Saturday, February 13, 2016
Interview with Award Winning Author J. M. Hochstetler
J. M. Hochstetler is an author, editor, and publisher. She is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won ForeWord Magazine’s 2014 IndyFab Book of the Year Bronze Award in historical fiction. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year.
Welcome Joan! We're so glad you could visit us today.
Thank you so much! I’m delighted that you invited me to chat with you.
What made you decide to become a writer?
Well, it all started with a dream. Seriously! Although I’d done some nonfiction writing in high school and college, I never considered becoming a writer, much less the author of novels. Which is strange because I’ve been an avid reader ever since being introduced to Dick and Jane. However, one night, when I was just a young mother, I had a dream that was so vivid I kept wondering who those people were and what they were doing. I finally decided that the only way I could make sense of it was to write the story, and I proceeded to do so—over a period of years! It turned into a medieval epic tragedy.
That’s really how I learned to research and write historical fiction. This one has been on the back burner for many years now, but I still consider it my best work. And someday when I finally get all my current projects off my desk, I swear I’m going to finish it and get it published!
Where did the inspiration for your latest book come from?
My newest release is Valley of the Shadow, Book 5 of The American Patriot Series. It continues the saga of Elizabeth Howard and Jonathan Carleton as they navigate the adventure, romance, and intrigue of the American Revolution. My inspiration for each volume of this series comes from the actual historical events of our war to gain independence from Great Britain. There’s such a volume of fabulous historical material to work with that I could spin this series out indefinitely, but I’m going to do my best to wrap it up with Book 7.
Your website says you write historical fiction that brings the past alive. What does this mean to you?
I want readers to be so immersed in the historical period I’m writing about that they feel like they’re living the events of the story along with the characters. Even better, I want them to feel like they ARE the characters. That’s the most organic way for anyone to learn history—to identify so strongly with “real” people living in a particular place and time that you experience the true events along with them. When your emotions are deeply engaged, history becomes unforgettable.
How does your faith and spirituality work in with your writing?
For me faith and spirituality are all one piece with the act of writing stories—or doing anything else, for that matter. My worldview is deeply colored by the biblical understanding of God’s working through history, and my characters and plots naturally grow out of that.
I was raised Mennonite by parents who were raised Amish. Because of my family’s unique history and the tendency of many Amish and Mennonites to record their genealogy and family stories, I’ve always had an interest in past events. But the process of turning that dream I mentioned earlier into a novel and all the research that entailed made me a fanatic.
What are you working on next?
My coauthor, Bob Hostetler, and I are working on The Return, the 2nd and final book of the Northkill Amish Series. It’s very closely based on the true story of our Hochstetler ancestors, well known among the Amish and Mennonites. They came to this country from the Alsace region of Europe in 1738 aboard the ship Charming Nancy and settled with other members of their Amish church on the Pennsylvania frontier between British-held settlements and Indian territory dominated by France.
In 1757, during the French and Indian War, their home was attacked by a band of Delaware and Shawnee warriors. The mother and 2 children were killed, and the father and 2 sons were taken into captivity among the Indians. The father managed to escape after several months, and then made every effort to find his sons and have them returned to him. That took years. After the end of the war, they were forcibly returned along with many other Indian captives. By then the two boys, who had been adopted into Indian families, fully identified as Indians, and their reintegration into the Amish community was a difficult one. It’s a fascinating and inspiring story of God’s grace and mercy.
Very interesting. Looks like you have some great stuff going on. Thank you so much for being with us!
Thank you so much for inviting me, Amber! I’ve enjoyed visiting with you and your audience.