.
Where can readers find your books?
They’re available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=J.+M.+Hochstetler; Barnes and Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/j.-m.-hochstetler; and Christianbook.com at http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=J.+M.+Hochstetler&N=1120877&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1&search
American Patriot Series: www.theamericanpatriotseries.com
Northkill Amish Series: www.northkill.com
One Holy Night: www.oneholynight.com