Murray Pura’s Christmas novel An Amish Family Christmas (Harvest House) is a story of reconciliation, faith and family. Murray answered our questions about his inspiration and why he wrote this story.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WRITE A CHRISTMAS NOVEL?
The year before, Christmas 2012, Harvest House had asked Jerry Eicher to pen a story for them. This year they decided to ask me. And they asked me over a year in advance too. I have written a number of Christmas stories in the past so I was very happy to say yes.
Can you describe your writing process for us? I write every weekday, for the most part, trying to produce about 2000 good words each day. I balance that with exercise and outdoor activities and reading and a life of worship. I don’t experience writer’s block because I don’t seek inspiration in order to write. I simply sit down and start. It doesn’t take long before I’m in what I call “The Zone” and the words are coming thick and fast. After a number of hours you begin to tire. That’s when you need to quit because, as Hemingway says, “the quality goes.” I discipline myself like this and am able to produce 8000 to 10,000 words per week.
THIS NOVEL AN AMISH FAMILY CHRISTMAS IS REALLY A STORY ABOUT RECONCILIATION. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS THEME THAT COMPELLED YOU TO WRITE ABOUT IT?
What fascinates me about the Mennonites and Amish and Hutterites is their stand against war and violence. So many of my books that have an Amish element have a military versus pacifist theme in them.
In the case of An Amish Family Christmas, the story centers around a young Amish man who felt God wanted him to serve as a medic and save lives. For the Amish, Hutterites, and many Mennonite groups, serving as a medic amounts to the same thing as being a soldier with a gun – you’re supporting the war effort. So the young Amish medic is banned or shunned when he returns home from Afghanistan, something he knew would happen, yet he is hopeful the bishop will see that what he has done has been done in the spirit of Jesus. The novel is about them trying to find common ground as they wrestle the issues through in prayer and in the study of Scripture.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR STORIES?
I sum that up in these words: Dare to be an artist and dare to be honest about the world that is around you and within you. Dare to go as far as the stars – and even farther. Dare to go as deep as your own heart and the deeper heart of God.
I don’t want to write formula fiction or superficial fiction. Christians are part of an amazing literary legacy that begins with the Bible and Genesis and carries on through history at the pens of people like John Donne and Leo Tolstoy and C.S. Lewis, to name only a few. That’s the legacy I want to be part of, a legacy that values originality and depth and quality of writing, writing that makes the heart of Christ glad and that stirs the souls of men and women, bringing them closer to real life and a real God.
AND WHAT INSPIRED THIS STORY PARTICULARLY?
I had had this debate, an amicable debate, with two Hutterites on the Amish Wisdom show, when Suzanne Woods Fischer was hosting. I asked the Hutterite woman what she would do if her son said he felt led to go to Afghanistan as a medic or male nurse and save lives. She was adamant that he must not go.
“Even if he saved hundreds of lives?” I asked. “Even if he never carried a gun?”
No, that was still helping a war be a war, as she saw it. I didn’t quite agree and so the story, which was already percolating in my head and spilling out onto the page, began to take on firmer shape. It may be only a Christmas story but it is actually a very deep story that comes right out of my heart and my faith in Christ.
WHY DO YOU ENJOY WRITING AMISH NOVELS?
The Amish came from persecution; they have endured persecution over here too (particularly during World War I). They desire only to be at peace with their neighbor and to live their faith freely in a free nation. Much of what they embrace is at odds with the world around them yet they have not only survived but they are growing year by year. Their detractors like to consider them a fossil but they are a living and breathing people with a heartfelt faith in Christ. I like to explore the unique Christian reality that is their daily existence. They have something to share with all of us and we also have
something to share.