Why did decide to you write Promise to Return?
As long as I can remember I’ve heard stories that my grandpa (Daudy—Freeman Coblentz) told us about his time at the Civilian Public Service (the camps for the pacifists during WWII). It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the enormity of what our nation’s conscientious objectors went through during WWII.
I wrote a little about this in my grandma’s (Mammie—Lydia Lee Coblentz) memoir, Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. After that was published and I was moving on to my next project, I realized that my heart hadn’t moved on from WWII and the Amish . . . and my own pacifist ancestry.
I’m a Patriot and a proud military wife, but here I am writing about a great pacifist movement—and I couldn’t be more proud to say that it’s part of my heritage.
This book, the first in a three-book series, was hard to write. My loyalties split between my family and my country. What I thought was always right I suddenly saw through a new set of lenses. I write this book so everyone can see the Amish might be peaceful . . . but when their peace and conscience are challenged, they will fight for it in the best way they know how.
How was the process of working with Howard Books?
It has been incredible! I have two of the best editors I could ever ask for. They are patient with me and answer my questions efficiently. I couldn’t be more pleased. Working with the creative department was also a dream. The process of cover design wasn’t just fascinating but truly fun! From helping pick out the models to wardrobe, I was completely impressed with their creativity and overall designs.
Are what Miriam and Henry go through inspired by real events?
Bits and pieces for sure. Throughout the years I’ve heard of young men leaving the Amish to enlist. I just started with that and the rest is fiction, but with my knowledge of the Amish church, I do believe if this situation happened like this in WWII era, it really could’ve gone like this.
So, Promise to Return is fiction but your first book, Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl, is a true story? What does your grandma say about this book that captures her young life?
Yes, Seasons is a true story. It’s my Amish grandma’s memoir. Lydia Lee Coblentz got a new lease on life when the book was released. Not only was she signing books right next to me, she has people who stop by her small apartment on my uncle’s property to hear more stories and buy more books from the furniture store on the same property.
The book was a labor of love, and I am so pleased with how God has used it to touch readers everywhere. Getting emails from readers truly is the best part of being an author.
Was there a particular underlying spiritual theme in Promise to Return?
Miriam struggles with the difference between standards of a good life through following the Amish Church’s Ordnung and hearing God speak to her specifically about her life. They are different. The church may provide her with a framework for the kind of godly lifestyle she wants to lead, but it isn’t the same thing as true intimacy with God through personally reading scripture, prayer, and being still in the His presence. She must learn this in order to know what HER path is and how to make difficult decisions.
What’s a typical day in your life?
Well, I have two daughters, so my day is usually spent with lots of mothering. I try to run on the treadmill in the mornings, only in my extreme busyness that seems to get skipped.
My oldest is 6, and we homeschool; she’s in the first grade. My youngest is 3, and “schools” with us or plays on her own. Lots of meal prep and snacks. Grocery shopping. Cleaning (re-cleaning). Dodging toys. Weekly we go through a lot of Go-Go squeezers and granola bars . . . I should buy stock in these companies!
My husband is amazing, and when he comes home we all race to greet him. Having dinner together (sans electronics) is a top priority; my prayer is that even ten or more years from now we find this time together equally as rewarding. Depending on how our school day went, in the evenings we read aloud together from a variety of chapter books (this has become a super-special time together) or the girls play with Daddy before bedtime. Once the littles go to bed, then I put on my “author” hat and get to work. Friday nights are “home-date” night, and we protect this time greatly. There might be one other night throughout the week that I don’t work, but most nights if someone would be watching, I would be at our homeschool table or on the living room couch tapping away on my latest manuscript. It’s really not a glamorous life—but it’s a dream to be a wife, mother, and author!
If you weren’t an author, what would you be?
I would definitely be a DIYer rehabbing old furniture and interior design. I allow myself a project every few months at the most, otherwise I can get obsessed with painting furniture. I’ve discovered chalk paint (Annie Sloan’s and making my own) over the past year or so and, wowzers, I could just do that all day!
My husband and I just moved out of state in September. This huge move not only came at an incredibly busy and exciting time for me, but it gave me some opportunity to do more DIYing to make our new house a home.
Do you ever imagine your characters as recognizable actors?
Oh, yes! As a matter of fact I do this so much I started a Pinterest board specifically for my characters. It really helps me stay inspired when I can imagine the faces of my characters, and I hope my readers will enjoy perusing through this board and getting to know the characters from The Promise of Sunrise series.
What’s on the horizon for The Promise of Sunrise series?
My edits will soon come to a close on book two, Promise to Cherish. This story is also set in the WW2 era and highlights a Civilian Public Service unit serving at Hudson River State Hospital, which was a mental hospital. It will give the reader a taste of a nurse and Amishman both working in the crude conditions of an asylum in the 1940s then retreat to the grassy fields of the Sunrise countryside.
There are some returning characters from book one I really hope the reader will enjoy and be blessed by.
While these edits are underway, I am writing Promise to Keep, the third book in the series.