J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three historical novels. Daughter of Liberty (2004), Native Son (2005), and Wind of the Spirit (March 2009), the first 3 books of the American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. She is also the author of a contemporary novel, One Holy Night (2008) a modern-day retelling of the Christmas story.
Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society. She lives with her husband near Nashville, Tennessee.
What new book or project is would you like to tell us about?
Wind of the Spirit, book 3 of my American Patriot Series, released March 2. This volume begins with my heroine, Elizabeth Howard, scrambling for intelligence General George Washington desperately needs if he’s going to prevent the British from capturing New York. Elizabeth’s assignment leads her into the very maw of war at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, where disaster threatens to end the American rebellion once and for all.
Yet all the while her heart is fixed on Brigadier General Jonathan Carleton, whose whereabouts remain unknown more than a year after he disappeared into the wilderness while on assignment for Washington. Unknown to her, Carleton, now the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, is caught in a bitter war of his own. As unseen forces gather to destroy him, he leads the fight to drive out white settlers who are encroaching on Shawnee lands—while at the same time battling the longing for Elizabeth that will not give him peace.
You are multi-published and you own your own publishing house. Do you still have self-doubts about your writing?
Are you kidding? Of course I do. LOL! And I regularly hear other authors voice the same doubts. It’s a hazard of the job that I suspect never goes away. Whenever I look at a great new proposal that’s come my way or read a published novel I love, I think, Who ever told me I could write? I ought to just give up and be content to publish others!
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
Are you kidding? Of course I have! LOL! More times than I want to admit. I still do off and on, but I’ve learned that any time I dare voice the impulse, the Lord throws 2 or 3 terrific new story ideas my way. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and stop whining about it. And duck.
What mistakes did you make while seeking a publisher or agent?
I undoubtedly made every mistake in the book. When I started out, I submitted proposals to just about every publisher and agent I came across before I realized that not everyone was looking for what I was writing! Then I tried submitting the entire manuscript—and quickly got it back. Then, in desperation, I paid up-front money to an agent who sweet-talked me and, of course, you should never, never, ever do that. As to be expected, he turned out to be a charlatan. This business has been an education!
Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?
My pet peeve is that the business, by its nature, erects barricades worthy new authors have an awful time getting over to get their work published. Too many fall by the wayside. As an editor, I see many proposals from very talented authors who for one reason or another simply aren’t getting a publishing contract. Then if a writer in desperation self publishes or resorts to POD or e-publishing in the effort to fulfill the Lord’s calling, he or she is looked down on by those in the industry as being something less than a “real” author. That’s ridiculous! I’ve read really bad books that were published by traditional publishers and really good ones by self-published authors.
The trouble is there are too many authors and too few publishing houses, and most of the latter are more concerned with the bottom line than with doing ministry and spreading the gospel. It really hurts me to think that there are excellent authors out there with projects that could turn readers’ hearts to Jesus, but nobody will take a chance on them for fear their books won’t sell. If God’s hand is on them, they definitely will find a market!
Was there ever a difficult set back that you went through in your writing career? (If you're willing to share it)
You bet. I began writing in 1977 and didn’t get a publishing contract until 2002, for Daughter of Liberty, which published in 2004. The sequel, Native Son, released the following year. But before I even signed the contract, my editor left, and the editor who replaced him cancelled the series well before Native Son came out. And without any support, the books didn’t go anywhere. Then nobody would touch any of my subsequent proposals. It was like I’d hit a brick wall. Again. My dreams were absolutely shattered.
What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)
My top favorites are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. The last one, especially, was life-changing for me. I also love Shakespeare’s plays, and I’m a great fan of Charles Dickens and of Rafael Sabatini’s pirate stories.
What work have you done that you’re especially proud of and why?
I’m very proud of my American Patriot Series. My goal is for it to be the only truly comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. But my contemporary, One Holy Night, which is a modern-day retelling of the Christmas story, holds a very special place in my heart. The Lord gave me some very precious insights through this story. In writing it I also drew more on my own background and personal experiences and ponderings than in anything else I’ve ever written, so it reveals more of my heart and who I am.
Can you give us a look into a typical day for you?
ACK!!! There is no typical day. I never know what to expect or what’s going to have priority in the next 24 hours. I just climb out of bed in the morning, down my cup of coffee and bowl of cereal, then plunge in wherever the most urgent issues are screaming my name the loudest. Row and bail frantically are my modus operandi. That’s what I do. And I LOVE it!!! I must be insane!!
What author do you especially admire and why?
Of the current Christian authors, I especially admire Siri Mitchell and Tamara Leigh for their ability to create quirky but completely sympathetic characters you can really relate to; intriguing, unusual settings; and plot lines that just suck you in. I haven’t read Siri’s historical yet, but it’s on my list to acquire. And I’m behind on Tammy’s books too. I sure hope I’ll be able to get back to reading for pleasure someday.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
My very favorite part is researching and writing. For me, writing the first draft is like dragging my brains through a pinhole in my forehead with tweezers, but once I have words on paper, so to speak, I’m set. I love to edit!
I hate doing promo. Hate, hate, hate it! Though I confess I usually end up having a great time when I force myself to get out there. But my natural inclination is to barricade myself in my office and write. I even have a sign I post on my door when necessary that says if there’s no blood, smoke, or hovering alien spacecraft, go away!
How much marketing do you do? What's your favorite part of marketing?
See answer above. I have no favorite part of marketing. I do book signings—and generally have fun doing them—and I do mailings and send out tons of review and influencer copies. I’ve even done a few speeches, and it was a positive experience though I dreaded it from the moment I agreed to do it until it was over and I could slink back to my seat.
I have a radio interview coming up on the Kelly Long show on KREJ 101.7 FM in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, on March 12 at 8:20 a.m. Kelly sounds like my kinda crazy person, so part of me is looking forward to chatting with her. But the other part of me is crazed with terror. This is my first foray into radio, and my stomach is in a permanent clench. I was a lot braver when D-Day was still a couple of months off. Doing something like this is always more attractive when it’s in the distant future. I appreciate as many prayers as I can get that I’ll be reasonably coherent!
Since you're also an editor, let's chat about that. What made you decide to launch Sheaf House?
Part Two of our exclusive interview with Sheaf House founder, J.M. Hochstetler, will be posted on 03/12/09.