Wow! You Must Do a Lot of Research

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This is the second thing most people ask me when I tell them I write about the Amish. The first is usually “Are you Amish?”

Well, no.

The first time I can remember hearing about the Amish I thought the person telling me about them was lying. Most probably it was my brother who liked to tease me beyond belief. I couldn’t be sure anything he said was actually the truth.

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The next time I was watching Witness. I don’t know how old I was (at least seventeen, though). But I remember in the movie, the bad guys are looking for the Lapps. They call the local law enforcement in Lancaster who says, “Do you know how many Lapps are in Lancaster County?”

At the time I had no idea.

After that I didn’t think about the Amish much. I went to college, got married, and moved to the Caribbean. In fact, I probably didn’t think about the Amish again until my agent suggested I write a book about them.

Wait…what?

“Yes,” she said. “Write an Amish romance.” I really thought she was joking and when she didn’t call me back and tell me that she was pulling my leg, I went to Mardells and started my research.

For those of you who don’t live in the area, Mardells is a Christian bookstore owned by Hobby Lobby. I went to get fiction books about the Amish to read to get an idea what they were like. I mean, I knew all the elements of a secular romance. How different was an Amish one?

Turns out, they are incredibly different and not so different all at the same time.

amish-listBut reading fiction books with Amish characters is a lot different than non-fiction books, and I found myself reading and watching everything I could. From Donald Kraybill to Amish Mafia. Yes, I meant it when I said everything.

These days it’s still the same. I absorb whatever I can about the Amish, but my favorite way to do research is to visit the communities themselves. Even ones that I don’t plan to write about.

Why? Because the Amish are fascinating people. I find it simply amazing how the communities differ and the ways that they are the same. When we were in Pontotoc, we were warned by the locals that they were stand-offish and didn’t readily talk to outsiders. We took that knowledge, shoved it in our back pockets, then headed toward the Amish houses. By the middle of the afternoon, we had met Elizabeth Hostetler. She and her husband had moved down from Ohio to be able to farm—land was getting scarce up north. She was canning chicken and couldn’t talk to us long, but managed to share a few nuggets of information including Thanksgiving traditions, when the Mississippi Amish leave school (yes, it is different from Lancaster), and the truth about their rumspringa. I was told on my first visit to Ethridge, Tennessee (the parent community to the one in Mississippi), that they didn’t have a rumspringa or run around time at all. What we learned from our new friend is that they have one, but it is very controlled and very conservative. Those wild and crazy stories they report about Amish teens running amuck are not coming from Mississippi.

So how does a person go from not knowing much to writing books about the Amish? Yes, it takes a lot of research and nothing beats going to a community and visiting with the people there.

I’ve been privileged enough to spend an entire week with my Old Order Amish friend in Pennsylvania. Nothing compares to living the life every day. After a while I forgot that I was among Amish and I was just among friends. I didn’t notice the differences until we (Stacey, Sadie, and I) ventured into town on a Saturday. And I knew I would never view the Amish the same again.

This year Stacey and I hope to return to Pontotoc, Big Valley, and of course, Lancaster County. But even more, we want to take a Missouri trip and check out all the interesting Amish settlements in the Show Me State.

You can bet, I’ll come back and show you everything I learned.

What about you? Where is the closest Amish community to your home and have you ever been?

I’m giving away a signed copy of Just Plain Sadie to one lucky winner this week. Just leave me a comment below.

And as always, thanks for reading!!

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127 thoughts on “Wow! You Must Do a Lot of Research

  1. The closest Amish community to us is Lancaster,PA. It’s a little
    Over a 2 hour drive and we go a few times a year. We love going to all the shops and the pretzels and lemonade alone are worth the trip! It is also gorgeous out there in the fall. And the fresh cider donuts from Kauffmans fruit farm are amazing! I also enjoy going on the Strasburg railroad to take in the views of the Amish farms.

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    1. The pretzels alone are worth the drive! 🙂 I was watching a food show the other day and they credited the Amish with bringing pretzels to America. Interesting stuff! Thanks for reading!

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  2. I love reading the amish stories and need to read about Sadie, so glad you have done research and like writing this type of book. I have heard about the amish in Florida and would love to visit that area one day.
    Paula O
    Ga.

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  3. The closest one to us is in Lancaster, PA
    We went there for our 20th ann. 9 years ago. Stayed in a bed and breakfast, rode in an Amish buggy, drove around and saw Amish people walking and working on the farm. It was a nice and relaxing weekend.

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  4. I live a about an hour & a half from Holmes county in Ohio. We’ve been to Berlin,Sugarcreek, Charm & all over down there. We love it

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  5. I am a avid reader of amish books.most of my books are about the amish..hoping to someday visit an area where I can experience the amish personally..thanks for the chance to read this one

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  6. I have Amish within a few miles of me and about 5 miles are friends who operate a produce stand where I buy produce every few days in late spring through fall. I also deal with Amish at the business I work at. I am 2 hours from Berlin, Ohio, my favorite spot to shop all things period. The shops along main street and beyond are favorite spots to browse for treasures. I have found out of the way places also where the conversation is always friendly. I have been to Shipshewana, which I loved and Lancaster County which I found different and not as commercialized as I thought.

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  7. The closest Amish settlement to me is about 30 miles away, in Geauga County. Burton, Middlefield, and Mesopotamia in Trumbull County are the ones I visit the most.
    Another settlement about an hour south in Ashland or Wayne County (at the Amish Produce Auction-way fun!) that I’ve visited as well but those are the only ones I’ve been to.

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  8. I live closest to Lancaster County in PA. I’ve been going their since I was a little girl. I have now introduced my boyfriend to it and I would like to get my stepsons there eventually.

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  9. I would love to visit all those places too…I really love the Amidh…and even more…I love your books about them…your research adds tp your books…they are so real…you feel a part of whatever you are reading!!! I would love to win any of your books…and I just got More Than a Marriage…which I will read by tomorrow…or the next day…I usually can’t put the books sown…until I am finished!!! Thanks so much for the opportunities to win…your wonderful books!!! Have a wonderful, Blessed Day!!!

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