First, happy new year. I’ve been sicker than a dog with the flu, but I’ll take this time to post to my blog. I often get asked how I do my research for Amish novels. There’s no one way to go about it, but recently I put wrote a summary for the Amish Reader newsletter that I thought I might post here, too. happy reading, and stay well…
Research for the writing of Never Far from Home
Ah, research…the mere mention of the word causes a stress reaction in students from junior high age on up through graduate school. But research for a writer of Amish fictions is something quite different. I usually can’t wait to get away from my computer, check into my favorite bed & breakfast in Ohio’s Amish Country, and learn more about their fascinating culture. I know I’ll find gorgeous scenery, delicious meals, and friendly people eager to help. My several trips to Holmes County during the writing of Never Far from Home were no exception. I came home from one long weekend with a handmade Swartzentruber quilt and a trunk filled with homemade peanut butter, bulk seasonings, three kinds of cheese, and jars of pickled everything-under-the-sun.
No bleary-eyed studying until dawn’s early light for this gal.
Since Never Far from Home—Emma’s story—involves sheep, one morning I drove the back roads until I found the perfect Amish sheep farm. After I parked my car and ran to the fence to see them, the sheep came running to see me. What a joy to see dozens of God’s gentlest creatures frolicking down the hillside! When the Amish farmer joined me at the fence, he explained it wasn’t my magnetic personality that had drawn them, but their expectation of sweet treats. Nevertheless, asking him my list of questions on a sunny morning proved far more enjoyable than surfing websites.
Not that I don’t do plenty of online research too. Since my other central character, James Davis, is a student at OSU’s Agricultural Technical Institute, I found the college’s course selections and description of campus facilities on their website. But I had driven around their Farm Labs tucked in the rolling farmlands of Wayne County for years, long before deciding to write the Miller Family Series. The day trip to see the Land Lab, Equine Center, and the renowned rose garden of the Seacrest Arboretum was pure pleasure, not work. The town of Wooster with its charming shops and restaurants was a natural for Emma’s first lunch date with her Englischer.
I also scheduled several getaways with my husband to visit craft fairs, flea markets, and horse auctions. But my luckiest research break came inside the basement cafeteria of the Kidron auction barn. After sitting down next to the likeliest candidates to ask agricultural questions, I then proceeded to eavesdrop long enough to confirm the two men were, indeed, farmers. After introducing ourselves and explaining what I was doing, they graciously talked the afternoon away. They explained everything I needed to know about soybeans, crop rotation, farm alliances, and most of all, corn—all for the price of coffee and two slices of apple pie, ala mode, of course. These lifelong farmers provided research that money could never buy.
I hope you’ll check out Never Far from Home, and let me know if my industrious research has paid off.