How did you become involved in the Old Order Amish Community?
I was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and grew up near Amish farmland. My father was a local pastor (non-Amish) and had many friends among the Old Order Amish community. He was a spiritual magnet for “seeker” Amish, especially, and I remember sitting around the long table in their farmhouses as a little girl, hearing my father impart the plan of salvation as well as discuss the fruit of the Spirit to their hungry hearts. Also, due to my mother’s Old Mennonite heritage, the doors were always wide open to Plain folk in the Lancaster area—Dunkards, Brethren, Amish, and Mennonites. My father was highly respected in the community of the Plain.
My maternal grandmother was shunned at the age of eighteen when she received Christ and married a Bible college student, who’d also left the Mennonite faith.
Later, after Dave and I were married, we lived with two different Amish families in Lancaster County, during two separate summers, while I conducted the research for my first Amish-related novels for teen girls, THE SUMMERHILL SECRETS series, and later, The Shunning (THE HERITAGE OF LANCASTER COUNTY series) for adults.
How did you come up with the concept for The Judgment?
For several years, I’ve wanted to write a series involving two Amish sisters—diametrically opposed to each other, yet best friends. Rose and Hen are close sisters, but one is staunchly in the Amish church, while the other is married to a worldly outsider.
Do you have a favorite character in The Judgment ? Why?
The sisters, Rose and Hen, intrigue me. Rose, because she is the epitome of caring unconditionally for someone considered unlovely or an outsider. She demonstrates God’s love for the lost. And Hen, because she is so like the prodigal—each of us—before we fully embrace the remarkable grace and mercy of God.
How much research did The Judgment require?
The research for this book/series is a result of having lived around the Amish and learned to understand their sometimes misunderstood ways, their perceptions, their all-consuming approach to the dimensions of Gelassenheit—submission (yielding) to the community and the chain of command—as well as all of the nuances of their cloistered culture and thought processes, for the first seventeen years of my life, and ongoing.
For this particular novel, and its prequel, The Thorn, I spent time visiting Amish friends, as well as walking the back roads southeast of Quarryville, and especially Salem Road and the surrounding setting for THE ROSE TRIOLOGY, in late October 2009, and then the following January 2010, in the dead of winter. In April 2010, I took one of my editors, as well as my fiction marketing manager, on a tour of the entire area, gleaning even more regional/setting information. We also made new friends among the Amish in both Paradise and Quarryville at that latter time.