Thursday, November 10, 2016

Amish Christmas Blessings & Q&A with authors Marta Perry & Jo Ann Brown

1) How did you come up with the relationship between Anna and Benjamin?
 When I started thinking about writing this story, I began with Anna as the young midwife who was dedicated to her calling but still struggling for acceptance. I liked the character, with all her vulnerability, but I needed to find a hero who would complement her. So I began considering a man who had left the Amish to explore the outside world. They are both daring, in a way, but while Anna finds strength and satisfaction in her faith, Benjamin has looked for satisfaction in the outside world, only to find that what he really wants is home. The idea that the two of them had a past relationship which no one else knew about jumped into being when I started putting them on the page—one of those delightful things that surprise the author!

2) What is your favorite part about writing holiday books? 
I’m a traditionalist, so I like to celebrate each holiday in the same way every year. Christmas brings back lovely memories of Christmases past—being a child on Christmas morning, seeing my own children with their eyes shining, and now enjoying my grandchildren’s awe and wonder. When I write a holiday book I get to experience it all over again through my characters.

3) Do you have a signature Thanksgiving dish? 
The dish I consider my specialty for Thanksgiving is my pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole. For some reason, sweet potato casseroles come in long after the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy in the Thanksgiving popularity pool, but I love the sweetness of the potatoes contrasted with the crunchy brown sugar pecan topping. If no one else wanted it, I’d eat it all myself!

4) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 
When I was about eight, we moved to a community that had a wonderful library. My mother soon realized that she had a bookworm on her hands, and we spend many happy hours there enjoying stories together. But it was when I picked up my first Nancy Drew mystery that the longing struck. Most little girls read the books and want to be Nancy. I read that first one and wanted to be the person who created her. While I’ve never written a Nancy Drew mystery, I still owe her a great deal.

5) How long does it take you to write a book?
I think about the idea for a book for a long time before I’m actually ready to start writing, but I guess I can’t count that time! As for the actual writing, I allow myself three months for a shorter novel, like a Love Inspired, and four-five months for a longer book, like the romantic suspense novels I write for HQN Books.

6) Where do you get your inspiration for Lost Creek’s Amish community? 
When I write about the Amish, I always write about Pennsylvania Amish, because that’s what I know. In recent years, more Amish families have been moving into our area of north central Pennsylvania and even farther north. So it was an easy choice for me to set my fictional Lost Creek in a valley very like the one in which I live. If I want to know what the scenery looks like, I just glance out the window.

7) How many books have you written? 
I’ve had over sixty books published, as well as writing a few that never saw the light of day! Do you have a favorite? It’s very hard to pick a favorite, since that’s like choosing among my children. I think my favorite book is actually always the one I’m going to write next!

8) What book are you reading right now? 
Right now I’m reading “The Friendly Air,” a romance by Elizabeth Cadell that was written some years ago. I recently discovered that those older books are seeing new life as e-books, and it’s delightful to re-discover books I once loved.

9) What are your current projects? 
I’m writing a Lost Creek book for Love Inspired, tentatively called, “His Last Love,” as well as doing revisions on my forthcoming Amish romantic suspense, “Echo of Danger,” which will be out from HQN Books in May.

10) What advice do you have for writers? 
Read what you want to write, but also read much more widely, especially non-fiction. You never know when two seemingly unrelated topics will come together in your imagination to create a book, and it will be something that isn’t exactly like everything else the editor has seen.

About the author:
MARTA PERRY is a Pennsylvania-based author of more than 35 novels, many of them inspirational romances. She uses her rural Pennsylvania life and her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage in writing her books, especially in her Pleasant Valley Amish series for Berkley Books and her new Amish-set suspense series for HQN Books. Marta and her husband live in a centuries-old farmhouse in a quiet central Pennsylvania valley. They have three grown children and six beautiful grandchildren, and when she's not busy writing her next book, she's usually trying to keep up with her gardening, baking for church events, or visiting those beautiful grandkids.

1) How did you come up with the relationship between Amos and Linda?
JAB: Because the novella is part of my Amish Hearts series, I knew one of the Stoltzfus brothers would be the hero. It seemed like it was the turn for Amos, the brother who owns the general/grocery store at the Stoltzfus Family Shops in my imaginary Lancaster County town of Paradise Springs. Because readers wouldn't know a lot about him at the beginning because he's not been front and center in the previous titles, I decided to give him a heroine who knew nothing about herself. I hoped the readers would find it interesting to learn about the two of them together. As I'd suffered from a short-term memory loss (after an accident) thirty years ago, it seemed like a "natural" fit for Linda to go through some of what I went through.

2) What is your favorite part about writing holiday books?
JAB: It gives me a chance to celebrate the holiday twice in one year. While working on the novella, I had Christmas music on and simply enjoyed letting Christmas go from the "twelve days of" to an extra couple of months.

3) Do you have a signature Thanksgiving dish?
JAB: I do. I make what we call graham cracker pie. My grandmother made it every year for Thanksgiving, and I now do the same. It's simple -- graham cracker crust, vanilla pudding filling and meringue topping, but everyone in the family considers it an absolute necessity for the end of the meal.

4) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
JAB: I always spun stories for my younger sisters, but I finally put pen to paper when I was around 12. I was supposed to be doing a history assignment about the trans-Atlantic emigration, and, all of the sudden, the story of a 12-year-old girl making that journey filled my head. I wrote my first novel in high school and have since buried it at the back of my file cabinet.

5) How long does it take you to write a book?
JAB: It depends on the book and how the characters and story cooperate with me. Usually I can write the first draft in around 4 weeks. Then it needs to sit while I get disconnected with the story and start something else so I can come back for the final draft with fresh eyes.

6) Where do you get your inspiration for the Stoltzfus Family Shops?
JAB: The Amish are close-knit, and they drive buggies and make other decisions in the hopes of being able to spend more time together. So I thought: If all these brothers needed to make a living off the family farm, how would they keep that family closeness and still have learned skills to provide for themselves and family? Having them all working nearby allows the brothers to pop in and out of each other's stories.

7) How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
JAB: Over 110 books. My favorite is always the one I'm going to write next because I'm excited about spending time with the characters and to see how the story unfolds.

8) What book are you reading right now?
JAB: I'm reading science fiction at the moment -- just started Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Power Play. I never can read what I'm currently writing.

9) What are your current projects?
JAB: I'm currently writing the 6th book in the Amish Hearts series. It's the story of Micah (the next to last brother in the family) and the girl who broke his heart, but now needs his help.

10) What advice do you have for writers?
JAB: Read, read, read and write, write, write. Repeat. Also don't think that every word you've written is golden. Any project can be made better through hard work and good editing.

About the author:
JO ANN BROWN is a lifelong storyteller and the award-winning author of numerous romantic novels. She also writes as Marianne Ellis. A former U.S. Army officer, she has taught creative writing at Brown University and is thrilled whenever one of her students publishes. She is active in adoptive family support. She currently lives in Nevada with her family, which includes one very spoiled cat.
Title:  Amish Christmas Blessings: The Midwife's Christmas Surprise\A Christmas to Remember
Marta Perry & Jo Ann Brown
Publication Date:  October 18th 2016 by Love Inspired
Length:  224pgs
Genre:  contemporary romance
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play 

Back Cover Blurb:
Holiday Greetings From Amish Country

The Midwife's Christmas Surprise by Marta Perry

Three years ago, the man Anna Zook hoped to marry left her and their Amish community for the English world. Now devoted to proving her abilities as a midwife, Anna has given up on marriage and children for herself. But when Benjamin Miller returns, now a changed man, can delivering a Christmas baby reunite these two hurting hearts?

A Christmas to Remember by Jo Ann Brown

When a little girl leads shop owner Amos Stoltzfus to an Amish woman in distress, he rushes them to his family's farm. "Linda" has no memory and doesn't know if the sweet child is her daughter or even her kin. As Christmas arrives and Linda's identity is revealed, will Amos be able to claim his holiday guests as his own?

My Review:

These stories were simultaneously lighthearted and heartbreaking. Love and loss are forever linked in ways that readers can’t escape. The story was emotionally turbulent, highlighting aspects of the characters and their lives. Both authors also had me in stitches with this one. The balance of hope and loss was phenomenal.

I loved the mix of characters in this novel. Love Inspire tales by these two never fail to draw you to the characters, warm your heart while giving you a peak at that perfect, fantasy romance, that’s never ‘too perfect.’

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