Think all novels are purely fiction? Think again.
Every great novel starts with a bit of fact. My first Amish novel, Beside Still Waters, started with more than that.
A few years ago I was asked if I’d ever consider writing an Amish novel. The truth is, I hadn’t. But as I pondered it, I remembered my daughter had a friend, Saretta, whose parents were raised Amish. They moved from an Amish community in Indiana to Montana, and that is how we met. I also remember my daughter telling me Ora Jay and Irene lost two daughters in a buggy accident.
Hmmm, I thought. I’d love to hear their story. Maybe someday, if I see them again, I’ll ask.
With that thought, the first seed of an idea for an Amish novel was planted, and my mind started to feed and water it. That’s how novels usually start.
The next day, my daughter Leslie and I went out for some mom and daughter time. We went to a bookstore to browse and get coffee. As we looked over the bargain rack, guessed who walked in? Saretta. We hadn’t seen her for six months at least, and there she was.
“Saretta,” I told her. “I think I’m supposed to talk to your parents—hear their story.”
“Sure, I’m sure they’d love to talk to you!”
Less than a week later Ora Jay and Irene sat in my living room. They told me about being Amish, about losing their daughters, about their move from Indiana to Montana. They also talked about their faith. They shared what it meant to be Amish.
They also shared how their faith had grown after moving to Montana. They shared many ways God had changed their lives and their hearts. I listened, amazed. As I listened, their story added more water—the Living Water—and sunshine to the seed of a novel planted in my hearts.
After talking to Ora Jay and Irene, I met many other Amish women from the West Kootenai community. It “just so happened” that my friend Martha grew up in West Kootenai, and her mother is a midwife for many of the Amish women who live there. I was honored as Martha and I went into each home and they shared their lives with me.
One funny story . . . I remember looking at the young children who sat and stared at me, and I thought, They are so good and quiet. I remember asking the children questions, and they’d just look at me and smile. I didn’t realize then that most Amish children only speak Pennsylvania Dutch! I had so much to learn about these people and their community.
Beside Still Waters is a work of fiction, but I’ve tried to be as true to the lifestyle and faith of this Amish community. As you may know, each Amish community is different, depending on the place and rules of the church. I’ve tried hard that my words reflect truth. I trust they do.
Watch me talk more about the story behind the story here:
And here is the book trailer for Beside Still Waters:
Since this first book, I’ve had had four more Amish novels published. Here is the link to find out more about them here.
How do you think Amish fiction compares to historical fiction?