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Interview with Naomi Musch

Author Naomi Musch writes about imperfect people who are finding hope and faith to overcome their struggles. Born and raised in central Wisconsin, Naomi lives in the pristine north woods with her husband. She enjoys doting on her grandchildren, encouraging new writers, gardening, camping, kayaking, and fellowshipping with friends.

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Did you know when you released Mist O’er the Voyageur that there would be a sequel?
No, I sure didn’t. I had written Mist as a stand-alone book, but in the back of my mind, I wondered what Bemidii Marchal’s story might be. When readers began asking me about a sequel, his character’s whisper grew louder in my ear, demanding special attention. I like to see things come full circle too. There were a couple characters in the early parts of Mist that I thought would be really fun to incorporate again, one to bring to some comeuppance, and one to turn into my heroine. (Little hint and foreshadowing there, to anyone who’s read Mist.) By the way! If anyone has read Mist O’er the Voyageur and would like to read a short story that fits between the two books, email me with a request and I’ll send it off in pdf or Mobi.

How was writing Song for the Hunter different than the first novel?
Readers know Bemidii. His character had already been brought to life in the first book, and I loved developing him. Telling his story in Song for the Hunter was just going deeper and being able to walk inside his thoughts and hopes. The same was true but to a lesser degree with the heroine Camilla Bonnet. Another thing that was different was that I drove the romance in the story more purposefully. I love to write historical fiction, and in the first book I had to bring more romance in than was initially there in the early drafts (though I thought it was very romantic to begin with.) I was able to write the second book with this view in mind—and still maintain a rich historical setting and plot.

You have some great character names in your novels. Tell us how you decide on the names for your characters.
Thank you! I enjoy searching for just the right name to suit each character, and the name has to be right to the history and setting as well. Sometimes a name will come to me in an instant. At other times, I have to search period names and cultural names like I did for Bemidii. He’s Métis—half French, half Ojibwe. Raised primarily among the Ojibwe, his name had to be authentic. In some of my stories, I use variations of my own kids’ names. They don’t mind. I enjoyed choosing their names as babies, and now I love hearing the names they pick for our grandchildren. Naming characters is just as fun.

What message do you hope readers take away from Song for the Hunter?
All my books look at grace from a different thematic angle. Grace to find future hope, grace to remain faithful, grace to forgive, grace through redemption, and so on. In Song for the Hunter, the grace story is focused on Bemidii being saved both physically and spiritually. I wanted him to come to the saving belief he’d been exposed to and rejected in Mist O’er the Voyageur. I tried very hard to make this experience as realistic as possible, showing the denial, the struggle to accept truth, and eventually the giving of his heart completely—and the willingness to give up his life.

For Camilla, I wanted readers to feel her plight, and even though the story is historical, to come away with a sense of how God can bring hope to very dark and empty places in our lives.

Ultimately, I want readers to be pulled into a story that will both carry them away and not leave them feeling like, “That was a downer.” Too many books outside of Christian fiction are like that. I don’t feel happy and satisfied after I read them. So, I definitely like a happy ending, even if there’s hardship and tragedy in the story.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I never want to write a story that doesn’t somehow reflect God at work in the world, in our lives, in displaying His grace. That can be in a big, direct way, or in something subtle and underlying. I often discover the spiritual theme in my story while listening to a sermon or during my Bible reading and copying. Social themes and spiritual themes converge. That’s something that doesn’t happen very often in secular fiction, and you can easily feel that gaping hole when it’s there. In saying all this, I don’t want to write “preachy” fiction, but to leave out the spiritual is like believing in God only on Sunday.

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
There are so many! Historically, Charles Dickens or Agatha Christie because they wrote such fabulous characters. Nowadays, I would love to sit down with Angela Hunt, pick her brain a bit, and then just listen. I’ve always enjoyed any workshops or presentations by her that I’ve been able to take part in. I would like to ask her how her process has changed over time, what she’d do differently if she was starting over today, what advice she’d have for me with a few particular projects I have in the wings. I’d brainstorm some story ideas with her, and lastly, I’d ask her when she’s going to write some more historicals!

What do you always have on hand while writing?
Coffee, my planner, a cat … grandkids. Really, I have eighteen grandchildren, and there is a fair amount of commotion around our farm some days. In the early years I wrote while homeschooling, so I’m used to doing so in the midst of noise and occasional pandemonium. Haha!

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
It’s tempting to list a lot of advice that I would have liked to know so I could have shortcut the process, but the primary insight I’d give myself is to be persistent! Keep querying, keep knocking on doors, and don’t procrastinate between attempts. If you get a rejection, get the project right back out there.

I totally expected rejections and knew the process would take time, but for some reason, I tended to sit on the thing for ages in between queries. I missed opportunities because of that back when more (larger) publishers were open to submissions without an agent. Some of my procrastination might have had to do with lifestyle (homeschooling those five kids), but I think largely it was just trying to get fired up to have another go at it.

If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self not to put off submitting, and along with that, not to be afraid to try whatever new things were happening—while they were still new. I was slow to get on the e-book bandwagon, yet that’s what got my foot in the door. I published with a small press that did e-book only, and that later opened to paperback and on to other publishing opportunities. Nowadays I wish I’d gone hybrid (both traditional and self-publishing) a little sooner than I did too.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?
I won’t name the whole pile, because you know how those tend get pretty tall. I’m always trying to catch up on older releases and still hungering for the new. Here are a few I’m reading now or plan to read soon: A Rose for the Resistance by Angela K. Couch, Maggie’s Strength and Abigail’s Peace by Pegg Thomas, The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, Behind Love’s Wall by Carrie Fancett Pagels, Georgia Bride by Danielle Thorne, and Rose Among Thornes by Terrie Todd.

What can readers look forward to next from you?
Right after Song for the Hunter released in January, I had the privilege of having a novella included in Barbour’s Lumberjacks & Ladies collection, which released February 1st. My story in that book called Not for Love puts a twist on the mail-order-bride trope when a gal sends a letter away to the lumber camps looking for a husband in name only.

Then, coming in July is my novel Season of My Enemy, #6 in Barbour’s Heroines of WWII series. I stuck close to Wisconsin history for this one too. It’s about a farm family whose men are off to war, leaving a young woman and her mother and younger siblings in charge. German POWs are housed in a camp nearby and sent to area farms to supply labor. Eight of these prisoners come to the heroine’s farm to work for the summer. Suspense, sabotage, and romance take center stage. I have a couple of completed manuscripts being shopped around to publishers as well.
Jessica Baker loves sharing her passion for reading with others and connecting readers with authors. In addition to blogging at A Baker’s Perspective, Jessica is a virtual assistant, proofreader, and runs her own business. Though she wishes she had a library like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Jessica realizes the importance of sharing her books with the world to tell the story, and donates many books to her local library. Jessica Baker lives Central New York with her husband, teenage daughter, beagle, three cats, and four ducks.

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