Today we have author J.M. Hochstetler visiting with us. She is the author of One Holy Night a wonderful Christmas book. I read this book last year you may read my review here. First read the interview and sign up to win a copy of her book. Then be sure to read my review. I want to thank Mrs. Hochstetler for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Could you briefly tell us a little about yourself?
I am a professional editor, an author, and now a publisher. I was an editor with Abingdon Press, an imprint of The United Methodist Publishing House, for twelve years, up until 2007. In 2006 I founded my own small press, Sheaf House, to publish outstanding fiction, and we’re now in the process of adding nonfiction to our list. I’ve had 4 books published, 2 through Zondervan, and 2 through Sheaf House, with another scheduled for fall 2011. In my everyday persona, I’m the wife of a retired United Methodist minister. I live near Nashville, Tennessee, and I have three daughters, four grandchildren, and five step-grandchildren.
I was reading your bio that was sent along with all my information for this tour. I was born and raised in Indiana also. I'm from northern Indiana, right on the IN/MI boarder. Wow. You must like the writing business. What influenced you to start writing?
A dream. Literally. Back in 1977 I had a dream that was so intriguing it just kept haunting me. I found myself wondering who these people were and why they were doing what they were doing. Although I was a voracious reader, up till that point it had never occurred to me to try my hand at writing fiction. But I realized that if I was going to make any sense of that dream, I was going to have to figure out who the characters were and what their story was, and the only logical way to do that was to write it down. At the time I had no intentions of ever submitting anything I wrote for publication, but along the way as more stories came to me, I realized that a story isn’t complete without readers.
Interesting background. How long have you been writing?
I began writing seriously in 1977. I got my first publishing contract in 2002. Of course, I went through a lot of life changes during those years. There were periods when I wasn’t able to write at all and other periods when I wrote but didn’t submit anything. But still, that’s a long time!
That is a long time. Why do you write?
As most authors will tell you, I write because I can’t not write. Writing is as natural as breathing to me. It’s the way I process life and make sense of it. And it’s the way the Lord has called me to communicate his love, mercy, and grace to his people.
Hopefully, no English teacher caught that double negative. That's ok, we understand. The story just has to come out. Tell us a little about the featured book: One Holy Night.
At heart it’s a modern-day retelling of the nativity story set in the Minneapolis area during the Vietnam War. It tells the story of a family torn apart by intergenerational conflict, war, and illness that is brought together again by the miraculous birth of a baby.
I loved reading the book. Loved the part when the abandoned baby was found in the manger on Christmas morning. Where did the seed thought come from for One Holy Night?
One Holy Night grew out of my wrestling with the kinds of gritty issues that impact our lives every day. Over the years I’ve questioned how we can make sense of our lives and find purpose, strength, and healing in the midst of a world filled with sin and brokenness. And my reflections started to find their way into this story about a family in a small town in Minnesota that is faced with these kinds of issues while the son is away, serving in Vietnam.
My heart broke for the son and his wanting his dad's acceptance. What do wish for the reader to gain after reading One Holy Night?
I want readers to know that they are forgiven; that God longs to restore them to relationship with him; and that no matter what they may have done, there is nothing that can separate them from God’s eternal, redeeming love.
God's love is truly wonderful. Could you tell us of a favorite family tradition you have or Christmas memory?
When my daughters were tiny, I impulsively decided to hang candy canes on our tree on the night of Christmas Eve, while they were fast asleep. They were so excited to find the treats on the tree Christmas morning that I knew I’d come up with a very special tradition. But one Christmas I was busy with holiday preparations and forgot to get a package of candy canes. It seemed like such a simple, unimportant thing, and I told myself the girls were too old to care about this little tradition anymore. Then one evening just a couple of days before Christmas, I happened to notice my oldest daughter, Jennifer, sitting on the stairs with my youngest, Katie, happily taking in the living room, aglow with holiday decorations. “Now, you know,” Jennifer told her little sister, “when Santa comes, he always hangs candy canes all over the tree.” Katie’s eyes grew round. “Always?” she breathed. “Oh, yes, always,” Jennifer assured her. “There will be candy canes on the tree on Christmas morning. You’ll see.” Well, you know I made a special trip to the store the very next day! On that Christmas morning and every Christmas morning since then, even now that I have grandchildren, candy canes have adorned our Christmas tree. I’m constantly amazed at how such simple things can turn out to be so meaningful.
How sweet! Sometimes it's the simple things that are remembered. Do you write only contemporary fiction books?
Actually, One Holy Night is the only contemporary I’ve had published. I have a couple of others in development, but my main focus is historical fiction. I’m writing a comprehensive series on the American Revolution, the American Patriot Series. The first 3 books have been released to outstanding reviews: Daughter of Liberty, Native Son, and Wind of the Spirit. Right now I’m working on book 4, Crucible of War, and 3 more volumes are in various stages of development. The story follows my hero and heroine, Jonathan Carleton and Elizabeth Howard, through the entire Revolution, beginning with the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord in 1775, and ultimately ending after the final battle at Yorktown in 1781. The Revolutionary period provides a wealth of thrilling and inspirational material, and I’m doing painstaking research to ensure accuracy. Although the series is written on an adult level, it’s quite suitable for students from middle school on up. I truly believe that excellent, well-researched historical fiction is the best way to learn history.
I love reading historical fiction. I'll have to check into these, I love American Revolution time period. I have a long and ever growing hope to someday read book list. I think I could quit getting books now and have enough to last me the rest of my life. Which of your books would you like to see turned into a movie and why?
Daughter of Liberty, most definitely. I’ve had a lot of readers tell me it would make a fabulous movie, and I agree. There’s lots of action, adventure, intrigue, danger, and a really hot romance. Besides, I love period flicks.
Sounds like a good movie. Love watching historical movies too. My hubby has us watching the Combat (WW II) series right now. Where could someone find you online?
You’ll find my Web site at www.jmhochstetler.com. I have a blog specifically for One Holy Night at http://oneholynight.blogspot.com. Both sites are linked to my other blogs.
Wonderful. I'm going to have to check it out. Do you have a favorite scripture verse?
My life verse is Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
That's a powerful verse. Any closing thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
First, I want to thank you very much for inviting me to do this interview! I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. I’d like to close with this thought: I know many of us are wrestling with the uncertainties of our country’s economic situation as well as personal struggles others may not even be aware of. And I’ve gone through some pretty bleak times myself. But when I look back at all the times God has restored my life and brought faith and hope and joy out of seemingly impossible circumstances, I have to rejoice. 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 one of us individually and for our country and the world, no matter what the opposition can do. The battle may rage, but there’s nothing more certain than that our God will be victorious in the end!
Thanks for being available to do the interview. I've enjoyed it. I loved One Holy Night. Thanks for writing the book.
Read my review of One Holy Night here.
Virtual tours has provided a copy of this book for the giveaway. Leave me a comment telling me what is your favorite Christmas song? I will draw a name from all those who leave a comment for a copy of One Holy Night. Be sure to leave a contact e-mail. US residents only please. I will draw a winner for this book on Nov. 23rd.
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November 19, 1966
Mike McRae dropped his battered duffel bag on the concrete floor and glanced through the bank of windows to where the wide-bodied army transport sat waiting on the snow-dusted tarmac. Waiting to take him and his buddies halfway around the world to war.
The name hung between him and his family as they gathered in the spare, unadorned military terminal, trying to pretend that this trip was nothing out of the ordinary. But it seemed to Mike almost as if he were gone already, that he had moved beyond the point where he could reach out to touch them. Their faces, loved and familiar, blurred before his eyes as though he looked at them through a mist.
His father cleared his throat before shoving a dog-eared, plain, tan paperback book into Mike’s hands. “Thought you might be able to use this sometime,” he said, his voice hoarse. “You and Julie used to like to sing some of these old songs when you were kids. Remember?”
Mike looked down at the book he held. It was his father’s old service hymnbook that he’d gotten as a young Marine at Sunday worship aboard a ship headed out to the South Pacific during World War II. Frank McRae wasn’t much of one to attend church, and the gift surprised Mike. Maybe spiritual things meant more to his father than he had thought.
It evidently surprised his mother too. “Oh, Frank, I didn’t think you paid any attention. Julie taught you those songs when you were just a toddler,” she added, lightly touching Mike’s shoulder. “The two of you sounded like little angels-” She stopped, her voice choking.
Mike could feel the heat rising to his face. To cover his embarrassment, he flipped open the worn cover and stared down at the inscription on the title page. No date, just the owner’s name: Frank McRae.
It was Mike’s turn to clear his throat. There was suddenly a lump in it despite his skepticism about anything that had to do with faith or religion.
“Well . . . cool. Thanks.”
Blinking back an unexpected prickle of tears, he glanced over at his mother, Maggie, who was thin and wan from surgery and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. His sister, Julie, hovered near her, still in her white nurse’s uniform after coming straight to the airport from the hospital where she worked. Behind her stood her husband, Dan, holding their daughter, Amy.
“I know you’ve got a lot to carry already, but-”
Mike waved his father’s words away. “It isn’t heavy, Dad, and who knows. You lugged it through all those battlefields, and you made it home. Maybe it’ll bring me good luck too.”
On impulse, he pulled a pen out of the breast pocket of his fatigues, clicked it open and added his name below his father’s, added the date too. Squatting down, he zipped open his bag and squeezed the hymnal in among his clothing.
When he straightened, his mother stepped forward to give him a fierce hug. “When you get there let us know you’re okay and what unit you’re assigned to. Write as often as you can.”
“I will, Mom.” He struggled to keep his voice from choking up. “Love you.”
“Love you too.”
“You get well, okay?” he whispered in her ear.
“I will. I’m going to beat this cancer, God willing.”
Inwardly Mike sighed, though for her sake he managed not to grimace. He and his mom had always been close, but he got awfully tired of all this God talk. On the other hand, if there really was a benign force somewhere out there in the universe, he supposed prayers couldn’t hurt.
Julie crowded in to put her arms around him as well. “I’m sure going to miss you, little brother.” She was crying openly, not making any attempt to brush away her tears.
“Aw, you’re going to be too busy with this little princess to think about me,” Mike returned awkwardly, reaching over to tickle three-year-old Amy under the chin.
She leaned out from her father’s arms, reaching for him. Dan surrendered the child, and she wound her arms around Mike’s neck, nestled her golden head against his shoulder, giggling, as he tugged on her braid.
Mike was relieved to see that Amy, at least, seemed not to comprehend the dangers he was heading toward or the length of the separation that lay before them. He turned to clasp Dan’s hand in a handshake he hoped would say everything he couldn’t.
Dan pushed his hand away and embraced him without speaking, pounding him on the back at the same time. Only Frank held back, frowning, as he stared through the windows at the plane.
Outside Mike could hear the engines revving up, signaling that it was time to board. The last of his buddies were heading outside. Hastily handing Amy back to Dan, Mike kissed his sister and mother, shook his father’s hand, then zipped up his parka and grabbed his duffel bag.
“Thirteen months,” he said, forcing a grin. “See you all back here next Christmas.”
“Don’t forget to tell Terry hello from all of us. Remind him Angie and the kids want him to stay safe and to hurry home. Give him a kiss from Angie,” Julie added with a wicked grin.
“Yeah, right!” Mike chuckled in spite of himself, then hefted his bag. “It sure will be good to see a friendly face when I get there. With luck, I’ll end up in Terry’s platoon.”
“It’ll be more than luck,” his mother said. “I’m going to pray about it. And we’ll be praying every minute until you’re home safe with us again.”
Mike gave her a crooked smile, then with a quick wave to all of them, turned and strode out the door and across the tarmac. By sheer willpower he kept his stride steady, refusing to let himself turn to look back at them. He knew that if he did, he’d never make it to the plane.
Every step of the way he could sense their eyes following him, and their love. When he reached the stairs, he ran up them, not letting himself think about what he was leaving behind or what lay before him.
Hurriedly he moved through the open door into the plane’s dim interior, feeling, like the severing of an embrace, the moment when he disappeared from their sight.
This book was provided for review by Virtual book tours.
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