The following is an interview I did about writing, faith, and The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unexpected Baby for American Christian Fiction Writer for their March 2021 edition. You can buy The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unexpected Baby at Walmart, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Walmart.
Interview by: Patti Shene
Intro… Jennifer initiated her writing endeavors after the birth of her fourth child. Two more children and several grandchildren later, she has established her writing career as a multi-published award-winning Amish fiction author. Jennifer strives to inspire readers to give themselves a hug or jump for joy after reading her uplifting novels with happy endings and messages of hope.
Hello, Jennifer, and welcome! It’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Tell us what childhood experiences influenced your desire to write. Thank you for having me here today! As early as I can remember, my mother read story after story to me at bedtime every night. That time with my mom immersed in good books nurtured my love of reading. I am still a voracious reader. My first memory of crying over a book was in fourth grade when our teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows to us, and at the end, I cried like a baby in front of all my classmates. I also remember Mrs. Zobell in seventh grade reading The Outsiders to us. It was another cry-fest. In high school, I fell in love with Jane Austen, and her books planted the idea in my head that I might be able to write a book of my own someday.
Why are you particularly drawn to writing Amish novels? Faith and family are intricately interwoven into Amish life. I love that they try hard to live what they believe and that nothing takes a back seat to their core values. The first time I visited an Amish family, I was struck by their down-to-earth, compassionate way of living. They have many of the same hopes and dreams for their families that we Englischers have, and they are fiercely loyal to their faith and their way of life. I love writing romance that is sweet and also has an inspirational message.
What unique feature separates your Amish novels from others who write in the same genre? A reader once told me that I write Amish romantic comedies, and I think that’s a pretty good description of my books. My romances are peppered with quirky, lovable characters and lots of laugh-out-loud moments. I hope my Amish characters are “real,” meaning not caricatures of who the Amish really are. The Amish have flaws and struggles and make mistakes just like the rest of us. I hope that authenticity comes out in my stories.
Tell us about your new release, The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unexpected Baby? I am so excited for readers to get to know Esther Zook, whose plans for a quiet existence of quilting and growing apricots are turned upside-down when a baby comes screaming into her life. And the poor child’s name is Winter! What is Esther supposed to do about that? The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unexpected Baby is the first book in my new Amish Quiltmaker series. The series is set in Colorado, where the Amish population is small but growing. I adore quilts, the Amish, and babies. Putting all three together in one story was so much fun.
If you had an experience with an unexpected baby, tell us about it! I had six babies—none of them unexpected—but it sure was a surprise how much work they took! My daughters are neck deep in babies and children now, and I like to tell them that these are the best, hardest years of their lives. It is lots of hard work and many sleep-deprived hours, but with babies, there are a thousand daily delights to make up for the sacrifice. In my book, Esther Zook is blindsided when her sister leaves a baby in her care, but it doesn’t take long before Esther can’t imagine life without little Winnie.
Your first completed manuscript was a western. What happened to it? (was it published, etc?) Rachel and Riley is still sitting on my computer, but I have plans to make it part of a Western romance series. My first published Western historical, Jessie and James, is the first book in the series, and you can expect to see Rachel and Riley out in 2022 or 2023. And there are more Westerns to come!
How do you incorporate your faith journey into your novels? My faith is such a big part of my life that writing about different aspects of faith and the spiritual journey comes naturally. Every novel I write explores spiritual themes such as faith, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, and love. In The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unexpected Baby, Esther must choose forgiveness over bitterness, and understanding over taking offense. Trusting in God is almost always a theme in my books. God has a plan for each of us, but sometimes we don’t trust Him enough to turn our lives over to Him. When we think we can do a better job than God can, things tend to get messy.
As a reader, what is your favorite genre and why? Romance has always been my favorite genre. I love happy endings and reading about two people falling in love. In recent years, it has been harder to find romances that also have a good, wholesome message, but they’re out there! Many of them are written by members of ACFW. Jane Austen is my absolute favorite. I also love historical books, fiction and nonfiction. Historical fiction like The Murmur of Bees, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, and The War That Saved My Life are some favorites I’ve read recently. I also love well-written historical nonfiction. Recent reads include The Path Between the Seas and Boys in the Boat. I will also read just about anything by Orson Scott Card. He is a great writer, and his characters are exquisite.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? I’m more of a plotter, in that I make a basic outline, figure out my characters, and know how my story is going to end. But I’m also somewhat of a pantser, because after the basic outline, I let the characters take me where they want to go in the story. The story usually ends up where I planned.
What are some of your favorite activities when you are not writing? I love singing with my family, and we have been known to put on an occasional play just for fun. I have directed and organized many school and church productions over the years. Some of my favorites include A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Play, Music Man, Annie Get Your Gun, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and Dear Ruth. I love being with my grandkids and kids, playing games and eating good food. Doing crossword puzzles is one of my absolute favorite things to do.
What book(s) are you reading currently? I just finished The Murmur of Bees, a beautifully written account of a family in Mexico during the revolution and the Spanish flu. It contains inspiring messages about family, adversity, and the power of love. I highly recommend it.
What is one book that made you cry? Please tell me in the comments below!