Q. When did you become interested in the Amish culture, and how did the idea for Amish-based books begin forming? When I was a little girl I visited my uncle’s farm in Indiana and first saw the Amish. I was fascinated by their culture. Years later, a relative took me around Paradise and the surrounding Amish towns in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and the idea to write novels about the Amish started spinning in my head.
Q. The Amish Road series is based on a completely different culture. How did you collect your research? Did anything surprise you about the Amish during your research? I’ve done a lot of on-site research in Pennsylvania and also read a lot of books written by authorities on the Amish. My favorite book is Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher.
Q. What aspects of an Amish lifestyle resonate with you personally? I love how the Amish truly live their lives in service to their community.
Q. In Crossroads, Emma finds herself staring in the face of a difficult choice after her well-though-out-plans for her life were suddenly changed. Have you ever experienced a similar situation—where what you thought would happen didn’t? What advice can you give to readers who may be experiencing that right now? I have been a writer since I started working for a newspaper right out of high school while I attended college. Doing both was too much so I dropped out of college. Years later I went to considerable time and expense completing my degree so I could teach. I was a single parent and writing income can be a little undependable. But I wasn’t enjoying teaching students who didn’t want to attend school. Then the local school board laid off 400 of us teachers…what looked like a personal tragedy became something else. I got to return to the writing I loved most.
Q. Rumschpringe is a familiar aspect in many Amish novels. While it’s heartbreaking to watch Isaac fall away from his Amish community, do you think it’s necessary for him (and others) to spend time away in order to “find” themselves? I don’t think Isaac or other Amish youth would appreciate what they have until they see “the other side”—the English world. The Amish have very close families and friendships…much more than we do, I think.
Q. Emma often goes along with what Isaac wants, letting her universe revolve around his needs. What message do you hope to send to women who are caught in that cycle? I hope that they see that they must look to their own needs and do what is right for them, not revolve around another person especially if that person is selfish.
Q. You touch on the subject of alcoholism, which seems rather unique to an Amish novel since the Amish have strict rules about drinking. How did you come up with this plot line and what sort of real-life lessons can readers take away from Davey’s struggle with the addiction? People are people whether they are Amish or Englisch. The Amish may have strict rules about drinking but the fact is that some Amish have a drinking problem just like people in other cultures. It’s just hidden more in their community. I hope readers can learn from Davey that they’re good people who got caught up in a habit that can cause them unhappiness—but there are organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous that can help them get their lives back on track.
Q. There are several lessons learned throughout Crossroads. What are the major themes you hope readers ponder after finishing the book? I hope that readers will see that they will face changes in their lives but it’s possible with God’s help to face change and come through it with grace and growth. Change can be scary at first but it also bring wonderful things into our lives.