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?


Sarah/Robert said...

I'd love to try Joan's fiction! Please count me in for the drawing of "One Holy Night." Thanks!

lollipops said...

I read this book, so I don't need to be entered into the drawing, but I just want to say that it's a fantastic story!


Dona Watson said...

I'd love to enter the contest to win One Holy Night. Thank you for the opportunity.


The Book Club Network - TBCN said...

Thank you for introducing me to an author that I haven't heard of before. Her books sound good. Please put me in for the drawing.

Anonymous said...

I am very interested in learning more about Joan and her work. Please enter me in the book drawing.

SarahAckerman aol com

Anonymous said...

Fun interview...and intriguing books! Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks!

Charlotte Schofield said...

I'd love to win one of her books, they look neat. Her childhood sounds interesting as well. I love the Banana split story! LOL


Anonymous said...

What a delightful read in this interview, Joan! What a great childhood you had, and I know you are greatful.

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Esther, you bet I'm grateful for my childhood. Nothing is ever perfect, humans being, well, human. But looking back on it, that was a pretty idyllic time. I was richly blessed.

After reading all these wonderful comments, I'd love to send all of you one of my beautiful OHN bookmarks with the cover and info about the book. Of course, the winner will get one too, but if anyone else would like to have one, just e-mail your mailing address to me at, and I'll send you one.

Carole said...

I would love to read this book. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net