After an extended stay in Montana, where Amish traditions are different than in her home state, Marianna Sommer returns to Indiana for two reasons, first to help her brother and his girlfriend prepare for a baby and their wedding. Second, to plan her own wedding to Aaron Zook — a marriage she’s been dreaming about ever since childhood. And yet, although she had missed the idyllic farms and families of her upbringing, Marianna is surprised that Indiana is somehow making her long now for Montana.
As months pass, secrets that were hidden in winter’s frozen grasp thaw and take on a life of their own. The truths about a child, about a past relationship, and about God’s plans are being revealed. Walking through a valley of questions, Marianna must hold on to hope as she decides where and with whom her heart truly belongs. Click here to read more about Beyond Hope’s Valley.
Beyond Hope’s Valley is the third of a three-book series. Do you find it harder or easier to write a series?
For me writing a series is easier. When I start a novel the hardest part of the book is the first ten chapters. I’m still trying to figure who the character is, what she wants and what’s stopping her. Chapter 1 is like a first date, and I’m just skimming the surface. The more I write the more I get to know the character. Finally by Chapter 11 I write with confidence. In a series I’ve spent a lot of time with my characters so we really just pick up where we left off.
In this book Marianna returns to help her brother Levi whose girlfriend finds herself pregnant. I know an unexpected pregnancy is part of your story, how did that impact your writing?
Any time that we write about something we’ve personally experienced it makes the writing stronger. All the fears, worries, and concerns I had were funneled into the character of Naomi. Even though Naomi is Amish she has many of the same worries as other young women. Just because people grow up in this type of community doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. How the community handles it is different, of course, which is one theme this book explores.
Another theme this book explores is how to share your faith in Jesus with others. Even though those in the Amish community believed in God Marianna didn’t have an easy time sharing about her growing love relationship with Him, did she?
No, not at all, and I think that’s very common. People love tradition. They love keeping things as they’ve always been, and no group of people loves that more than the Amish. Anything new or different—even things like praying aloud or reading an Englisch Bible—seems strange to them. The easier way is to simply do things as they’ve always been done.
You had some help getting into the mind of an Amish person, didn’t you?
Yes, I have many friends who are Amish or former Amish. I’ve interviewed them for hours, asking them all sorts of questions. I’m often surprised how differently they see life. They also read my novels after I write them to make sure I got everything correct. They always find little things that I never thought of … which I love! I really want to make my books as true-to-life as possible.
What truth do you hope that readers will walk away with after reading Beyond Hope’s Valley?
I want them to have a deeper understand of how amazing it is that we can be in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s a relationship that can grow more beautiful each day. The more time we spend with Jesus the more different we see the world around us … and that’s a good thing!