I am thrilled to have Shelley Shepard Gray with us this week! Shelley is undoubtedly familiar to most fans of Amish fiction, but I hope you will learn a little more about her from this interview. Thankful is book #2 in the Return to Sugarcreek series, and I wanted to share these words about that community from Shelley's website . . .
To me, Sugarcreek is everything that says family and faith and beauty. It’s rolling hills covered in snow. It’s warm spring days and fields and fields filled with corn stalks in late October.
From door to door, it takes me three and half hours to get to my favorite hotel there. By half-way, the worries of home have slipped away. By the time I get off the highway and head northeast on a two-lane road, I’m relaxed and filled with anticipation.
And by the time I see the Alpine Village and the brick factory and my Amish friends and am eating pie at the Dutch Valley Inn? Well, all I can say is that I’m usually the gal with the very big smile! Sugarcreek has my heart.
I have greatly enjoyed returning to Sugarcreek and you can read my review of Thankful here. Shelley is graciously giving away two copies of Thankful, open to everyone, including international. Giveaway details follow Shelley's interview below.
Now relax and get to know more about Shelley and her writing . . .
Q: Do you like to try Amish recipes, Shelley? Have a favorite?
I do! I love to bake, so anything that I can bake are my favorites. Currently, there’s a Monster Cookie recipe from author Sherry Gore’s cookbook, Simply Delicious Amish Cooking, that I’m a big fan of.
Q: If you had a bucket list, what are two things that would be on it?
I love to travel and always am carrying around travel and cruise brochures. I would love to visit Buenos Aires one day and sit in one of those cafes and sip coffee. I’d also love to sail around the Cape Horn. (in a cruise ship, of course!)
Q: Do you have a special Bible verse - or one that has held special meaning for you recently?
I’ve always been a fan of John 8:12, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.” I’ve always liked the idea of each of us having a little bit of the Lord’s light.
Q: Tell us about the Return to Sugarcreek series and where Thankful, the novel we are featuring today, fits in.
The original Seasons of Sugarcreek series seemed to touch a lot of my readers. When my editors asked if I’d like to return to the setting of a previous series, Sugarcreek seemed the most logical choice. Thankful features three storylines, one of which surrounds Judith and Ben Knox, the couple featured in Christmas in Sugarcreek.
The main story surrounds Christina Kempf and Aden Reece, two people who are marked by an event when they were children. This book is one of my favorites, mainly because I liked Christina and Aden so much. I thought they were both really good people that I would like to know.
Q: How would you describe Sugarcreek and its appeal? Is Sugarcreek a "real" place?
Sugarcreek, Ohio is definitely a real place, though most of the places where my characters meet and shop and dine are not. For me, its appeal stems from the fact that I know some Amish there, so it feels comfortable for me to write about. I also like how the community feels very inclusive. Amish and English don’t live separate lives in Sugarcreek, everyone pretty much just lives their lives, some driving cars, some driving buggies.
Q: Your book's title, Thankful, has a world of meaning wrapped up in it. How do the characters embody a spirit of thankfulness?
I loved wrapping three storylines around the idea of being thankful or grateful. For my characters, a lot of times being thankful meant accepting that wishes hadn’t been granted, but that their lives were better because of that. Boy, I’m not sure if that makes a lot of sense!
[That makes total sense, Shelley, and is something that I suspect most of us have experienced.]
Q: And what does being thankful mean to you, Shelley?
I am very goal oriented and love to plan things. Over time, I’ve learned that it’s not the ‘big’ events to give thanks for, but the little ones. For me, being thankful means to find the joy in each day, and to be most thankful for the simplest of things-spending a day in front of my computer. Walking our dachshunds. Baking cookies. Talking to my kids on the phone. Reading in the evening next to my husband.
Q: What is one thing you hope readers will take away from this book?
I always hope readers will find the time spend reading my books was time well spent. People are busy and books are expensive. My goal for writing a book is really pretty simple: to write a decent story that people want to finish. So I hope readers will enjoy the book!
Q: What's next on the book horizon for you?
In September, JOYFUL, the last book in the Return to Sugarcreek trilogy will be published. That’s followed rather quickly by SNOWFALL, my Christmas novella, which is kind of a play on The Sound of Music and features characters from my Days of Redemption series.
I also have a historical romance/mystery being published at the end of July under the name Shelley Gray. It’s called the The Secrets of Sloane House, and it takes place in 1893 Chicago, during the World's Fair. It’s kind of a cross between Downton Abbey and an Agatha Christie mystery. (I guess you can tell I’m really excited about this one!)
Next year’s series will take place in Pinecraft, Florida, which is where many Amish like to vacation. The first book, The Promise of Palm Grove, will be published on January 31.
Q: What are some ways we can support and encourage you, both personally and as an author, Shelley?
Well, if people haven’t visited my Facebook page and ‘liked’ it, I hope they will! I give away quite a bit of books and Amish things there. I also host FB chats a few times a year, which are very fun. I also have a website, www.shelleyshepardgray.com, and I just got on Twitter - @ShelleySGray.
Really, I have to say that I feel so blessed for my readers. Writing is such a solitary occupation. I means the world when readers say hi on line or come to a book signing or even write a review on www.christianbook.com or www.amazon.com. All of those things make me remember that I’m not quite so alone.
To enter the drawing for Thankful, simply leave a question or comment about Shelley's books or something you found interesting in this interview, along with your e-mail address in a safe format. If you're willing, it's also helpful to share about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
And I'm always glad to have new followers on my blog and "likes" on my Facebook page, The Power of Words Book Reviews.
Nor for the fine print:
- E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
- Contest ends at midnight on Sunday, June 15. No purchase necessary.
- Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail on Monday, June 16. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.
- Eligibility: Open internationally, 18 and older