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 have been married for 26 years and we’re empty nesters! Our children are in their twenties, finished college, and are living in Denver and Louisville. Contrary to what we imagined, my husband Tom and I are finding MUCH to enjoy about living on our own again!
What is your go-to research when you’re writing? A specific book? A website? An individual?
For me, if at all possible, I like to visit the place that I’m writing about. I like to describe things fairly well, and being there helps tremendously. I also have a number of people who are either Amish or who live in Amish country that I often pester with questions.
Let’s talk about studying the Amish up close. Where has book research taken you?
I wanted to set a series in Pinecraft almost as soon as I heard about it. Two years ago, my husband and I visited. We just happened to be there at the same time as my Amish friends. They took us all around and introduced us to a lot of people. That was so special. I feel like I was able to write about the Amish in Florida because of their help.
What was the first thing you learned about the Amish? What were a few things you had to “unlearn” about them (preconceptions)?
My biggest misconception was that the Amish knew nothing about modern conveniences—and that women didn’t read fiction. It was a great day when I learned that my Amish friend was a big fan of Karen Kingsbury—just like me.
Since I’ve kind of gone the other way, writing about drug use, rehab centers, infidelity, cancer, and spousal abuse, I don’t think I’ve romanticized much. However, I’ve always wanted to write books that deal with circumstances and issues that could happen to anyone. My characters just happen to be Amish. As far as responding to the concern, I kind of feel like it is out of my hands. I’ve written about 50 novels. Some people are going to like them. Some are not. If someone doesn’t like my books, I hope they’ll enjoy someone else’s.
What are your thoughts about the growth of Amish fiction? Why do you think it is such a popular sub-genre?
Readers have told me that they like to read about the Amish because they like the opportunity to learn about a different culture. People also enjoy thinking about a group of people who live life at a slower pace. To be honest, I’ve been surprised by this genre’s popularity, but have been very grateful for its popularity. I truly enjoy writing my Amish novels.
Tell us about your current work-in-progress.
I always write more than one book at a time. I’m currently working on the third book in next year’s Charm series and a historical western. Both manuscripts appeal to me in different ways!
I’m passionate about…
My family, my faith, being kind, and adopting dachshunds!
People don’t know I’m good at…
Traveling. Really! I don’t get sea sick, car sick, or nervous on planes. I’ll eat just about anything and enjoy my surroundings. I actually am one of those easy-going, happy travelers.
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Shelley Shepard Gray lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. A busy wife and mother of two, she spends her days writing and keeping track of her two teenagers. Her two dogs keep her company when she writes in her basement. When not spending time with her family or writing, she serves on several committees in her church. Shelley enjoys writing about the Amish and visits Amish communities several times a year.
Her latest book is A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn.
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