Interview with Kelly Irvin, author of Upon a Spring Breeze
Before we get to your talent for writing, let’s learn more about you as a person. What stage of life are you in? (Married? Single? Children? Grandchildren?)
My husband and I are the proud grandparents of two toddlers, who are two and three years old. We’ve been married 29 years and have a son and a daughter. I retired from public relations a year ago to write full-time, and my husband is a videographer.
What is your go-to research when you’re writing? A specific book? A website? An individual?
Writing novels reminds me of my years as a newspaper reporter. You have to know a little about a lot of topics. Every novel requires research on a new topic. Chicken farming, horse ailments, midwifery, canning vegetables, fighting fires, you name it. I always start with general searches on the Internet. If possible, I talk to someone who has direct knowledge of the topic. For Upon a Spring Breeze, I interviewed a chicken and hog farmer by telephone. I also interviewed a Missouri law enforcement official regarding the enforcement of a bird flu quarantine. The Missouri Department of Conservation was a great source of information on flowers and native plants in Missouri. I enjoy checking out the Amish America website/blog for photos of daily Amish living to help me with details of settings.
Let’s talk about studying the Amish up close. Where has book research taken you?
Two of my favorite books for understanding the daily lives and the nuances of the Amish faith are John A. Hostetler’s Amish Society and The Amish by Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Holt. I regularly review sections in these books when I’m writing about weddings, funerals, church services, social events, and other aspects of Amish living. I’ve subscribed to The Budget newspaper for years. The scribes’ articles give beautiful snapshots of daily living in Amish communities across the country. They help me understand the challenges of driving buggies, operating farm equipment, and inclement weather. It’s a great resource.
What was the first thing you learned about the Amish? What were a few things you had to “unlearn” about them (preconceptions)?
I thought the Amish had an aversion to technology and that’s why they don’t allow phones or computers in their homes or use electricity. My understanding now is that Amish folks weigh each new advancement in technology against how it will affect their ability to “keep themselves apart from the world.” More modern communities may allow a telephone or a computer in a place of business if it helps them earn a living. Their main concern is to not be consumed by the ways of the world. They don’t believe technology is evil in and of itself. When Amish individuals are baptized, they renounce the self, the devil, and the world. They try never to lose sight of that commitment.
Amish fiction authors are accused of romanticizing the Amish, of glossing over real problems. Some feel very vitriolic about it. How do you respond to that concern?
I certainly don’t personally romanticize the Amish. I see a life filled with incredibly hard work. I respect that. I respect their beliefs, although when it comes to education, salvation, and evangelizing, our beliefs are different. Some of my novels have dealt with issues that occur in Amish communities, just as they do in ours. They are not perfect. I’ve written about marriages in danger of falling apart, juvenile drinking, untreated postpartum depression, and other human frailties that affect us all. Life is full of challenges regardless of the community in which you live. The Amish are kind, generous people who try to set an example as the “living hope.” Many of us could learn from that.
What are your thoughts about the growth of Amish fiction? Why do you think it is such a popular sub-genre?
In part because people do tend to romanticize Amish lives. People yearn for simpler times. They are bombarded by media and bad news twenty-four-seven. We live in difficult times fraught with dissension. They read about gardening, canning, farming, sewing by the fireplace, and wonder if that wouldn’t be a better way to live. Reading Amish fiction, like reading all fiction, is a form of escape.
Tell us about your current work-in-progress.
I recently turned in book two in the Amish of Every Season series (Beneath the Summer Sun) so I’ve started on book three. It involves a widowed grandmother who’s experiencing an empty nest and wondering if she still has something to offer in her community. Each book in this series deals with a widow in a different season of life and how they experience romance. The fourth book features a great-grandmother. I’m loving writing about older women who find themselves with second chances at love.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about my grandchildren, reading, and writing. Now that I’m retired from my day job, I can focus all my efforts on these three things (aside from church, of course). Unfortunately, my daughter’s family lives in Virginia so I don’t get to see the grandkids as much as I’d like but I still send them books whenever possible. I write every day and read every day. What a great life!
People don’t know I’m good at… I had a hard time with this. Writing and reading are my best talents and most everyone knows that. I’m a terrible singer and my husband claims I’m not a very good driver. I’m not a great cook or sewer. I’m good at loving the people in my life and praying for them.
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Kelly Irvin is the author of several Amish series including the Bliss Creek Amish series, the New Hope Amish series, and the Amish of Bee County series. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine. The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter, mostly in Texas-Mexico border towns. A retired public relations professional, Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-nine years. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.
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