Monday, August 1, 2011

Interview with Suzanne Fisher Woods

Why do you write the kind of books you do?
Most books glorify the underbelly of humanity—we have plenty of crummy examples. But good ones? Oh…those are in such short supply. So that’s my goal—to bring entertaining examples of better living to readers. In the magazine business (that’s where I started to write), it’s called “takeaway value.” I hope a reader feels inspired to be a better person after reading one of my books.

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
I have had so many blessings in my life! A happy marriage, four beautiful and healthy children, and now a little grandson! And heaped on those blessings has been my writing life—at just the right time, as my children have gone to college. It’s not that the sun is always shining on my street…it’s not. I’ve had my share of sorrows, but God has been so gracious to me.

How has being published changed your life?Where do I begin? I’ve become a more-than-full-time-career-woman. I work six days a week, sometimes seven (though I really try to keep Sunday a day set apart. I do!), from sun up to sundown. And I have met AMAZING people—authors, editors, readers. My cup runneth over!

What are you reading right now?
Oh…I’m the worst person to ask that question. It’ll sound crazy, or as if I’m making this up, or that I’m a little sun touched…but I have ten to fifteen books on my nightstand that I am reading through. A couple are for prepping for my Amish Wisdom radio show’s guests, a couple are some library books I am reading just for fun, a couple are some authors I’m curious about.

What is your current work in progress?I’m working on another Amish fiction series, “Stoney Ridge Seasons,” that will start releasing on January 1st with “The Keeper.” And I’m also working with Mary Ann Kinsinger on an Amish children’s series—chapter books. So much to do! So little time! But what a gift for an author…to have longevity.

What would be your dream vacation?A perfect summer day on the beach—any beach—with a gentle sea breeze. Does it get any better than that?

How do you choose your settings for each book?
My editor from Revell chooses! She wants to keep everything in Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania—a fictitious little town filled with quirky, lovable characters.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
What an interesting question! Actually, I think it might be my editors! I think the world of them.

What three things about you would surprise readers?
1. I’m a new grandmother! 2. I’m a new grandmother! 3. I’m a new grandmother!

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, cooking and gardening.

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?The promotion side of books is HUGE—takes a lot of time and energy and attention. It’s a challenge to save time just for creative writing.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?Hangeth thou in there!!!

What is the inspiration behind Amish Values For Your Family? After Amish Peace released, I had a number of speaking engagements to groups interested in the Amish. There was such interesting feedback—parents wanted take some principles from Amish Peace into their home. But how? That’s how this book came into being. I think of Amish Peace as a book where you are peeking in the windows of an Amish farmhouse. In Amish Values for Your Family, you’ve been invited in for dinner.

What makes AVFYF unique from other parenting and family life books? During these speaking engagements, there was always a moment when the audience stilled, leaned forward in their chairs, and began to scribble notes. It happened when I made this statement: “Children are loved but not adored.” The Amish have a different way of relating to their children—they highly value children, but they have clear expectations in their home. I think they provide a better balance of loving children, yet raising them with an eye on adulthood.

What do you hope the reader takes away? Confidence. I hope readers will feel inspired to look carefully at the pressures squeezing them, to sift through which pressures are appropriate and which should be tossed out.

How are Amish Values relevant for our busy hi-tech world? Most people assume the Amish have no technology but they do—it’s just selective technology. They’re cautious about what comes into their home—evaluating whether this new thingamajig will benefit family and church, or fragment it. Here’s an example: most Amish do have telephones, but they are out in a shanty. Think about how often the telephone (or cell phone, or text) interrupts a family dinner. See? The Amish have something to teach us!

Explain the Road Map sections of the book. The Road Maps are a practical way to take some principles of the Amish life and weave them into your family’s life. After a story about an Amish family that loves to go bird watching together, there are suggestions to encourage your children to be knowledgeable about nature. Another story describes a father and son who build a rabbit hutch rather than buy it. The Road Map gives some of the benefits of what happens when a parent slows down and takes the time to teach a skill. Wonderful things happen!

What are one or two principles you talk about in AVFYF that families could easily adopt into their lifestyles right now? There’s a theme of revering nature that runs through many stories. The Amish are outdoorsy—they are so aware of nature! I think that is one thing we parents can do a better job of—turn off the TV or computer, take a walk, plant a garden, provide a backyard bird feeder, stargaze at night. Get outside! And start to notice this beautiful world God has created.

Do you have to “go Amish” to have a simple life? No! Not at all! But the
Amish do provide some wonderful examples to us of how to prioritize what’s truly important, to slow down as a family, to safeguard time together.

In the introduction, you introduce a concept you call the “disappearing childhood phenomenon”. Please explain. There are quite a few studies that show some alarming trends in modern American families. Children’s free time has declined by twelve hours a week in the last twenty years; time spent on structured sports activities has doubled, family dinners are down by a third, and the number of families taking vacations together has decreased by 28 percent. Parents now spend 40 percent less time with their kids than they did thirty years ago. And another study found that the higher the income, the less time a family spends together. These findings are troubling. By contrast, the Amish maintain one of the most stable family systems in America. They’re doing something right! And I think it has something to do with the amount of time they spend with their children.

You’ve spent a lot of time researching today’s families and family dynamics for this book, what are some of the major struggles families are facing? The pressure to succeed, to be the best. Many parents place their need for significance onto their children. Here’s where the Amish differ from modern America—we have a focus on raising children who are special. Unique. Admired and respected. They have their focus on pleasing God.

What one question would you like us to ask your readers? Describe one thing you would do differently with your family after reading this book.

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