How did you come up with the concept for the New Beginnings Series?
A couple years ago, I was given a non-fiction book by one of the editors at Harvest House, After the Fire: The Destruction of the Lancaster County Amish by Randy-Michael Testa. The book details the flight of Old Order Amish from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in particular, but also applies to Holmes and Wayne County, Ohio—the area where I live and set my romances.
Skyrocketing land prices, rising taxes, and the influx of city water, sidewalks, and strict zoning codes have forced many families to look elsewhere to buy land. Although the fire in Mr. Testa’s dissertation is metaphorical, it sparked a storyline for me.
My series follows three sisters as they seek love and fresh starts in districts very different from the one they left behind. In Living in Harmony, first in the series, we meet Amy King—young, engaged, and Amish. Amy faces life-altering challenges when she loses both parents in a house fire. Her fiancé, John Detweiler, persuades her to leave Lancaster County and make a new beginning with him in Harmony, Maine, where he has relatives. John’s brother Thomas and sister-in-law, Sally, readily open their home to the newcomers. Wise beyond his years, Thomas, a minister in the district, refuses to marry Amy and John upon their arrival, suggesting instead a period of adjustment. While trying to assimilate in the ultraconservative district, Amy discovers an aunt who had been shunned. Amy wants to reconnect with her, but John worries the woman’s tarnished reputation will reflect badly on his beloved bride-to-be.
Is any part of New Beginnings Series true?
I based it on a real live Old Order Amish settlement in Unity, Maine. I made up the story, but the lifestyle details of the Maine Amish are as true as I could make them. For the second in the series, Love Comes to Paradise, I traveled to Columbia Missouri and studied the Amish of Hancock and Randolph Counties. Again, the story is pure fiction, but the district details, weather peculiarities, and agricultural info were gleaned from interviewing local residents. For the third in the series, A Little Bit of Charm, I traveled to the Glasgow, KY area and also to Casey County, KY. My fictional Charm is a blend of these two lovely areas.
Did you include any of your life experiences in the New Beginnings Series?
Of course, as a writer I’m helpless not to interject myself into the story. Many of the things my characters experience moving to new areas, I experienced while a visitor in “foreign” lands. We all get so set in our ways. I loved leaving Ohio and my personal comfort zone, to experience “other worlds” in Maine, Missouri and Kentucky.
Do you have a favorite character in the New Beginnings Series? Why?
I love Amy in Living in Harmony because she thinks and acts like I would have at that age. But my favorite character is Nora King. She has the subplot of Living in Harmony, but becomes the focus of book two, Love Comes to Paradise. She is brave and adventurous and independent—I suppose all the traits I would like to be. She even gets a couple mentions in the third of the series, A Little Bit of Paradise.
How much research did the New Beginnings Series take?