Author Interview: Joanne Bischof

I could not be more excited about this Author Interview with Joanne Bischof.

After doing homeschool curriculum reviews for a couple years, I decided to take the plunge into doing a few book reviews….If I have to be honest, I love to read…and if you can get books for free in exchange for a little writing, I thought it was worth the try.  So when I chose Though My Heart is Torn, by Joanne Bischof, from the Blogging for Books website, I failed to realize it was Book 2 in the series.  I was hesitant at first, because I hadn’t read the first book.  But after the first couple chapters, I was hooked. (Even though I was wondering what had happened early in their relationship that was not so favorable!) So when I was done, I had to go back and get Book 1, Be Still My Soul, and find how all this began with Lonnie & Gideon.  And WOW! What a story!  Once I was done, I immediately searched for Book 3 and found it was not yet published.  (Don’t you just hate waiting?)  When I found out Joanne was looking for a few people for her Advance Reader team for My Hope is Found, I took her up the the offer!

What an amazing series! I’m not going to get into all the details of the Cadence of Grace series here, other than to say it is now one of my favorites! I think Joanne is an amazing writer.  I love that the whole series artistically wound history, romance, and even mystery into a story about redemption and forgiveness against all odd.  Twists and Turns, surprises and suspense…that’s what I love in a story…. oh, and character development that really leaves you cheering for everyone, even the alleged antagonists!

But let’s get to the interview, right?  I’ve never interviewed an Author before, so I wasn’t quite sure what direction to head.  Since this is a blog largely about Home Education, I focused mainly on the writing process.

I couldn’t be more excited that Joanne said “yes” to my request. So without further ado, let’s talk to Joanne….

From a young age, I always had my nose in a book and my head in the clouds. Looking back, I remember being one part Jo March, one part Beatrix Potter and one part Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was always writing, drawing, and living with my imagination in the past. I began writing stories in about third grade and from then on, I was always reading books and thinking up characters and settings. I don’t ever remember wanting to be anything other than a writer and I am SO thankful that God made that dream come true!

I first got into reading Christian fiction through Lauraine Snelling’s Red River of the North series. Over the years, I added books by Liz Curtis Higgs and a few others to the mix and they all cultivated in me a love of reading and that growing desire to write.

Often when people ask me where the series, the story, came about, I begin with Lonnie as her character was one of the first to come to me, followed next by Gideon. But before that, I had already had the Bennett’s tucked in the back of my mind and heart. Months before I began the first words of Be Still My Soul, I had woken from a dream with a heavy, heavy heart. The dream had been of an older couple living in the rural mountains. They were working alongside one another, both of them wondering–that with no living children–what the future might hold for them as they grew older. I woke and couldn’t shake the melancholy of that memory, so I quickly jotted down the dream, determined that somehow, I would not only write this older couple’s story, but I would find a way to bring them the hope of a family they yearned for. Little did I know that soon after that, Lonnie and Gideon would be wandering the mountainside lost and alone. So desperately needing guidance, a shelter, a home.

It was then that I learned that a family can be born through circumstance, faith, and love.

Great question. For my novels, I typically begin with getting my hands on any books that pertain to the storyline from the library. I also like to hunt down any websites that might have first-hand accounts of stories or people that lived as my characters might have. For the Cadence of Grace, I found a great little resource of people sharing stories and recipes from days gone by that really brought the setting to life for me. I’ll watch videos, read magazines, even spend some time on YouTube to discover the finer details of my story. My YouTube history includes all kinds of things from “how to shave with a straight razor” to “grafting apple trees.” Mixing it up and changing pace throughout the research process really helps me do the best possible job that I can.

Check out Joanne’s vlog, Making of Be Still My Soul, for more information on how she prepares to write. 

Oh yes! Writer’s block can be the writer’s worst nightmare… especially on a deadline! For me, writer’s block takes on a few different shapes. In the writing stages, it often means that I just need to get out of the house, spend an hour, or even a few days, away from my story. I’ll take a walk, listen to music, maybe watch a favorite movie, and it always works itself out. Editing writers block is a bit more of a challenge. This is the part of the writing process where I look at everything as closely as I can under the microscope of God’s word. There are times that I feel stuck and the words on the page just don’t seem right. This is when I really go to prayer and seek wise counsel from a trusted friend or my husband. In wanting the truths in scripture to be reflected in the stories that I write, is always a special experience, especially since some of the themes of my stories make this quite a challenge—but all the more worth it. God always meets me there and reveals, in that gracious way of His, how the story can unfold in a way that will glorify Him.

If you have a child who is a budding writer, encouraging them is a huge thing. I wrote my first story in third grade and my mom was so proud of me, she had me write it out in my best cursive, made copies, and we bound it in little notebooks for friends and family. Her faith in me really spoke volumes. A year later, I won my first award for creative writing. It was those little milestones, that as a child, spoke to me that maybe I’m good at this. If these other people believe in me, just maybe I can do this.

Encouraging them to read good books that they enjoy, write stories no matter how long or short, and even getting involved with writer’s groups or a writing mentor, are all great ways to help them along. I began attending a critique group while still in High School. It was intimidating at first, but I learned so much and I know it played an influential role in me being published.

I love to encourage young writers. On my website, I have a free, printable worksheet for character development. And it’s great for grade school children and up!

The best thing to do once you’ve edited your first draft is to seek a mentoring relationship. I think that when we strike out for the agent or editor too early, it can be discouraging. By attending writer’s conferences, joining up with a writing mentor or even an online program like My Book Therapy, young writers can get their feet wet in the business as they continue to develop their voice and craft.

That’s a great question. I belong to a Christian Writer’s Guild in San Diego (they have them all over the country and I encourage young writers to seek out the one nearest them!) Through that, I joined my critique group which was the nearest chapter to where I was living. They also have online groups which can be great. The thing about critique—is there are going to be people that we don’t mesh well with, or whose opinion confuses us. The best thing for that is to go into it with a learner’s heart, take the advice of those you trust and consider those you’re not certain about. After a time, you’ll find the right road for you and you may even run into people whose writing you admire and who you might want to join with in becoming critique partners. The bottom line here is that critiquing is painful. It’s challenging to look at our writing and be told that certain elements just don’t work. But It’s also the exact same thing that a professional agent or editor is going to do, so to me, it’s a critical early step.

Just keep writing. And definitely keep reading. Read books that make you want to be a better writer. Above all else, hang on to your purpose. My purpose with my words, is to point to the Lord. It’s what lives behind every story I tell. Hanging onto that purpose and writing for a reason that’s bigger than ourselves is really important.

Joanne,

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your incredible series and about your writing process.  Wishing you the best on the success of Cadence of Grace and looking forward with eager anticipation to your next story! 🙂

You can follow Joanne Bischof at her website:

Disclaimer: I was previously given a copy of Though My Heart is Torn and My Hope is Found in exchange for my honest review and blog promotion.  No other compensation of any kind has been received.

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