A Conversation with Joanne Bischof

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Joanne Bischof. Her novel, The Lady and the Lionheart (Mason Jar Books) is on the 2017 shortlist in the Historical Romance category. Please join us in welcoming Joanne.

Joanne shares the inspiration behind her shortlist novel, including the research on the circus(!), her excellent taste in television – plus more!


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, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this 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. – Goodreads

Interview Questions

INSPYs: What inspired the story of The Lady and the Lionheart? This story really came about with an anxiety I was wrestling over: wanting to change things that are unchangeable. It’s something I have always dealt with and a trait that has caused me to wear out the carpet with pacing more than a time or two. God spoke to my heart, bringing forward a character that literally embodied the unchangeable—the tattooed man in the circus. Before I knew it, I was on a whirlwind of a writing adventure, immersed in a story that touched my heart and helped me to embrace the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

What kind of research was required for a book set in the circus? A LOT of research went into the circus elements for this book because I knew so little about the circus and not only was The Lady and the Lionheart immersed in that setting, but there is the Gypsy lifestyle and travel, Charlie’s life with his lions, and more. It really gave me the opportunity to discover a world that I knew only a fraction about. Amid the research, I found myself falling in love with the historical and cultural elements.

The wonderful thing about a circus is that each one is different and unique. It gave me the room to take liberties in crafting Charlie’s circus troop and Gypsy lifestyle just as my imagination led. But at the same time, the circus is a very specific and distinct culture so I had to craft all my imaginings to fall in line with these written and unwritten codes. Secret languages, unique terms, and surprising customs all came to play in learning how to build this world. Circus performers, their families are very real people and so my hope with writing The Lady and the Lionheart was to pay homage to this way of life and to give it the respect that it deserved. It was also incredibly important to me to honor and respect the animals in the tale—particularly our amazing lions, Axel, Han and Kristov. A lot of inspiration and research went into Charlie’s care of them and it taught me so much about these incredible animals and shattered a lot of my preconceived notions about them.


What are you watching? 

I’m a sucker for a good historical drama. From “Poldark” to “Downton” to “Call the Midwife”…I just get hooked. A recent favorite has been “Mercy Street” … a wonderful Civil-War period drama on PBS. I gobbled up both seasons 1 and 2 and miss it already.

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? 

I’m on a book deadline right now so haven’t had much time for reading, but recently, I got to indulge in a novella called “The Girl Who Could See.” It’s written by a sweet writer-friend of mine and is SUCH a good story! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves YA or stories with a lot of imagination. I kind of have a crush on the hero, Tristan, which is saying a lot if someone can get my mind off of Charlie. 😉

Faceoff Questions:

Print or Ebook? Definitely both

Early Bird or Night Owl? Fluctuates without warning

Milk or Dark Chocolate? This does not. J Milk


A Carol Award and three-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. That same year, her historical novella, This Quiet Sky, broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews among other critical acclaim. She is represented by Sandra Bishop of Transatlantic Literary Agency. Visit her on her website.

Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Joanne. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight your novel, The Lady and the Lionheart.