One Holy Night – author interview – Joan Hochstetler

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Paperback Writer is pleased to introduce our guest author for today, Joan Hochstetler, author of One Holy Night as she joins us during her virtual book tour.

About the Book:
An unforgettable story of forgiveness and reconciliation, One Holy Night retells the Christmas story in a strikingly original way—through the discovery of a baby abandoned in the manger of a church’s nativity scene. Destined to become a classic for all seasons, One Holy Night deals compassionately with the gritty issues of life—war and violence, devastating illness, intergenerational conflict, addictions, and broken relationships. This moving, inspirational story will warm readers’ hearts with hope and joy long after they finish reading.

Hi, Joan. Welcome to Paperback Writer!

It’s great to be here! Thank you for inviting me.

Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?

A: I came up with the basic idea for this story back in the late 1980s when I was working with another author on a book of short stories that revolved around Christmas. I was assigned to write a miracle story, so One Holy Night started out as a short story with the same basic theme but a different setting. When the project got shelved, I put it aside and forgot all about it for a long time.

Around 1998 or 1999, I got it out again, set it during the Vietnam era, and then worked on it off and on for a couple of years. Then 9-11 happened, and right around the same time a young mother in our church was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, and then died within a year. The following year my parents both died as the result of a car accident. The war against terrorism was in all the headlines at the time, with commentators comparing the Iraqi war with the quagmire of Vietnam—a conflict I was well acquainted with since I was in high school and college during those years.

So all my ponderings started to find their way into this story set in 1967 about a family in a small town in Minnesota that is grappling with the kinds of gritty issues we all face, while their son is away, serving in Vietnam.

Q: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?

A: I’m what’s known as a seat-of-the-pants writer. I do a minimal amount of planning when I begin a story, though I always have a general idea of the storyline. But characters and the details of the plot pretty much develop as I write.

Q: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?

A: Not always, though I do know which direction the plot is tending. But by the time I’ve written about a third of the story, I always know exactly where and how it will end. At that point I write the final chapter, which helps tremendously in figuring out the middle of the story.

Q: Do you have a process for developing your characters?

A: Um . . . I just start writing, and somehow they spring to life and start talking and doing stuff. Sometimes stuff that surprises me. Occasionally stuff that annoys me because it complicates the action.

Q; It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?

A: It’s probably impossible not to put yourself into your characters at some level. I think some authors are very recognizable in the characters they create, but I’ve been told that’s not very obvious in my stories, at least not in my series on the American Revolution. Little do they know! But in One Holy Night, Julie definitely did inherit a lot of my characteristics, from her strawberry blonde hair to her efforts to persuade everybody in her family to get along and be happy. Maggie has some shades of me too. For one thing, she has a hard time setting aside time and energy to take care of herself as I do, which I think is a tendency we women have. We’re nurturers by nature and also by upbringing, so we feel guilty if we’re not putting others first.

Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?

A: I love the last few chapters, when Frank is finally forced to face his personal demons and come to grips with his hardness of heart and unforgiving spirit. And then the scene in which little Katie leads them all to the church on Christmas morning, where they find a real baby in the manger. The end of this story is full of so much hope and joy after all the pain and sorrow the characters experienced. All because of a baby, just like Jesus’ birth.

Q: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?

A: Not until the full manuscript was finished. That took a while. This story stayed with me for a number of years and through several other manuscripts and a lot of life changes before I finally finished it.

Q: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?

A: It’s been a rocky road, that’s for sure. I started writing in 1977, began submitting to publishers and agents in the early 1980s, and finally got a publishing contract in 2002. Then I lost my editor, the new editor wasn’t interested in me and my books, and my agent finally ended up terminating the contract in 2005. At that point, nobody would look at any of my proposals, and as an author I was at a dead end.

It turned out to be a good thing, though, because it forced me to found my own small press, Sheaf House Publishers, which has been an adventure and a blessing. My partner, Joy DeKok, and I now have 15 authors under contract, with 3 more soon to sign, and 8 books out as of October. We have a full list for 2010 and 2011, and we’re beginning to schedule projects into 2012. God keeps opening doors and raining down blessings.

Q: What has been the best part about being published?

A: Feedback from my readers. I just love to hear how the stories God has given me have touched readers’ lives and hearts. I’m always incredibly blessed and encouraged when they take the time to contact me.

Q: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?

A: When I look back at all the times the Lord has restored my life, strengthened my faith, and given me hope and joy in the midst really bleak circumstances, I have to rejoice. I want readers to know that no matter what circumstances they’re facing, nothing is impossible for our God! Nothing! Even when we can’t see it, God is constantly working for our good. He will accomplish His perfect will for each of us individually, and for our country and the world, if we’ll just believe in Him and trust Him to lead us.

Q: Do you have plans to write another book?

A: Actually, I have several projects going at any one time. Currently I’m working on book 4 of my American Patriot Series, Crucible of War. I also have a romance in the works that’s based on my Mennonite background and another that’s a fictional retelling of the well-known story of my Hochstetler ancestors, who came to this country in 1738 and were attacked by Indians in 1757 during the French and Indian War. There are a few other works in progress hanging around as well.

Q: Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?

A: It’s been fantastic! I just love the thought and care they put into designing a tour that fits the individual book and author instead of being the one size fits all kind. The interviews are all really different and fun, and writing articles for sites with different focuses is a blast. I’m having a great time!

Q: Where can readers find a copy of your book?

A: My books are available from any local bookseller and from your favorite online retailers. They’re also available on the Sheaf House Web site at

Q: Do you have a website for readers to go to?

A: That would be

Thank you, Joan, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.

It’s been wonderful. Thank you so much! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

About the Author;
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 graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Daughter of Liberty (2004), Native Son (2005), and Wind of the Spirit (March 2009), the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and a finalist for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Long Contemporary Book of the Year.

Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband live near Nashville, Tennessee.

You can find Joan online at or at this book’s blog

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This article was written by Rebecca

Rebecca is a book coach and editor. She guides aspiring writers, coaches, entrepreneurs and speakers to become self-published authors so they share their expertise, knowledge and passion. Thinking about writing a book? Contact her today to start writing your book.

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