The three authors talk about their new Amish Christmas romance collection.
The coziness of a warm kitchen awaits! The new collection An Amish Christmas Kitchen (Bethany House) pulls together seasonal Amish romance novellas from Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd. Leslie Gould has authored or co-authors several novels, including two Lancaster Amish series. Jan Drexler draws on the experiences of her Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren ancestors to create her stories. Kate Lloyd is the bestselling novelist of the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy and the Lancaster Discoveries series. In this panel interview, we asked all three authors about their contributions to the collection, the recipes they brought to the table, and their favorite parts of the Christmas season…
Leslie: My novella, “An Amish Family Christmas,” explores a young, heartbroken Amish woman named Noelle, whose strikes up a friendship with another young woman, seemingly very different than she is, named Holly. The friendship inspires Noelle to take risks out of her comfort zone—in romance, in her family, and in her business.
Kate: My novella, “Unexpected Christmas Gift,” about my character Maria’s discovery of the secrets of her past at Christmastime, was an unexpected surprise to me. The storyline, the characters, and the twists and turns were unlike anything I’d ever read or written before. Sometimes books seem to steer themselves on a fun and unique adventure.
Jan: My novella, “An Amish Christmas Recipe Box,” is about Ada Weaver, the youngest daughter in a family of girls. She has her romantic sights set on Amos, a young man who works in her father’s furniture factory, but he isn’t even aware that she exists.
When her sister comes up with the idea to bake cookies to attract Amos, Ada agrees. But the Great Cookie Campaign attracts the attention of Mattias Yoder instead, her father’s newest employee. Will Ada find that the best Christmas gift might have been the one she almost overlooked?
How does writing a novella compare to writing a novel? (Easier, harder?) What are the pros and cons?
Leslie: This was the first novella I’ve written, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it! Before writing novels, I wrote short stories. The great thing about writing a novella was that I could apply both what I’ve learned from writing short stories and from writing novels.
Novellas are easier in that the word count is less than a third of what a novel is. The tricky part is having a full story arc and character arc within the shorter structure. What I learned was to keep the pace moving along and avoid any subplots!
Kate: I found writing a novella harder than a full-length novel. I loved the story so much I wanted to keep on writing but was restricted to word length. I made that remark to someone who asked: Why don’t you write it as a novel? My answer: because I’ve already written it. I like creating new material in which even I don’t know the ending. An adventure!
Jan: I found that writing a novella is very similar to a novel, except that I needed to keep the number of side characters and secondary plots under control! The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the experience. The shorter word-count gave me the structure I needed to keep my writing tight and the story delightfully simple.
The collection also includes recipes. What can you tell us about your contribution?
Leslie: I borrowed a recipe for creamsticks from amish365.com with permission from founder Kevin Williams. I’m a sucker for words—no surprise—and really love the name creamstick, lol. Plus, I haven’t read about creamsticks in other Amish stories, nor have I written about them before in mine. I wanted something new! And one last appeal was that my mother made a Christmas treat with a similar filling when I was little.
Kate: A dear friend, Old Order Amish author Linda Byler, wrote a terrific Amish recipe book, Lizzie’s Amish Cookbook. She told me I was welcome to use any of her recipes, but I felt nervous about doing so without her publisher’s consent, even though the publisher had gone out of business. Instead I used a talented friend’s cake recipe which is very close.
Jan: The recipe I included with my story was for Jam Thumbprint Cookies, the final recipe Ada makes in the story. I love baking, so I had a lot of fun taking the traditional recipe and giving it my own method and twist. The development of the recipe took a few tries, much to my family’s delight!
What kind of research or background do you bring to writing about the Amish?
Leslie: I make frequent visits to Amish communities (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana), read constantly about Plain communities, and brainstorm my stories with a good friend who grew up Amish. She then reads my manuscripts to check for inaccuracies (although all mistakes are mine!). As far as background, I have Mennonite ancestors and all of my four children attended a Mennonite school when they were little.
Kate: To say I do extensive research every time I write about the Amish is not an over-statement. I often turn to my Amish friend Linda Byler and other Amish friends as resources to verify my facts, as well as my Mennonite relatives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
In fiction, correct facts are extremely important because if you lose your reader, the story will be dead to them. Speaking of dead, the head of the Seattle Police Department’s Crime Prevention helped incredibly, but I don’t want to give away the plot. Also, the owner of Zook’s Fabrics in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, has often helped me and had even visited me in my home in Seattle.
Jan: For me, writing Amish stories has been a natural outgrowth of my genealogy research. As I’ve learned about my ancestors, both Amish and from other Anabaptist denominations, my imagination has given life to the sometimes-dry details of genealogy.
From there, as I learned about Amish history and contemporary Amish life, I’ve found that the doctrine and practice of the Amish are very familiar from observing my grandparents and great-grandparents as a child.
What are your favorite things about the Christmas holiday season?
Leslie: Besides the holy moments of celebrating the birth of Christ, I really treasure those unexpected times at church or around the dinner table or playing games or cross-country skiing where nothing matters more than being with my husband, grown children, family, and friends. Those moments are never planned—they just happen. And they’re always absolutely magical.
Kate: I adore Christmas! I turn into a little girl again. I recall my family’s traditions, singing carols, visiting Santa, boxes of ornaments, some of which I still use. My sister and I chuckle when we recall how our mother saved the wrapping paper from year to year, and how she’d buy presents early when they were on sale and then forget to give them to us.
Jan: Spending time with family is precious, as well as spending time with our church family. We go into the Black Hills National Forest early in December to hunt for our Christmas tree, and that kicks off the month-long celebration. Christmas baking, early sunsets, Christmas lights, and the Christmas Eve service all bring the season together in a joyful celebration of our Savior’s birth.
Visit Leslie Gould’s author page:
Visit Jan Drexler’s author page:
Visit Kate Lloyd’s author page:
As the weather grows cold and the nights grow long, the cheer and warmth of the Christmas season is a comfort for all of us. This collection from bestselling Amish fiction novelists Leslie Gould, Jan Drexler, and Kate Lloyd celebrates the heart at the center of the holiday and offers three novellas that rejoice in family, faith, and especially the sights and fragrant smells of a bustling holiday kitchen.
In “An Amish Family Christmas,” Leslie Gould tells the story of how, in the wake of a heartbreaking loss, a young Amish woman finds unexpected comfort and friendship while selling her family’s traditional baked goods at the local Lancaster Christmas Market.
Jan Drexler’s “An Amish Christmas Recipe Box” gives readers a sweet tale of a shy Amish woman who decides to use her talent in the kitchen to woo a local Amish boy with her beloved Christmas cookies.
And Kate Lloyd offers “An Unexpected Christmas Gift,” a moving tale of a woman’s unforeseen discovery about the truth of her past, and the welcoming Amish family table she finds herself invited to on Christmas.
Includes three authentic Amish recipes for your holiday baking!