ABOUT AUTHOR: Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. She hosts a weekly radio show and has a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, that delivers a daily Amish proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Suzanne on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com
To frame it in an elevator pitch: the impact of love. There is a theme of unconditional love in this story that weaves its way through many characters’ lives and changes them forever.
Since you have an Amish Heritage, do any family stories make it into your novels? And/or Amish wisdom from your grandparents who were raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. If so, which ones and what novels?
Definitely! I would say that my foundation for understanding the Anabaptists is based on my relatives. I was always drawn to my relatives’ lifestyle. My grandfather was raised in a one-room schoolhouse and later taught school. There’s a collection of memories from the students that provides a wealth of knowledge for me. One story, in particular, ended up in The Waiting because my main character, Jorie King, was a teacher. The way the story went: a boy ate an apple when he wasn't supposed to, so the teacher let him eat everyone’s apples. The boy ate so many he ended up sick and had to run home, clutching his stomach.
In your Bio it states you are a columnist for the Christian Post and Cooking and Such magazine. What are your Regular meals and holiday favorite recipes? Why? What is the “and Such” you talk about in the magazine?
What is the Anabaptist culture like? How is it different from the Old Order German Baptist Brethren church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania?
Anabaptist isn't a culture—it’s a doctrine. In the late Middle Ages, when Anabaptism began, it was a radical movement, born of the desire to separate church and state—then entirely conjoined—and to baptize only adults, which was then contrary to civil law. They were hunted and chased across Europe, yet despite persecution and martyrdom, the movement grew and grew. As it grew, divisions split off. Today, many fit under the Anabaptist umbrella: Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish, German Baptist, River Brethren.
I've enjoyed reading the first book in your youth series called Adventures of Lily Lapp, it reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie books. The illustrations in the book are amazing as well. What do you like most about writing that series? And/or your main character Lily?
There’s a wonderful back story to writing Lily that will answer part of the next question, too:
Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised in a happy Old Order Amish home in western Pennsylvania. A born storyteller, Mary Ann started a blog, A Joyful Chaos, as a way to capture the joy of her childhood.
Suzanne started following the blog and began to exchange e-mails with Mary Ann. She learned that leaving the Amish was a rather recent event in Mary Ann’s life. She and her husband had come to a point in their faith where they believed they needed to raise their children in a church that shared their views. It was a difficult decision, and not without its consequences. It created a rift between Mary Ann and her parents, a painful separation on both sides.
A Joyful Chaos quickly gained a following among those who are interested in knowing more about the Amish. Here was a blog of a woman who had left the Amish, but without bitterness or rancor; Just the opposite. Mary Ann’s blog captures what readers are looking for in Amish fiction books: charming family memories, a caring community, a collection of fun, quirky characters, all cast in a rural setting. And yet it’s real! All true.
One day, Suzanne e-mailed to ask if she was thinking of writing a book. “No,” she wrote back, “but I might be interested in collaborating someday.”
Fast forward a year or two. The friendship between Suzanne and Mary Ann continued to grow. So did her blog’s presence: A Joyful Chaos was receiving over 30,000 hits a month. It caught a mention in The New York Times. Mary Ann started a Facebook page. Remember, this was a woman who had stopped her formal schooling at eighth grade! But her education never stopped.
The time seemed right. The two women submitted a three-book fiction proposal for children, ages 8-12, inspired by Mary Ann’s childhood to Suzanne’s publisher, Revell. First book: meet five-year-old “Lily” and her family as they build a farm. Second book: Lily begins school in a new community. An aggravating boy, Aaron Yoder, sits next to her and enjoys teasing her. She loathes him. Third book: Lily and Aaron court and marry.
Revell came back with a “Yes!” and a few tweaks: “We want four books based on Lily’s childhood. And hold off on the courting story for now.” One more thing, they said, we want the books ASAP. So Mary Ann and Suzanne got to work.
In the Adventures of Lily Lapp series you are the co-author with Mary Ann Kinsinger. How does that process work for you? (Beautifully! See above question.) You also have brilliant illustrations depicting special scenes in the story. Do you tell in illustrator what to draw or do they read the book and say they want to draw certain parts of your book? How does that process work? Do you give the illustrator suggestions about what to draw in each chapter? Just wondering!
Our Revell editor sets the illustrations into motion by marking scenes that would translate well into sketches. I have to admit—my heart skips a beat when I see those illustrations in the first galleys. Amazing to think that words in our heads can be interpreted so adroitly by the artist and transferred onto paper. What a talent he has!
You talk about Old Order Amish women in this book, one in particular called Deborah, who became connected to the Ohio Reformatory for women by fostering prisoners’ children – an informal arrangement, was made outside of Child Protective Services but was blessed by them, not to convert them to Amish, but the goal was to keep incarcerated mothers involved in the lives of their children. Is there such a program? Have you seen it? What surprised you about this program if it exists? I didn’t expect to read about this in an Amish novel. It was interesting. If this isn’t real how did you come up with this idea? Why did you want to put this in your story?
That information is true—I read about Amish and Mennonites involved in fostering children of nearby prisoners in a couple of different locations. I wanted to weave it into a story. It’s another example to me of how the Plain people quietly go about making the world a better place without drawing attention to themselves. And so impressive that they are not attempting to convert the children of prisoners—they are leaving that in God’s hands, where it belongs. What’s exciting is that the rates of recidivism have markedly dropped when the mothers in prison can stay connected to their children. Everyone wins.
In your story Fern tries to explain to Ruthie how things would be outside the Amish Community for a woman her age, “So, what would it look like down the road, to leave Stoney Ridge? What would Ruthie do? She wasn’t prepared to do much of anything outside of the Amish life. Even if she had a car, she didn’t have a driver’s license. How could she get a job? She didn’t have a high school education. And she certainly didn’t want to clean houses for English people the rest of her life. Cleaning houses and waitressing were the only jobs former Amish girls seemed to get.”
If Amish girls decide to leave the Amish community today how do they do that? Are there more men that leave than women? How does a young lady enter the English world and not have one of these jobs and/or afford to live or go to College? Just wondering!
|Not everyone wants to live amish|
A complicated question! Over 85-90% of Amish young people choose to remain in the church and become baptized. I don’t have the statistics broken down into gender, but my guess would be that more boys leave than girls. It’s not easy to leave, for all the reasons you mentioned, but also because they’re leaving behind family and friends, too. The ones I’ve met who have left always feel a longing for home, a sense that they’re missing something. Leaving the Amish is a very painful topic that non-Amish can’t fully understand, and modern reality shows trivialize it. (I’ll hop off my soap box now…those reality TV shows are another topic entirely! We can save it for the next interview.)
M.K. wanted to solve the Sheep Farmer’s murder. Solving this crime would brighten her day. She didn’t think like other Amish girls that’s for sure, how did you come up with the character M.K.? What do you hope readers learn from M.K.?
Ah, M. K. Lapp. She is one of a kind. Bright, curious, amusing, with a nose for trouble. She means well, acts first and thinks later. We first meet M.K. as a young girl in “The Keeper” and “The Haven.” Fast forward to “The Lesson.” M.K. is nineteen and restless for adventure. It arrives on page one! Two young people with a mysterious past land in Stoney Ridge on the very day a sheep farmer is shot and killed. M.K., who fancies herself a part-time detective, decides the local sheriff needs a little crime-solving help. Naturally, she ends up creating all kinds of complications.
As for what I hope readers learn from M.K.…she is growing and changing and maturing throughout this story. Fern, her stepmother, never gives up on her and shows, I hope, a reflection of God’s love for us. He sees the best in us, but won’t let us rest until we become our best self. (Thank heavens!)
I thought it was interesting you mentioned in The Lesson the novel Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and how a person needed motive and opportunity to commit a crime. Do you enjoy the Sherlock Holmes books? Have you caught the new series on T.V. called Sherlock Holmes and the other one called Elementary? If so which do you like? Why? If not, what mystery did you enjoy most when you read the Sherlock Holmes books? Why was it your favorite?
Actually, I haven’t seen the movies but I did read the original books by Arthur Conan Doyle. I love the ironic humor in his writing, and Sherlock Holme’s attention-to-detail. But…I do plan to see those movies! They’re on my must-see list. I just can’t seem to find the time to watch movies. Soon, though.
What can readers look forward to reading from you in the future? What are you working on and when will it be out?
Flying onto the shelves within a few weeks is book 2 in the ‘Adventures of Lily Lapp series’, A New Home for Lily. Mary Ann Kinsinger and I are having a ball—writing for children and studying the children’s market is fascinating. (Very different than the adult market.) We have an interactive website for children: www.adventuresoflilylapp.com
We love hearing from kids!
As for other project…this summer, a new series, ‘The Inn at Eagle Hill,’ will kick off with The Letters. Set in Stoney Ridge, with a true story about the Plain people woven into the larger story arc. The Letters is about a family whose life has recently turned upside down. They start an inn for non-Amish guests on their farm. You’ll see some familiar faces!
ANY COMMENTS FOR OUR READERS SUZANNE?
|New seeing eye puppy in training|
|Love these puppies|
Thanks for your support and interest Nora—
I appreciate each one of you more than you might think! A small way to say thank you is through book giveaways, like this one on TBCN, and others that I host on my website/FB page. You’re always welcome to stop by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and toss your name in the hat. Also, I’d like to invite each of you to download my free app: Amish Wisdom. It delivers a daily Amish proverb to your iPhone or iPad. A little bit of peace and calm in the midst of your busy days.
Thanks for stopping by Suzanne and letting us get to know you and your novel better. I’m thrilled that Revell Publishers will be giving away 5 copies of your novel starting the 19th of JANUARY 2013. Everyone will have the opportunity to enter the drawing and you’ll have a chance to interact with readers Susan. I’m looking forward to the discussion. LAST DAY to enter is JANUARY 30th.
You need to Join TBCN in order to participate and enter this drawing. To join the fun you must join The Book Club Network, its fun, easy and free. Go to www.bookfun.org
ALL ENTRIES for the Drawing at THE BOOK CLUB NETWORK www.bookfun.org
SEE YOU AT TBCN
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
Nora St Laurent