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Thank you for being with us today, Mary! What kind of research did you do for Living in Harmony?
During the summer of 2011 I traveled to central Maine with my best friend from college. It turned out to be the hottest summer on record in that area. I interviewed several Old Order Amish families, along with lifelong English farmers in that region. There’s been a surge of organic growers in that area, and a few Amish have joined in, despite the requirement of tons of government paperwork for certification.
How did you come up with the plot for Living in Harmony?
I read a non-fiction book about the flight of Amish from Lancaster County due to soaring real estate prices. I became fascinated on where they would go, and what regional differences they would find in their new home states.
Oh, me too. I had a lot of fun researching that. Share a brief blurb about the book.
Amy King—young, engaged, and Amish—faces life-altering challenges when she suddenly loses both of her parents in a house fire. Her fiancé, John Detweiler, persuades her to leave Lancaster County and make a new beginning with him in Harmony, Maine, where he has relatives who can help them.
John’s brother Thomas and sister-in-law, Sally, readily open their home to the newcomers. Wise beyond his years, Thomas, a minister in the district, refuses to marry Amy and John upon their arrival, suggesting instead a period of adjustment. While trying to assimilate in the ultraconservative district, Amy discovers an aunt who was shunned. Amy wants to reconnect with her, but John worries that the woman’s tarnished reputation will reflect badly on his beloved bride-to-be. Can John and Amy find a way to overcome problems in their relationship and live happily in Harmony before making a lifetime commitment to each other?
Do you see parallels or do you try to avoid using your own personal life as a source of inspiration?
I don’t try to use my own personal life as a source, but unfortunately my heroines end up having some of my personality traits, especially the negative ones.
What are your own favorite authors? Genres?
I love to read historical fiction and Amish fiction. I love Ann Gabhart’s historicals about the Shakers, and ALL the Amish authors…especially YOU.
How sweet, Mary! I love your books too! How has your passion for reading impacted your writing?
Unfortunately, I don’t read anywhere near as much as I’d like to due to my writing commitments. I wish I could do one or the other faster.
Describe how you write a book – with your other responsibilities, does it tend to be something you work into your every day, or do you have to “set apart” time to write with open, undesignated blocks of time?
I write full-time and must fit the rest of my life around it. Since it’s just my husband and me, he’s gotten used to dinners thrown together at the last minute. A cooking-show devotee I am not.
What provides your inspirations during that time – i.e. do you go out in nature, do you seek to be in a busy place with people or in a quiet library, etc.?
I sit on my deck and write looking out into the woods. During the winter I’ve been known to hang out at the library or my local coffee shop. I can write just about anywhere that’s fairly quiet or has “white noise.”
How have social networking sites, even including email, etc. impacted your writing? Do you find the internet to be a helpful or harmful resource in research, advertising, reviewing, etc. your books?
I don’t social network nearly enough since I don’t allow myself until my word count is done. I find the internet helpful as a starting point for research, but I don’t trust everything you find there. There’s nothing quite as helpful as hands-on research in the place you’re writing about.
Do you use these tools such as facebook as a means of observing the behavior of others which could be the basis of a character, or are you of the ‘old school’ that relies more on personal relationships and “human” touches?
Oh, I’m definitely old school. I like to talk to folks in person to study human behavior.
Mary Ellis grew up near the Amish and fell in love with them. She has now written nine bestselling novels set in their communities. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and swimming. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut Christian book, A Widow's Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carols.
Ask a question for the readers to answer to be entered into the giveaway
my question for the giveaway: Did you ever move away to start over after a difficult time in your life?
Title: LIVING IN HARMONY
Author: Mary Ellis
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Amy King has planned to marry John Detweiler in November when tragedy strikes. Amy loses her parents, and the family farm. Her two younger sisters decide to stay with family in Lancaster County, but Amy and her sister Nora accompany John to a remote Amish community in Maine. There they plan to marry right away and buy a farm.
But Harmony, Maine, is much different than Lancaster County. The rules are harsher, restricting the colors to dark drab colors. The bonnets are so wide, they act as blinders for the women. No rumspringe is allowed, and neither is courting, unless the parents accompany the couple. And worse—the bishop and ministers in Harmony won’t let John and Amy marry.
Will John and Amy survive the demands placed on them in Harmony, Maine?
LIVING IN HARMONY is the first book in Ms. Ellis’ The New Beginnings series. Amy and Nora are sweet, as is John’s sister-in-law, Sally, though she struggles with most household tasks. Thomas is strict, as demanded by their Ordnung, and John often has to correct Amy and Nora for accidentally breaking the rules.
I enjoyed reading LIVING IN HARMONY, written by an Amish author I consider a friend. I love her writing and her storylines are always fresh and realistic. I enjoyed visiting a new Amish community in rural Maine. Discussion questions and some recipes are included at the end of the book as well as a sneak preview of the second book in the series, Love Comes to Paradise. $13.99. 324 pages.