Amelia Beiler, the main character in The Wounded Heart, is a widow. Why did you write a story with widowhood as one of its themes?
When a writer is cooking up conflict for her characters, you want to make life as difficult as possible before they earn their satisfying ending. For Amelia, I wanted the possibility of new romance to add to the conflict and complicate her life. I also wanted her to be a working mother. Since divorce doesn’t exist in the Amish culture, that meant Amelia would have to be a widow. This is also one reason why the title is so apt: she’s still mourning her husband as the book opens, which you can also see on the cover as she touches Enoch’s hat.
Characters in The Wounded Heart did quilting. You do quilting, too. What is the most challenging aspect of quilting?
Amelia and her best friends Emma and Carrie are making a quilt throughout the course of the trilogy, using the Crosses and Losses pattern. I’m making it along with them, because the instructions to make the quilt are in the back of each book and I’m writing them as I go! Compared to some of these Amish and Mennonite quilt artists, though, I don’t have very much skill at handwork, and it’s never more apparent than when I try to load a needle. An Amish quilter can do ten stitches per inch. I’m lucky if I can do half that! My favorite part is the piecing. I just love watching the colors and patterns come together to create order out of chaos.
You grew up in a plain house church. What is a plain house church? How was growing up in a plain house church like?
Plain means modest dressing and inconspicuous living, and a house church is a group that meets in the home on Sundays instead of in a church building. The Amish, for instance, meet in their homes (or barns, as the case may be) while the Mennonites meet in a meeting house. They’re both plain churches, but only the Amish are a house church.
I didn’t grow up Amish, but my church shares a lot of doctrine and philosophy with them, including meeting in the home (from the Bible verse that says God doesn’t dwell in a temple made with hands). Growing up in this church had its positives and negatives. On the positive side, it was a close-knit group where everyone knew everyone, and no matter where you went, you could be assured of a place to stay and a meal. On the negative side, the standards of appearance didn’t really have a biblical basis, and it was very much a case of “salvation by works” instead of “salvation by grace.” Anyone who thinks high school was hell should try it when you belong to a plain church. There’s nothing like having your hems past your knees and your sleeves to your wrists, no makeup, and your hair up in a Victorian hairstyle while everyone around you is in miniskirts and hip-hugger jeans (yes, it was the 70s). It’s not so bad if you have plain friends at the same school to hang out with. But I was the only one. Everyone just thought I was weird. The good thing about growing up this way is that you definitely grow a spine and learn to stand up for what you believe in. Women in plain churches may be humble, but they’re not cowards.
Do you have a favorite moment in the writing and publishing process of The Wounded Heart? If yes, what was it?
The best moment was pitching the trilogy to my editor over a salad at lunch and seeing her get as excited as I was about it. She carried that excitement into the editorial meeting, and a month later I had a contract! The second best moment was seeing the cover. The model FaithWords chose looks almost exactly like the Amelia Beiler who has been living in my head for nearly a year.
Some Amish people have been critical of Amish fiction because of the way they and their way of life is portrayed. What do you think of this issue? What did you do to ensure that portrayal of Amish life in your books is as accurate as possible?
I’ve read that the Amish feel this way, and I can see why. The evangelical Christian worldview does tend to seep in sometimes, but the Amish aren’t evangelical. They contribute to missions and charities, but these are not their own missions and charities—they’re those of Mennonite and other churches. So when I was writing The Wounded Heart, I was very conscious that these folks are Christian, but not mainstream evangelical Christian. They look at the world, at salvation, at God’s laws differently. It’s what makes them so different from the mainstream culture—because they think differently. The way I was taught to think. So I came at it from the inside.
Can you please tell us a little known fact about yourself?
I rescue chickens. I live in Silicon Valley, where you wouldn’t think there would be chickens, much less those that need rescuing, but there are and they do. And in every one of the books I’ve written (YA, romances, women’s fiction under various pseudonyms) there is a chicken, even if it’s only a pattern on the wallpaper. Oh, and I’m a costumer. I’ve made historical costumes from the Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian periods, but my next project is an Amish dress 🙂 I need to be able to feel my characters in their clothes, whether that means a corset or a cape and apron. Lucky thing I learned to sew when I was five 🙂
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Just a big thank-you for letting me join you on the blog today! Right now I’m working on the next book in the Amish Quilt trilogy. The Hidden Life is about Emma, and what happens when she writes a story about her life as an Amish woman—and it gets discovered by a New York literary agent! Since an Amish woman can’t have a public voice, this causes no end of trouble. It will be out in June 2012.
I’m excited about The Hidden Life and even more excited about the third book in the Amish Quilt trilogy! I enjoyed reading The Wounded Heart and I think you should read it too (note, you don’t know how cautious I am when it comes to saying such things here!). Thanks to Adina and FaithWords, I have the opportunity of hosting a giveaway of The Wounded Heart. This giveaway is open to all US and Canada residents (sorry internationals!) and no P.O. Boxes please. The giveaway ends on October 13.
Entry for this giveaway is simple. All you need to do is click the I DID THIS button, leave your name/alias, and email address in the fields provided, and click the ENTER THE GIVEAWAY button. Extra entries are available.
You can read my review of The Wounded Heart here.