Wednesday, February 25, 2009

J.M. Hochstetler on Following the Author of Our Dreams

I'm pleased to welcome today's guest blogger, author and publisher,
J. M. Hochstetler!


Following the Author
of Our Dreams
By J. M. Hochstetler


My writing career literally began with a dream.

Seriously, I had a dream one night that was so intriguing I had to write the story to figure out who these people were and why they were doing what they were doing. The result was a medieval epic tragedy, which I will publish someday, I swear!

Writing was not a career I’d ever envisioned for myself, even though I’ve been an avid reader since becoming acquainted with Dick and Jane. My original ambition was to be an artist in the mold of Caravaggio or Rembrandt. However, I came to the realization that although I had a lot of artistic talent, I didn’t have the genius and the passion to reach the level of my heroes. So, being a perfectionist and unwilling to settle for mediocrity, I laid that dream aside. Looking back on it now, I’m confident that the Lord closed the door to a career in art because he had other plans for me. He most definitely led me in another direction, though there were times when I had serious doubts.

By the time I finished my first book, I had developed another dream: to become a published author. So I began submitting my story to publishers and agents and predictably accumulated a pile of rejections. I moved on to other projects while continuing to submit, but none of my stories found a home. In the late 1980s I came heartbreakingly close to being offered a contract . . . then the publisher decided to cut back their fiction list, and my project was dropped.

At that point I was so discouraged I concluded I’d been kidding myself and it was not God’s will for me to write. I was in Bible Study Fellowship at the time, and the more deeply I studied the Scriptures, the more I was convicted that I needed to—and wanted to—submit my writing to the Lord and seek his will, instead of mine, for my life. With tears, I did so and carried everything I’d written out to the trash. If you want me to write, I told the Lord, then you will have to give it back to me. Otherwise, I will never write another word. For weeks, I went through the motions of daily life, feeling as if there was a hole straight through my heart. But I knew that my career and my future were in God’s hands, and I rested in the assurance that he is trustworthy.

One day I went into my office for the first time in weeks. I don’t remember what I was looking for, but for some reason pulled open one of the drawers. As I glanced inside, my heart stood still. There nestled a thick stack of paper, random discarded pages of my novels that I had saved to recycle by using the blank backs. I was absolutely certain I had cleaned out all the drawers when I threw my projects away—and all the others were indeed empty. Yet somehow I had missed this one drawer, totally forgetting that the discarded pages were there.

It was several moments before I could pick up the stack and leaf through it. Incredibly, there was enough of each of my stories on those pages that I could reconstruct them—and make them better. I heard a quiet voice telling me that because I had sacrificed to the Lord something that was so precious to my heart, he was giving it back to me. I sat there clutching those pages, weeping.

Over time I began to reconstruct the stories I’d destroyed and to write new ones. In spite of renewed hope, years passed, and I didn’t get any closer to publication than I had before. There were many more dark valleys, many times when I “quit” writing and gave my work back to the Lord. But each time he assured me that I was in the center of his will and gave me the strength and courage to go on. I discovered joy in daily giving my work up to the true Author of it.

Then early in 2002 I found an agent willing to take me on—Joyce Hart. Later that year she negotiated my first book contract, with Zondervan, for the first two books of my American Patriot Series. You can imagine the excitement and joy I felt to see the dream the Lord had given me at last realized. I had no idea that another, even harder, lesson lay in store.

The ink was hardly dry on my contract when a new editor took over, and months before Native Son was released, I was informed that Zondervan would not publish any more of my books. Worse, no efforts on my agent’s part led to a contract with another publisher. Within a year it seemed as if the fulfillment of my dream had been a mockery and all my hopes lay totally shattered.

I was about to be reminded, however, that our God is the God of the impossible. When he sets a plan in place, it’s going to be accomplished no matter what obstacles are raised up against it. No publishing house would publish my work, so the Lord called me to a new dream. In addition to writing, I was guided to found my own small press to publish not only my own work, but also the work of other promising writers who were facing the same barriers I was.

Sheaf House was born in the autumn of 2006. In 2008 we published our first 3 books. Author Joy DeKok came aboard as my partner early this year, and our publishing list for 2009 includes 5 books, including the third book of my series, Wind of the Spirit. I have heard from so many fans eager to get their hands on this sequel that I am truly encouraged by what God is doing through this story of our nation’s founding. So far we have 3 novels lined up for 2010, with a couple more under serious consideration, along with still others for 2011. The word is spreading about our books, and we’re beginning to see encouraging sales.

You’ll find additional information about me and my books at http://www.jmhochstetler.com/. To learn more about Sheaf House, go to http://www.sheafhouse.com/. I’m also blogging the process of establishing and running the business on the Publishing Dream blog at publishingdream.blogspot.com. Come on over and join the dialog!

I’ve learned that it’s truly amazing what God will do when his people submit to him with a loving and willing heart and seek his glory instead of their own. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desires—the dreams—of our hearts!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. M. Hochstetler was born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers. Joan graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages and was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years. She has published three novels: One Holy Night, a retelling of Jesus’ birth in a modern-day setting that released in April 2008. Daughter of Liberty (2004) and Native Son (2005), books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series are set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, is scheduled for release in March 2009.

Married to a retired United Methodist pastor, Joan 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 and her husband divide their time between their home near Nashville, Tennessee, and their winter home in Perry, Georgia. They are members of Grace Church in Perry.

ABOUT THE BOOK - Wind of the Spirit

The American Patriot Series, Book 3

Elizabeth Howard scrambles for critical intelligence as the fateful confrontation between the Americans and the British explodes at the Battle of Brooklyn. Meanwhile, far out on the western borders, Brigadier General Jonathan Carleton, as the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, succeeds in driving white settlers out of Ohio Territory through a series of lightning raids. At the same time Blue Sky’s seductive charms and the rapidly escalating conflict with Wolfslayer force White Eagle to walk a treacherous tightrope between the alluring widow and the vengeful shaman.

With Washington poised to make a last-ditch gamble to save the American cause at Trenton, Elizabeth rejoins Colonel Charles Andrews on a desperate journey to find Carleton before the British capture and execute him for treason. Can her love bridge the miles that separate them—and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?


WIN THE BOOK

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Wind of the Spirit, just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on March 7th (this deadline has been extended to let more people in on the fun!) Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!

17 comments:

windycindy said...

This author is new to me. I enjoyed your interview with her! It is fun learning about the person behind a book. Please enter my name in your drawing. Many thanks! Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

Esther said...

I do know Joan, quite well actually, but I had never heard this whole story about how God has guided and orchestrated her writing life. What a beautiful testimony! I'm so happy for how things are shaping up for her now. esther[at]joyfulmail[dot]com.

Kathleen L. said...

I am half-way through Daughter of Liberty, and loving the rich history. The chemistry between Miss Howard and Carleton keeps me turning the pages.
That said, it is a special treat to read this glimpse into the author's journey. I can relate on so many levels. From dying to an art dream to laying aside my writing for years, and throwing away a manuscript only to have the Lord resurrect it-- I feel kindred!
Thanks for this encouraging blog.
Kathleen Maher
mahereenie[at]yahoo[dot]com

Lori Benton said...

Joan,

I'm so glad I found your books and contacted you... can it be years ago now? You know the story, but I want to share it here. I was in the middle of reading the American Patriot Series, and one day while puttering about doing housework, found myself so deeply involved in the characters' on-going struggles that I caught myself praying for them! At first I felt silly, then I thought, "If these were my characters, and a reader found herself so connected to them that she caught herself praying for them, I'd want to hear about." I sent Joan an email, and that was the start of a friendship built of mutual love of history, writing and encouragement that I'd have missed out on if I hadn't risked seeming foolish and sent her that note.

I'm thrilled to have watched where the Lord has brought you, Joan.

I've already read Wind Of The Spirit, so don't enter me into this drawing (I want others to read it!)

Anonymous said...

I learned about Joan last year when I picked up Native Son to read. I was intrigued by the cover. When you put history, action and romance into a Christian book, it's hard for me to resist let alone put down. I think I read each book at one sitting! I can hardly wait to read Wind of the Spirit! Please place my name in your drawing!
Blessings!
Carol
covenantdaughter[@]huntel[dot]net

Carol said...

I learned about Joan last year when I picked up Native Son to read. I was intrigued by the cover. When you put history, action and romance into a Christian book, it's hard for me to resist let alone put down. I think I read each book at one sitting! I can hardly wait to read Wind of the Spirit! Please place my name in your drawing!
Blessings!
Carol
covenantdaughter[@]huntel[dot]net

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Cindi! It's good to meet you!

Esther, I've been missing you and all my buddies in MTCW! I hope Fred is doing great by now!

Kathleen, I am so glad my story is encouraging someone else! That's really precious to me! It's amazing how the Lord can take situations that seem so hopeless and turn them around for our good, and then allow us to reach out to others because of that experience. I know He will fulfill the dream you've been cherishing!

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Lori,

How I've been missing our regular talks and finding out how you're progressing with Kindred! I can't wait till life slows down a bit so we can get back to talking shop and sharing the journey each of us has been on. :-) I promise it will be soon!

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Carol!

I'm so glad you're enjoying the journey my characters are on! I'm just loving writing this series, and it's so encouraging to know the Lord is using it to reach readers' hearts.

The Wendt Family said...

Hi Joan!

Great interview! I thank God for bringing out lives together in Georgia last year. You and your books are annoited by the Lord.

I started with your One Holy Night book ... which I got on a Sunday afternoon and kept picking up every time I laid it down until I finally finished it at about 3 AM Monday morning.

I think I have read all of the books Sheaf House has published thus far and ... they have ALL been winners. The only way that can happen is to have God's hand leading you all the way!

Keep up the great work! I'm anxious to read this one and know from what you've shared it won't be a disappointment.

Hugs!

Michelle

PS I highly challenge those of you that haven't checked out the Sheaf House published books to do so. You won't be disappointed!

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Michelle!! We were just so blessed to meet you guys and I'm so thankful we've been able to keep in touch! Thank you so much for your encouraging words and your prayers. You keep us going!

I think you're going to enjoy Wind of the Spirit. And I agree with you--we have a terrific team of authors at Sheaf House, and our fall releases are fantastic!

Hugs,
Joan

rebornbutterfly said...

Id love to read this book!
rebornbutterfly [at] sbcglobal [dot] net

Janna said...

I've read one of JM's books and would love to read another!

Janna
ryanx6 [at] msn [dot] com

Sandee61 said...

I'd love to read this book...the author is new to me, and I really enjoy historical books, and books about Indians. Please enter me in your giveaway. Thank you! I also enjoyed the interview...love getting to know new authors.

Blessings,
Sandy

Muzzley56[at]aol[dot]com

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Sarah, Janna, and Sandee! Thank you for entering the drawing!

Janna, I'm so pleased you enjoyed my previous book, and I hope you'll like this one too!

Sandee, if you like stories about Indians, you're in luck! Much of Wind of the Spirit is set among the Shawnee. It's been fascinating to research their culture and this period.

Charla said...

This sounds like an interesting historical fiction book with adventure and romance. Please enter me! Thanks! :D

c-krause[at]hotmail[dot]com

Jennifer AlLee said...

The winner of Wind of the Spirit is... Sandee61. Congrats!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by. Be blessed :+}