Sunday, January 16, 2011
I have a theory that all of life is “material”…so I’m constantly collecting character types, or funny remarks, or odd circumstances to use in a novel. I probably make people nervous! As for how much of me is in the characters…there are probably parts of every character that I relate to in some way. There’s a little bit of me as a teen in Bess, and one of my great aunt’s was an inspiration for Bertha.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Gosh, Lena…this is so hard to admit publicly…but I’m a closet birder. LOVE bird watching! Birds fascinate me—their migration is just miraculous. That’s one thing I’ve enjoyed learning about with the Amish—many are crackerjack birders, and all Amish farms are bird-friendly. Feeders, birdhouses are everywhere! Nature’s insect-control!
You'd really like my husband. He feeds all kinds of birds in our yards and loves to watch them. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I have loved to write for as long as I remember. I don’t think I was particularly good at it—I honestly don’t remember any teacher noting that I was talented as a writer. Ever! In college, it became a strength for me—but that had to do with the fact that I loved it. I have writer friends who can write circles around me. They can make a trip to the mailbox sound poetic!
I know what you mean. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read constantly—usually have two or three books going at the same time. If I find an author whom I really enjoy, I’ll read everything they write until I get a sense of who that writer is. The only kind of books that I avoid are dark books, ones that study the underbelly of humanity. Sadly—most of the bestsellers in the ABA are just that—very dark. Admittedly, great writing! But a dismal, godless theme.
That's why I've almost completely given up reading ABA books. I so miss the spiritual thread. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
One tool-to-slow-life-down is my daily dog walks. Getting outside, breathing fresh air, getting sunlight on my face, noticing nature’s gifts. I raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Am on my 9th puppy! You just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I study Amish names and try to find ones that are credible and regional—there are only about 50 Amish surnames, and ones that are distinctly Ohioan or Pennsylvanian, etc. Writing Amish fiction has many boundaries—and names are one of them. I’ll usually pick a name for a character, and let it settle for a day or two, to make sure it feels right for that personality.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
On a personal note, I am so proud of my children as young adults. Awesome individuals, making wonderful choices with their lives, and each one (I have four) has a genuine love for God. My husband and I do not take this issue lightly—we know that parents can do their very best and things don’t always turn out the way they would hope for their kids. I attribute much of my children’s maturity and wisdom to the weekly prayer groups I’ve been a part of (Moms in Touch). Wherever I’ve lived (even in Hong Kong!), I’ve joined or started a Moms in Touch group. God has blessed my children in so many ways, and that prayer ministry has been a big part of it. Raised ‘em with a wing and a prayer!
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Golden retriever or lab. Preferably a guide dog, because those pups have awesome lives. They get to go everywhere! They’re cherished dogs with full, happy lives.
That's so true. What is your favorite food?
Just one?! I think I could survive on fresh fruit. (I live in California—close to the source.) But chips and guacamole is a close second! :-)
I love guacamole, too, but I have to make my own, because I can't eat raw onions. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Confidence. If you met me, you probably wouldn’t realize how much I’ve struggle with confidence…but I do! This is an industry that is not only not looking for you, but it tries to determine why your book (or article) shouldn’t be published. And then…if a writer is fortunate enough to have a book published, he/she is really exposed! I think of it as being in front of the world in your underwear (eek!). Reviews, opinions…they came at you! Most are positive, but not all. For me, giving my lack of confidence to God has been a step in spiritual growth. Whenever I am speaking to a group or doing a book event, I have to relinquish this all over again and trust in God for the outcome.
Tell us about the featured book.
The Search is set in Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, and is the third in the Lancaster County Secrets series. The story begins on a summer day, as fifteen-year-old Bess Riehl is heading to her grandmother’s rose farm. Bess isn’t very enthusiastic about the immediate future, until she meets a young woman, Lainey O’Toole, who is working at the Sweet Tooth bakery. The warm friendship between Bess and Lainey seems to be coincidental…but it isn’t long before Bess’ grandmother reveals a few secrets that turn the summer upside down.
Please give us the first page of the book.
It was a June morning, hazy with summer’s heat, and Billy Lapp was already bone tired. Only one person on earth could wear out an eighteen-year-old farm boy, and Billy happened to be her hired hand. For over two weeks now, Bertha Riehl had met him at the barn door of Rose Hill Farm with a to-do list that seemed to grow longer with each passing hour. Bertha’s granddaughter, Bess, was coming for a summer visit, and Bertha wanted the farm so spic-and-span clean a body could eat off the barn floor. Which, Billy knew, meant he would be the one scrubbing that barn floor until it shone.
He didn’t know why Bertha felt her farm needed sprucing up. So sauwer wie gschleckt. It was as clean as a whistle. The vegetable garden ran neat and tidy from the kitchen steps down to the greenhouse, beside the yard where she stretched her clothesline. Why, hardly a rose petal dared to wilt without Bertha flying out to the fields with a pair of pruning shears in her big hands. And besides that, folks visited each other all the time. But then Billy remembered that something was not quite right between Bertha and Jonah, her son, Bess’s father. He had left years before. Billy didn’t know what had caused the rift, but he knew enough not to ask. Bertha could be private like that, keeping her business to herself.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I can be found online at http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.com/
Also, I’m addicted to Facebook and Twitter.
I’m also on www.toginet.com/shows/Amishwisdom with my weekly radio program (“Amish Wisdom”—such a great show with wonderful guests! Check it out!) and keep up a blog: http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.blogspot.com/
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Lena!
And thank you, Suzanne for this glimpse into your life and work.
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