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Marta Perry | The Challenge of Writing Amish Fiction


"Challenge?"  I noticed someone saying recently in a discussion of Amish fiction. "What's challenging about that—just put a woman in a bonnet on the cover, throw in a horse and buggy, and you're in!" If only it were really that easy!

Despite the number of Amish books I've written, I faced what was for me a unique challenge in my latest book, HANNAH'S JOY,  the sixth book in the Pleasant Valley Amish series. Hannah, I decided way back in the planning stages, was going to be a Mennonite whose family had drifted away from the faith. This would allow Hannah to be an Army widow who returns to Pleasant Valley after life on a military base, which gives an immediate and I hoped striking contrast between military culture and the non-violence of the Plain groups. And since I grew up around a number of Old Order Mennonite families, I should be able to write that aspect of the story without difficulty.

Needless to say, I was wrong! I had forgotten more than I realized about my childhood friends, and to make the story real, I not only had to nail all of the tiny details of differences among Amish, horse-and-buggy Mennonites, and black-bumper Mennonites, I had to be able to communicate the subtle shadings of belief which cause the groups to live their faith in different ways. Maybe some readers wouldn't notice, but the dedicated readers of Amish fiction know their genre, and they take serious offense at the writer who makes an error!

Who wears which type of head covering, and why? How is the meetinghouse of the horse-and-buggy Mennonites different from that of the black-bumper Mennonites, and more different still from the house and barn worship of the Old Order Amish? What will be their reaction to Hannah's presence, and how will Hannah's English friends react to Hannah's new life? I was soon lost in a mass of research and notes, trying to swim my way through to the other side.

In the end, though, the story came down, as it always does, to the basic conflict of the characters involved. Will Hannah be able to find her way to a new home despite opposition from all sides? And will shy, stuttering William find the courage to speak for the woman he loves? I hope so!

Comment today to win a copy of HANNAH'S JOY

Leah's Choice
Pleasant Valley
November 2009

Rachel's Garden
Pleasant Valley
March 2010

Anna's Return
Pleasant Valley
June 2010

Sarah's Gift
Pleasant Valley
March 2011

Katie's Way
Pleasant Valley
November 2011

Hannah's Joy
Pleasant Valley
May 2012




29 comments posted.

Re: Marta Perry | The Challenge of Writing Amish Fiction

the book sounds really good i would love to have it
(Denise Smith 2:18pm May 6, 2012)

I certainly look forward to visiting Pleasant Valley again.
(Marjorie Carmony 2:24pm May 6, 2012)

I was raised with Mennonites and have lived near Amish as an
audlt. I love reading books about them to learn more about
habits that I have seen in both sects. I would like to win
this book.
(Mary Hay 2:47pm May 6, 2012)

I enjoy reading books such as this.
(Craig Clarkson 5:43pm May 6, 2012)

Just reading the outline, it has already touched my heart, would love to read this
(Nancy Luebke 5:45pm May 6, 2012)

I'm not sure of the differences so this could be educational as well as enjoyable. Thanks for the opportunity.
(Kelly Knapp 6:07pm May 6, 2012)

Different points of view always wide my horizons. I look forward to reading this book.
(Clydia DeFreese 6:21pm May 6, 2012)

I look forward to reading Hannah's Joy. I live not far from Lancaster County which is Amish country and we always enjoy visiting the area
(Shirley Younger 6:29pm May 6, 2012)

I'd love to read this book, I've read all the others and enjoyed them very much.
(Wilma Frana 6:39pm May 6, 2012)

I never realized that there were so many different facets to the Amish people, for lack of a better word. The story sounds like it would be one that would tug at your heart strings, and I would love to read it. I must be honest and admit that I haven't read any of your books before, but if I had the chance to read this one, I'm sure that I'd go back and read the others. Once I get hooked on an author, I stay with a series. I love not only the realism of the covers, but the way the colors are muted, which give the reason behind the book more truth. If it was in wild colors, it would seem as if it was some wild, made up story to sell a book. I love the peacefulness and thought that went behind it. Congratulations on your latest book.
(Peggy Roberson 7:01pm May 6, 2012)

Would love to win. God Bless. May you have many blessings
(Jane Squires 7:04pm May 6, 2012)

Sounds like a great book!! Thanks for the chance to win!!
(Natasha Donohoo 9:53pm May 6, 2012)

Been waiting to read this it sounds fantastic Thank you for this chance to win a copy : ) Brenda Wheeler
(Brenda Wheeler 9:45am May 7, 2012)

Ironically, I was just finishing one of Kelly Long's books and my husband was telling me that he cannot believe that there is *that* much to write about in relation to the Amish because I am constantly reading Amish fiction. I looked at him and gave him the "Oh no you didn't..." look... I think it is one of those things that a person actually has to witness. It is beyond WHAT the Amish do, their language, their dress....their belief system. Each book is about an individual or community's conflict within themselves, so to speak. When I open the books, I am comofrted by the Amish surroundings and the familiarities of what to expect while empathizing with the character or characters as they undergo an, often, spiritual journey that ultimately makes their lives more positive. I doubt the hubby is ever going to sit down and read Amish fiction (I suppose more surprising things have happened...), but at least he understands my perspective a little better. ;)

By the way, in your particular series in discussion, Leah has been my favorite, by far, with Sarah next. I don't know what it was, but those two stories were just amazing to me. :)
(Chelle McIntyre-Brewer 11:28am May 7, 2012)

I'm fascinated by the Amish and have always wondered why some groups do
one thing and others do things differently. The more I read about them, the
more I learn that they can differ rather greatly. I so enjoy visiting the
mountains of NC each summer where I can buy their butter and cheeses.
They're absolutely delicious and the people are so friendly. I think, too, that
my granddaughter, Hannah, would love to read "Hannah's Joy" but only after I
have! ;-)
(Connie Fischer 12:39pm May 7, 2012)

I would love to win this book because I absolutely love your stories. They're so inspiring!:)
(Rebecca Smith 12:48pm May 7, 2012)

I would love to win this book! Thanks for the chance!
(Lenise Torres 3:16pm May 7, 2012)

I would love to win this book! I'm fascinated by the Amish and their lifestyle. I'm sure reading your books will give me an even better insight.
(Linda Luinstra 5:52pm May 7, 2012)

Can't wait to read this. I love every single one of your books that I have
read but I think this series is my favorite.
(Patricia Smith 8:17pm May 7, 2012)

Hannah's Joy sounds like it would explain some of the differences in religion between the Amish and Mennonites. I remember being on a trip to Washington DC for Cherry Blossom time and the teenage Mennonites that came along were a bit wild and enjoyed the beds with built-in vibrators.
(Alyson Widen 8:43pm May 7, 2012)

I would love to win and read this book...it sounds great.I love Amish books.Thanks..
(Dick Head 10:34pm May 7, 2012)

This sounds really interesting! I've read Amish stories but not any
Mennonite stories! When I was a little girl, I net to Church once at a
Mennonite Church. I'm pretty sure they were what you're calling Black-
Bumper. And I spoke so quickly back then that when I got back to my
own Methodist Church, they thought I was saying Midnight Church - my
mom had to say it for them. Too funny looking back!
(Kelli Jo Calvert 11:20pm May 7, 2012)

I do love reading Amish fiction. Yes please!!
(Mary Preston 2:27am May 8, 2012)

I do appreciate the detail authors put in their stories.
(Maureen Emmons 6:11am May 8, 2012)

I think this new book must have been a challenge! I really like the idea of it. I look forward to reading it and would love to win it. I enjoy Marta's books very much.
(Susan Faloon 12:49pm May 8, 2012)

I love Amish novels and would love to win this one. Thank you for the opportunity to enter this contest!
(Ann Thaxton 7:51pm May 8, 2012)

I live in Ireland where our only experience of Amish people is through screen or book. I find the concept intriguing and pleasant, and would like to kow a lot more about the peple who choose this lifestyle. I saw a "Cold Case" episode where a girl asked the detectives to find her sister who had left the family farm to spend a year living in the city, as required before she could commit herself to the Amish life for good. Sadly she had fallen into bad company and not survived. More recently I saw a documentary including an Amish farmer, who did not want his face to appear on screen, who is happy to use genetically modified cotton seed in order that pests do not eat his crop. Clearly there are innumerable facets to the life chosen by these people. I would love to learn about their loves and disappointments, the warmth and tribulations that make up their personal world. Best of luck with the series.
(Clare O'Beara 12:39pm May 10, 2012)

I really enjoy pleasant valley seris. I would love the next one. I always known some mennonite families and live near amish communities and really interested in knowing more about them.
(Jennie Harshman 1:18am May 12, 2012)

I would love to win Hannah's Joy because I have read the other books in the series and they were all so good I couldn't put them down!:)
(Rebecca Smith 5:12pm May 18, 2012)

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