Interview by Ashley Eastman
Featuring Amy Clipston
Linda is no stronger to hardship. Now she dares to hope for a chance at love and a new beginning.
As the sole survivor of a buggy accident that left her orphaned at age four, Linda Zook was raised by her unwilling Uncle Reuben. She longs to be worthy of someone, but the life-long effects of her injuries and her upbringing under the care of her embittered uncle have destroyed her self-worth.
Aaron Ebersol left the Amish community seventeen years ago when he could no longer bear the restrictions or the constant tension with his father. Despite all of his unanswered letters to his parents, and the roots he’s put down in Missouri, Aaron hastily returns to the Amish community of Paradise, Pennsylvania, after receiving word of his mother’s stroke. Hesitant to get too close to the family he was once a part of, he decides to stay at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast. He soon encounters Linda, working there part-time, and the two find they have a lot in common.
Can Linda and Aaron forgive the family members who have deceived and forsaken them? And will Aaron be able to convince Linda that she is worthy of his love?
Amy Clipston consistently delivers an exciting look into the lives of the Amish. Her experience as an author and knowledge of the Amish world creates exciting characters and rich stories that take her readers along on an engaging story.
Ashley: Amy, thanks for joining us. First, I wanted to ask how you came up with the idea for The Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series?
Amy: The Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series features women who work at the fictional Lancaster Grand Hotel. The series was inspired by the Berlin Grand Hotel in Berlin, Ohio, which I visited in 2011 while I was on a book tour with two other Amish fiction authors, Shelley Shepard Gray and Vannetta Chapman. When we visited the hotel, Alicia Mey, the marketing representative from Zondervan, suggested I write a series about Amish women who work in a high-end hotel and show the juxtaposition of the Plain life with the fancy English (non-Amish) life.
Ashley: I can imagine how being immersed in a place like the Berlin Grand Hotel can really get your imagination turning. Who are the main characters in A Simple Prayer and what makes them unique?
Amy: As the sole survivor of a buggy accident that left her orphaned at age four, Linda Zook was reluctantly raised by her Uncle Reuben. She longs to be worthy of someone, but the lasting trauma of her injuries and embittered upbringing by her uncle have destroyed her self-worth.
Aaron Ebersol left the Amish community seventeen years ago when he could no longer bear the restrictions or the constant tension with his father. Despite years of unanswered letters to his parents, and the roots he’s put down in Missouri, Aaron rushes back to the Amish community of Paradise, Pennsylvania, after receiving word of his mother’s stroke. Hesitant to get too close to the family he was once a part of, he decides to stay at the Heart of Paradise Bed & Breakfast. He soon encounters Linda, working there part-time, and the two find they have a lot in common.
Ashley: These are characters I certainly can’t wait to learn more about. Can you share one unknown fact about Linda and Aaron with our readers?
Amy: I always have mental models for my characters and I imagine them when I write the book. My mental model for Linda was movie star Natalie Portman, and my model for Aaron was Olympic ice skater Charlie White.
Ashley: Give readers the one sentence version of A Simple Prayer?
Amy: Two emotionally broken people looking for love and acceptance.
Ashley: How does A Simple Prayer relate to the lives of your readers?
Amy: I believe that we’ve all suffered from some sort of rejection in our lives, whether it’s from a family member or a friend. Everyone has been hurt and knows what it’s like to feel alone.
Ashley: When you write do you outline or follow the story as it develops?
Amy: Oh, I definitely outline! I outline each chapter scene by scene and use my outline as a roadmap while I’m writing. The book changes and grows, but the outline keeps me on track.
Ashley: Is this your favorite genre to write for?
Amy: I love writing Amish books. I have an Amish friend who helps me with my research, and I enjoy sharing ideas with her and getting her feedback. I love finding new ways to tell an Amish story, and I respect the culture. I learn more about the culture when I write a new book.
Ashley: Is there a biblical background for A Simple Prayer?
Amy: A Simple Prayer is loosely based on the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Ashley: How many books are planned for The Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series?
Amy: A Simple Prayer is the last book in my 4-book Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series.
Ashley: How do you research the Amish world to make such accurate portrayals of the Amish world?
Amy: I have an Amish friend who has been helping me with my books since my first book, A Gift of Grace, debuted in 2009. I talk to her on the phone frequently, and she answers my questions. I’m so thankful that she takes the time from her busy day to help me with my books.
Ashley: How do you strike the right balance in your book?
Amy: I outline the story, but it sort of flows on its own. I write what feels right to me and let my editor do her magic to make it better.
Ashley: What do your readers think about your latest series?
Amy: I think readers will enjoy A Simple Prayer because it’s the last book in the series and the mysteries about a couple of the characters will be revealed. All of their questions will be answered with this book.
Ashley: Why did you choose to focus on male and female protagonists?
Amy: I enjoy writing from both the female and male point of view, and I’ve been told that I do a good job with the male POV. I enjoy watching people and listening to how they speak and react to things, and I try to bring that out in my writing.
Ashley: Are you working on your next series?
Amy: Currently, I’m working on a new series, which features a new Amish family and will be based in Bird-in-Hand, PA. The first book will debut in November 2015.
Ashley: 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?
Amy: I loosely plotted the books in my Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series. My editor and I decided who would be the main protagonists in each book, but we didn’t have their stories ironed out when I start writing A Hopeful Heart. My new series, however, is plotted out, and I know what the story will be for each book. The stories may grow and change when I write them, but I have a premise for each book.
Ashley: How is A Simple Prayer different than how you originally planned?
Amy: The idea of Aaron coming back in book #4 wasn’t in the original plan for the story. I knew that the book would be Linda’s story, but my editor and I hadn’t worked out the idea of having Aaron come back until we were finishing up book on book #2, A Mother’s Secret.
Ashley: How much leeway do you give yourself with facts about the Amish?
Amy: I am always true to the Amish culture, but I do take some fictional license with my characters. For example, Carolyn Glick in A Mother’s Secret was an unwed teenage mother. This may be a rare occurrence in the Amish community, but according to my Amish friend, it does happen. The Amish have the same problems and issues that the rest of us have.
Ashley: Where do you like to write?
Amy: I have a laptop, so I usually write in the family room in my house or in the recliner in my bedroom.
Ashley: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Amy: I work full-time for the City of Charlotte, and since I write four books per year, I also write full-time. I work four 10-hour days for the City in order to have Fridays off for writing, running errands, and volunteering at my boys’ school. I’m also blessed to have my mother living with my family. She handles most of the housework, including food shopping, cleaning, and doing laundry. Thanks to her help, I’m able to spend any free time at home writing. My schedule is not an ideal schedule, but I make it work. My family is very supportive and thankful for my book contracts.
Ashley: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Amy: After the book is plotted out and outlined, it takes me approximately four weeks to write the first draft.
Ashley: What do you hope readers take away from the series?
Amy: The theme for my books is always hope and faith. I pray that my books will give my readers a sense of peace and help them find hope and renewed faith in God.
Ashley: What is your "how I got published" story?
Amy: I always wrote as a hobby when I was a child. I started carrying around notebooks in elementary and only shared my stories with a few friends. I accidentally found a local writers’ group after college. I joined the writers’ group in 2001 and signed with my first agent in 2005. I received my contract for my first Kauffman Amish Bakery book, A Gift of Grace, in December 2007, and that book actually hit stores in April 2009.
Ashley: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Amy: Although I wrote for a hobby, I didn’t realize I wanted to become an author until I found the writers’ group in 2001. It never occurred to me that my stories could possibly become actual books until I met other writers and learned how to polish my books.
Ashley: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
Amy: My favorite book was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I read it fourteen times (yes, I kept track on the inside cover!) and I knew the movie by heart.
Ashley: What is the one author, living or dead, who you would co-write a book with and why?
Amy: I would love to co-write a young adult book with S.E. Hinton. Her books were a pivotal part of my adolescence. I would be honored to work with her.
Ashley: What was it like when you opened the box and saw published copies of your very first book?
Amy: I danced and yelled! I ran my hands over the cover and then smelled and hugged the book. It was my dream come true. There was no feeling like it! In fact, I still hug and smell my books when a new book arrives. It doesn’t get old. I’m so thankful that my publisher still gives me the opportunity to share my stories.
Ashley: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
Amy: I hope that I can continue to write books that touch readers’ hearts. I’m thankful when a reader contacts me and tells me that my story touched them. I’m thankful that God is using me to share his love.
Ashley: In what ways does your faith impact how you approach writing?
Amy: I believe my faith comes through in my writing. I’m grateful when a reader contacts me to say that my book helped him/her renew his/her faith in God. I believe that God is using my voice to share his word, and I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to do that. The books have been a blessing in my life, especially with the readers and other authors I’ve met through my writing.
Ashley: I know that organ and blood donation is something you are passionate about, Amy. Please share a little about this.
Amy: Some readers may not know that my husband, Joe, has endured two kidney transplants. Joe received a kidney from his brother in 2004, and it only lasted four years. In 2008, he went back on dialysis, and he was very ill. I was willing to donate to Joe, but I wasn’t a perfect match. Instead of donating a kidney to Joe, I found another way to help him.
I donated a kidney on June 14, 2011, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through my donation, my husband, Joe, received a second kidney transplant. My husband and I matched another couple and swapped kidneys with them. I donated a kidney to a woman, and in exchange, her husband gave a kidney to Joe. My memoir, A Gift of Love, details our journey with Joe’s kidney disease and his two kidney transplants. You can find my memoir here.
Due to Joe’s kidney struggles, I’ve become an advocate for both organ and blood donation. I volunteer with the National Kidney Foundation, and I also run blood drives at my church. If you are healthy and able, please give the gift of life and donate blood.
Ashley: You've posted some delicious looking Amish recipes on your website. Do you incorporate these into your novels and do you have a favorite?
Amy: My first Amish series, the Kauffman Amish Bakery series, featured several recipes in each of the five books. Crumbly Peach Pie was the favorite of Timothy Kauffman, who was featured in my book A Place of Peace. Timothy is one of my favorite characters, so I thought I’d include that recipe here:
Crumbly Peach Pie
9-inch pie shell, unbaked
1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 stick butter
8 large peach halves
¼ cup water
Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then mix in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle half of the mixture in the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange peach halves cut side down over crumbs. Cover with remaining crumbs. Add the water after and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Author Website: AmyClipston.com
Author Twitter: @AmyClipston
Author Pinterest: pinterest.com/amyclipston