Hello Kelly! Welcome to the Book Loft. Can you tell us a bit about your family, and what it is like where you live?
I recently became an empty nester. It’s been a huge adjustment. My husband, who is a professional photographer working for one of the local school districts, and I live in a two story house with more bedrooms than we now need. My daughter moved to Norfolk in April, taking my only granddaughter with her, to be with her husband, who is in the U.S. Navy. My son moved into his own apartment after getting a great promotion at work. I’m so thrilled and proud of them both. Life changes are bound to come for us all. We live in San Antonio, which is an incredible cultural melting pot, and home to the NBA champion Spurs basketball team (Just had to throw that in there). I’m originally from Kansas and my husband is from Minnesota, but we have called San Antonio home since 1989. It’s a great place to raise a family and put down roots.
What can you tell us about your new release, The Beekeeper's Son?
The setting is a critical aspect of the story, another character really. Bee County, Texas, is home to the only Amish District in Texas. South Texas is dry, has rocky soil, lots of cacti and scraggly mesquite and live oak trees. My heroine, Deborah Lantz, has just move to Bee County from Tennessee and she’s not happy about it. She misses her home and the man she thought would one day be her husband. Her new district’s homes are weather beaten and need a coat of paint. The landscape is barren and full of cacti and scraggly trees. After Deborah meets Phineas King, a young man with a scarred face and even more scarred heart, she’s forced to look at beauty from God’s perspective and not the world’s. Amish fiction readers will get a glimpse of an Amish district very different from the more idyllic settings they see in stories set farther north.
Did you have a specific theme in mind as you wrote?
The theme became clear to me after a few visits to Bee County, which is about an hour and half’s drive south of my home. I couldn’t understand how the Amish folks living there could be so oblivious to the need to spruce up things in their little community. Why didn’t they clean up the junkyard next to the Combination Store? Why didn’t they paint their houses? It came to me as I drove home after a second or third trip? Outward trappings aren’t important to them. They have scant resources and they have to prioritize how they use them. Life has to be extremely difficult, trying to make a living from the land in such a barren place. How dare I judge them based on what I think is pretty or important? Me in my shiny new car, rolling home to my nice home and good paying job? Let’s just say the theme hit me right between the eyes! I was judging them by the world’s standards for beauty, not God’s. He created Bee County, just as he created the beautiful idyllic scenes a person sees in Lancaster County.
What is the last thing you wrote?
The second book in this series, The Bishop’s Son. I’ve finished the edits sent along by my editors and I’m looking forward to its release in June 2015. Readers will get to see how things are going in Bee County. It’s a very different story from The Beekeeper’s Son, but the spiritual theme is just as strong, I believe. Now I have to get started on book number three!
Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
I have two romances I wrote a few years ago that I still love. I fully intend to publish them independently when I have time to do the work necessary to whip them into shape and worry about covers and marketing and such. Sometimes publishers don’t buy stories because of factors that have nothing to do with how good they are or how well they’re written. So I don’t give up on them, I simply set them aside for another day.
What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Horror. Definitely. I read murder mysteries and suspense, but I draw the line at horror. Too scary for me and I don’t like to contemplate the true horrors that are out there in the world! I certainly don’t want to live inside a horror story long enough to write it.
What are your five favorite words?
An editor-friend and I were just talking about this recently. My list varies Like favorite foods do. I decided my dress for the ACFW conference gala I attended recently really should be called a frock. It just looks like what I envision a frock to be. And we really like the word onerous. No one uses it anymore and we don’t know why. I like writing rural characters/stories because the words can be so descriptive and give flavor to the story. I recently used caterwauling and catty-wampus in a book I was writing. It made me very happy! Action verbs are very satisfying. Why walk when you can stroll, saunter, trudge, or catapult across the yard to the corral?
What character that you’ve created most resembles you?
I think it’s Bethel in Love Still Stands. Although I didn’t know it at the time I was writing a story similar to what I’m now living. She loves to learn and read and she’s independent. She doesn’t want to have to rely on others for help. And then she’s hurt in a terrible storm that destroys the schoolhouse and she can no longer walk without crutches. She’s afraid she won’t be able to be the wife and mother every Amish woman wants to be, is destined to be. She struggles to find a new identity in the wake of her loss of independence. I wasn’t hurt in a storm, but recently began to suffer from a degenerative condition combined with worsening scoliosis that has affected my ability to walk. The pain and the struggle to simply balance myself have changed the way I look at myself as an active, independent person. By the time this blog is published I will have had surgery that will keep my symptoms from getting worse, but may not give me back my ability to walk freely. Either way, I’ve learned to rely on God and my husband to ask for help when I need it. It hasn’t been fun, but it’s certainly brought home all those lessons I so blithely included for others in my story, Love Still Stands.
Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write your first draft?
I can’t help myself. I’m a journalist by trade so it’s very difficult for me to leave a misspelling or a grammatical error behind. Sometimes it helps me to get unstuck if I focus for a few minutes on “fixing” minor things.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Next up is the second story in The Amish of Bee County series. It is entitled The Bishop’s Son and it will release in June 2015. Here’s the catalogue copy:
Leila Lantz is in danger of losing her heart to a Plain man until she discovers he’s not so Plain after all.
Leila has been drawn to Jesse Glick, the bishop’s son, since the first day she met him at his father’s store, and she knows he feels the same way about her. But she can’t understand why he seems to make overtures one day, then withdraw the next.
Jesse has a secret. He has been attending an Englisch church youth group, and he’s starting to believe he’s being called to be a minister, something Amish men cannot be unless they draw the lot. He’s considering leaving his Amish community to follow his calling. The only reason he has stayed is Leila. Will, Jesse’s cousin, has his own feelings for Leila, but he has stood back in deference to his cousin for many months. Until he can’t stand the thought of Leila being hurt.
Leila can choose Will and know that she will never have to leave her home or family. Or she can choose Jesse and the love her heart desires, knowing she’ll have to say goodbye to her entire community. The day comes when Jesse, Will, and Leila all have to make their choices, choices that will deeply affect their small, close-knit community of Plain families.
Thanks for sharing with us today!
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Kelly Irvin is giving away a copy of The Beekeeper's Son. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.