Q&A: Jennifer Beckstrand (Miriam's Quilt)
YOU WROTE ON YOUR BLOG RECENTLY THAT YOU STARTED WRITING BECAUSE YOU WOULD MAKE UP STORIES SO YOU COULD FALL ASLEEP AT NIGHT. OUT OF THAT CAME YOUR VERY FIRST NOVEL. HOW HAS YOUR BRAINSTORMING AND WRITING PROCESS CHANGED FROM THOSE NIGHTS OF THINKING UP STORIES?
I've learned a lot over the years since I first began making up stories! Usually my story ideas start with a conflict. A story doesn't really begin until something bad happens. When I wrote my first Amish romance, I started by examining potential characters and their possible conflicts. Some conflicts are very specific to the Amish culture, and others are universal. In Kate's Song, my first Amish romance, Kate is faced with giving up her singing career to be baptized into the Amish faith. It is a heartrending choice and one specific to someone who has been raised Amish.
I actually still do a lot of brainstorming right before I fall asleep. I do my best thinking in the shower--I'm notorious for long showers, for which I apologize to my dad. (He had six daughters, and long showers were his pet peeve.) I continue to hone my craft as a writer. I read a lot of fiction but also many books about writing. I want to continually be learning and hope I get better and better.
WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST INTERESTING PART ABOUT AMISH CULTURE AND TRADITIONS?
When I started doing research, I found it very interesting that separate Amish congregations often do things very differently from each other. I did my first research in Lancaster County, PA, even though I wanted to set my books in Wisconsin. I learned all this stuff and then one of my new Amish friends said, "I think they're more conservative in Wisconsin than in Pennsylvania." I had to gather all new information. I have also been struck with how "normal" the Amish are. They are hard-working, God-fearing people who are trying their best to navigate the trials of life--good, good people.
WHY DID YOU FEEL YOU NEEDED TO TELL THIS STORY IN PARTICULAR AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS GET OUT OF MIRIAM'S QUILT?
One of the major themes in Miriam's Quilt is that bad things happen to good people, and if we spend less time judging and more time ministering to each other, the world would be a much better place.
Seth, the love interest in the story, is one of my favorite characters. He is so nonjudgmental and accepting of others, even when they make serious mistakes. He truly seeks to understand people and love them as God would love them. Because of Seth's influence, Miriam learns to let go of her pride and love others better. I hope Miriam's journey of discovery will resonate with my readers.
Seth drives that journey--even though it takes him a little while to warm up to Miriam. The first line of Miriam's Quilt reads: "Seth Lambright couldn't stand the sight of Miriam Bontrager."
A portion of this article originally appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of FamilyFiction digital magazine. Subscribe for free today!