Friday, May 23, 2008

Kim Vogel Sawyer: A Little Girl Who Dreamed of Writing Books

This is a photo of Kim's first church solo.(She's still singing today--and plays in bell choir.) She's the little one on the left in the red velvet dress. And don'cha just love those white cowgirl boots?

Kim says,"As you can see, it should have been a trio, but the other little girls refused to sing! So I sang and then clapped for myself."

Kim still has that red velvet dress--all three of her own girls wore it, too.

Kim admits, "I'm still hoping to someday dress up a little granddaughter in it."

When you see Kim now, you see the same delightful joy that played within her heart then. The warm and gracious author of best-selling, award-winning books is a busy woman as a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, writer, speaker, and lover of cats and chocolate. But she loves to tell a story and she is delighting readers by telling really good ones.

From the time she was a very little girl, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and seeing her words in print is the culmination of a life-long dream. Still,despite a busy schedule with writing and meeting readers, Kim relishes her time with family and friends, and stays active in her church by teaching adult Sunday School, participating in both voice and bell choirs, and leading the drama troupe.

In her now filled-with-writing-dwindling-spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. What things in Kim's childhood helped her grow into the writer of stories that many love? Let's find out:

Childhood Ambition: Full-time writer...always

Fondest Memory (then): Most of my "fondest memories" are from my second grade year, when my family lived in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. We lived in a former one-room schoolhouse, which had been renovated into a house. It was very unique. That winter, we had record snows, and my dad, brother, and me (well, Brad and I got to do the back of the skirt, lol) fashioned a seven-foot tall Victorian snow lady complete with ringlets and bustle in the front yard. People drove by to admire it. In the summer, we played in the soybean bins (probably not very safe!) and ate so many mulberries we were permanently stained purple. We were only there one year, but I have more memories of that year than all my other growing-up years combined.

Proudest Moment (then): My proudest moments seemed to center around writing. I can remember the laughter of my fourth grade classmates when the teacher read aloud one of my short stories (titled "Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?"); in seventh grade, I took first place in the county conservation contest in both the limerick and poster categories. I wasn't athletic, and I was painfully shy, but I could write and draw. That ability was my meager "claim to fame."

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: We moved so frequently, and every move was very hard on me. Because I was so bashful, making friends was very difficult. So starting over again and again was my biggest challenge.

My First Job: Other than the occasional babysitting that most girls do at some point in time, I worked at the Co-Op in Coldwater, Kansas, as an office helper. That was during my junior year of high school. But it interfered with debate and forensics, so I didn't keep it very long. :o)

Childhood Indulgence: I loved stuffed animals! I still have my collection of over 400 stuffed toys on shelves in the our basement rec room, much to my husband's chagrin. I actually took turns sleeping with them so none of them would feel left out. lol!

Favorite Outfit as a Child: Most of my clothes were quite conservative in keeping with my Mennonite upbringing. But I remember, when I was in first grade, I had a red dress with a full skirt that flared when I twirled. I felt so cute in that dress. In junior high, I had a pair of hip-hugger, bell-bottom, red-checked jeans--at the time, it was quite stylin'!

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show: I've always been a Westerns nut--I guess because the only movies our family watched were John Wayne westerns at the drive-in. I watched "Bonanza" and "The Big Valley." In junior high, I adored "The Partridge Family" and tried to talk my dad into buying a used school bus, painting it, and taking our family on the road to sing for churches. Daddy said "no." Wise man.

Favorite Childhood Book: My earliest favorite book was a Whitman Tiny Tot Tale called "A Cat Called Cindy." I even named my cat Cindy after the kitty in the book. It got lost somewhere in one of our many moves, but even more than forty years later I could still recite much of it verbatim. Much to my delight, I recently purchased a mint copy of "A Cat Called Cindy" at! It now sits proudly on the shelf in my office.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime: I enjoyed playing with my dolls and paperdolls--usually creating little stories with them. I read voraciously--up in a tree when the weather allowed. And I was always writing.

This is me doing what I usually did...whatever Daddy was doing! He was in college when I was little, and I "helped" him study.

Childhood Hero: My childhood hero and my adulthood hero is the same: Daddy.

A Peek at Where Kim Writes Her Books (and yes, she sits on that ball!)

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

I think all the moving around and finding friends in books helped hone my writing skills. As a teacher, it was no surprise that my most avid readers were also my strongest writers. I also think the standing on the outside peering in, hoping to belong, made me a keen people-observer. That ability works well as a writer, helping me create "real" people on the page.

Kim at Bethany House Publishers, welcomed as a loved author

What do you know now that you wish you'd known back then?

That if I had smiled first, people would have smiled back. I was sooooo shy, I couldn't bring myself to smile, and I missed out on so many opportunities for friendship by holding back. I try to do a better job of reaching out now--and it pays off.

Kim Sawyer receives ACFW Book of the Year Award from Brandilyn Collins

Kim's Newsletter Link


See Kim's books at this link

Kim's Latest Book:

My Heart Remembers
From Bethany House Publishers (February 2008)
Crossings Book Club Main Selection
CBD Best Seller; CBA Best Seller; ECPA Best Seller

When their mother and father die in a tenement fire, three Irish-immigrant children are sent to Missouri aboard an orphan train to be adopted. Despite 8-year-old Maelle’s desperate attempts to keep her siblings together, each child is taken by a different family. But Maelle vows that she will never stop searching for them—determined that they will be together again one day, a family once more.

Eighteen years later, Maelle is still searching…but the years have washed away Maelle’s hope and her memories. What are Mattie and Molly doing now? Where has life taken them? Are they well and living happy lives? Do they wonder at all about the family they once knew and loved? United by blood, divided by time, will they ever be a family again? Only time…and God…can tell.

Other books by Kim Vogel Sawyer:

WHERE THE HEART LEADS -- (Sequel to WAITING FOR SUMMER'S RETURN) After his graduation from college, Thomas Ollenburger is filled with big dreams and many questions. What will he do for a career? Should he marry? Where will he call home? Torn between his Mennonite roots on the Kansas prairie and his love for the big city of Boston, as well as his affection for a girl in each location, Thomas is unsure of his place in the world. He has always sought God's leading in his decision-making, but now it seems as if God is silent. Has Thomas's heart led him astray?

October 2006
Voted Top 2006 Contemporary Story
by Heartsong Presents readers;
3rd Place ACFW 2006 Book of the Year

THAT WILDER BOY -- Rocky Wilder is a changed man, determined to sow something other than wild oats. Carrie wants to believe Rocky is interested in her for reasons other than her wealth, but his reputation as "that Wilder boy" preceeds him. Can she trust that he's truly a new creature in Christ?

March 2007

PROMISING ANGELA -- Angela Fischer made some foolish choices, she wants her future to be brighter than her past. Ben Atchison feels drawn to Angela, but the fact that she once abused drugs stands in the way. Angela may have promised that she's given up that lifestyle, but Ben heard that promise before from someone else he cares for. He knows sometimes promises aren't kept...
From Bethany House Publishers (April 2007)
Crossings Book Club Main Selection; Top Pick for 2007
CBA & CBD Best Seller

WHERE WILLOWS GROW -- Life in 1936 Kansas is filled with hardship on the farm--
the drought and low produce prices are enough of a challenge without wondering why God allows hard things to happen to good people. For Anna Mae and Harley Phipps, the biggest challenge is staying united. When Harley makes the decision to trek across Kansas to join a WPA project of building a castle, Anna Mae seethes with resentment. How can he just leave her to run the farm? Then her neighbor--and old beau--Jack Berkley makes himself available to help. Anna Mae must look deep into her soul to find the inner strength to emerge triumphant over the forces that try to pull her heart away from the commitment she's made to love and honor her husband...
April 2007
CBA & CBD Best Seller

BYGONES (Book 1 of the Sommerfeld Trilogy) -- Widower Marie Koeppler Quinn and her grown daughter Beth return to the Mennonite community Marie aban-doned twenty-three years ago. Soon after their arrival in Sommer-feld, a series of mysterious thefts raises the community's suspicions against the "outsiders." Can Marie prove their innocence or will she be forced to flee once more?

Henry Braun soon begins to wonder if she's stolen more than his heart. When all is said and done, can Henry and Marie let bygones be bygones, or has their love been doomed from the start?

From Barbour Publishing (September 2007)

MONTANA MISTLETOE -- Christmas-themed novella set including All I Want For Christmas Is...You. Jingle-writer Kathy Morgan returns to her hometown of Mistletoe, Montana, to take a trip down "Memory Lane" and decide whether or not to accept the unexpected marriage proposal from a long-time co-worker. But local postman Erik Phillips turns her world upside-down by delivering much more than mail--he encourages her to seek fulfillment in a relationship with Jesus rather than a man. Will Kathy heed Erik's advice before it's too late?

(I am particularly excited to be a part of this anthology set with Lena Nelson Dooley, Lisa Harris, and Debby Mayne!)

February 2008
CBD Best Seller
ECPA Best Seller
PW Best Seller

BLESSINGS (Book 3 of the Sommerfeld Trilogy) -- Trina Muller has been blessed with the gift of healing God’s creatures. Desiring to use that gift, she seeks the opportunity for education but is met with resistance from her family.

Graham Ortmann loves Trina, but he can't understand her desire to be more than wife and mother. Will this Old Order Mennonite girl be able to spread the wings she believes God has designed for her?

October 2007
CBA & CBD Best Seller
One of Top 2O CBD Books 2007

BEGINNINGS (Book 2 of the Sommerfeld Trilogy) -- Beth Quinn is starting her place of residence, her occupation, and her relationships. Two men vie for her affection--Andrew Braun, a steadfast and helpful Old Order Mennonite who expects traditional roles between men and women; and Sean McCauley, a man with Christian convictions but who is seemingly more business-minded than people-minded.

In which world does Beth's heart belong? With so many choices in front of her, how can she know what God has planned?

Barbour Publishing
December 2007
Kansas Brides
Yes, Toto, there is a Kansas---filled with romance! After family tragedy, can Marin open her heart to the man who cares for her disabled brother? Carrie is inheriting a fortune, so why is she afraid? And Angela is out of rehab now, but can Ben trust her---and her new faith in God?

Coming Soon...From Bethany House Publishers (January 2009)
A PROMISE FOR SPRING -- Geoffrey, a young English sheep rancher, builds his home in Kansas to welcome his bride, but Emmaline only wants to return to England. Will this young couple be able to reconcile their differences?

Kim's Web Site

Monday, May 12, 2008

J.M.Hochstetler: A Girl of Indiana

*****WINNER of ONE HOLY NIGHT in book drawing: Charlotte Schofield!****
(She has been notified) CONGRATULATIONS!

When I asked J.M. Hochstetler if she would talk to us about her childhood, she said sure! She comes from my neck of the woods, but now lives in another state. I asked her what we should call her and here's what she said:

"I use J. M. Hochstetler professionally. My everyday name is Joan Shoup (rhymes with shout, NOT soup!) You can call me Joan."

So now you know the real story about J.M. Hochstetler's name, but what about the girl behind the name and the great historical novels and who grew up in Indiana? (And you know I'm partial to my Hoosier writers.) She not only is a Hoosier by birth, but she was/is a reader, so in my book, she is tops.

Joan says: My earliest memories involve reading: my grandfather, who lived right across the street, reading the Bible at night; my father, who was raised Amish and only went through 6th grade in school, reading storybooks to my brother and me even though he didn’t read well aloud (of course, we thought he was wonderful!); Dad reading the Farm Journal and Mom reading her novels; both reading the Bible, the newspaper and the Budget, a weekly newspaper for the Amish and Mennonite communities; and my brother reading everything he picked up, including the dictonary.

Reading was very important in my family. Because of the example I saw on a daily basis, I grew up with an intense love for the printed word. The enjoyment I find in reading is what eventually led me to become a writer, then an editor, and finally a publisher.

Let's take a look at Joan and her memories and you'll see why I love this interview:

Childhood Ambition:

I really wanted to be a great artist like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, or Andrew Wyeth. So I spent a lot of time drawing and coloring, and took art in high school every year. I loved painting with oils the best, but we also did some sculpture and made pottery, which was a lot of fun too. When I was either a junior or a senior (I’m having a senior moment!) I won first place in our school’s art contest. But I finally decided I didn’t have the genius to become a truly great artist. I wasn’t willing to be second rate, so I majored in German in college, became a wife and mother, and eventually a writer.

Fondest Memory (then):

Getting together with my cousins at family reunions, especially my Hochstetler cousins. The Bontrager cousins were all older than me and lived in the neighborhood, so visiting them wasn’t a big thrill. My dad’s relatives mainly lived in northern Indiana and southern Michigan, and a couple of the cousins were exactly the same ages as my brother and me. Both of them were girls, but when we were younger Don didn’t seem to care that much. From the time we were tots, whenever the Hochstetler side of the family got together, the four of us hung out.

When we were in high school, on a really bitterly cold day my family was visiting their family in Millersburg, Indiana, and insanely we three girls went for a walk. By then Don had gotten too old to hang out with us, and I guess we were really bored with the conversation of the “old folks.” Pretty quickly we decided to call one of Sara Jean’s friends to see if we could come over and get warm. All 3 of us, heavy winter coats and all, crowded into this tiny, old, glass-walled phone booth to get out of the wind. It had accordion doors that didn’t quite fold completely out of the way, but somehow we managed to cram ourselves inside, laughing like loons. Sara Jean dug through her pocket and actually found a dime for the call (that’ll tell you how long ago it was!), but nobody answered at her friend’s house. And then we discovered the door was jammed shut by the pressure of our bodies shoved against it!

At that point we were laughing so hard we’d completely fogged up the glass. And we’d used our one and only dime, so we couldn’t call anyone to alert them to our dilemma! We cleared a spot to look through, hoping we could get somebody’s attention to come rescue us. But believe me, Millersburg isn’t exactly a metropolis, and there was nobody crazy enough to be wandering around outside on such a raw day. Thankfully, after about 10 minutes, we finally managed to squirm around enough to slide the door part of the way open, and all of us were skinny enough to finally escape without having to destroy the phone company’s property!

Proudest Moment (then):

We were Mennonites, so we weren’t allowed to be proud.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:

Speaking in front of a group of people. I was the salutatorian of my graduating class, and standing up in front of all my classmates and their families to give that speech was probably the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done. Somehow I survived, but I was sure glad when it was over! I don’t have the foggiest idea of what I said, which is probably a good thing for my ego.

I’ve gotten braver over the years, but making speeches still makes my knees shake. I can do it—I’ve even spoken before fairly large groups, and from audience feedback felt I did a creditable job—but it’s not my favorite thing to do. I’m definitely a behind-the-scenes sort of person.

My First Job:

I was a waitress at the Kresge lunch counter in downtown Kokomo, Indiana, the summer I graduated from high school. One day five or six boys about my age came in, deliberately sat in my section, and all ordered different ice-cream dishes. It took me quite a while to put their orders together, and in the meantime, they kept teasing and flirting with me. I couldn’t help laughing, but I was getting pretty flustered, and I was really relieved when I finally got all the orders filled.

The guys waited until I served the last one, then they politely asked whether I always made banana splits that way. Boy, did my face turn red when they pointed out that I’d managed to make a beautiful banana split—without a banana. I hastily sliced and stuffed a banana into the dish, and we all had a good laugh. When they left, every one of them emptied their pockets of change, so I ended up with a really good tip for forgetting the banana!

Childhood Indulgence:

On Saturdays we would drive into Kokomo to get groceries and do other errands, and sometimes we would stop at a drugstore on Morgan Street for a phosphate. You have to have been a kid in the 50s to know what those are. Cherry was my favorite. Once in a while we’d go to the soda shop at the local dairy and get milk shakes. My parents and brother wanted malts, but I didn’t like the malt flavoring—don’t to this day. A plain chocolate milkshake is still my favorite. I can remember the cool, ice-creamy smell of the shop. Ummmm….brings back fond memories!

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

I had a lilac colored Sunday dress with lace on the collar and a very full skirt. I even had one of those poofy, starched, net petticoats to go underneath that were so popular back then. (Two would have been better, but I was lucky to have one.) I also had little white peep-toe sandals with designs pierced through the leather that I absolutely adored!

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

My family belonged to the more liberal Mennonite Church, so we didn’t have to dress plain and we could own cars. But going to the movies was a bit too on the edge for the church at that time. Little by little TVs started creeping into the living rooms of church members, however. They didn’t talk about it, but the word got around. When I was in late elementary school, my aunt and uncle got a new TV, so we inherited their older model. Bonanza was my favorite show. I loved Hoss and Little Joe, but I especially loved Adam. I hated it when Pernell Roberts left the show!

By the time I got into high school, the younger set in the church had begun to go to movies, and I was allowed to go see Bambi with a friend from school. Loved it, especially Flower, the skunk. I didn’t see another movie until I was in college and had a boyfriend.

Favorite Childhood Book/teen book:

Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. I don’t know how many times I read it—and it’s a thick book—but I always cried at the ending when noble Lad dies. I still tear up just thinking about it. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves animal stories. Lassie can’t hold a candle to it.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

Reading and artwork were my two major interests, but when you grow up on a farm, you also get a lot of exercise. There was one maple tree in the front yard that was particularly good for climbing and had a notch where I could sit comfortably hidden and watch my brother or parents without them knowing I was there. My brother was 14 months older than I, so when we were younger, we were each other’s playmates most of the time until we got older. Both of us liked to read a lot, but we also liked to climb up into the haymow in the barn; play with the baby pigs, calves, and chicks; and play cowboys and Indians or soldier—a bizarre occupation for Mennonite children that was due to the fact that Dad served in the Army in WWII and loved to tell us stories.

We explored every corner of our 80-acre farm, especially a fairly large woodlot that we could pretend was a forest. In a back field at the opposite end of the farm there was a small hill (well, it seemed really big to us back then!) that had one side eroded so it looked like a cliff. We used to pretend Indians camped there and that we might run into one someday, which gave us delicious chills. And since Dad turned up arrowheads from time to time while he was plowing, it gave some credibility to that idea. Sadly, by our time the days of Indians wandering through the area were long gone.

Joan and brother Don, who wandered Indiana, looking for the Miami Native Americans
(CM note: This reminds me of my own childhood)

Childhood Hero:

My dad, of course! He went home in 2002, but he’s still my hero. A carpenter and farmer, he was known in the church and in the whole area as a fine craftsman and a man of absolute integrity. If anyone needed help, he was one of the first to be there, but he never asked for help for himself even when he was on dialysis the last couple of years of his life. The Lord really blessed me in giving me godly parents who were faithful to the Lord and taught their children to know Him.

What was a childhood dream you had?

My first dream was to be a great artist. I always loved to draw and paint, and as I got older that turned into a love for sewing and crafts. And later it became a love of painting word pictures.

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

I had a wonderful teacher in junior high and high school, Marjorie Underwood, who taught English and Latin. I will never forget her. She always believed in her students and encouraged us to strive for excellence. She was a real sweetheart, but although her methods were very gentle, we knew she would not accept less than our very best in the subjects she taught. She inspired my interest in English grammar and literature, and through Latin and the Junior Classical League she cultivated in me an abiding interest in languages and history. I am deeply grateful for all the excellent teachers I had in the small rural schools I attended in central Indiana.

Joan wears many hats. She is an author, an editor and a publisher! She also is co-authoring another historical novel with her cousin, Bob Hochstetler, another author from the Midwest who has co-authored with Josh McDowell, as well as has been an editor and author. Check each of these places out and be sure leave a comment here on this blog if you would like to win her latest book.
(to be drawn on MAY 23rd, 2008)

My author Web site is

My publisher Web site is I’m blogging the process of founding my own small press, Sheaf House, at

I have a blog for my latest book, One Holy Night, at

If you would like to feature Joan and her books, her online press kit is at

She also has downloadable articles at

Books by J.M. Hochstetler:

Daughter of Liberty,
book 1 of the American Patriot Series (2004)

As the first blood of the Revolution is spilled, a beautiful rebel spy and a jaded British officer fight their own private battles of faith—and a love that threatens disaster.

Native Son,
book 2 of the American Patriot Series (2005)

Caught between two worlds at war, he could lose everything—his country, his faith, and the woman who holds his heart captive.

WIN THIS BOOK IN A DRAWING! Leave a comment for Joan and be entered in a drawing to win this book, One Holy Night:

One Holy Night (2008)

As on that holy night so long ago … in a world torn by sin and strife … to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss … there will be born a baby.

Coming in January 2009, Book 3 of the American Patriot Series
Wind of the Spirit

With the patriot cause on the brink of disaster, can her love bridge the miles that separate them—and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?