BJ answers your most frequently asked questions:
Who is BJ Hoff really?
A descendant of an Irish rebel exiled for printing illegal pamphlets supporting Ireland’s Home Rule. A great-great-something granddaughter of an Appalachian circuit preacher turned Revolutionary War soldier. A coal miner’s granddaughter. An Irish cop’s daughter. A godly man’s wife. A proud mom and grandmother. A storyteller. A woman blessed.
Why do you always write about the Irish or Irish Americans?
Because they’re so fascinating, of course! Besides, I love writing about the people who built our nation–our ancestors, and the Irish played a huge part in that.
Do you really consider historical novels to be relevant to today’s readers?
Obviously, I do, since that’s what I write. Not only do I believe that historical fiction is relevant to today’s readers, I think it may well be one of the best means we have of strengthening and expanding our faith. Over and over again in Scripture, God exhorts his people to pass on his laws–and their stories–to their children and their children’s children. That tells me that it was important to him that we keep an accounting of his working in our lives, preserving that account for future generations. I think that’s one of the fundamental responsibilities of the historical fiction writer: not to revise or rewrite historical fact, but to preserve the truth by writing stories in which truth is recognized as it shines through the lives and actions of the characters.
Historical fiction allows us a glimpse of how God worked among his people in the past; among all kinds of people. That awareness can actually open new horizons on our faith today, as well as give us a greater confidence in what He will do in the future.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Probably bored. When I was about seven or eight, I wanted to join a circus. (And in a manner of speaking, perhaps I did.) When I was a pre-teen, I wanted to be a high school band and choral director. I also wanted to be a hymn writer. (I didn’t realize until much later that working with high-schoolers in a confined environment would wreak permanent damage on any aspirations toward the holiness probably required to be a hymn writer.) In my twenties I decided to be a church music director and a music teacher. In my thirties and forties, I did both. (It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.) At various times, I’ve decided to be a great singer (problem: I don’t have a great voice); an Irish step-dancer (for obvious reasons, I no longer aspire to this); and a hermit living in the mountains (that one still has a certain appeal).
What’s your favorite computer to work on?
A MacBook Air. I also get a kick out of working on an old clamshell iBook–great keyboard!
Who are your favorite writers?
Many of my friends are also writers, and I want to keep them as friends, so I think I won’t answer that! But this one is safe, because I don’t know her: Susan Howatch. Also the late Thomas Flanagan will always be a huge favorite. Then there’s Jodi Picoult. Silas House. Robert Morgan …
Why don’t you write faster?
Because I can’t. I have a life that includes a family : )
What kind of books do you read?
All kinds, but more fiction than nonfiction, and more historical fiction than contemporary, although I also enjoy contemporary suspense. I like biographies of interesting people, especially those who aren’t celebrities but who do intriguing work or try to make the world a little better.
Who is your agent?
Janet Kobobel Grant. She’s the best. You can learn more about her at the Books & Such web site.
Do you begin your novels with a plot or a character?
All my novels begin with characters. I don’t plot. I let the characters do it for me.
Do you choose certain themes to write about?
Never. Any “themes” that appear in my books aren’t my doing. My editors–and many of my readers–have told me that hope is a constant “theme” in my novels, and I like hearing that, but it’s not planned. The same thing is true of symbolism. I’m always interested when a reader or an editor points out some instance of symbolism in one of my novels. It’s nothing I plan. I’m not sure I’d know how to plan it. Things sometimes happen in fiction that defy explanation.
What does it mean to be a “Christian writer”?
Honestly? I tend to believe that’s an overused and somewhat misleading term. I’ve never quite understood the need to put a label to writers: “romance writer”; “crime writer”; “mystery writer”; “science fiction writer”; “literary writer”; etc. Why can’t we all simply be writers?
At the risk of being simplistic, here’s my take: I’m a person who writes. I’m also a Christian. So when I’m writing, I’m only naturally writing from the worldview of a Christian. In other words, I see the world and life through a particular point of view that happens to be Christian. That point of view influences what I think, what I do, what I write, and what I am. Or at least it should.
What do you consider the one most vital trait for a writer to have?
Patience. You won’t survive long as a writer without it.
What do you like best about your life?
Are you ever going to complete the St.Clare series that began with Winds of Graystone Manor?
I hope so. I still receive more reader correspondence about that project than anything else I’ve ever written, asking for the rest of the story. This genuinely surprises me, considering how long it’s been since I wrote the first book, Winds of Graystone Manor. No promises at this point, but it’s a possibility that this will yet go back on the drawing board.
What are you working on now?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been moving slightly away from general historical fiction into a genre that I think of as Appalachian historical fiction. My recent series, The Mountain Song Legacy was the beginning of that move.
Ask Your Question…
Do you have a question that wasn’t answered here? Contact BJ and send your question to her directly! BJ answers her readers as often as she can, and you may just see your question (and BJ’s answer) posted on this page sometime in the future.