Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Kindred Spirit & Her Heart, Her Story: Interview with Joanne Bischof

Several months back, a writer-friend of mine with whom I'd exchanged a few neat e-mails collaborated with me to bring you this interview today. We put our heads together and planned it out for you, countless days ago.

I knew she was a remarkably talented writer, I knew that her heart for serving God's people through that gift was clear and pure, and I knew that I couldn't wait to read her book.

What I didn't know was that as those e-mails began pinging across cyberspace, God had depths in store for that friendship that I could never have guessed. What began as a fun writerly-correspondence quickly grew to discovering a friend-of-my-heart, miles away but oh- so-close in our shared passion for offering God's truth and grace to His people through writing.

So, while I was excited back then to bring you this interview, today I'm simply eager to introduce you to my dear friend, Joanne Bischof. Her debut novel, Be Still My Soul, is releasing next week, and I couldn't be happier. OK, who am I kidding? I'm giddy for her. No other word for it.

And how cool is this? According to my sources (...that would be Blogger dashboard...), this is apparently my 100th blog post. I'm so honored to spend this milestone day introducing you and Joanne to each other!

I'll conclude my ramblings and let you dive into the interview to see for yourselves what a blessing Joanne is.

Amanda:  Joanne, one thing I love about you is your genuine heart for God's love to embrace your readers. Can you share with us one thing you hope your readers will take away from reading Be Still, My Soul?
Joanne: The one thing I hope readers will take away is the astounding truth that God pursues. He's relentless. And even the worst of sinners can be redeemed. He demonstrated this with the parable of the Shepherd and the one lost sheep. Jesus didn't die on the cross for our great moments. He died on the cross for our worst. For the moment when we were lost, so desperately in need of a Savior. It's an overwhelming love. One we are completely unworthy of, yet it’s given freely. This promise lives in Be Still My Soul and is something I think many readers will be able to relate to. I know this love has touched my life in incredible ways, which is why it’s the deepest thread running through the Cadence of Grace series.

Amanda: Such a beautiful, crucial truth, thank you! It's even echoed in your series title, Cadence of Grace. Could you fill us in on how you arrived at this title for your series, or perhaps Be Still My Soul as the title for the first book?
Joanne: I would love to. The Cadence of Grace is based on 1 Peter 5:10,
"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you havesuffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."
This verse is such an amazing reminder that life is a journey. It's an ebb and flow with twists and turns, but God is there, doing His work in us and for us, every step of the way, and the ultimate destination is one of growth and rest.

As folks read Be Still My Soul, they will be able to look back and see the title reflected in my hero and heroine's journey. For the title, I loved the musical quality it had and the way it whispered the old hymn. Those words reflect my heroine's heart and whenever I hear it, I think of Lonnie. Her hopes and dreams, the fear she will never be loved, and ultimately, the promise that God will be by her side at all times. The title also parallels my hero, Gideon. If the words were spoken from his heart, they would be for much different reasons. His struggles are not about what has been done to him, but what he himself has done. With the sins of his past, there's so much guilt and doubt for him--a certainty that he is unworthy of love--both Lonnie's and God's. And whether he knows it or not, Lonnie is just the woman to be by his side on this journey.

Amanda: What great names for your characters (Lonnie and Gideon). What made you choose them?
Joanne:  I love these questions! For all of my characters, I researched names that would have been true to the early 1900's. For this story, I took it one step further, and searched for names that were authentically Appalachian. Lonnie is a very uncommon name for a girl and is such a simple, humble name that its just the sort of thing her parents would have chosen. In the beginning of the story, you'll learn that Lonnie is rather shy. A bit of a wallflower, and I always imagined that her name added to that. It wasn't one of the elegant names her friends had. As for Gideon, that's always been one of my favorite names. I love bible names and for the leading man in the book, it was just the right fit. It's less common and has that old-fashioned feel. And right away, I knew people in the story were going to call him Gid. Its fun because even some of the team at WaterBrook Press calls him Gid ;)

Amanda: If you could spend some time in the world of your book, which setting or moment would you choose to experience firsthand?
Joanne: Hmmm. It's so hard to choose, I really had to give this some thought! I think I would choose the opening scene. The story opens at an outdoor dance in the little mountain community of Rocky Knob, Virginia. With fall in full color and winter on the horizon, the whole town gets together to celebrate the end of a long harvest season. I would love to step back in time and visit that moment. I can just see the stars and the lanterns, hear the fiddle and the banjo and see all the colors as men twirl their ladies around. This is also the scene when the reader first meets Lonnie and Gideon. Though they grew up in the same hollow, this is the very first time my shy heroine and cocky hero interact together.

Amanda: I bet you, as a writer, have a few favorite books you return to again and again as a reader. Could you share with us some of the best titles you've read?

Joanne: I grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder and have read the Little House series several times. That was one of the things that first sparked a love of historical fiction in my life. Some of my favorite Christian Historical fiction includes Liz Curtis Higgs' Scottish fiction and Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series. I read a lot of other Christian fiction genres, and can get lost in a good suspense or contemporary romance anytime.

Endnotes from Amanda: As I was formatting and reading over this interview from so many months ago that we prepared for today, I hit the end and thought, why didn't I ask more? They're going to want to spend more time with her! Well, the good news is that Joanne hosts a warm and welcoming blog over at, where you can get weekly doses of her wonderfulness.
Also, if you're interested in reading Be Still My Soul in book club format, the Christian Fiction Book Club will be reading and discussing it online throughout the month of October, and you are most welcome to chime in.
Lastly, I'm excited to share with you that Joanne and four other authors are collaborating on a creative project called The Hope Chronicles... and I am humbled to be a part of that project. I'll write more on that soon, because I want to give you a glimpse into what began the whole project. So, stay tuned for The Heart Behind the Hope Chronicles... coming soon! When? I'm not telling. Because I'm sneaky like that(...also, I don't actually know. Probably early next week. hehe.)
Let's chat: If you've been lucky enough to read a pre-release copy of Be Still My Soul, what was your favorite part or aspect of the story?


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