It is always a pleasure to welcome Suzanne Woods Fisher to The Power of Words because she is one very special lady - as a writer who has just published her 25th novel and personally as well. Suzanne has the ability to create rich, character-driven stories with multi-layered plots, but that's something that all who have read her stories already know.
Christmas at Rose Hill Farm is a fascinating story (please see my review here). Suzanne has graciously offered to share a copy with one of you and details are at the end of this post. Now enjoy hearing from Suzanne as she shares about this book and her new novel that releases in the early spring . . .
Q: How does it feel to have published 25 novels, Suzanne? God certainly touches us through your writing and I pray that He will continue to guide your thoughts as you write - and may you never tire of this craft!
How do I feel about 25 published novels? Kind of…dazed! You’d think I’d feel more confident about writing. I can’t shake the fear that every contract is my last one. About halfway through each manuscript, I’m convinced it’s a horrible story and someone should take away my computer. Then, after the manuscript all comes together and I’ve written the best story I possibly could, after I’ve submitted it to my editor and am waiting for her response, I get hit with another wave of confidence-crisis. But on the plus side of a lack of confidence, I do not take any story for granted. I want each novel to be better than the one before it, and I want to keep growing in my craft. And I never, ever grow tired of writing. I feel very grateful.
Q: What is one of your favorite family Christmas traditions, past or present?
We started a new tradition a few years ago that I wish I had discovered when my children were little. As my family has expanded through marriage and grandchildren, I had to start simplifying gift giving. I came across this Victorian guideline:
It’s been a big success in our family and is a great Christmas stress-reducer tool. Feel free to borrow!
Q: Please tell us a little about Christmas at Rose Hill Farm and how it fits into the Stoney Ridge novels.
A few years ago, after my novel The Search released, I was surprised by the amount of reader e-mails who asked the same question: What happened to Bess and Billy? They were teenagers in The Search and, typical of teens, they had an on-again, off-again relationship. I still get more reader e-mails about Bess and Billy than any other characters in my novels. It was obvious that Bess and Billy needed a story of their own.
Christmas at Rose Hill Farm is set in the late 1970s, a few years after The Search takes place, as Bess is preparing to marry Amos Lapp. (Just a side note: we meet up with Amos again in The Keeper). In her grandmother’s greenhouse, Bess stumbles on a potted rose tucked deep in a corner with one single bud, soon to bloom. Unable to identify this rose, she calls a rose society to send out a rose rustler—someone with skills to track down the origins of the “lost rose.” And that’s how Billy Lapp returns to Stoney Ridge. After leaving years earlier, he took his love and knowledge of roses and became a highly respected rose rustler. No longer Amish, though.
So why did Billy leave Stoney Ridge in the first place? If there’s a love triangle (Bess and Amos and Billy), will Billy end up loveless? And where did this mysterious rose come from? I can’t answer the first two questions without spoiling the story, but I can tell you about the origin of this rose: it came over on the Charming Nancy, the ship that brought the first group of Amish to America from Europe in 1737. And if that piece of history intrigues you, you’ll love Anna’s Crossing about that very ocean voyage, releasing next March.
Q: You must have really enjoyed the research into heritage roses, rose rustlers, etc. Did any tidbits of information especially capture your imagination?
“Rose rustling” is an odd term because, unlike cattle rustlers, they don’t steal anything. Just the opposite—they seek to preserve it. When rose rustlers find an old rose, they identify it and take cuttings to propagate (with permission, of course). Now and then, they come across a “found”—a rose that was thought to be extinct. A “found” is the equivalent of an earthquake in the rose world. Such an unusual discovery causes reverberation and ripples and excitement. After all, each rose has a story behind it.
Here’s one that tugs at my heart, a reminder that God does not forget the brokenhearted. It’s about a pink rose called “Louise the Unfortunate.”
In the mid 1800’s, Louise was a mail order bride from New Orleans. She traveled to Natchez, Mississippi to meet her new husband-to-be and start her new life. She waited and waited on the docks but no one came to claim her. A day turned into night, then a week, then a month. Had her betrothed come to the docks, seen her, and changed his mind? Or had something happened to him? Penniless, heartbroken and ashamed, Louise became a prostitute, working “Under the Hill,” until she took ill and died. Her white marble headstone has a simple epitaph: “Louise the Unfortunate” and a pink rose adorns her grave.
Q: There's so much we'll never understand this side of heaven, but I'm sure the subject of angels fascinates many readers. Do the Amish believe in angels and what inspired you to incorporate "George" into your story?
First of all, the Amish do believe in angels. As I wrote Christmas at Rose Hill Farm, I wanted to introduce an angel as one of the characters. Carefully, though. I didn’t want to get off track from what the Bible infers about angels. Based on biblical assumptions, I used my imagination to add some details. For example, George, the angel in my story, had an unlined, unstressed face. And he was always hungry, happy to accept what was offered to him, but food was always lacking in taste, he said. The way we’d feel if salt were left out of soup. Or the difference between a home grown tomato in August and a store bought one in January. Those things seemed like reasonable assumptions to me because Heaven was George’s home.
George was assigned to Billy Lapp, a troubled soul in Christmas at Rose Hill Farm. His role was a little like a guardian angel, but his job was a short-term assignment. His goal was to help Billy make amends before it was too late. He never interfered, he just gently prodded. I loved that character!
Q: I love how your stories always have a strong spiritual message, Suzanne. Is there one particular insight that really speaks to you, or that you hope readers will take away?
I’d like to answer your question with another point about George the angel. He knew the Bible and quoted it, though he didn’t bother to memorize the numbers of verses. I had to really think that one through—would an angel even know the Bible? Would he need to know? After all, George already had the end of the story. But then, in a way, so do we.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
That is what I hope readers will take away from the story.
Q: Please share a little about your upcoming novel, Anna's Crossing, which contains the back story of Christmas at Rose Hill Farm - and any other stories or series you might have in the works.
Anna’s Crossing is a story about the first Atlantic Ocean crossing of the Amish in 1737, based on what facts there were to be found. It tells the story of the treacherous sea journey through a community of endearing (mostly!) characters, stuck on a ship together. Here’s a snapshot of the book:
In Anna’s Crossing, when Anna first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naïve farmers—dubbed “Peculiars” by deckhands—across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna’s serene nature. For her part, Anna can’t seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship’s carpenter, despite warnings.
Q: I always end my interviews with this question because I think it's so important . . . How can we support and/or pray for you, Suzanne?
What a lovely note to end on! I’m a big believer in intercessory prayer, so here’s my request: In six months, two of my children are getting married…just six weeks apart! Please pray for wise use of my time, for attention-to-details with weddings and book work, for completing manuscripts to the best of my ability. And thank you!
Bio: Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award winning, bestselling author of fiction and non-fiction about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. She is a Christy Award finalist and a Carol award winner. Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain. A theme in her books (her life!) is that you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate the principles of simple living. Suzanne lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. She loves to hear from readers! You can find her on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor.
To enter the drawing for Christmas at Rose Hill Farm, simply answer the following question:
This story has several themes - including angels, growing roses,
a love triangle, and "Emmanuel, God is with us." Is there one
particular theme that resonates with you?
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- E-mail required, one entry per person. Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
- Contest ends at midnight PST on Tuesday, December 31.
- Winner will be chosen by Random.org and contacted by e-mail. Respond within 48 hours of notification or another winner will be chosen.