When a Novel of the Heart Gets a New Dream Interview with Joanne Bischof {And Giveaway!}

YA'LL. I am so happy to have here today one of my favorite authors, role models--one I am privileged to call friend. Settle in with a cup of your favorite beverage of choice, and hear the story behind Joanne Bischof's The Lady and the Lionheart.
And be sure to enter her amazing Big Top Giveaway at the end of this post--it's as magical as the story and you don't want to miss out.
(You can check out my review here)

Joanne, thank you so much for both writing such powerful, redemptive stories—and for your friendship. Knowing you these last few years has been a constant blessing, gleaning from your example…I could go on. Suffice it to say I thank God upon every remembrance of you—and I especially thank God for inspiring you to write The Lady and the Lionheart. You’ve said before it’s the novel of your heart—what first sparked the idea of such a unique story? Les Miserables/Beauty and the Beast/set in a circus in turn of the century Virginia!

JB: Thank you so much, Meghan! It’s been a joy knowing you and being able to call you friend. So blessed by you!

The novel of my heart – I remember our chat about that with such fondness! This story idea sparked at a time in my life when I was struggling with something that brought me great sorrow—something in life that could not be changed. I imagine we’ve all been in that place before.

God used the writing of this novel to work on my heart and change my perspective and attitude. That by telling Charlie and Ella’s story, each of them facing a piece of their past that cannot be rewritten, it taught me to give my worries to the Lord and trust that His plan is not only perfect, but that He uses trials to shape us and mold us.

Were there any “aha!” moments for you as you wrote Lionheart, whether it be a character breakthrough, a plot twist, or a beam of our awesome God’s divine inspiration?

JB: Oh my goodness—so many “aha” moments! One of my favorites was the character of Regina, Charlie’s godmother—a dwarf woman who is about three feet tall.

With this novel a romance between Ella and Charlie, and much of it taking place in Charlie’s tent and wagon, it felt too intimate for the two of them to be alone together. As Christians, we’re called to not leave room for the “appearance of evil” and even if Charlie and Ella were on their best behavior, I didn’t want the other characters—or the reader—to always see them alone together. Especially since they’re an unmarried couple in love. I needed someone to fill that “chaperone” role. With also needing a nanny for Charlie’s baby, little Holland, while Charlie’s performing, Regina’s presence on the page solved all of those riddles.

Another is that since Charlie always has his face painted for the matinee performance and I didn’t know how he would do his own makeup. It was another role that Regina fulfilled. This sweet, stout woman was my right hand gal the whole novel through. I think it showed in how she was always there for Charlie and on a heart level, she is such a dear character that I couldn’t imagine the story without her!

Can you share with us how The Lady and the Lionheart first got it’s name (titling is a daunting but fascinating process for me LOL)

JB: Oh, yes. I set out writing this novel fast and furious. It was an utter whirlwind, the whole novel being completed in about a month’s time—that there wasn’t quite time to come up with a proper title. I began to call it Lionheart, after Charlie. Soon, my critique partners and even my agent were also calling it that so there was no need to come up with a title. ;)

But down the road, it was time to come up with something that more bespoke the romance that is this book—the love story between Charlie and Ella. When it came time to show the manuscript to publishers, my agent and I both agreed that we needed to come up with an actual title. We texted one another ideas for about a day or so and late one night I landed on The Lady and the Lion Tamer. It felt really close to being the one—but also not quite right. That’s when The Lady and the Lionheart came to mind and I knew instantly that it was the one.

What made you decide to “go indie” with this novel celebrating it’s one month “birthday” today? Was this a dream you had for the book from it’s conception or a new dream God led you to?

JB: This is one of those questions that I look back on and see a few years of my life all stretching out toward the horizon—filled with doubts, tears, joys, celebrations…and everything in between.

Indie was the farthest thing from the dream that I had for this book. But after two years of the book being rejected by publishers, it began to be clear that it was time to try a different avenue. Thanks to the support of some amazing friends and fellow authors, people had already begun to rally around this story, making me feel like yes, it was time. The journey wasn’t easy, but it was amazing. God provided in so many ways from the cover shoot to the editing process, and this book just began to come together. When I first held it in my hands, there was no sorrow over it being indie, but there was a whole outpouring of joy. In holding The Lady and the Lionheart, I was reminded of what God can do with something so small as the dream of a story. I think it’s one of the reasons why this story of my heart became even more so.

Wow. WHAT a testimony, right? Thank you to Joanne for taking the time to sit with us and share her heart behind this magnificent story. Be sure to click the graphic below to enter her Big Top giveaway celebrating the release of The Lady and the Lionheart.
Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.
Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, country nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this ill Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

A Carol Award and two-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. Her 2014 novella This Quiet Sky broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children.

Words, history, and grace color my days here in The Burgh where I seek out the perfect coffee and red lipstick.


  1. Mmmmm. I loved this, Meghan! Thanks for interviewing Joanne so I could see a bit more of the story! Heavens! I'm impressed that this story was birthed in only a month! And I can hardly wait to read it myself!

  2. Meghan, It's such a treat getting to visit your beautiful blog like this! Thank you for the fun Q&A ... not only your awesome heart but for your dear friendship. So blessed by you and it's a real privilege to get to see how God is working in your writing life, and beyond. HUGS!


Pull up a chair, grab a cup of something hot or cold to drink, and enjoy. I love making new friends!