How an Amish Novel is Born: The Truth Behind the Fiction

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.

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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. 

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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?

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Tricia Goyer (77 Posts)

Tricia is the author of more than 30 books and has published more than 500 articles for national publications such as Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman and HomeLife Magazine. She won the Historical Novel of the Year award in both 2005 and 2006 from American Christian Fiction Writers, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award in 2005. Tricia's co-written novel, The Swiss Courier, was a nominee for the Christy Awards.


Comments

  1. I love both historical fiction and Amish fiction. Amish fiction is better though because it is living history. Living in todays world with yesterdays lifestyle. It is something I dream is possible when life gets crazy stressful. Knowing Amish live their lives the way they do in this day and age, makes it seem like an attainable goal.

  2. Cindi Altman says:

    I love Amish fiction that is based on truth. I have read some that was far from truth – it was obvious that the author didn’t have any true knowledge of the Amish lifestyle nor did they do any research into it.
    I happen to be blessed to live next to an Amish community and have many Amish friends. So, it’s easy for me to know the difference between fact and fiction.
    Historical fiction is the same way. If it’s based on truth, it is a much better read.

  3. I love Amish and historical fiction too! I have only read a couple of Amish fictions, but I am hooked.

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