Monday, September 14, 2009

Interview with Joyce Moyer Hostetter: Award Winning Historical Fiction Writer

I met Joyce Moyer Hostetter, author of award winning historical fiction for middle grade readers, in March 2009 at the Life in the Spotlight workshop hosted by the Highlights Foundation. Her writing and speaking were an inspiration to me during the workshop.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to interview her about her writing and research! In this interview, Joyce offers excellent information for any and all writers.

Joyce’s background in six short bullet points -->

· I grew up in NC in a family of 8 children on a large property with a pond, a creek, barns and sheds, lots of grass, and a big garden. Nearly perfect!

· I went to college, got married, had two children, taught school, founded a preschool program.

· At midlife I realized something - I’m going to die someday. I want to write. Better get started! I began with curriculum writing. I wrote for a newspaper. I wrote a bunch of never-to-be-published novels.

· Okay, I did publish one of them. BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. And then there was an 11 year drought while I wrote books but didn’t publish them.

· Eventually I attended the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua which was the absolute best writing decision I ever made. More on that in the editor question below.

· Soon, I’ll have 6 grandchildren. I live with my hubby, mow lots of grass, and stay connected with my parents and siblings. Nearly perfect!

What writing project are you working on right now?
Joyce: A WWII era Conscientious Objector story. My character serves his country by doing alternate service in a mental hospital. A battle ensues!

What excites you most about writing?
Joyce: Research! I love finding the details I need for my story. And I’m thrilled when I discover that my books turn children on to reading or history.
As a writer, what is your greatest challenge? How have you overcome that challenge, or how do you plan to overcome it?
Joyce: The business side, I really can’t be bothered. So I turn record keeping and financial details over to trusted family members who make sure I pay my taxes. On the writing side? Plot. I’m not naturally strong at plot but I’ve discovered if I do enough research, history will provide the story.

What book are you reading right now?
Joyce: Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford by Kim Stafford

What is your favorite book of all time and why?
Joyce: One? Just one? Ouch! This is sooo hard.
Diary of A Young Girl – by Anne Frank
Anne expanded my understanding of the world by taking me into a confined space and exploring big questions.

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Joyce: Write your passion. In the end, this is the only thing that works for me.

What inspired you to write historical fiction novels for middle grade readers?
Joyce: Father Damien. He’s the Catholic priest who chose to live and work among leprosy patients in Hawaii. Soon after I discovered him I saw that a major children’s publisher was asking for historical fiction. “Hmmmmm,” I thought. “I can do that.” So I began writing the book that eventually was published as Healing Water. In the process, I discovered how much I love research and how well history writing is suited to me.
BTW – Father Damien is being canonized on October 11.

I know you’ve had to do a significant amount of research for your novels. Can you describe your process of researching and writing?
· At first I read every little thing I can about my subject and all the topics that surround it. This gives me the lay of the land, so to speak. And it raises some ideas for plot and gives me some sense of who my characters might be. I try to put this info into a loose outline or summary at the very least.

· I keep reading. One resource leads to another – it’s like following a trail on some endless adventure.

· I visit museums. I travel to the places where my story happened.

· I dig up old newspapers, diaries, documents.

· But I think my favorite form of research is consulting experts. From my editor, (shout out to the marvelous Carolyn Yoder!) I’ve learned to find people who know my subject, or experienced what my character experienced, or who lived in that town or whatever. I bug them for details that only an eye witness would know. I ask them to proof my manuscript. They become my new best friends!

· As for the writing process, it takes me a long time. Sometimes I try to rush my story but, in the end, I really have to live with the passion and all the possibilities, and keep researching until it all emerges.

Was it difficult to find an editor for your first novel?
Joyce: My first book, Best Friends Forever filled a niche with a small publisher, Friendship Press. But I didn’t find an editor there. In fact the editor changed before the book was published.
Now I work with Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek Books. (History imprint of Boyds Mills Press). I met her at the Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua. Took another workshop with her. The 2nd workshop gave birth to BLUE, the first book we worked on together. Since then, Carolyn has nurtured both HEALING WATER and COMFORT, the sequel to BLUE. And she’s nurtured me!

Joyce, thank you so much for your time and all of your insight into the writing life!

For more information about Joyce and her writing, check out her website: and her blog:

Happy Writing!


Nathan said...

What a great article. I have wondered how Joyce approached a historical topic and brought it all together. Thanks for giving that to us.

stevenjocb said...
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stevenjocb said...

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