Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Second Chance Amish Bride
Caring for her late cousin's young kinder is Jessie Miller's duty—even if it means seeing their father again. Years ago, she thought Caleb King might be her husband—until he met her cousin and Jessie's dream was cut short. Laid up with a broken leg and a demanding dairy farm, Caleb needs her.
But Caleb wants no woman around…and not reminder of the wife who abandoned her family before her death. Especially since he fears Jessie will throw a wrench in his plan to remain a single dad. She's gentle and kind, and if Caleb isn't careful, she may be just what his little Amish family needs.
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Marta: I really wanted to do a series of books about siblings who had all been affected by a single traumatic event in their family. It turned out to be the three King brothers, and I loved exploring the different ways each of them had reacted and how each of them found love and hope for the future.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Marta: Jessie Miller is a single Amish woman who has given up the expectation of love for herself but who finds contentment in helping others, including her nieces and nephews. She is gentle and loving but also very firm in her belief as to what's right for the children in her care, even when her belief runs counter to their father's opinions. Caleb King has reacted to the abandonment of first his mother and then his wife by distrusting women, and he's convinced he can raise his two young children on his own. But when disaster strikes he's forced to accept the help he doesn't want, and in doing so, he begins to learn that only through forgiving the past can he find the future he wants for his family.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Marta: Jessie cherishes the memory of a single afternoon spent with Caleb, more than half in love with him before she realizes he only has eyes for her cousin. Caleb can never let anyone know that beneath his anger and lack of forgiveness for the wife who deserted him and their children, he harbors the deep guilt that it might have been his fault.
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
Marta: How about three phrases? This book is about forgiving the wrongs of the past, learning to trust God in the present, and gaining hope for a brighter future.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Marta: The very idea of letting the characters take control makes me nervous. I always plan my stories in advance, but I leave enough freedom to take advantage of the serendipitous scenes that seem to pop up when I'm writing.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Marta: I think most of us who have lived for a few years have experienced being let down by someone we love, and most of us have felt guilty about things left undone and wrong choices made. If it speaks to a few people who are struggling with these problems, then I'll have done what I set out to do.
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
Marta: Since I write both romance and suspense, my favorite genre varies. When I'm in the midst of accounting for all the clues, secrets, and hidden motives of a suspense plot, I tend to think longingly of the more character-driven romances. And when I'm writing my way through the middle of a romance and trying to find new ways of making emotion come alive, I get lots of ideas for suspense! I guess a writer is never really satisfied!
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Marta: The Brides of Lost Creek series is planned for three books, although there may be other stories in the future that take place in Lost Creek.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Marta: Writing about the Amish always takes research, but since I have known Plain People for most of my life, much of the research has already been done. Even so, questions often come up in a particular book that send me off on a search for an answer.
Brock: How do you strike the right balance in your book?
Marta: I try to thread the romantic relationship in my books with the protagonist's inner and spiritual issues. I find that one will influence the other, sometimes in ways I don't expect, or perhaps a moment of understanding in one relationship will become reflected in the main romance plot.
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a male protagonist?
Marta: In this particular series, I give fairly equal weight to the male and female protagonists, but I began this story with the hero, because he is the one with the critical problem that kicks off the action of the story.
Brock: Yeah, makes sense. Are you working on the next book in The Brides of Lost Creek series?
Marta: I have already written the second book in the series, although we're still discussing possible titles. I typically alternate between writing a romance and writing a suspense.
Brock: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Marta: The next book in the series is about Daniel, the brother of the hero in the first book. All three brothers were greatly affected by the fact that their mother deserted the family when they were young, and so each story shows how a particular brother comes to a resolution of that past relationship.
Brock: Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
Marta: When I begin a series, I typically sketch out the general opening situation of each book, since I want to be sure I haven't repeated myself in any way. The books are connected through the characters and the setting, and so I need to have a good handle of those characters as they are presented in each book. Then I begin with the first book and write a detailed synopsis of that story.
Brock: How much leeway do you gives yourself with facts in a Historical Romance?
Marta: Since I'm writing Amish fiction set in Pennsylvania, I work very hard to be sure that every custom or event I'm describing is accurate to a Pennsylvania Amish community. The fact that some traditions and customs vary from one church district to another gives me a certain amount of leeway in deciding what those are for my fictional community.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Marta: My family knows that I can write anywhere, at any time. In the car, sitting at the airport waiting for a flight, on vacation…wherever. I learned that when I started writing while my kids were young, and I had to write while waiting for kids to finish rehearsals, practices, lessons, etc. It was good training, but my favorite spot is in my recliner with a laptop in front of me and a hot cup of Earl Grey tea on the table next to me.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?
Marta: Full-time, in the sense that I don't now have another job. However, I do try to pace myself, so that I always have time for grandkids, church work, and fun with my husband.
Brock: Yep. As authors, we have to keep adjusting writing to our lifestyles. And that brings us to our next question. How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Marta: I usually plan on three months for a shorter book and four months for a longer one. However, life happens, and sometimes the schedule becomes skewed. I find that working steadily, even for a short time each day, keeps my mind in the book, so that I'm never really away from it.
Brock: What is your "how I got published" story?
Marta: I had long wanted to write, but I finally started actively trying to be published when I was working as a Director of Christian Education. I read so many of the short children's stories that were published to illustrate a Biblical theme that I began to wonder if I could do that, so I tried. To my considerable surprise, my first story sold on its third excursion into the world. I earned the magnificent amount of $16, and after that, there was no turning back. I owe a great deal to that first sale to Story Friends magazine!
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Marta: When I was a child I read anything and everything, especially all the Nancy Drew books, but the book that stayed with me to be read and re-read was Little Women. Everything about it touched me emotionally, and I still love it.
Brock: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Marta: I have always, from those first children's stories for Sunday School magazines, had a spiritual truth that was at the heart of each story. Even when the story is not openly inspirational, that germ of truth is a part of it.
Brock: Love it when God works through your writing like that. Amazing, truly amazing! Favorite place to vacation?
Marta: I love to travel, but the place that is most relaxing for a vacation is at the beach. Or on a cruise ship!
Brock: Nice! Sounds fun! Favorite season?
Marta: Spring. I love watching the appearance of each sign of spring from the earliest bulbs through the perennials.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Marta: Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey tea and shortbread cookies.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Marta: Now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face-to-face. Now we understand in part, then we shall understand fully, even as we are fully understood.
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
Marta: I'm partial to my own homemade manicotti, although I'll happily eat anyone else's if offered.
Brock: What do you hope for your children and grandchildren?
Marta: That they grow to be loving individuals, reflecting Christ to everyone they encounter.
Brock: Certainly a wonderful goal to strive for. What's coming in the next year for you in publishing?
Marta: The next book in my romantic suspense series will be out in November, and the next book in the Brides of Lost Creek series will be out in May, 2018. Also next year, the first seven of my Pleasant Valley Amish books will be re-released in mass market, so I hope they'll reach a brand new audience.