Why Amish Fiction?

When Amish fiction became its own genre, many people were surprised. And when the genre not only survived, but grew—Beverly Lewis alone has sold more than 15 million books—people started asking why. What is the appeal behind romances set in small, conservative religious communities?

Valerie Weaver-Zercher of Wall Street Journal explains what she believes is the driving force behind the Amish fiction trend: “Amish fiction joins Ancestry.com, ‘Downton Abbey,’ heirloom tomatoes and vintage clothing in depositing us gently in the past without requiring us to loosen the vice grip on our iPhones.”

Amish buggy
Child of MineTo a secular audience, that’s what makes the most sense out of the phenomenon. Christian readers, though, would say there’s more to it than that. Beverly Lewis addresses this side of the books’ appeal. She says, “Tens of thousands of letters from readers indicate that courting rituals, table talk, a predictable/structured life, love and care of family, and a true sense of belonging are the top five reasons why people are so intrigued with my Amish novels.”

Minding MollyLeslie Gould, author of the COURTSHIPS OF LANCASTER COUNTY series, agrees that readers appreciate the values and simple faith of the Plain characters. “I think readers are drawn to Amish fiction for the same reasons I enjoy writing it—getting lost in a simpler way of life, exploring issues of faith and family, and the juxtaposition of the Amish culture and our modern American way of life. I know reading—and writing—Amish fiction takes me back to stories from my parents’ and grandparents’ rural upbringings, and to my own down-on-the-farm experiences as a child. I love being reminded of those memories, and I think readers do too.”

Why Amish fiction? Because sometimes we wish life moved along more at the pace of a buggy ride than a breakneck race down a neon-lit freeway. Because we know that a handwritten, newsy letter means more than a quick email. Because when we go to pray, there are hundreds of distractions . . . and we wish it could be different.

And maybe it can be, even in small ways. Give it a try for yourself. Make bread. Be silent for a while. Go for a walk. Write a few extra lines in a birthday card instead of just signing your name. Don’t just read about a simpler life; practice it.

But remember: if you decide you’re going to have a family dinner, it probably won’t look like a typical Amish meal. Maybe your two-year-old will throw peas at her brother or your junior higher will explain what goes into the hot-dog making process or your third grader will announce that he suddenly does not like the food that he’s never complained about before.

The point isn’t perfection. The point is togetherness.

It’s not about feeling guilty if you make a birthday cake from a box or buy it from the store (“But the Amish churn their own butter, for goodness’ sake!”). Or if all of your Pinterest DIY projects fail (“They made this seem so easy in the quilting bee scene.”). Or if you struggle to get your teenage daughter to stop wearing sweatpants with “Flirty” written on the back (“That’s it! You’re wearing solid-colored dresses and a bonnet from now on!”).

Amish fiction shouldn’t give us an impossible standard to live up to. Instead, it should be a reminder of what’s really important. We probably shouldn’t try to recreate the lifestyle found in the pages . . . but maybe we can learn from and adopt some of the attitudes.

What tradition or custom do you admire most about the Amish?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALearn more about Beverly and her latest book, Child of Mine, co-written with her husband David, at www.beverlylewis.com, or visit her on Facebook.

GOULD_Leslie1cropLearn more about Leslie and her latest book, Minding Molly, at www.lesliegould.com, or visit her on Facebook.

Alaska: a History of Adventure

Pettrey_DaniThis week, we have a guest on the blog: Dani Pettrey! Her ALASKAN COURAGE series takes place in a state most of us would love to visit. In case you can’t book a flight and head out there yourself, you can learn a little bit about Alaska as Dani shares some facts from her research for the books. Enjoy!

5 Fun Facts about the McKenna Family’s Home State

Alaska is a land of extremes. It’s the Northernmost, Westernmost (and Easternmost! Its string of islands stretches all the way into the Eastern Hemisphere) state in the US. It’s the biggest state, with the brightest summers, the darkest winters, and the most uninhabited land. With excitement written into the history of every river and mountain, it’s no surprise the adventure-loving McKennas feel so at home here.

Did you know…Submerged-TP_4color+DBoss+MKote.indd

  • In the middle of the Bering Strait off the coast of Alaska, you’ll find Russia’s Big Diomede Island, and the United States’s Little Diomede Island, less than 3 miles apart from each other. This puts the two countries not only within eyeshot of each other on a clear day, but also within (hypothetical) walking distance when the water freezes. No wonder Russia and Alaska have such a closely-tied history… something Bailey discovered first-hand in Submerged!

Continue reading

Author Roundtable: Garden Favorites

Did you know that the lovely bouquet you’re eying in the florist shop could actually contain a secret message?

Well, not today, maybe. These days, a rose is just a rose. But in the Victorian era, young people would use the commonly accepted meanings of flowers to express their feelings for each other. (Pity the poor suitor who didn’t know that yellow tulips meant “hopeless love” or that snapdragons meant “deception or presumption”!)

Here are a few of our authors’ favorite flowers and their corresponding Victorian symbolism.

Becky Wade: Geraniums

GeraniumMeaning: True friendship

Kimberley Woodhouse: Tulips

TulipsMeaning: Declaration of love

Jen Turano and Elizabeth Camden: Sunflowers

SunflowersMeaning: Loyalty

Ann Tatlock: Violets

VioletsMeaning: Faithfulness

Melissa Tagg:  Daisies

DaisiesMeaning: Innocence, hope

Nancy Mehl: Irises

IrisMeaning: Faith, wisdom

Ann Mateer: Gardenias

GardeniasMeaning: You’re lovely, secret love

Regina Jennings: Zinnias

zinniasMeaning: Thoughts of absent friends

Dee Henderson, Leslie Gould, Kate Breslin: Roses

RosesMeaning: Love

Mary Connealy: Daffodils

DaffodilsMeaning: Respect

Here’s a fun idea: Look at the meanings of certain flowers and think of friends who fit that description perfectly. Then buy seed packets of those flowers and mail them to your friends with a note about why this particular flower and meaning made you think of them. (Zinnias are always good for a “Thinking of You” card!)

What’s your favorite flower, and what does it mean? (There are some variations in meaning from place to place, but most of these I found here and here.)

How to Avoid Spoilers

So, all of your friends have read the latest suspense release from your favorite author . . . except you. It’s been a busy month, or you’re on a library waiting list, or you have to finish another book first. Whatever the case, you’re likely to hear people talking about it. Here’s how to avoid hearing someone ruin the ending for you.

You're actually too late to pre-order Undetected. It released on 4/29!

You’re actually too late to preorder Undetected. It released on 4/29!

Preorder. This one is entirely preventive. If you’re the first one to order and read the book, no one can beat you to it, right?

Know the potential hazards. In case you missed out on preordering, here are some good Plan Bs. List your friends who are dedicated readers, the ones most likely to out-read you and get to the last chapter before you’ve even started. Feel free to communicate to them that no, you have not read the wonderful new release and would prefer that its plot not be discussed in detail when you’re around. If you practice, you can even say this in a nice way. Or just wear a T-shirt that says, “No one talk about [Title Name] for the next month!”

Have someone screen the Amazon reviews. Can’t stay away from those blurbs under the purchase button while you wait for the book to ship? Not all Internet consumers are sensitive to little etiquette details like the fact that the murderer’s name should not be written in all caps in the first sentence of the review. So if you have to look at reviews, have a disinterested third party scan them for you first. Continue reading

Release Day Giveaway!

It’s the official release day for our May books! I’m especially excited about this because I’ve been telling people about these books for months (to the annoyance of all my friends who haven’t been able to read them yet). That means you can all now enjoy. . . (drumroll please):

Gathering Shadows

Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl

Here to Stay

Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

Meant to be Mine

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Silenced by Dani Pettrey

11380 NEW Persecuted_mck.indd

Persecuted by Robin Parrish

Until I Found You

Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin

Excited yet? Feeling a sudden, inexplicable urge to go straight to the nearest bookstore and buy out the shelves? I know. Good books have that effect on people. But beyond buying these books, here are three ways to make any author’s release day awesome:

  • Request the book for your local library. Tell your friends. Recommend it to a book club (we have some great resources for book clubs). Authors love it when readers share their love of books with others.
  • Like the author’s page on Facebook, even if it’s an author you haven’t had a chance to read yet. Most really enjoy connecting with fans over social media, and you’ll get the inside scoop on contests and deals. I may be biased, but I also happen to know that these authors are wonderful people in addition to being talented writers, so that’s a bonus too. (I have conveniently linked to our May authors’ Facebook pages just to help you out on this one.)
  • Take a picture of yourself reading the author’s book and post it on their fan page. Or post a quote you loved from the book (you can make it into a Pinterest image if you’re feeling really creative). Because it’s fun to let authors know you’re enjoying what they put so much time and effort into.

Okay, that’s all from me. Except that, because release day is so exciting, why not have a giveaway? I’ll pick six random winners, and each will receive one of these May books (their choice). To enter, comment on this blog post before 11:59 PM CST on Wednesday, May 7,  with the answer to the following question: If you only had six words or fewer to describe what you would consider a great book, what would they be? (Example: “Made me laugh. Happy ending. Sigh.”)

***UPDATE: Here are our winners! Please email Amy at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your mailing address as well as which one of the books featured in this post you’d like to win. Thanks to everyone for entering…I heard from several of our authors that they enjoyed reading what you considered a great book!***

All winners

 

 

Prayer for Authors: May 2014

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Authors with Books Releasing in May:

Victoria Bylin
Dee Henderson
Nancy Mehl
Robin Parrish
Dani Pettrey
Melissa Tagg
Becky Wade

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to thank God for things that don’t seem like blessings (upcoming deadlines, difficult people, drains on time and attention).
  • For identities rooted in Christ and not the positive or negative comments found in reviews of the books.
  • For readers to come away from the novels with a better understanding of how to love God and others.

Thank you so much, readers, for taking a few moments to pray for these authors, and for everyone who picks up these books. I know it makes a difference, and that it matters a lot to the authors as well.

Quiz: May Bethany House Books

May is finally here, readers! And that means we have some great new books to announce.

Given that I usually try to do something fun besides just telling you the plot of each book, I’ve made up a quiz for the heroines of our three romantic suspense and three contemporary romances.

Mayheroines

See who you have the most in common with…

 

Until I Found You

Kate Darby from Until I Found You

Nick Sheridan has made a vow: no dating for a year. And he’s keeping it just fine—until Kate Darby turns his world upside down.

Gina Gray from Undetected

Researcher Gina Gray is on the verge of a breakthrough in sonar technology, and what she’s told Navy Commander Mark Bishop is only the beginning…

Meant to be Mine

Celia Park from Meant to Be Mine

When bull rider Ty Porter comes face to face with the one woman he could never forget, can he convince her he’s finally ready for love?

Gathering Shadows

Wynter Evans from Gathering Shadows

Wynter Evans came to the town of Sanctuary looking for answers. Can handsome mayor Reuben King help her discover the truth about her brother’s disappearance?

Kayden McKenna from Silenced

After Kayden McKenna discovers the body of a fellow climber, she and Jake Westin team up to investigate the death—provoking threats on her entire family.

Here to Stay

Autumn Kingsley from Here to Stay

Whisper Shore will never be the same once Blake and Autumn join forces to revitalize tourism—but will that be enough to convince Autumn to stay?

 What are you waiting for? Give it a try! And be sure to share this with your fiction-loving friends and let us know what result you got!

TakeQuiz