I am thrilled to welcome the charming Suzanne Woods Fisher this week! The Inn at Eagle Hill series is a favorite of mine because of its rich characterization and storyline. Suzanne is also so successful and blending Amish and English characters that I think its appeal reaches beyond Amish fiction fans. You can see my review of the first two books here:
Review: The Letters, #1
Review: The Calling, #2
In addition to being a talented author, Suzanne is also a warm and outgoing person, with a passionate faith that inspires others. And she will give either The Letters or The Calling to one of you, winner's choice! Details are at the bottom of this post. Now sit back and enjoy your visit with Suzanne . . .
Q: Introduce us to the "real" Suzanne Woods Fisher by naming three things about you that hardly anyone knows.
1) I’m a bird watcher. Sometimes, when I’m playing tennis, I throw the ball up for a serve and get distracted with trying to identify a bird flying overhead.
2) And that brings me to number two: I play tennis. A lot. At least two or three times a week. I’m usually on one or two teams at the same time.
3) I’m a crazy library lover. I’m in my public library once a week, arms stacked with books to check in and/or out.
Q: You have a natural gift for writing Amish fiction and are very successful at it, Suzanne. Is this something you've always wanted to do? Do you have an Amish heritage?
My grandfather was raised Old Order German Baptist—a cousin to the Amish. I’ve had a genuine interest in learning about the Anabaptists—beyond the buggies and beards and bonnets. There’s much to learn from these people who try to hold on to traditional values. Not saying anyone needs to “go Amish”—but we could all benefit from studying how they live a simple life in the midst of a very busy modern world.
Q: I have immensely enjoyed the first two books in the Inn at Eagle Hill series. Tell us about this series, what inspired it, etc.
The Inn at Eagle Hill was loosely based on a true story about a Mennonite who was found guilty of mismanaging investment funds, dubbed the Amish Bernie Madoff. Many of the investors were Plain (Amish or Mennonite) and, although entitled to, they refused to make claims to the SEC to receive any funds from liquidated assets. Instead, Plain communities across the country took up donations to help reimburse those who had lost money. Startling, isn’t it? Yet it’s a common response of the Plain people. For biblical reasons, they won’t take anyone to court and accuse them of wrongdoing. They believe in letting God even the scales of justice. In each novel, I try to weave some true-to-life elements from the Plain life into the plot line and this story was just the kind of canvas on which to paint a picture.
As the ‘Inn at Eagle Hill’ series unfolds, readers meet the Schrock family as they are reeling from the untimely death of Dean Schrock, husband and father, who had managed the investment company. Embraced by a caring community, the family is coping as best they can but each one suffers repercussions of shame, confusion and misunderstandings, including the children. There is an overriding story arc about the investment company that concludes in Book 3, aptly named The Revealing, but each book has its own story arc. Love story arcs, I should say.
Q: Book two, The Calling, was recently released. What are some thoughts about it that you'd like to share?
Like many young adults, life hasn’t turned out for Bethany Schrock the way she hoped and planned. In The Letters (Book 1), she finds out her boyfriend isn’t who she thought he was—not by a longshot. In The Calling (Book 2), she is trying to figure out what to do with her life. Stay Amish or leave? Accept a date with that too-handsome-for-his-own-good Jimmy Fisher or heed warnings that he’s nothing but trouble?
Five elderly Amish sisters from the Sisters’ House sweep Bethany under their wing. Reluctantly, she helps the ancient sisters with their soup kitchen for the down-and-outers of Stoney Ridge. A little less reluctantly, she starts a community garden. The miracle of finding oneself while serving others begins in Bethany, until she is slipped some personal information from a sassy teenaged down-and-outer that shatters her world.
This might be hard to believe, but it was inspired by an 88-year-old African American dynamo named Mother Williams. She saw a need in her community for a soup kitchen and knew she could do one thing well—she could cook. So she started a once-a-week soup kitchen at age 77 (!) and is still going strong. After interviewing volunteers who worked alongside Mother Williams, I ended up creating five elderly Amish sisters in The Calling to do the work of one Mother Williams.
Talk about an inspiring individual! Mother Williams doesn’t plan on retiring. She says she wants to keep serving God “until the day is done.” Imagine if we all shared her convictions to serve God in any way we can, for as long as we can. The world would be a different place.
Q: Rose Schrock's bed & breakfast is popular with the non-Amish for many reasons. What do you think people admire about the Amish?
On one level, people are drawn to the simple life. If you look at covers of Amish fiction books, you can see they’re meant to invite a reader into another world: pastoral and peaceful. But look a little deeper—and you’ll find so much more. The Amish are the first to say they aren’t perfect and I try not to over-glamorize them. At their best, I do feel they are close to the heart of Christ and have much to teach us about what’s truly important in life. They make choices that are counterintuitive to human nature (turning the other cheek even if you run out of cheeks, for example).
One reason Amish fiction is a “hot” trend is because readers are able to cross into another world—a place where nature sets the stage, where characters run the show, where faith has the leading role. It has an effect on you like rebooting your computer.
The Calling brings that “recalibration” to readers, as well as provide a satisfying love story. And humor, too! You can’t invite a character like Jimmy Fisher into a book without needing to buckle up for the ride.
Q: Do you think it's possible to incorporate some of the Amish principles into our often stressful lives?
I do! Things like living with less, being more intentional about choices, guarding the distractions that splinter family, nourishing community. Most importantly, the spiritual life of the Amish is very inspiring. Faith isn’t a piece of the pie, it’s the crust—holding everything all together.
Q: You've written some non-fiction books about the Amish, including Amish Proverbs. What are two of your favorite proverbs?
Oh, there are so many!
My mother’s favorite (she was raised Penn Dutch): “Each mother crow thinks her own crow is the blackest.”
My favorite: “Prayers go up, blessings come down.”
In fact, I’d love to invite your readers to download my free Amish Wisdom app to get an Amish proverb delivered daily to their Ahone and iPad. The Amish Wisdom app is now in nearly 100 countries! now in nearly 100 countries!
Q: Your ministry in raising puppies for an organization called Guide Dogs for the Blind must be very rewarding, Suzanne. Please share a little about this, such as how you got started, etc.
My youngest son got me into puppy raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind—and it was like eating a potato chip. You couldn’t stop at one. We’ve raised ten puppies, and now I’m a breeder custodian (easier to do with writing responsibilities). I love being a part of this organization—partly for the dogs, partly because it’s a way to make the world a better place.
Q: I love this Isaac Bashevis Singer quote from your website: “I pray only when I am in trouble, but I am in trouble all the time so I pray all the time.” How important is prayer in your daily life? What would you say to Christians who struggle in this area?
Prayer is a wonderful, fascinating mystery to me. It boggles the mind to think the Creator of the universe is interested in having an on-going conversation with us! And yet that is exactly what the Bible tells us. One of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Approach boldly!
If someone is struggling with prayer—what it’s about, why it matters—I recommend reading the Psalms. Notice how David talked to God. Nothing was off limits. He praised God, he argued, he complained, he worshipped, and he always ended a psalm with the awareness of God’s sovereignty. So inspiring!
Q: What novel or project are you working on now?
I just sent in a manuscript for an historical novel called “Anna’s Crossing.” It’s a story about the 1737 Atlantic Ocean crossing of the first Amish families. So challenging to write! I had to create a village of people on a ship—no typical “props” of farm life, seasons, . And be as accurate as possible about the rigors of a sea journey in the 18th century. Lots of research! It was not an easy project—but I think it might be my best book to date.
Q: What are some ways we can support and encourage you, both personally and as an author, Suzanne?
What a lovely question! I always covet people’s prayers to write well and for God’s glory. As for encouragement—reading my books and telling others is tops on my list! Means more to me than I can say.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I love to hear from readers! My website is: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. Facebook is: www.facebook.com/AuthorSuzanneWoodsFisher. And twitter handle is: swfisher.
Thank you, Carole, for sharing your blog readers with me. Grateful to you!
Suzanne, it has been a joy to have you here today! I eagerly await the next book in The Inn at Eagle Hill series and hope to see you here again. May God continue to bless your writing, as well as you and your family personally.
To enter the drawing for one of Suzanne's books, simply leave a question or comment for Suzanne, along with your e-mail address in a safe format. And I'm always glad to have new followers on my blog and "likes" on my Facebook page, The Power of Words Book Reviews.
Contest ends at midnight on Saturday, May 10. Winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced on Monday, May 12. Due to postage costs, U.S. addresses only.