Q. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born in Chicago, moved to New Jersey, then out to California in my teenage years. I attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. I had some wonderful professors there and worked on the school newspaper. As for the moves—they were a result of my dad’s career. And then my husband’s career has taken us around the world: We’ve lived in Houston, Seattle and Hong Kong. I think that all of those stretching experiences have helped me be a writer.
Q. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
A writer. I really did. Loving to write has always been a constant in my life, but I never imagined I ever would’ve published a novel. While I was raising my children, I wrote magazine articles. I thought of myself as a non-fiction writer. Then came a moment in my life when I thought to myself, ‘Well, who’s stopping you?’ and that was a defining shift for me. Now, I encourage everyone to consider both fiction and non-fiction. The qualities needed for both will enhance writing skills.
Q. Who are some authors who have had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, because when I read it as a teenager, I hoped I could do the same, and express myself so eloquently. Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw, for the same reasons. They could take an ordinary experience and give it such meaning.
Q. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Revealing is the third of the ‘Inn at Eagle Hill’ series, so there is a story arc that wrapped up, answering some dangling questions. But within that larger story arc, there is a new character who entered the scene with a story of her own. Her job was to be a professional art restorer, but her talent took her a little too far—she became a forger. It was a fascinating discovery to learn about copying—which artists have been copied most often, signs of a how to identify a forgery, how to duplicate a signature.
It must be my curious streak—but I love, love, love learning about new things and trying to weave them into a story. Challenging, too, to keep it in the context of Amish fiction. In The Calling, I learned about schizophrenia. In The Letters, I read up on investments fraud.
The challenge in The Revealing was to wind up all the loose ends into a nice, neat ball of yarn. There were all kinds of twists and turns going on—with people, even with animals. It took a lot of care to bring it all together into a satisfying conclusion. I hope I did. I think I did!
Q. Considering the variety of topics about the Amish you could pick, why did you choose to write a novel about an art restorer?
In The Revealing, Brooke Snyder is an art restorer-turned-forger. She’s been caught and is laying low on an Amish farm. The reason I choose art restoration is because Brooke avoids being an original—she copies. I think her life has a message for all of us. It’s one thing to draw inspiration from another’s work, but so important to find one’s own “voice.” (And that isn’t just for those of us who type words for a living!)
The nice thing about a novel is that it allows you to ponder a topic many people don’t want to explore. However, by living vicariously through the experiences of the characters, the reader can learn something personally relevant.
Q. What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Amish?
People seem to have a one-size-fits-all view of the Amish–that they look alike, act alike, think alike. But the more you learn about the Amish, the more variety you discover. Each church is a stand alone…and there are over 1900 churches that range from “progressive” to “conservative” on the spectrum.
The most disappointing moments for me come when the news picks up one peculiar story about one peculiar Amish (and there are plenty of peculiar non-Amish!)–and it becomes national news. The odd beard cutting story from a year or two ago, for example. The perpetrators were no longer Amish–long ago, they had joined a cult. The victims were the innocent local Amish. But the news mixed it all up and made it sound like an inside problem, within the Amish church. Sad!
Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write, every day. Even if it’s just for 10-20 minutes. Think of it like piano scales. Take a workshop writing course, so you learn to give and get criticism (necessary battle scars!) and be your own best editor.
And read. A ton! It will inspire you to be just as skillful, clever, and expressive as the authors you admire.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her latest book, The Revealing released July 1st. She is also the coauthor of an Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is also a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California.
Purchase Suzanne’s books here.
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