Total Immersion

A Pocket Guide to Amish Life

All Amish all the time…that’s what my life has felt like over the last few months. It started with a brand new book project, a small nonfiction that I was able to squeeze in between finishing one mystery novel and starting another.  Nonfiction uses a different part of my brain than fiction does, and it makes for a nice change when that brain has been working overtime on mystery, murder, and mayhem–all under pressure of a deadline.  Thus, needing a break from my usual plotting and characterization and intrigue, I took on a nonfiction project for the summer and ended up immersing myself in all things Amish. What’s the book?  A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, which will be released in January 2010. 

Yes, it’s true, I am the same person who once said, after finishing Shadows of Lancaster County, that “I may never write another Amish book again.”  That novel was difficult for me, the research among the hardest I have ever done.  Believe it or not, I found getting the inside scoop on Amish life far tougher than, say, learning how to build a pipe bomb (for Blind Dates Can Be Murder) or securing access to a real sapphire mine (A Dime a Dozen).  I even wrote an article about my struggle in researching the Amish, which I posted here

But I should have known that one book wouldn’t be the end of it.  Like the mountain climber who had to give up short of the summit, I found myself wanting to return and try again.  The Amish elements in Shadows were correct, but only because my plot allowed me to avoid many facets of Amish life entirely.  I learned enough to write that one, but beyond the story I told I wasn’t confident in my Amish knowledge overall.

Thus, when my publisher brought up the concept of a guidebook about the Amish, I found the idea strangely intriguing.  Could I really do it?  Could I, who had struggled through all 326 pages of a story set in Amish country, actually put my researcher’s hat back on and this time ferret out the whole truth about the Amish, enough to fill an entire Pocket Guide?  Enough to get it completely right?

Well, yes, and then some, I’m happy to report.  In the end, I had so much to say about Amish life that I found myself wishing that little book could be twice as big.  (Stay tuned, because in the coming weeks, I’ll reveal on this blog the exciting ways we’re going to make all of that “overflow” information accessible.) It wasn’t easy, but after a summer of intense reading and study, interviews, personal tours, exploration, and lots of face time with Amish scholars, experts, and some new Amish friends, I found myself finally reaching the summit that had so eluded me before. 

This morning, I got a phone call from one of my readers, a kind Amish fellow who had agreed to review my manuscript and flag errors and questions.  He had already given me the green light on the finished product a few weeks ago, but today he was following up to let me know that he appreciated what I was trying to accomplish.

“There’s so much bad information out there,” he said, “I was thinking about it and wanted you to know to that I’m awful glad your book will help set things straight.”  He went on to thank me for presenting such a balanced, clear picture of Amish life—me, the girl who had struggled so hard the first time to get it right, the writer who said she may never return to that subject matter again.  I guess that old adage is true: Never say never.

Once our phone call was over, I returned to my work with a big grin on my face.  I’m already deep into my next novel, Secrets of Harmony Grove, and this time around I’m able to focus on other areas of research, feeling confident that I’ve finally got the Amish side of things covered. Of course there’s always more to learn, but overall I’m able to write this new novel with far more confidence and authority on a subject that had previously eluded me.

All Amish all the time?  Doing two Amish-related books back to back, it sure seems that way.

And I’m as surprised as anyone to say that I’m loving every minute of it.





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One Response to “Total Immersion”

  1. Hi Mindy! Good to see you on AmishReader!


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