Q&A: Suzanne Woods Fisher (The Calling)
THIS NOVEL IS THE SECOND INSTALLMENT IN YOUR INN AT EAGLE HILL SERIES. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE SERIES AS A WHOLE?
The Inn at Eagle Hill was loosely based on a true story about a Mennonite who was found guilty of mismanaging investment funds, dubbed the Amish Bernie Madoff. Many of the investors were Plain (Amish or Mennonite) and, although entitled to, they refused to make claims to the SEC to receive any funds from liquidated assets. Instead, Plain communities across the country took up donations to help reimburse those who had lost money. Startling, isn’t it? Yet it’s a common response of the Plain people. For biblical reasons, they won’t take anyone to court and accuse them of wrongdoing. They believe in letting God even the scales of justice. In each novel, I try to weave some true-to-life elements from the Plain life into the plot line and this story was just the kind of canvas on which to paint a picture.
As the ‘Inn at Eagle Hill’ series unfolds, readers meet the Schrock family as they are reeling from the untimely death of Dean Schrock, husband and father, who had managed the investment company. Embraced by a caring community, the family is coping as best they can but each one suffers repercussions of shame, confusion and misunderstandings, including the children. There is an overriding story arc about the investment company that concludes in Book 3, aptly named The Revealing, but each book has its own story arc. Love story arcs, I should say.
WHERE DID YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR THIS NOVEL IN PARTICULAR?
Sounds like a stretch…but from an 88-year-old African American dynamo named Mother Williams. She saw a need in her community for a soup kitchen and knew she could do one thing well—she could cook. So she started a once-a-week soup kitchen at age 77 (!) and is still going strong. After interviewing volunteers who worked alongside Mother Williams, I ended up creating five elderly Amish sisters in The Calling to do the work of one Mother Williams.
Talk about an inspiring individual! Mother Williams doesn’t plan on retiring. She says she wants to keep serving God “until the day is done.” Imagine if we all shared her convictions to serve God in any way we can, for as long as we can. The world would be a different place.
WHAT CAN READERS EXPECT TO FIND IN THE BOOK?
One reason Amish fiction is a “hot” trend is because readers are able to cross into another world—a place where nature sets the stage, where characters run the show, where faith has the leading role. It has an effect on you like rebooting your computer.
The Calling brings that “recalibration” to readers, as well as provides a satisfying love story. And humor, too! You can’t invite a character like Jimmy Fisher into a book without needing to buckle up for the ride.
WHY DO YOU ENJOY WRITING AMISH NOVELS?
Amish fiction is a quiet way to point people toward a better life, using Plain characters as the illustration. The Amish are the first to say they aren’t perfect and I try not to over-glamorize them. (My editor and I are often at odds about how much of the non-Amish world to allow into a story.) At their best, I do feel they are close to the heart of Christ and have much to teach us about what’s truly important in life. They make choices that are counterintuitive to human nature (turning the other cheek even if you run out of cheeks, for example). It’s challenging and inspiring to take those moments of decision, common to all of us, and turn them into a story.
WHAT'S THE SECRET TO CRAFTING A BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE IN YOUR WRITING?
Got your pen? Here’s the secret: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. That’s the basic formula behind most every romance novel. Sounds simple, right?
Here’s the secret behind the secret: creating an attraction between a man and a woman that comes alive for readers is such a challenge. Think about the books you’ve read—why are some couples so memorable to you, and others…not so much?
For example, I have received more e-mails about one couple than any other—Bess and Billy from The Search. I left their story unfinished. To me, it was obvious that they had a few things to work out. Readers didn’t agree! They wanted to see what happened between them. So next fall, Stoney Ridge Christmas will pick up Bess and Billy’s story.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR MAIN CHARACTER, BETHANY, AND THE PLACE IN LIFE WHERE READERS WILL FIND HER?
Like many young adults, life hasn’t turned out for Bethany the way she hoped and planned. In The Letters (Book 1), she finds out her boyfriend isn’t who she thought he was—not by a long shot. In The Calling (Book 2), she is trying to figure out what to do with her life. Stay Amish or leave? Accept a date with that too-handsome-for-his-own-good Jimmy Fisher or heed warnings that he’s nothing but trouble?
Five elderly Amish sisters from the Sisters’ House sweep Bethany under their wing. Reluctantly, she helps the ancient sisters with their soup kitchen for the down-and-outers of Stoney Ridge. A little less reluctantly, she starts a community garden. The miracle of finding oneself while serving others begins in Bethany, until she is slipped some personal information from a sassy teenaged down-and-outer that shatters her world.
Want to find out what that important piece of news was? The Calling will release on January 14th. Pick up a copy and let me know your thoughts. I love to hear from readers and can be found on-line at my website: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.