When I decided to write Amish romances, some of my writer friends questioned whether Amish were true Christians because they don’t evangelize. They show their love of Christ through their example and the way they live their lives. The Bishop’s Son grew up around that entire “debate” and how different denominations of Christian faith sometimes think they’re right or they have the only “true” way to heaven. It helped me examine my own beliefs and I think it will prompt readers to do the same.
Did you have a specific theme in mind as you wrote The Bishop’s Son? Did a theme pop out as you finished the book? Did the theme change?
I knew I was writing about evangelism when I started, but the theme of not being judgmental attached itself to the story as I worked my way through it. Finding my way through the thorny issues that prompted the story helped me to see more clearly that it’s not up to me to judge how others worship but rather to keep my eye on God and let him show me the way and show others the way. I can love them and pray for them and even gently shine a light on what scripture says, but I’m not the ultimate expert or judge of what’s right and wrong. God is.
What is the last thing you wrote?
I just finished The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third book in the Amish of Bee County series. It will debut in July 2016.
Who is the most fun character you ever created?
I don’t know if fun is the right word, but every book in the Bee County series includes Mordecai King. He’s the bee keeper. My editor wants me to have a bumper sticker made that says “I love Mordecai.” He’s smart and funny and wise and kind and discerning. He loves to tell stories and even at the ripe old age of forty-something he’s interested in learning. He checks out books from the library to read. He tells stories to his children and grandchildren so they can learn too. His love story with Abigail in The Beekeeper’s Son still makes me smile.
If your stories are more character driven, what events kick off a change or growth in the character?
In The Bishop’s Son, Jesse Glick picks up Leila Lantz to take her on their first “date” in a car driven by his friends. They go to the movies. It’s the start of a journey that will force Leila to make major decisions about her life as an Amish woman. Shortly after that she starts a job in town at a daycare, more exposure to the non-Amish way of life. She learns something about Jesse that makes her realize she will have to make a choice between her family and the man she loves. Her faith will be tested along the way.
How much research do you have to do for the genre in which you write?
Probably not as much as writers in the history genre, but I do research to make sure I’m properly describing different aspects of life in an Amish district. Each district has its own rules, so you can create some of that for your fictional district, but you want to sure if you’re describing the drawing of the lots for a new bishop, you’re doing it right. If you’re canning tomatoes, you’re canning them so your characters don’t end up with botulism. For the Saddle Maker’s Son, I interviewed a saddle maker and visited his shop so I could the look and smell right as well as the terminology. It was fun. I visited Missouri for my Bliss Creek series and I went to Bee County several times as I wrote the Bee County Amish series. Being able to add just the right detail to bring the story to life really helps send that reader into fiction land.
Do you type or write by hand? Computer? Typewriter? Legal pad? Any special reason for choosing to write this way?
I write on my computer because my handwriting is terrible and I can’t write as fast as the story comes to me. Sometimes I can’t type fast enough. My fingers are numb from a medical condition so I need a very light touch!
What’s your favorite thing that you’ve written? What are you most proud of?
It’s funny how one novel will receive a great deal of positive reviews, even great reviews from esteemed magazines like Publisher’s Weekly and others will go unnoticed or less noticed. I’m very proud of The Beekeeper’s Son, which Publisher’s Weekly gave a starred review and called a “beautifully written masterpiece,” but I really like A Plain Love Song, which is the last book in the Bliss Creek series. I wrote some songs for that book and I liked being able to use Branson, Mo., as a setting for part of the story. One of my favorite non-Amish characters is in A Plain Love Song. Jackson is a country music singer and guitar player. He’s a little on the wild side, but his love for Adah is genuine. I feel bad for him because she makes another choice which is right for her. In my imagination, he’s found true love in Nashville and his career is flourishing.
How do people react when they find out you write?
Often times people will tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book. They’ll start to tell me about their ideas. The reason they haven’t written a book most often will be they didn’t have time. Which tickles me. When I started writing fiction I had a full time job, two children in middle school, and a husband who would like my attention now and then. I cleaned house, cooked, did laundry for five people, bought groceries, attended volleyball and basketball games most weekends, and I wrote a novel that eventually sold. It really depends on how badly you want that dream. I tell people to sit down and write, but they also need to join a critique group, attend writing workshops, and hone their crafts. All this takes time. Bu it’s worth it if you really want your dream of writing a book.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
The next full length novel is The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third book in the Amish of Bee County series. Rebekah Lantz longs for romance and the chance to be a wife and mother, but she fears her sister’s actions the previous year might keep her from realizing her dreams. Tobias Byler has moved to Bee County with his family to escape choices made back home. Their paths cross outside the district school one day jut after Rebekah discovers two young, runaway children in the shed. Rebekah and Tobias have no idea their lives are about to be turned upside down.
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