Your latest series, Neighbors of Lancaster County, features a military family who moves next door to an Amish family? What led you to explore the juxtaposition of the two cultures?
I blame the whole thing on my husband! He joined the National Guard way back in 1985 and then soon transferred to the Army Reserve. To be honest, when he “joined up,” I wasn’t pleased. I was a pacifist at heart, but it meant a lot to him so I didn’t stand in his way.
Through the years, I supported my hubby as he served in the Medical Corp, while sending our four children to a Mennonite preschool when they were young and continuing to contemplate pacifism through the years.
When I began writing Amish fiction in 2010, I was very aware of the incongruity of my life as the wife of a soldier and my life researching the Amish. The more Amish fiction I wrote, the more I wanted to explore the differences—and similarities—of the pacifism and nonresistance of Anabaptists and the life of a military family.
You weren’t thrilled when your husband joined the military all those years ago. How do you feel about his service now?
Great! He retired after thirty years this last August. But I have to say, I felt good about his service long before that. He was mobilized three times and deployed twice, the last time to Afghanistan to command a field hospital. My husband is one of the most loyal people I know, and he thrived in the army, ultimately achieving the rank of colonel. He served countless soldiers through the years, and one of the benefits I didn’t expect was the relationships I formed with his “brothers” and “sisters” in arms and their spouses. I can see how God used the army to work in our lives in many different ways.
What responses have you had from the Amish you’ve visited about your husband’s service?
When he was serving in Afghanistan, I spent time with an Amish family in Indiana. The parents asked me to pass on their thanks to my husband for his service. None of the other Amish I’ve come to know have ever said anything negative about his work in the army. Perhaps they were being polite, but I sensed gratitude from them.
The first novel in the Neighbors of Lancaster County series is Amish Promises (which released last spring). What is the main theme of the story?
“Love your neighbor as yourself”—even when your neighbor believes and acts very differently than what you’re accustomed to. Both the military family and the Amish family in the story have children, who quickly form fast friendships. It makes things complicated for the adults as they try to navigate being neighbors with people they don’t understand. However, not surprisingly, they figure out they also have a lot in common.
Does the second novel, Amish Sweethearts, in the series also include a military thread?
Yes, very much so. Two of the young men in the next generation in the series join the army—and then grapple with very different issues. One becomes disillusioned with war but questions whether he could truly ever be Amish and nonresistant when he knows he couldn’t help but defend someone in danger. The other blindly defends his country, no matter what.
When does Amish Sweethearts release?
The first of February, just in time for Valentine’s Day! As you can probably guess by the title, there’s more going on in the story than military maneuvers.
Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award winning author of twenty-one novels. She enjoys traveling, church history, and hiking in the Cascade Mountains. Leslie and her husband, Peter, live in Portland, Oregon and are the revolving-door parents of four children and three cats.
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