Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Author Interview: J.M. Hochstetler and Wind of the Spirit

We welcome back today, author J.M. Hochstetler. Joan is the author of One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story—which we reviewed here—and The American Patriot Series, which includes Daughter of Liberty, Native Son and Wind of the Spirit (American Patriot). Joan is on a virtual book tour to discuss Wind of the Spirit and we’re thrilled she decided to drop in again.

Welcome back Joan. It’s great to have you with us. Can you give our readers a brief glimpse into who you are and when you started writing?

I’m delighted to be back again!

I was raised Mennonite and grew up on a farm outside Kokomo, Indiana. I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic Languages. In 1977, after marrying and while raising 3 daughters, I started writing, mainly for my own amusement. But eventually I decided a story isn’t complete without readers, so I began to submit to publishers and agents and racked up a goodly pile of rejection slips.

Eventually I moved to the Nashville, Tennessee, area, where I became an editor with Abingdon Press. During that time my first 2 books, Daughter of Liberty and Native Son, were published. Then in 2006 I founded my own small press, Sheaf House Publishers. That turned out to be prescient since I was laid off from Abingdon in 2007. At that point, I jumped into building the business full-time.

When I’m not writing or working on my business, I love traveling, gardening, doing crafts, and camping in our fifth-wheel trailer with my husband. My daughter and I have just discovered canning, so this fall we’ve been canning everything we can get our hands on, with some smashing successes and some . . . er . . . mixed results. Our next project is wine jelly. Can’t wait to tackle that!

Now, when you first started Daughter of Liberty, did you know at the time that you were planning a series?

That was the last thing on my mind. I started writing it back in 1983 after watching a TV movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. I fell in love with the story—and with Anthony Andrews!—and wanted to write a version with different characters in a different setting. Since I’m not very interested in the French Revolution, I decided the American Revolution would be a natural for the setting. And instead of having my spy and smuggler be a man, I turned him into a woman. The story was an absolute blast to write, and if you’ve ever seen the movie, you may recognize a few scenes, though I’ve tweaked them some. It wasn’t until I was well into the search for a publisher that I realized I’d have a better chance if I made it the first book in a series. And that’s what got me a contract.

Can you share with us who the main characters are in this first book?

The female lead is Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of a well-known and well-to-do Loyalist doctor in Boston who has many ties to the British occupying the city in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party. Unknown to her parents, however, she’s at heart a rebel who’s working with her maternal uncle and paternal aunt to smuggle intelligence and munitions out of Boston under the noses of the British. As the elusive rebel spy and courier Oriole, she’s infamous and intensely sought by the British, who’ve placed a high price on her head.

The male lead is Jonathan Carleton, the younger son of a Scottish nobleman who was a confidante of George II and a beautiful young French woman of noble birth. As a child Carleton was adopted by his father’s older brother, who fled to the colonies after one of the disastrous clashes between the Scots and the British that eventually led to the Scots’ final defeat. Carleton’s uncle settled in Virginia, where he became as rich as Croesus. So Carleton, who was brought up in Virginia, is immensely wealthy, but he’s also a Major in the British 17th Light Dragoons who is called to Boston to become the British commander’s aide de camp. After the battles of Lexington and Concord, he’s ordered to find and capture Oriole.

Naturally Carleton and Elizabeth are destined to fall madly in love.

Let’s move on to Book 2, Native Son. Who returns from the first book in this one?

The full cast returns in Native Son, and the story begins right after the Battle of Bunker Hill, which concludes Daughter of Liberty. Carleton, who is now a brigadier general under General George Washington, is sent on a mission to the Indians to try to persuade them to support the Americans instead of the British. Meanwhile, Elizabeth returns to Boston to spy on the new commander, General William Howe, and the 2 generals sent along with him to get the situation in the colonies under control.

What new situations are they dealing with?

Everything has changed in book 2. Elizabeth and Carleton are now engaged to be married, but Washington refuses to grant them permission. Because of Carleton’s background with the Shawnee, Washington needs him to be his ambassador to the native peoples. And he desperately needs Elizabeth to keep him informed about what the British are up to. So he effectively gives them no choice but to do his bidding.

Out on the western frontier, Carleton is captured by the Seneca and enslaved, and Elizabeth can find no information about what happened to him. She’s placed in grave danger herself and narrowly avoids being exposed. After the British evacuate Boston the conflict moves to New York City, and she and her aunt must follow. There she meets a handsome and kind young doctor to whom she is very attracted. Yet her heart is fixed on Carleton, and she can find no peace.

Meanwhile, Carleton is rescued by the Shawnee, taken even farther west, and adopted by their sachem. As he fights to guard his heart against the advances of the beautiful young widow Blue Sky, he must also walk a deadly tightrope in a brewing conflict with the malevolent shaman Wolfslayer. When he’s forced to become war chief and lead a war against white settlers flooding into Ohio Territory, he despairs of ever returning to Elizabeth, for he has again become her enemy.

Elizabeth and Carleton return in Book 3, Wind of the Spirit. Where in history are we at this point and what is going on in these characters’ lives?

Wind of the Spirit begins in July 1776. The Declaration of Independence has just been signed, and the Battle of Brooklyn Heights looms for Elizabeth. While Carleton continues highly effective raids against the white settlers, he is increasingly pressured to marry Blue Sky, and the conflict with Wolfslayer is coming to a head.

Elizabeth is caught up in battle and almost killed as the British overrun Washington’s forces on Long Island, and the patriot cause is all but extinguished. Yet by a miracle, Washington manages to withdraw the remainder of his army across the East River and out of Howe’s clutches under cover of night. Elizabeth finally learns of Carleton’s possible whereabouts, and she takes a perilous journey to Ohio Territory in the hope she can find him and persuade him to return home with her.

With this series being set during the American Revolution, there must have been a great deal of research involved. How did you accomplish it all?

I did a ton of research, that’s for sure. I came up with the idea for Daughter of Liberty in 1983, and it was finally published in 2004. So although life happened and I wasn’t writing all the time, I still had a long time to make sure it was accurate. Having accumulated considerable knowledge and a wide range of research materials, the subsequent volumes haven’t been as time consuming to write.

Thankfully, I’m obsessed with this era and I love to do research, so I enjoyed all of it. My library has expanded considerably since I began writing this series, thanks in large part to Amazon. I also have a number of older works on the period that I’ve accumulated over the years from library book sales, antiques stores, and other places that have been invaluable. I especially look for primary materials—firsthand accounts that provide the small details that give the story authenticity. It’s like a treasure hunt. I love it!

How did you know it was time to stop researching and time to start writing?

What? Stop researching? Um . . . well, I’m usually researching as I write!

There are additional books planned for The American Patriot Series. What can you tell us about those?

So far I have 4 more books planned for the series. Each one of the stories picks up right after the previous one ends, and they continue the stories of all the main characters. Of course, from time to time I’ll introduce more important characters whose stories will become continuing threads. Crucible of War, which I’m writing now, begins with Washington crossing the Delaware to attack Trenton and covers 1777. Then Valley of the Shadow takes the war onto the high seas in 1778 and 1779. Refiner’s Fire follows the war into the southern colonies in 1780, and Forge of Freedom ends with the final British defeat at Yorktown in 1781.

I—and several good friends who are following the story avidly—are praying it doesn’t expand any farther than that. They’d like to see Elizabeth and Carleton finally get married—which they will, of course! But I have gotten e-mail from readers who encourage me to keep on writing more volumes and not to stop. So who knows? I seem to be making a career of the American Revolution!

Where can readers purchase a copy of any of the books in The American Patriot Series?

Daughter of Liberty and Native Son are currently out of print, but they’re freely available from most online retailers such as Amazon, Christianbook.com, and Barnes and Noble. They’re also available directly through Sheaf House at www.sheafhouse.com. We’re planning to release new, updated editions, but since readers can still get them easily, and Sheaf House still has a good-sized stash, it may be another couple of years before they’re issued. Sheaf House may release the updated versions in e-book format before then, however.

Wind of the Spirit is available from most local booksellers and also online at all the same places books 1 and 2 are, so readers won’t have any trouble getting it. It’s also available in the Kindle format.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more?

Absolutely! My Web site is www.jmhochstetler.com, and the American Patriot Series blog is at americanpatriotseries.blogspot.com.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I just want to thank you very much for inviting me to do this interview! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.

Thanks for spending time with us today, Joan. I hope you’ll come back when your next book comes out. We wish you continued success!

You can view a video trailer for Wind of Spirit by visiting the book section of Joan's website.

To see where Joan's virtual book tour stops next, visit http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/


J. M. Hochstetler said...

Thank you so much for interviewing me for my Wind of the Spirit blog tour! You do a great job with this blog!


Carole said...

I read Daughter of Liberty last fall and would have to say that it is one of the best books I've read in a long time. My only problem is that the print was a little small for me, so I've been begging Joan to make Native Son available on Kindle. I'm dying to read Wind of the Spirit, but not before #2! I enjoyed learning more about Joan and this series from the interview.