Q: WHAT INSPIRED THE WINGS OF MORNING?
Two things: early flying and the Amish stance against warfare. I would love to fly in a biplane with an open cockpit and have the wind whipping through my hair and I think others would love to fly that way too. Mix that in with World War One, an Amish boy who loves to fly but refuses to fight, an army that demands he use his flying skills to serve his country, and a beautiful girl whose heart is torn between her aviator and her people and you have a story.
Q: ALTHOUGH YOUR BOOK IS FICTION – WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SOME ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK THAT CAME FROM REAL LIFE?
The planes used in the story are all the planes flown at the time, none are made up or fictional. The Amish struggle to decide what to do about the new technologies that came at them all at once – telephones, motorcars, airplanes, and public electricity – is exactly how it was in 1917. The persecution against the ones who would not enlist and fight, such as Mennonites, Hutterites, Quakers, and the Amish, is frightening but true. The Spanish Flu Epidemic, which broke out in 1918 and 1919 and spread around the world, sadly killed more people than the war had done. Those who sacrificed themselves to nurse highly infectious victims were as much heroes as the soldiers whose courage inspired their countries to pin medals on their chests.
Q: WHEN MAKING UP STORIES, HOW MUCH DO YOU DRAW ON YOUR OWN LIFE EXPERIENCES AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW, VERSUS DRAWING ON RESEARCH ABOUT COMPLETE STRANGERS?
I draw on life experiences all the time. I use people I know or knew as well as people I didn’t know well or who were complete strangers to me. Sometimes the real persons are sort of like a character in one of my stories, other times a lot like a character, and other times I combine the traits of two people to make up one. There is always something from real life in what I write. And if I bring famous and historic figures into my books – say, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Clara Barton the Civil War nurse, for instance – I do so only after I’ve read a lot of their letters, talks, and speeches, and let all the direct quotations I can find from them soak into my blood and my imagination. That way they also are like real people in my tales, not cardboard cutouts.
Q: WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I am writing a romance that climaxes in Pearl Harbor but that has a number of twists in it that I haven’t found in any other works of fiction about that infamous attack on December 7th, 1941. There is also another romance, set at Christmas time, about a young soldier who returns home from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he served as a medic and saved hundreds of lives, to find home doesn’t want him – the Amish reject him outright due to his military service. And there is another project that is non-fiction, an inspirational book about God, the beautiful and rugged wilderness of North America, the Bible, and how those three can come together to offer us an incredible faith walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: FACT VS. FICTION – WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME EXAMPLES IN YOUR NOVEL WHERE YOU TOOK SOME LIBERTIES WITH THE FACTS?
Well, I honestly work hard not to do that. One editor early on in The Wings of Morning project said, “Hey, that kind of persecution didn’t happen to the Amish and Mennonites, their neighbors wouldn’t have permitted it.” So then I forwarded to him all my research and he realized it had been pretty bad in some communities and, in fact, it was the very neighbors who were doing much of the church burnings, the vandalism, and the beatings. Of course if you have real Presidents or Vice Presidents or other historical figures talking with fictional characters, none of that happened, that’s part of writing a work of fiction. But I never deliberately try to twist history out of shape to suit my story. I don’t like it when I find it in other books of historical fiction so I work hard not to do it myself.