What are your favorite hobbies when you’re not writing?
I love to read mysteries and suspense. I’ve read every one of Sue Grafton’s A-Z mystery series. (We’re up to X) With a full-time job and my writing, I don’t get to do nearly enough reading for pleasure. I’m a big fan of sappy chick-flick movies too. Two of my favorites are “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.”
What has been the most risky thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Did it work? Was it helpful?
Writing Amish romances doesn’t really require a lot of risky research. I did write two romantic suspense novels prior to delving into this genre, but even that was more “armchair” research. My husband used to worry because I bought so many books on guns, poison and crime scenes. I did a lot of Internet research on things like how to rig a van with drugs and get it across the border without getting caught. I did do some acting out of fight scenes that involved falling and rolling around on the floor. The only thing that hurt was my elbow and behind!
Think back to the first time you heard about the Amish. The very first time. What do you remember?
I don’t have any memories that stick in my mind before the shooting at Nickle Mines school, which is really sad in my way of thinking. I was deeply impressed by the way the families reacted and reached out to the killer’s wife and children. Their forgiveness actually sparked the thought process that led to the story line in my first Amish romance, To Love and to Cherish. I asked myself if I could be forgiving if someone hurt my loved ones, even if it were inadvertently.
Let’s go back to your first Amish novel. What do you think about it now? What would be different about it from your most recent novel?
My first novel was set in a fictional town in Kansas. It’s a very traditional setting in terms of farming and the community. I loved the Bliss Creek Amish series and the characters. My current series, the Amish of Bee County, is set in a part of Texas in a climate that makes farming difficult. It’s based on an actual small Amish community, no larger than a dozen families. They’re the only Amish in Texas. Because of the setting and the way these folks live, it has a very different feel to it. The first book in the Bee County series examines our perceptions of beauty, what’s manmade and what God made and considers beautiful (all of us!). It was an eye-opener for me personally as I had to set aside my preconceived notions about the Amish and the idyllic countryside homes you see up north, to write the series about people who don’t do anything at all to spruce up their homes. There’s a buggy junkyard next to the Combination Store they run. The buildings look like they’re about to fall down. I had to move beyond the outward trappings to who these folks are and how hard they work to sustain their lives in this setting.
What are the biggest misunderstandings people have about the Amish?
I think some people oversimplify or idealize their lives. I’m surprised at how often people say they’d like to become Amish so they can “live like that.” I see people who work very hard and embrace hard work as a way of life. But that doesn’t make it easy. I don’t think most of us could do it.
What are your thoughts about the growth of Amish fiction? Why do you think it is such a popular subgenre?
For a lot of reasons, but partly because it represents a simpler, quieter, more family-oriented way of life compared to the “rat race” high stress, high-tech world most of us live in. Readers like to immerse themselves in the farm life where families work together and eat together and go to church together. Romance is about courting and taking the time to get to know a person. There are quilting frolics and canning frolics. At times, you almost feel as if you’re reading an historical, rather than a contemporary, story. The genre as a whole offers clean fiction/romance so that the mom can read the story and leave the book on the coffee table, knowing it’s okay if her daughter or son picks it up and takes a peek. That’s true of Christian fiction in general, which makes it lovely!
I just finished the edits on the third book in the Amish of Bee County series. It’s called The Saddle Maker’s Son. One of the things I like about this series is that each one examines an issue that challenges us to reflect on our beliefs and how we live them out. What would we do if . . . . In The Saddle Maker’s Son, the heroine comes upon two children hiding in the shed outside the school. They’re from El Salvador and they’ve crossed the border illegally. It presents a tremendous challenge for Rebekah and her community. Are they good Samaritans or are they good citizens? It also gave me a chance to bring in another culture into the mix with south Texas and the Amish culture. I had a great time with these two children and how they mixed with the Amish way of life. I hope readers will enjoy the story, two great romances, and a chance to reflect on what would Jesus have them do if they were in such a situation. The Saddlemaker’s Son debuts next spring.
Where can readers find you?
My perfect day would be:
This would involve a trip to the beach for the whole family. We’d stay in a condo right on the beach so we can traipse back and forth as needed. I’d sleep in (for me that’s about 7:30 a.m.!), eat breakfast and read the newspaper (I’m old school, I like to hold my paper in my hands!) while everyone else is still sleeping. Then, when everyone is up, we would head to the beach for a day of playing in the sand and body surfing in the ocean. My grandchildren are two and six months old and they live in Norfolk, VA., where my son-in-law is stationed in the U.S. Navy. I don’t get to see them nearly often enough. Any day spent with them would be fabulous in my book. We’d end the day with fresh boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce followed by barbecued hamburgers, hotdogs, tater tots, and cookies. My granddaughter and I share a great love of all cookies, but especially homemade gingersnaps. Then we’d take a flashlight and go down on the beach and look for nightlife before falling into bed exhausted and with great memories.
If I could change one thing about the world, it would be:
In light of recent events, I would like a world where guns were never invented. They don’t exist. None of any kind. Some people will say that people would simply find another kind of weapon to use against each other, and maybe that is true, but it would be grand to think that folks had to find another more peaceful way to settle their differences.
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Kelly Irvin is the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House Publishers. Her latest release is The Beekeeper’s Son which released January 12th. It is the first book in the Amish of Bee County series for Zondervan/HarperCollins. She has also penned two inspirational romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-six years. They have two young adult children, a new granddaughter, two cats, and a tank full of fish. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.