Friday, October 9, 2009


AMISH APPEAL by Marta Perry

No one can doubt the appeal of Amish fiction in today’s romance field. Popular authors are reaching the bestseller list and appearing on television, and even the Wall Street Journal has featured a front page article on it.

The Amish romance flood started, as these things often do, with a single author. Beverly Lewis has been quietly selling her Amish stories for a number of years, with no one in publishing apparently noticing, until she reached so many dedicated fans that she began appearing on the Times list. In short order, Wanda Brunstetter followed her to the list, and then Cindy Woodsmall. Suddenly every publishing house wanted its own Amish author, and Amish series are popping up like weeds in my flower bed.

Why are they so popular? That’s the million dollar question. Based on the letters I receive from readers, I’d say that the books help feed a longing for a simpler lifestyle. Haven’t you ever wished you could get rid of the constant pressure and demand for interaction posed by e-mail, Facebook, cell phones, twenty-four hour news channels, and all the rest? Sometimes it seems that all those things which should be keeping us together are just serving to isolate us. The books allow readers to live for a few hours in a society which gets along very nicely without all those things.

It’s also a society where families tend to live close together, and one in which there’s an instant support system in time of need. So many of us have no close relatives within an easy distance...something that would have been surprising just a few generations ago.

The oddest thing about the craze for Amish books, though, is the fact that this genre has grown up around a culture which does its best to stay out of the spotlight. Maybe that’s why people are so interested in knowing what goes on there. The challenge for me has been to write it real and in a way that I trust will cause no offense to a group of people I admire.

As a lifelong resident of rural Pennsylvania, I’ve always lived in areas where there were Plain People, and my own roots on my mother’s side are Pennsylvania Dutch. I went to school with children who were Old Order Mennonite, and I have friends who grew up Plain. The county where I live in central Pennsylvania has a substantial Amish population. Given all that, the only surprising thing is that it took me so long to begin writing about them!

Awhile back, in the course of an established series for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, I introduced some Amish minor characters, wondering what my editor would say about that. She responded, “You know that Amish thing? Do that more.” Delighted to be able to write about something fascinating in my own back yard, I agreed.

Next up came a three-book suspense series for Love Inspired, set in Pennsylvania Dutch country with, again, Amish minor characters. The art department did a lovely job—buggies on every cover. Then, through a series of events that had to be experienced to be believed, my agent made a three-book trade-size deal with Berkley Books. These are much longer, more complicated stories than the books I write for Love Inspired, and the main characters are Amish. Because of the length and complexity, the stories are more challenging to write, but I love every minute of it. The first book in the Pleasant Valley Amish series will be out in November, and Berkley has already contracted for another three books.

LEAH’S CHOICE, the first book in the new series, will be available in stores and online on November 3, so this seemed the ideal time to begin blogging about my experiences and about the Amish in general. I hope you’ll join me from time to time as we talk about the Amish...and I’m sure we’ll also venture into other topics, like my six beautiful grandchildren, the life of a writer, and whatever else happens to come up.

There will be something new here every week, so come back often.

Marta Perry