Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A View from Suzanne Fisher's Window about her first novel - The Choice

I first introduced you to Suzanne Woods Fisher when I reviewed her book, Amish Peace. It is with great pleasure that I now introduce you to her first work of fiction, The Choice! I have always enjoyed Amish stories, and Suzanne's stories are told from a very unique perspective. The Choice begins her Lancaster County Secrets series, and Amish fans will find much to enjoy - and look forward to! - in Suzanne's writing!

Please enjoy the view from Suzanne Fisher's Window!

The Amish lifestyle is one governed more by rules, or “law” as it were, rather than grace. Is the tendency to keep secrets a reality among the people or a vehicle you devised to tell this particular story?

It seems that secrets would indeed abound among people so focused on following the
rules.The non-Amish definitely have some assumptions about the Amish, and legalism is one of them. But I have to say that the Amish people I met and have kept in touch with aren’t legalistic. Yes, they do pay careful attention to tradition, and they highly value it, but I feel it has to do with honoring God.

I think we emphasize different aspects of our faith. For example, the Amish do not evangelize. They believe that their lives should speak as a silent example to others. Many get stuck on that point of non-evangelizing. And yet…look at how the world was touched by the Amish example of forgiveness over the Nickel Mines School Shooting. Now consider this…most Protestant churches do not emphasize confession of sins.

The Amish hold communion twice a year and one of their practices—prior to communion--is to admonish everyone to make amends with others so that they accept communion with a unified spirit. In other words, church members are encouraged to keep short accounts and resolve grudges. I’m sure there are Amish who accept communion while still holding a grudge, for example, but the high bar is a wonderful model. Feelings follow intention.

The truth of the gospel shines rather brightly from a very unexpected source – a couple of prison inmates. It was highly ironic to me that Abel was paying the price for someone else’s sin, yet it was that very choice that enabled him to come to Christ. What was your inspiration for Abel’s character?

One thing about writing Amish fiction is that there are very tight parameters. Readers want to escape into a simpler world…but it can be a challenge to create drama that is credible within that world. Abel created drama as a contrast. He shared the same origins as Daniel, but his life took a different turn. Oddly enough, it brought him back to that place of origin. The inspiration for him came from Abel in the Bible…the brother who sacrificed.

Carrie really experiences a series of tragic circumstances. Even though she chooses to stay with the Amish people, her faith is renewed in ways that could eventually get her shunned from the community. Will readers ever know the results of her choices? Do you think some people are like Carrie and only realize their need for God in the midst of severe trials?

I really don’t think Carrie would be shunned as her faith was renewed. I think a lot of assumptions about the Amish faith (including shunning) come from Amish fiction. A lot of stereotypes, too. I say that as a writer of Amish fiction! The Amish do not have a centralized church hierarchy. Each district is self-governing, so there is a great deal of variation among the districts. Among states, too. As much as I have read about and researched the Amish, I kept coming back to trying to represent the people I met in my novels. Those Amish have a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith affects all parts of their lives.

Now, I don’t think Carrie would read The Message, as Abel did in the book. And I think Abel would oblige the elders by reading from the Luther Bible after he became baptized. But to get back to your question, I agree with you. I think many people are like Carrie…Sol, too. They need to get to the end of themselves before they’re willing to look to God for answers.

Esther seemed to embody what most people perceive to be the Amish mindset. Yet the reader discovers that she is, in fact, almost the opposite of what these gentle people seek to achieve. Is Esther a representation of blind legalism set in contrast to the elder named Abraham? He seems to be truly representative of the Amish. I found myself drawn to Abraham as much as I was repelled by Esther.

Yes! Exactly that. Esther loves rules. Abraham loves “heart.” But both of them aren’t necessarily Amish-types. There are plenty of people in my own church who are just like Esther! And many (thankfully!) who are just like Abraham.

I’ve read your book, Amish Peace, and found that their lifestyle does indeed offer some great examples for those of us who are not Amish. What is the most important lesson you think they can teach us? Why?

I really believe the Amish, at their best, are close to the heart of Christ. They love The Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. They desire to live as Christ would have them live—to put aside pride, to practice forgiveness on a daily basis, to avoid materialism and look to putting treasures in Heaven. There are so many principles, like those, that the Amish live out and ones we could (we should be!) incorporating into our lives. On a very practical level—even their uses of energy. They use all kinds of sources of energy: wind, sun, propane, kerosene, solar panels and cells, battery packs. I have a feeling we may all we living more like them in the near future.

What was the biggest difference in publishing a fiction story as opposed to a non-fiction title?

The amount of research required for a non-fiction title is time-consuming, yet so critical to its credibility. I went back to every person I interviewed to have them review the story for accuracy (including every Amish person…and the Amish don’t have e-mail and they aren’t in a hurry. It was a slow process!). Fiction can move a little faster and with a little more freedom for the storyline.

Have you ever wanted to become Amish yourself? I know your grandfather was
raised among the Amish…was he baptized Amish or did he choose to be English?

My grandfather was raised Plain. Not Amish, but a close cousin. He was one of thirteen children born in an Old Order German Baptist Brethren home (also known as Dunkards

). He began his career as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and ended it as publisher of Christianity Today magazine. He chose to leave the farm because they were running out of farm land. And I think he had an intellectual bent, too. But he left amicably and kept in close contact with his family. We are all still in close contact. I’ve always had an interest in my Dunkard relatives and the reasons behind their lifestyle. Had I been born into a home that practiced Plain living, I think I would have stayed in it.

How many books are planned for the Lancaster County secrets series? Who will be featured in the next book? (I hope we see Emma and Steelhead again!)

There are three books in the Lancaster County Secrets series. The second in this series is called The Waiting. It will release on October 1st, 2010. It is set in the same town of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, but in a different time period—during the 1960s. Jorie King is in love with Ben Zook—a fellow who has a tendency toward “fence jumping” and is currently serving in Vietnam as a Conscientious Objector. Everyone assumes Jorie will marry Ben when he returns, but life in Stoney Ridge takes a few unexpected twists and turns.

The third book is written but hasn’t been officially titled yet. It will release January 1st, 2011.


To answer your question, Emma and Steelhead are off on their own adventure! Sadly, they won’t be making an appearance in either book. But rest assured, they are happy together!

What exciting things is God doing in your life? Closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

I just signed contracts with Revell for another three-book Amish fiction series. Very excited about those stories! They’re based on three sisters. Each sister will take a turn as the main character.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Two things:

1) In every book I write, I hope the reader ends the story feeling closer to God than she began. I never want to whack someone on the head with faith. I just want to encourage a reader to trust God a little more, rely on Him a little deeper, to get to know Him in a fresh way.

2) I have to end with a heartfelt thank you to each and every reader. Your time is valuable and I’m grateful you choose to read one of my books.

Where can readers find your books?

Amazon, CBD, and your favorite bookstore.

You can find me on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com or Facebook or Twitter (suzannewfisher). I love to hear from readers and try to get back to each one.

Thank you, Kim, for hosting me today!

1 comment:

Mocha with Linda said...

Loved this book. I posted a similar conversation with Suzanne on my blog this morning! And I have a giveaway!