Today I’m so excited to have my writing buddy Joanne Bischof here. She’s one of the sweetest fellow writers I’ve met—always so encouraging—and, as it turns out, we have a lot in common. We both live in the western part of the country, we both are happily married, we both loved to read The Babysitters Club books when we were kids, and—wait for it—we’re both 1984ers. Yes, we coined that term.
Joanne inspires me with all of her accomplishments. I loved her debut novel, Be Still My Soul, and I know you will too.
Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their home schooled children. When she's not weaving Appalachian romance, she's blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.
Because Joanne totally rocks, she’s agreed to hang out here today and answer a few questions. Not only that, but she’ll be offering an advanced copy of her book (which doesn’t release until October 2) to one random commenter. See below for details.
Tell me about the first story you ever wrote, no matter how old you were! How old were you, what was it about, and what was your inspiration for it?
I was in third grade and the story was called The Brave Coyote. The teacher that year loved all things Native American. So I sat at the Hopi table (as opposed to the yellow or blue table) and loved it all. I became fascinated by history and the people who came before us, which led me to write that story.
Since that first story, how has your writing journey unfolded? Tell us about the lowest low and the highest high along the way.
Oh, the lowest low. A lot of the writing journey is waiting, disappointment, and wondering if this is ever meant to be, but I suppose of all that, my lowest low was realizing that I was so worried about it, I wasn’t listening to God and what His plan was. The doing was all mine. Coming back to a place of finding joy in the journey and learning God’s lessons along the way brought me back to that place of rest—regardless of the outcome.
The highest high was probably when I was talking representation with my agent. She already had a publisher in mind to pitch to who might be interested in my story, which is a bit off-center. That publisher just happened to be WaterBrook Multnomah. It was such a surreal moment of everything coming together at once, I could hardly believe it! They’re a division of Random House, so suddenly getting emails from people straight from Random House was one of those pinch-me-this-can’t-be-happening moments! I’m pretty sure I started jumping up and down. Being rather pregnant, this was more like a hop/shuffle, lol.
Music plays a fun role in Be Still My Soul, and I remember you play an instrument…I just can’t remember which one! What do you play and how did you come to learn it? Do you ever perform publicly?
My dad is a musician and we grew up listening to folksy music from bluegrass to hymns to jazz. I play the mandolin and for a while, took bluegrass lessons from a local man up here on our mountain. I played mostly at church on our worship team, which was wonderful. It’s sort of fun to get that bluegrassy bit into worship. The folks at church seemed to really enjoy it, which made it all the more fun.
What was the first piece of your story that was solid in your mind before you started writing it?
Oooh, this is a great question! Right off, it was Lonnie. I saw her in my head, sitting in a rocking chair beside a window, wondering if she would always be unloved. I knew her heart was turned toward a man who did not love her back. That scene and her emotion—her yearning—stuck with me and I knew there was a story there that I had to write. Ultimately, a love story.
And what an awesome story it is. I’ve often heard it said that, as writers, we add pieces of ourselves or people we know into our stories. So I’m curious: In what ways, if any, does your main character Lonnie resemble you?
Many ways. Lonnie’s father is an alcoholic and while I am blessed that my own is not, it wasn’t always that way. Alcoholism is very strong in my family and my dad was among them until I was six months old. He gave it up, wanting more for his baby girls and has never looked back. Not one drop. I have so much gratitude and admiration for him. The life it’s given me. I’ve channeled a lot of that into Gideon’s story. It’s a victory when Gideon makes that same choice for the ones he loves. A choice of triumph that will continue through the Cadence of Grace series.
I love getting to know you better. Other than faith, family/friends, and writing, what three things are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about chocolate! And I must confess, I’m nibbling on some right now. I also love gardening. Sowing seeds, planting flowers, I love it all. Lastly, Redemption, I know that’s sort of related to faith. But it’s at the tip top of my list. My husband was saved just over a year ago. Saved from darkness into the light and neither of us have stopped smiling since. In fact, our smiles just keep getting bigger as we grow closer to the Lord together.
That’s unbelievably awesome, Joanne! Do you have a question you’d like to ask my readers?
Fun! You know, I so enjoyed your last question that I’d love to pass it along to readers. What three things are they passionate about?
Publishers Weekly heralds Be Still My Soul “A gem…”