Why did you decide to write a series about the Amish?
I’ve always been interested in the Amish faith and culture. I live near two or three large Amish communities, so I’ve had good opportunity to visit and talk with Amish folks—plus I’ve long enjoyed reading, mostly nonfiction, about their beliefs and their lifestyle. I remember telling an editor once, several years before I began writing the Riverhaven series, that if I were ever to write about a different culture than the Irish and Irish Americans, it would probably be the Amish. I didn’t realize at the time I would eventually do just that!
How much research did River of Mercy take?
I did a lot of research before I ever started the series, but I’m also one who continues to research “on the go.” In fact, I don’t really stop researching a specific project until the entire series concludes. And although it may sound a bit confusing, I’m usually researching for my next project while I’m developing my current work as well. It helps that I actually enjoy research.
Is this the final book in the Riverhaven Years series?
Yes, River of Mercy is the third novel and the conclusion to the series.
What are some of the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing River of Mercy?
All throughout the research and development of the entire series I was fascinated by the Amish emphasis on one of their core beliefs—that of forgiveness. Naturally, I’m intrigued by the simplicity of their lifestyle, their concentration on maintaining the purity of their church, and many other aspects of the Plain life, but I love the importance they place on forgiveness. It’s not that it’s always easy for them to forgive, but the concept is so important to them that they exert whatever effort and prayer it requires to grant genuine forgiveness.
I also came to understand the practice of "shunning" better. Although I still have mixed emotions about it, I realize more clearly now that the Amish practice shunning, not so much as a form of punishment, but more out of concern for the one who’s being shunned, as well as a way of protecting the purity of the church itself. We might call it a form of “tough love,” a way to help another face his wrong behavior and change it, then reaffirm his vows to the church.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
I’ve answered this question in other interviews the same way as I’ll answer it now: Balance. There are so many demands on a writer’s time and energy they can easily become overwhelming. I’ll always be grateful that when I first began writing, God pressed me for a commitment to keep Him and my family always first—before the writing. That’s been difficult on occasion, because I think I have a natural bent toward being a “workaholic.” But when I’ve sensed myself spiraling away from what I know God wants my priorities to be, reminding myself of the commitment I made to Him helps pull me back to where I need to be.