The Northkill Amish Series by Joan Hochstetler

Posted by on Sep 8, 2017 | 8 comments

The Northkill Amish Series by Joan Hochstetler

The Northkill Amish Series drew me in from page one. You will be enthralled by the fact-based fictional story of the Hochstetler family, as related by their descendants, Joan M. Hochstetler and Bob Hostetler. Leave a comment and sign in on the Rafflecopter for a chance to win your choice of Joan’s award-winning historical fiction books.



Fabulous Fridays

The Northkill Amish Series

Welcome, Joan! I loved both Northkill and The Return. It’s exciting to have you here! Please introduce yourself and tell us how you started writing.

Thank you for inviting me, Norma! I’m excited to join you and so pleased that you enjoyed the series.

I’ve been a voracious reader ever since being introduced to Dick and Jane in grade school. But I never really thought about becoming a writer myself until one night years ago when I had an intriguing dream. I’ll explain more about that later, but it prodded me to start writing my own stories, and 40 years later I’m still at it.

You have a long list of award-winning historical fiction books. Please tell us a little bit about your American Patriot Series.

Daughter of Liberty begins in April 1775, and so far I’ve published 5 of a projected 7-book series. The storyline follows Elizabeth Howard and Jonathan Carleton from the battles of Lexington and Concord all the way through the devastation and triumphs of the American Revolution to its end at Yorktown. Basically I drop my characters into the midst of the actual historical events, have them interact with the real British and colonial leaders as well as some of the less well-known people of the time, and watch to see what happens.

My goal is to teach history from a Christian worldview through thrilling and life-changing stories. In this series I highlight the viewpoints of women and the native and black Americans who were deeply impacted by the war. The stories include everything from scenes of everyday life in early America to moment-by-moment recreations of pivotal battles on land and sea. I’m determined to provide enough romance, action, espionage, and intrigue to satisfy any reader!

Please introduce us briefly to Northkill and The Return.

The Northkill Amish Series is closely based on the inspiring true story of Bob’s and my Hochstetler ancestors, well-known among the Amish and Mennonites. Early on the morning of September 20, 1757, during the French and Indian War, our ancestors’ home was attacked by a party of Delaware and Shawnee warriors allied with the French. Facing certain death with his wife and children, Jakob made a wrenching choice that tore apart their lives. It resulted in the deaths of his wife and 2 children, while he and his 2 younger sons were carried away into captivity.

One of the aspects of Northkill and The Return that I find most fascinating is that you co-authored it with Bob Hostetler, a distant relative and award-winning author in his own right. How did this come about?

Bob and I knew of each other through the Jacob Hochstetler Family Association (JHFA), which is our family’s national organization. When he heard that I was planning to write a fictional treatment of our ancestors’ story, he got in contact. He and his wife were attending a meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, where I lived at the time, which gave us the opportunity to get together and talk about combining our ideas and resources for this project. It took off from there.

What role did your family history research play in these novels and how did you intertwine history and fiction?

What’s known about our ancestors was crucial to the story. Thankfully, many of the Amish and Mennonites keep careful records of genealogy and family stories. We’re also blessed to have a very thick book, Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler (DJH), that records not only our genealogy from Jacob to my grandfather’s generation, but also the stories handed down about this event. We found additional details documented in contemporary accounts preserved in the Pennsylvania State Archives and in some private collections. We absolutely could not have written this story without those resources.

We took these recorded facts—which added up to a surprising amount of material—figured out a timeline, and wove in the historical events happening in the outer world that would have affected our ancestors at each stage. Unfortunately there was much that wasn’t recorded such as the names of Jacob’s wife and little daughter who were killed. The boys’ locations during their captivity and exactly when they came home was also a blank. We only knew that one was held by a Delaware chief named Custaloga. So we had to do a lot of speculating. It was fascinating, challenging, and at times gut-wrenching to figure everything out and imagine their experiences and emotions during what was truly a fiery trial.

The Northkill Series


How do you go about researching and creating the settings for your books?

I use everything I can get my hands on! I’ve been writing historical fiction for around 40 years, so I’ve amassed a decent library of historical resources. And I do a lot of internet searches. It’s stunning what you can find online—like in the case of the Northkill series the actual transcripts of some of the crucial treaties between the Indians and the Pennsylvania government, including who was present, who translated, how negotiations were handled, and what terms were agreed to. Also novels set during the period I’m researching sometimes offer specific details I can use, but I always cross check them with other resources to make sure they’re accurate.

What goes into designing your characters? How much are they based on real historical figures?

In the case of the Northkill series we were working with real people. One can infer some things about personality by their actions, but details of appearance weren’t recorded, so we used our older Amish and Mennonite family members to get ideas. Bob wrote all the main character descriptions with notes on individual personalities and relational conflicts. I relied heavily on that and also kept my father’s appearance and personality in mind for Jakob when I wrote the draft. I also researched the other Amish listed as living in the area so we could flesh out the Northkill community by using real names for minor characters. Except for some of the leaders who appear in the historical record, most of the Native American characters had to be created, so research was vital to maintain authenticity.

For my other works, my characters usually arise from the story I envision and the historical setting: What kind of person at this particular time period would do the things the characters in this story do? For my American Patriot Series, the storyline occurred to me after I watched the 1983 TV movie The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews. I just knew I had to write my own version but wasn’t interested in the French Revolution. Happily, however, we had our own Revolution! I based Elizabeth Howard loosely on both the Scarlet Pimpernel and Paul Revere, but in a female version. Jonathan Carleton, initially her nemesis, carried over some aspects of Jane Seymour’s character, but was mainly a combination several historical characters from different eras. Don’t ask me to name them! That’s gotten kind of muddy over the years as he’s become very much his own person.

What makes your books different from so many historical fiction books available today?

My characters are more deeply involved in the real historical events of the time than you find in most Christian historical fiction, with a few exceptions. Historical romance is much more popular in the Christian market, and that focuses on the relationship between the 2 main characters. My books are very definitely character driven, however, and include strong romances. That means there’s a constant, and often heart-wrenching, interplay between the important events in the outer world and my characters’ personal lives and relationships. Things often get very complicated and messy, just as in real life.

Also in many historicals the main characters are real people. My main characters are fictional, so I have a great deal more latitude in what I can have them experience. And unlike many novels in the secular market, my books are written from a firmly grounded Christian worldview, which allows me to offer spiritual answers to the hard issues people face.

Please share three things readers might find surprising about you.

1. When I was in school my dream was to become an artist. I loved to sketch and paint and took art every year in high school. But I was no great artistic genius, so I eventually gave up the idea of making a career in art and got married and had kids instead.

2. At one point in my teens I was also seriously drawn to becoming a missionary. I read a lot of bios of missionaries and toyed with the idea for a while but eventually concluded that I really didn’t have the aptitude or a genuine calling. It took several more years before I finally realized that my calling was to write for the Lord.

3. My writing career started with a dream—literally! One night when I was a young mother, I had a dream that intrigued me so much I decided I had to write the story to find out who these people were and why they were doing what they were doing. That turned into an epic medieval tragedy through which I learned how to research and write. I’m determined to rewrite it one day using the skills I’ve developed and publish it.

Please share a favorite scene from Northkill.

I love the following scene because it shows how Joseph is beginning little by little to identify with his adoptive Lenape parents and how his father, Menetopalis responds in a very sensitive and loving way to his grief over losing his first family:

Nearby lay the town’s burial ground, where a post marked the head of each grave. Menetopalis turned aside to it. When he and Wulachen had brought Joseph to their oldest son’s grave a couple of days after his adoption, they had explained that the posts left undecorated denoted the graves of the town’s headmen. The graves of captains—the war chiefs—were painted red and decorated with scalps and weapons. Those displaying a small turtle shell indicated the graves of shamans, and small tokens of the deceased’s life marked some of the other graves as well.

Joseph guessed that Menetopalis and Wulachen’s oldest son had most likely died the previous summer, for the earth around the grave was not yet fully settled and an uneven growth of weeds and grass sparsely covered it. The post was decorated only with an arrow the boy had made. Tears filling her eyes, Wulachen had lightly run her fingers down the graceful, weathering shaft fletched with neatly trimmed turkey feathers to its sharp flint tip. Menetopalis had placed his arm around her shoulders, and for some moments they had stood motionless and silent, heads bowed, as he and Joseph did now.

They lost a son, as I lost my family. And they hurt like I do.

Menetopalis turned away without speaking, and Joseph steadied him as they returned to the path. Before they reached their cabin, however, the older man again veered off, this time into a broad clearing.

Several large trees sprawled across the forest floor there, uprooted, their lichen-covered trunks falling into decay. All around them undergrowth had sprung up, with small saplings rising above the lower growth, slender branches stretching upward to the hazy sunbeams that slanted through the break in the forest’s overarching canopy.

Menetopalis raised his walking stick and swept it in a slow, graceful motion from one side of the clearing to the other. “When the Whirlwind passes through the forest, he uproots many great trees. Men may say this is a bad thing, yet when the trees fall many insects find a home and food in them. As the trees decay they nourish the soil, and all around them young trees and other plants grow up and stretch their arms to the sky.”

The look he directed at Joseph was piercing. “The tall trees are beautiful to see, my son. But if they had not fallen, the sun would not reach the ground. The soil would not be replenished. And the young trees would never reach their full height and bear their fruit and seed in season to give life to others.” He paused before adding, “But these must choose to grow and not be downcast.”

Joseph dropped his gaze to the nearby trunk of a dead tree. The bark was falling away in many places, and he could see ants and beetles scurrying about in the spongy fibers underneath. Then he looked across the clearing to where slender saplings and underbrush, now bare of leaves, had crowded into the gaps left by the fallen trees.

Already they were pushing more roots deep into the soil. And in the spring, after the melting of the winter snows, they would send out new growth and reach ever higher.

He’s saying that I’m like those saplings.

Tears blurred Joseph’s sight. He bit his lip, unable to speak for the knot in his throat and unwilling to meet Menetopalis’s gaze. Yet the knowledge that this man understood and cared softened the sharp edges of Joseph’s grief.

At last he looked up and lowered his head in acknowledgement. Menetopalis’s arm tightened around his shoulders, and for the first time Joseph found himself leaning into his adoptive father’s side.

No one except Barbara and little Annali had embraced him since he was a small child. He had known, of course, that Maam and Daat and the others loved him, for they showed it in many ways by their actions. But these people were different. Wulachen and the children freely expressed their emotions toward him by touch and words as well as by actions.

As did Menetopalis. Joseph was not used to this from a man, and it moved him. In spite of every effort to hold Menetopalis at a distance, Joseph was coming to admire him deeply and to welcome his gentle touch.

“It will be well, my son.” Menetopalis drew in a breath, straightened, and relaxed his embrace. “Your mother will be cooking our evening meal and I grow hungry.”

“I grow hungry too,” .Joseph repeated carefully.

Menetopalis chuckled. “She and your sisters will rejoice to hear how you overcame Mehíttuk.”

“You are the one who showed me how. I thank you.”

“And you are the one who overcame Mehíttuk, not I.”

Book Blurb:

Jakob Hochstetler’s refusal to take up arms against the Indians who attacked his Amish family’s home on the Pennsylvania frontier during the brutal raids of the French and Indian War cost the lives of his wife and two of his children. Carried into captivity with his younger sons, Jakob is enslaved by the Seneca, while Joseph and Christian are adopted into different divisions of the Lenape tribe.

As the boys struggle to adapt to new lives, Jakob plots a perilous escape in spite of overwhelming odds against succeeding. But even if he can get away, could he survive a harrowing journey over the hundreds of miles of rugged terrain that lie between him and his Northkill community? Does home still exist? Are his older son and daughter still alive? Will he ever find his boys and bring them home?

J.M. Hochstetler authorAbout the author:

The daughter of Mennonite farmers, J. M. Hochstetler is an author, editor, publisher, and lifelong student of history. The Northkill Amish Series, coauthored with award-winning author Bob Hostetler, is closely based on the inspiring true story of their Hochstetler ancestors. Book 1, Northkill, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Bronze Award for historical fiction. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year.

Connect with Joan:


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Twitter: @JMHochstetler

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Books by J.M. Hochstetler


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  1. J.M., your research sounds fascinating and your books interesting. I’ve read many Amish novels. You have a very unique story here. Thank you for telling us about yourself and giving us insight into your work.

    • Thank you, Marcie! And thanks for stopping by. Good luck in the drawing!

  2. Joan, it was so nice to meet you here. I purchased Northkill at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and had Bob sign it. I loved it! Hope to win the sequel. Even now, quite often, I begin my prayer with “Danke, Vater” because Jakob prayed that in the midst of enormous suffering. That really blessed me 🙂

    • It’s so good to meet you too, Nan. I’m so glad you met Bob and that Northkill blessed you! Thank you for stopping by, and good luck in the drawing!

  3. Enthralled nothing!! I was unable to put them down! I’ve read all of Joan’s books and love them all. I especially love the American Patriot Series! Can’t wait for next two to be out! Joan has a great way with true details in her historical fictions. Love, love, love, love the accurate detail.

    • Bless you for stopping by and for your kind words, Beverly! It’s been a blessing to have you help edit my stories. 🙂

  4. I am a fan of historical fiction and I love that Joan and Bob created fictional characters that used some of their history. I appreciate this giveaway.

    • Connie, it’s sure been a blessing for Bob and me to be able to share this inspiring story from our family history with readers! Thank you for stopping by, and good luck in the drawing!

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