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Friday, November 14, 2008

CFBA Blog Tour - J. M. Hochstetler and One Holy Night

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
One Holy Night
Sheaf House Publishers - April 1, 2008)
by J. M. Hochstetler


J. M. HOCHSTETLER writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three novels.

One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story for all seasons, 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. Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society.


In 1967 the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam.

Frank despises all Asians because of what he witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Japanese in the south Pacific during WWII. The news that his son has fallen in love with and married Thi Nhuong, a young Vietnamese woman, shocks him. To Frank all Asians are enemies of his country, his family, and himself. A Buddhist, Thi Nhuong represents everything he despises. So he cuts Mike out of his life despite the pleas of his wife, Maggie; daughter, Julie; and Julie s husband, Dan, the pastor of a growing congregation.

Maggie is fighting her own battle--against cancer. Convinced that God is going to heal her, Frank plays the part of a model Christian. Her death on Thanksgiving Day devastates him. Worse, as they arrive home from the gravesite, the family receives news of Mike s death in battle. Embittered, Frank stops attending church and cuts off family and friends.

By the time a very pregnant Thi Nhuong arrives on his doorstep on a stormy Christmas Eve, Frank is so filled with hate that he slams the door in her face, shutting her out in the bitter cold. Finally, overcome by guilt, he tries to go after her, but driving wind and snow force him back inside. With the storm rising to blizzard strength, he confronts the wrenching truth that what hate has driven him to do is as evil as what the Japanese did all those years earlier, and that he needs forgiveness as desperately as they did...

Frank doesn't know that what God has in mind this night is a miracle. As on that holy night so many years ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger--a baby who will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.

If you would like to read an excerpt, go HERE.

Buy your copy of One Holy Night Today!


1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

Observing and trying to make sense of the brokenness of our lives is really what led me to write One Holy Night. We all know families or individuals who have gone through difficult times, and we've all encountered our own personal times of brokenness. I know I have. And over the years I've questioned how we can make sense of our lives and find purpose, strength, and healing.

One of the main ways I try to make sense of life is to write stories about it. So One Holy Night grew out of my wrestling with the kinds of gritty issues that impact our lives every day—intergenerational and interracial conflict, addictions, war, illness, death, and divorce. I first started tinkering with the idea for this story back in the late 1980s when I was working with another author on a book of short stories that revolved around Christmas. I was assigned to write a miracle story. So it started out as a short story, and when the project got shelved, I put it aside and forgot all about it for a number of years.

Around 1998 or 1999, I got it out again and started tinkering with it. I didn't make much progress, but then 9-11 happened, and right around the same time a young mother in our church was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, and then died within a year. The following year my parents both died as the result of a car accident. The wars in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, were in all the headlines, and opposition kept on growing, along with the casualty count. Commentators were beginning to compare the war in Iraq with the quagmire of Viet Nam—a conflict I was well acquainted with since I was in high school and college during those years.

So all these things started to find their way into this story set in 1967 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.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

Although I was raised as a non-resistant Mennonite, my father actually served in the army in WWII and was stationed in the South Pacific as Frank was in the story. My father fought his own spiritual battles after he came home and married my mother, and I remember a lot of conversations around the dinner table and other private ones partially overheard over the years. But he became a staunch Mennonite over time and a completely committed believer in Jesus Christ who left a tremendous testimony at his death. So in a lot of ways Frank is based on my father. Maggie has a lot of elements of my mother too, but she's to some extent also based on the young woman I mentioned above who died of intestinal cancer.

I was in college during a good part of the Vietnam War, especially during the height of the military buildup and the resultant anti-war protests. The Civil Rights Movement was also going on at the time. So my personal experiences during the 1960s heavily influenced One Holy Night. Julie is probably the closest to me in personality and experience, and Mike has some elements of my brother, who also served in Vietnam. Terry is heavily based on a young man I was good friends with in college. I developed Thi Nhuong from a Vietnamese exchange student who was a member of my high school graduating class. And my youngest daughter is named Katie, like Julie and Dan’s little daughter. So a lot of my own life leaked in as I wrote.

But as every writer can testify, all of the characters developed their own individual personalities while I was writing them. They ended up being uniquely themselves, and sometimes they acted in completely unexpected ways, like when Dan confronted the woman in his office who intended to seduce him and Terry had a meltdown when he learned about the accidental bombing that wiped out his entire platoon.

3. If your hero/heroine were an ice cream flavor, what would he/she be and why?

Well, Frank would most likely be Rocky Road because he's pretty hard headed. Maggie would probably be strawberry cheesecake—sweet on the surface, but with unexpected depths. Julie would be a luscious vanilla with lots of subtle nuances, while Mike would be peppermint—a lot of personality, a little hard to take at times, but in the end strong and soothing as needed. I'm positive Thi Nhuong would be green tea—haunting, inscrutable, but with a delightful, lingering coolness.

4. What themes exist in One Holy Night that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

One of my goals in writing this was to retell the story of Jesus' birth in a contemporary setting, and I hope readers will make that connection. A powerful message that developed as I wrote the story is that we can find hope and healing for ourselves and our relationships only in a source greater than ourselves, in a beneficent being who has a purpose and plan for our lives and will carry us through when our own strength and understanding fail.

As believers, we're called to be ambassadors of reconciliation to the world. Our ministry is to reconcile those who are lost to God. In telling the story of how this broken family finds healing in their relationships with one another and with the Lord, I hope readers will claim as their own the good news of Jesus' reconciling work through his life, death, and resurrection.

5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

These are some minor spoilers, so be forewarned. :) The most difficult scenes to write also became my favorites: the scene of Maggie's death, when Frank and Julie learn of Mike's death in battle, and when Frank turns Thi Nhuong out into the blizzard, only to come face to face with the depth of evil in his own heart. I also love the scene on Christmas morning where Katie is trying to convince the grown-ups she's found baby Jesus in the manger, and when they finally go to check it out, they find a real baby. And the epilogue is definitely my very favorite because God has brought so much joy from all the characters have suffered.

6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

My next book, Wind of the Spirit, releases in March 2009. It's the third book of my American Patriot Series set during the American Revolution, and it continues the story of Elizabeth Howard and Jonathan Carleton that began with Daughter of Liberty and continued in Native Son. In this volume the Battle of Brooklyn takes place, the Battle of Trenton is looming, Charles Andrews' life takes a steep, 90 degree turn, and Elizabeth and Jonathan finally get back together after almost a year and a half apart. Needless to say, there are a lot of fireworks on a number of different levels. I really think this is the best volume in the series. Of course, it does end on another cliffhanger, but then what would you expect?


The fateful confrontation between the untried Continental Army under General George Washington and an overwhelming invasion force commanded by British General William Howe explodes at the Battle of Brooklyn. With the patriot cause on the brink of ruin, Elizabeth Howard scrambles for critical intelligence—and her life. Meanwhile, far out on the western borders, Brigadier General Jonathan Carleton, as the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, succeeds in driving white settlers from 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 beautiful widow and the shaman.

As the British close in on Carleton's whereabouts, and with Washington poised to make a desperate, 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 can 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?

* * * * *

Thank you, Joan, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of One Holy Night.

If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you leave your email address (name [at] domainname [dot] com/net) or that there's a way to contact you. Otherwise, you won't be entered. Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

And if you want to make certain you don't miss anything, check the box that says 'email follow-up comments to:' when you leave a comment and they'll be sent to the email address associated with your blogging account. That way you'll be notified of any comments and will know when I announce the winner.

This week, the contest is open to anyone worldwide.

* * * * *


Carole said...

I am very interested in reading One Holy Night. Thank you for the giveaway!

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

ChristyJan said...

Oh! I have been hearing such wonderful things about ONE HOLY NIGHT. Please enter me to win a copy. Thanks.


J. M. Hochstetler said...

Hi, Carole and ChristyJan!

I'm so glad you entered the drawing for One Holy Night. It's been receiving very kind reviews, and I'm delighted that my fantastic friend, fellow author, and webmistress is featuring it. She's a real blessing to me, and I hope this story blesses you too!

windycindy said...

Hi, I like the author's inspiration for her book! Trying to make sense of
tragedy is difficult for me much of the time. Her book would make a very nice story for holiday reading. Many thanks, Cindi

Cherie J said...

Sounds like a wonderful story. Very heartwrenching! Please enter me in the drawing. Thank you!

Debra Ullrick said...

Sounds like an amazing book.
Please add my name.

Debra Ullrick
The Bride Wore Coveralls
Déjà vu Bride
Dixie Hearts

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an incredible and wonderful book.

Please enter me in the contest.

Thank you,

Becky C.


Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

We have a winner from this drawing and that is:


Congratulations! I've emailed you for your mailing information so we can send out your book.

Everyone else, check out interviews with Megan DiMaria and Robert Elmer to see if you've won.

As always, thanks for your continued support.