Your connection to the Plain People is through your grandfather. Is that family connection what drew you to writing about the Amish?
Definitely. I have always been intrigued by my Plain relatives, even as a child. They have a very gentle spirit, very warm and welcoming, and I admire their focus on a simple life.
The Amish are known to be utterly private. How do you do your research? Do you have Amish contacts? Do the Amish read your books? If so, what do they think about them?
After my first book (“Amish Peace”) was contracted, I went back to Lancaster County with some initial contacts who were very helpful—introducing me to their Amish friends. One contact led to another, to another. I have a policy of “full disclosure.” I introduced myself as a writer, explained my purpose, let these new Amish friends read my stories about them for corrections, for permission, and for protecting their identities (most, but not all, Amish would prefer not have their names in print). These friends have become very dear to me, and very helpful. It’s been a lovely perquisite of writing about the Amish—these families mean a great deal to me. And yes, they do read my books! A consistent remark I’ve heard is that they feel my work is closer to their reality. That is huge to me! I have wanted to portray these people realistically.
Amish fiction is a “hot genre” right now in the book industry. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a front-page article that cited its market share as high as 14%. Why do you think people are so intrigued by the Amish?
Their purposeful lifestyle seems like an antidote to modern pressures. So often my life feels like this: “Whoosh! A sled without a rider!” It isn’t easy to slow down, simplify life, to focus on what’s truly important. It takes a lot of intention! It seems as if the more technology that is in our life, the more stress we face. One example: for all of the benefits of a cell phone, it also means you can never take a break. You’re always “on call.” It takes work to manage a cell phone so that it isn’t managing you.
Your books have sold over 200,000 copies in a year's time. How would you explain this success? Has your life changed?
Isn’t it amazing?! I don’t know how to explain it…other than thanking God for every reader. I think my publishing house, Revell, deserves a huge chunk of credit for my success. Beautiful covers, great advertising support and exposure, terrific editing. And as for my life changing…yes! In wonderful ways…I’ve connected to readers who have become friends. And I am grateful for this opportunity to write, and to have a subject matter that I find endlessly fascinating.
|view this book tour and my review here|
I think I’ve read that there are only about fifty converts to the Amish church. It is very, very hard to become Amish: learning Penn Dutch, living without electricity, and then there’s an aspect to Amish thinking that would be extremely difficult for a non-Amish person to grasp--the group is more important than the individual. That has both a spiritual element to it, as well as a practical one. But a lot of people think they want to become Amish…until they spend a weekend without a car heater in January (not to mention…no car!).
One of the main themes in The Search and the other books in the ‘Lancaster County Secrets’ series is the importance of faith, family, and community. Do you think the Amish do a better job of protecting those values than the rest of American society? Why or why not?
I do believe they have a handle on protecting what is important—church is central to their lives. Family (including extended family) is cherished. They do very well with prioritizing those values…and they have chosen to avoid threats to family life (television, computers, even telephones in the house—they believe the telephone interrupts family time. So true!).
You have four kids, you raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, you have five published books, eight more are contracted. You must have a writing regimen! When do you find time to write?
I am always writing. Nearly always! Promotion is a big side of this book gig—answering e-mails, participating in interviews, public speaking, keeping up with social media. Everything gets done…but it’s a pretty busy life right now. I don’t have much time for just having coffee with friends. As for the puppies…they are a joy! You just can’t take life too seriously with a puppy tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth. Taking a dog on a daily walk helps me slow down, enjoy nature, exercise, relax.
How long does it take for you to write a book? Where do your ideas come from? Which book is your favorite?
I wish I had about six months per book, but it ends up being about 3-4 months per book. As for ideas, I start out with a basic plan in a book and toss some ideas out to a few trusted first readers to get feedback. Usually, one thought leads to another…and suddenly, the idea becomes a book plot…and then a book. As for my favorite book, “Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World” will always hold a spot in my heart. It was my foundation for writing credible fiction about the Amish. And as for favorite novels…it seems that whatever I’m working on becomes my very favorite. The characters feel real to me…I’m always sad when a book is finished and I have to say goodbye to my imaginary people. (Does that make me sound like I’m on the brink?!)
What’s next for you?
I have new releases coming out later this year: “Amish Values for Families” releases in August—it’s a spin-off from “Amish Peace.” And then some fiction books follow behind: “A Lancaster County Christmas” comes out in October…then two back-to-back series follow (still unnamed). I do know that they will all take place in Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania. Different characters, same town
Visit my review and this book's tour here.