Award-winning, best-selling author Wanda E. Brunstetter
became fascinated with the Amish way of life when she
first visited her husband’s Mennonite relatives living in
Pennsylvania. Her novels have since appeared on many
bestseller lists, including the

New York Times, Publisher’s
Weekly, Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association and
more—last fall, she surpassed 5 million book sales. Her
latest series, Kentucky Brothers, launched in April with
The Journey.

As a little girl, Wanda Brunstetter always had a book in her hand. “I was either reading, or I was writing,” she says. “I grew up in a dysfunctional home, so it was great to pretend and take myself to other places. I immersed myself in books.”

Now she’s the one creating the stories, and readers can’t get enough of her best-selling Amish novels. In a way, she credits her tough upbringing with her desire to write about the simple life. “Because of what I went through as a kid, I have more empathy for people and their problems,” Wanda says. It’s also helped her to tap into the emotions of her characters. “Sometimes my writing moves me to tears. I can feel the pain of the character.”

But even though her childhood wasn’t stable, her mother did take her to church, and it was there Wanda found the Lord through a caring Sunday School teacher. “I was so desperately seeking something to hang onto,” Wanda says. “I was very open to the plan of salvation when she shared it with our class. I was young, six or seven, but it really hit home with me. It was exactly what I needed—a heavenly father that I could count on. Through my teen years I was active in our teen group. I kind of walked away from it a little bit during my older teen years trying to find myself, but never to the extremes some people do. I always knew God was right there with me. Thank God He was. “Some of what I went through I’ve brought out in a few of my novels,” Wanda says. “Those have been the most difficult books to write. When my husband and I got married, we both decided we were going to change the mold and do things differently for our children. Not that we were perfect parents, but we really tried. We put effort into making our kids have a normal life with stability. I wanted my kids to feel safe, to know when they came home that Mom and Dad would be there.”

It was actually her husband’s Mennonite relatives who first showed Wanda how beautiful the love of a family could be. “Four of his brothers married Mennonite girls,” Wanda adds. “I felt so different when I was with that part of his family. They gave me a sense of peace and belonging like I’d never had. It was their faith and the way they spoke to me and each other. There was just a peacefulness about their countenance. When I’m with our Amish friends, I come away feeling so blessed, like I’ve been ministered to because they have such a wonderful family unit. They care so much about each other. You can just feel it.”

This is something Wanda strives to weave into her stories. She believes people are hungry for change in their lives. “We’re all looking for some way to get back to the simple life, to family! For me, being with the Amish, I see them put God first and family second. So many of us Englishers have our priorities mixed up. We’re so caught up in the world and our goals and everything that’s expected of us. I think people have a deep desire to get back to the basics. The Amish are an example to us in that respect. Not that they’re perfect; they’d be the first to admit they’re not. Knowing the Amish as I know them, I understand their lives aren’t always slow either. They can be pretty busy going a hundred different directions, but they still have that peaceful way about them.”

Wanda has written novels that take place in several different Amish communities, but it was a visit to Kentucky that inspired her to write the Kentucky Brothers trilogy, which begins with The Journey. “We discovered that the Amish in the Hawkinsville area are actually implants from Lancaster County,” Wanda says. “We felt like we were in Lancaster because there were the same gray buggies, and the clothing was the same too. But this community is much smaller, and there aren’t a bunch of tourists and places selling Amish things. They’re a little more withdrawn. You have to really work at getting to know them. I think they want it that way. They’ve moved there for a reason, to pull away from being the center of attention. I felt I needed to set a story there. It’s beautiful country.

“I also have some Amish friends whose daughter recently moved from Indiana to an Amish community in Oklahoma due to her husband losing his job. I watched the impact her move had on the family. It kills them when their family leaves. I thought that would be a good topic to deal with: how do Amish parents deal with their kids leaving home? They feel like we do, only it hits them even harder because they are so close as a family.”

One of the main characters in The Journey is a young woman who’s taken up carpentry, a profession usually reserved for men, especially among the Amish. This at first seems unusual, but Wanda explains how it’s not as unusual as it might appear. “I’ve seen Amish women do things that surprise you,” she says. “One lady I know owns a store with her husband where they make and sell windows. She’s very active in the business. Amish women are becoming more independent in that they can have a business. They often run or oversee them.” And while the novels in the Kentucky Brothers trilogy do stand alone, they’re tied together by the fact that three brothers from Lancaster County end up moving to Kentucky for different reasons. The Journey follows Titus, an identical twin who feels he’s living in his brother’s shadow. He needs a fresh start, and going to Kentucky is his answer. “At least he thinks it is!” Wanda says with a smile.

Writing is most definitely Wanda’s passion,
but just like her characters, sometimes she
might surprise you. She’s written nine
children’s books (with a brand new kids series
coming out next year), has a historical novella
coming out in a Christmas collection, and is a
professional ventriloquist. Yes, that’s right.
When she and her husband wanted to add
something to their puppet ministry, her
husband learned how to make twisty balloon
animals and Wanda picked up a book and
studied ventriloquism.

“I’ve always been interested in
ventriloquism,” she says. “I practiced in front
of a mirror and determined to do it without
moving my lips.” She’s gotten so skilled she’s
even taught classes and written articles on
the subject. “The biggest key besides the art of
not moving your lips is sound substitutions,”
Wanda says. “There are certain letters in the
English language you can’t say without
moving your lips. You have to learn those
substitutions and put your tongue in a certain
spot in your mouth so they actually come out
right. It was just a matter of practicing that
over and over and over and finding the
positions that worked best for me. All the kids
were just in awe when I did it in an Amish
schoolhouse. They thought I must have a tape
recorder. I have two little puppets who are
dressed up in Amish clothes too, and the kids
love it!”

Wanda’s love for the Amish comes through in
everything she says and writes, but there’s one
thing she wishes the Amish would embrace
from their English friends—electricity! “How
am I going to curl my hair?” Wanda says,
chuckling. “Charge my laptop and cell phone?
I would like to see them take advantage of
more modern things, and yet I know that if
they do they might end up in the same
whirlwind we’re in, where we can’t let go of
them and they become idols.”

The Amish and their ways can often seem
enigmatic to those of us on the outside, but
through stories like Wanda’s we can begin to
see the Amish as people just like us. Most
importantly, Wanda wants us to realize they’re
our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Some people feel like the Amish aren’t
Christian,” she says. “We get that
misconception because they’re so different. To
know the Amish as we know them, you would
know they are definitely Christians. One of
our Amish friends is a minister in the Amish
church, and when he was asked if Amish is his
religion, he said, ‘No. Amish is our way of life.
Jesus Christ is our religion.’

“That sums it up perfectly. I’m not saying
every Amish person is a born again believer
any more than every person who attends a
Protestant church is a born-again believer. But
many of them are, and I don’t think people
realize that. The Amish just don’t proclaim it
to the world like we do. They feel their actions
are an example to the world.”

Check out more great articles

About The Author

Award-winning, bestselling author, Wanda E. Brunstetter became fascinated with the Amish way of life when she first visited her husband’s Mennonite relatives living in Pennsylvania. Wanda and her husband, Richard, live in Washington State but take every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the States, where they have several Amish friends.