Can you tell me a little bit about your background and your faith?
My mother's people are Old Order Mennonite-horse and buggy Mennonite, very close cousins to the Amish. I grew up in Lancaster County and lived near Amish farm land. I had lots of Plain friends in the public school system, as well as interacting with my mother's side of the family at reunions. I don't think I'd be writing at all about Amish settings had I not had that particular close tie to them from my heritage.
I grew up Protestant. My dad was a Charismatic pastor of the Families of God denomination. Often we noticed that during a lot of his evangelistic-type services that some of the Amish and Old Order Mennonite couples would come and stand across the street from the church and look in the door. They were very curious and maybe even hungry for more of God or maybe just more of the Scriptures.
Who do you think is reading your books?
I'm getting over 100 letters a week through my website, let alone my snail mail. Here's the gamut-it's interesting. Nine-year-old girls, eighty-eight-year-old women, and men who are in their thirties and forties! I've met men who've stood on long lines on my book tours and they've said things like, "I've read your books and they've changed the direction in my life and I want to thank you." I think they're standing in line for their wife or their mother or their sweetheart or somebody, but no. So it's very interesting the universality of the book. Maybe it's the themes, maybe it's just the education they draw from it, the wholesome entertainment, the inspiration. I hope that's true.
Do you get any feedback from Plain people?
Yes. When the book "The Shunning" first came out in 1997, I started getting letters from women who were shunned -- a lot of them in the Holmes County, Ohio area. One bishop in a remote part of Ohio decided that the book should be banned. My husband said, "Well that's a good thing. It will sell more books."
We've been hearing reports that there's quite an interest among the young people, especially the Old Order Mennonite and some of the New Order Amish young people who are really seeking Scriptures now. And some are saying that my books have stirred a fire in the community.
Why do you think our culture is so fascinated with the Amish?
I think that we as modern people, there's something in us that longs for the simple and the peaceful and just a quieter life. We're just really hectic. I think that's a big draw.
I can curl up and go to another world and I feel peace and I feel less stress. The Amish women work their tails off and it is a tough job, it's a tough life-you know, sun up to sunset. But they're settled with themselves, they're grounded, they know their core.
And I am sure they feel fulfilled-with their large families.
Yes, and their faith. It just intertwines their whole life. It's not just "Oh, we're going to church Sunday." They live out their faith in the way they treat each other, propagating themselves by having many children. They do not proselytize, they don't witness, they don't evangelize at all. So it's very intriguing. I think another aspect to why people seem to enjoy my books, is that, these books are not just fiction novels, they're almost like non-fiction. [Readers] are learning something about a exotic community and being inspired to either build their own faith more strongly or being convicted about the way they've been living. And, they're being entertained in a wholesome manner. I hope to keep that tradition going.
Do you feel that we romanticize the Amish?
Yes. I think I did as a young girl. I was impressed with the simplicity but also the obedience and the order. Sometimes we'd go to the bank and we'd see an Amish women with six or seven children and a couple of babies in tow. They were just so polite and obedient and well behaved. It was quite interesting to me.
My maternal grandmother was shunned from her Plain community, by her father initially, and then it filtered out into the entire church community.
She was a very devout young woman who at the age of 18 began dating a man who was not going to be a Mennonite farmer, but he was going to become a preacher. She was supposed to marry a farmer. That was definitely a big problem. Especially because my grandfather [her husband] left the Mennonite faith.