Having grown up near Lancaster County, Penn., the setting for her Amish novels, Rachel J. Good spends time with her Amish friends to make her fiction as authentic as possible. She launches her Love & Promises series with The Amish Teacher’s Gift (Forever): Falling for a man in mourning may be against the rules, but Josiah Yoder’s quiet strength is the support Ada Rupp never knew she needed. In this interview, Rachel shares how her Amish friends help her get the right details, the most challenging part of writing The Amish Teacher’s Gift, and what to expect from the Love & Promises series…
What were your goals writing The Amish Teacher’s Gift?
People often idealize the Amish, believing their lives are perfect. After spending time with my Amish friends, I came to see they have struggles and problems just like we do. My characters reflect that. They do chores, live without electricity, drive buggies, and they have real-life problems.
I also wanted to bring to life one of the special needs schools in the community and all they do to support their children. I did that by writing about Ada, an Amish teacher and the heroine of this book.
And no romance would be complete without a handsome hero. Enter Josiah, the father of a hearing-impaired boy. Although he falls for Ada, she doesn’t have time for courting or love. I wanted to show how a couple could be creative and find time to be together despite the odds facing both of them.
Rachel, what can you tell us about the Love and Promises series, and how The Amish Teacher’s Gift fits in?
I originally pitched the Love & Promises series this way: Following Rumschpringe, the Amish face many life decisions—embracing their faith, choosing their careers, entering lifelong relationships. A group of friends shares this heartwarming time as they grow, live, and learn to love.
During their teen years, Amish youth join groups of similar age males and females (a buddy bunch), who meet for social events, singings, and group activities. A lot of media attention has focused on the few youth who go wild during Rumschpringe, or “running around time” for Amish teens.
The truth is, though, about 95-percent of the teens stay true to their faith and form lifelong friendships and choose marriage partners from their buddy bunch. Those strong bonds among buddies last a lifetime as they help and support each other.
The first three books in the series feature three Amish girls of marriageable age who became good friends as part of a buddy bunch. The first book, The Amish Teacher’s Gift, tells the story of Ada, who is caring for her seven siblings after her mother’s death and teaching at the school for special needs children.
How do you approach writing about the Amish in a way that accurately represents their way of life?
I spend a lot of time with Amish friends–doing chores on their farms, babysitting their children, and participating in special events. I try to be as accurate as possible when I choose my storylines and do a lot of research.
For The Amish Teacher’s Gift, I spent time with parents and teachers of special needs children, visited schoolhouses, and toured the Community Care Center that teaches Amish and Mennonite children with special needs. For the next book, The Midwife’s Secret, I’ve been spending time with midwives, learning about Amish herbal remedies, and checking with country doctors.
After each book is finished, I ask my friends who are part of the Amish community to beta read my stories. I feel it’s important to show my respect for their way of life by keeping everything as true to life as I can. Many people aren’t aware of this, but each Amish group has different rules, so my books reflect the Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
What was the most challenging part of writing this novel?
For me, the most challenging part is getting the words down on the page. So often the story I visualize in my mind is not easy to translate into written language. I struggle to convey many of the little details – facial expressions, subtle body language, and internal thoughts – the most important parts of making the story come alive for the reader.
What do you hope readers take away after reading The Amish Teacher’s Gift?
People frequently judge what’s on the surface and miss the important part of a person – the heart. Children with special needs challenge this tendency to pass judgment quickly and brush off others we don’t deem worthy of our attention. As relatives, teachers, and guardians of special children will tell you, caring for them may be challenging, but it’s also rewarding. I want to highlight how these children truly are special to their families and to the world.
At the same time, I also want readers to close the covers with a heartfelt sigh, knowing that their dream of one special love is indeed a reality.
Visit Rachel J. Good’s author page here: https://www.familyfiction.com/authors/rachel-j-good
The Amish Teacher’s Gift
Love & Promises #1
Rachel J. Good