A Stranger's Gift, Women of Pinecraft Series #1A Stranger's Gift, Women of Pinecraft Series #1
Anna Schmidt
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On the heels of a horrific hurricane, Hester Detlef, field director for the Mennonite Disaster Service, blows into the life of self-made, shunned Amish man John Hafner. Will she find a way through his shield and into his heart? Although the hurricane has left John homeless and badly injured, the last thing he wants is some do-gooder Mennonite woman intruding in his life. Will his impatience with her intention of restoring his faith and property keep him from accepting this beguiling stranger's kindness?

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 Our Interview with Anna Schmidt


What is your favorite Bible verse (translation please)?  Why?

I have always been partial to the ‘seasons’ passage from Ecclesiastes (any version works although since I’ve been writing Mennonite characters I tend to be reading the King James). In any form the message resonates with me and has gotten me through some tough times in my life.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Well, I’m married to the most incredible man. We were not blessed with children but have been blessed with a wonderful life filled with friends (and their kids) and family and new people coming in and out all the time. I have always worked – and the jobs have been as diverse as corporate communications director for a German pharma company to designing costumes for a professional theater group to teaching to helping my husband pioneer adult day care in the state of Wisconsin.

How did you get started as a CBA writer?

I sold my first story for the CBA audience to Steeple Hill shortly after they got started.

Where did the inspiration for A Stranger's Gift come from?
I am blessed to live in Sarasota FL for five months of the year and there is a large and very active Amish/Mennonite community here. Between getting to know the people there and the fact that Florida is hurricane country the setting and set-up for the story were kind of a no brainer! The ‘stranger’s gift’ part was a little more complex – what happens when two people determined to go it alone find that they need someone after all?

How much research did A Stranger's Gift A take?

A lot. I wanted to get things right and since I am neither Amish nor Mennonite, I went to the source. Fortunately I have found over my writing career that people are enormously delighted to know that an author cares enough to seek out the way things really are. For this entire series I have readers within the Mennonite community checking the work for authenticity as I go along.  Talk about A STRANGER’S GIFT – these one-time strangers have given me the wonderful gift of their support!

What was the most interesting fact that you learned while researching and writing A Stranger's Gift?

Oh, so many. Probably the one that sticks out is that the Amish actually broke off from the Mennonites way back in the 1600’s/ Why? Because they thought the Mennonites were becoming too liberal!!


What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
The greatest challenge I face is that my husband’s health is severely compromised – not that he’s bedridden or anything so dire – but he has a variety of conditions that affect his stamina and ability to fully participate in life and when those already present conditions flare up or result in additional problems our lives can get pretty complicated and intense. Add to that a book deadline and well…you get the picture.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Believe it or not, I love the research which is one reason I do enjoy writing historical.  A few years ago I hit a kind of writer’s brick wall and decided to write a screenplay. I chose a WWII background and a true story I had discovered I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. I entered the finished product in a national contest and made it all the way to the quarter finals in a competition of a couple thousand entries!!!

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

I belong to several writers’ groups: Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, Novelists Inc., Midwest Fiction Writers. But by far the group that has given me the most is the group of four other authors that I formed a critique group with a couple of decades ago and that have remained my most objective critics and my strongest supporters to this day.

What books did you read as a child?

Oh, now that’s going to date me big time – Nancy Drew mysteries, Black Beauty come to mind. Actually it occurs to me that I liked many of the same types of books then that I read today – stories of characters facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and overcoming them.

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

A STRANGER’S GIFT is the first in a series of three books set in the Sarasota Mennonite community. There are characters that will appear in all three but a reader does not have to have read one to appreciate the stories in the other two nor is it necessary to read them in order. I’m just finishing up the second book --  A SISTER’S FORGIVENESS – and it has been a pure joy to research and write!!

Who/what has been the most significant influence on your writing career?

Who would be my husband – he has always believed in me and encouraged me and given me the wings to pursue my writing. What would be an upbringing that was rooted in story-telling (my dad managed a movie theater when I was a kid and I have a master’s degree in Theater Arts).

What message would you like your readers to take from reading A Stranger's Gift?

Every reader finds her own message in a book or story and hearing from those readers via my website  often opens my eyes to the presence of messages I never really saw before in my own work. A huge mistake for any writer to make is to sit down and try to deliver a message – frankly that’s between the reader and whatever may be going on in her life when she reads my work and, of course, God.

What is your greatest achievement?

Whoa! Now there’s a question to give a person pause! I’d have to say my marriage – or I should say whatever it is I have brought to this marriage that has made it the partnership it has been.

What do you do to get away from it all?

Walk while listening to audio books on my mp3 player; in Florida I go shelling almost every morning enjoying the sunrise; movies and plays are a constant source of inspiration for me; and believe it or not one of my favorite places in the world to unwind and recharge is New York City. LOVE the energy there!!!


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