Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring the Amish Heirloom Series
After losing her fiancé in a tragic accident, Veronica Fisher finds solace in the old recipes stored in her mother’s hope chest—and in a special visitor who comes to her bake stand to purchase her old fashioned raspberry pies.
Veronica Fisher is devastated when her fiancé, Seth, is killed in an accident at work. Seth’s friend, Jason Huyard, was with him and blames himself for Seth’s death. Although Jason has never met Veronica, he feels as if he knows her because Seth talked about her constantly. After the accident, he can’t seem to get Veronica out of his mind.
Two months later, Veronica is cleaning the attic and comes across her mother’s old hope chest. She finds an old recipe and soon discovers that baking helps her cope with her grief, so she opens a bake stand to sell her pies.
Jason starts visiting the stand weekly and their friendship grows, but Veronica isn’t ready to court again. And Jason harbors his secret regret of not being able to save Seth.
Veronica’s mother must convince her that she can’t completely give up on love. But when the truth is revealed, can she forgive Jason for not telling her he was there on that fateful day?
Brock: What was your inspiration for writing this series?
Amy: The Amish Heirloom series features the fictional Fisher family, who live in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. The series was inspired during a visit to my publisher’s offices located in Nashville, Tenn., for a meeting. While there, I had the opportunity to brainstorm ideas with my amazing agent and also the talented members of the Fiction team. Daisy Blackwell Hutton, Vice President and Publisher, suggested I write a series about a family with three daughters, located in Bird-in-Hand, and the series was born. I’m really excited about this series, and I look forward to hearing what my readers think of it.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Amy: Veronica Fisher is the eldest of the three Fisher daughters. She has known since she was a teenager that she wanted to join the church and marry her fiancé, Seth, who passes away in an accident at the beginning of the story. She’s grieving and tries to find solace through cooking her grandmother’s recipes, which she finds in her mother’s hope chest in the attic.
Jason Huyard is lost after his friend Seth is killed in an accident right in front of him at work. He blames himself for not being able to save Seth. He becomes obsessed with apologizing to Seth’s fiancée, Veronica, but then finds himself falling in love with her when he meets her. He wants to be with Veronica, but he knows she’ll be devastated when she finds out the truth – that he was there when Seth died – since he wasn’t up front from the beginning. He needs to both forgive himself and be honest with Veronica.
When they meet, sparks fly, and they are attracted to each other. The situation becomes more and more complicated as Jason falls in love with Veronica, but is afraid to tell her that he knew Seth.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Amy: I always have mental models for my characters and I imagine them when I write the book. My mental model for Veronica was movie star Jennifer Lawrence (from “Hunger Games”), and my model for Jason is British actor Theo James (from “Divergent”). That means readers can imagine Katniss (from “Hunger Games”) and Four (from “Divergent”) together in this book!
Brock: In three sentences, what is this book about?
After losing her fiancé in a tragic accident, Veronica Fisher finds solace in the old recipes stored in her mother’s hope chest– and in a special visitor who comes to her bake stand to purchase her old-fashioned raspberry pies.
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?
Amy: 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.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Amy: I believe we’ve all suffered from loss in our lives, whether it’s from losing a family member or a friend. Those of us who have lost someone knows what it feels like to try to have to rebuild our lives and figure out how to pick up the pieces and go on after that loss. Veronica struggles with both overcoming her grief and then dealing with guilt as she feels herself falling for Jason.
Brock: What is 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 enjoy finding new ways to tell an Amish story. I learn more about the culture with every book I write.
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Amy: The Forgotten Recipe is the first book in my 4-book Amish Heirloom series.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
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 she takes the time from her busy day to help me with my books.
Brock: 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.
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a male protagonist?
Amy: I enjoy writing from both the female and male point of view, and I’ve been told 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.
Brock: Are you working on the next book in the series?
Amy: Actually, I recently completed the first round of edits The Courtship Basket, which is book #2, and I’m feverishly writing the first draft of book #3, which doesn’t have a title yet.
Brock: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
Amy: I can tell you that The Courtship Basket is about Rachel, the middle sister, and she takes a job working as a teacher in an Amish school.
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?
Amy: I plotted this series out before I started The Forgotten Recipe because there is a mystery that will be revealed in book #4. I drop hints in books 1-3, but mystery won’t be explained until book #4.
Brock: If your book changed as you wrote it, how is it different than how you originally planned?
Amy: My original idea was that Jason was an EMT who responded to Seth’s accident. Instead, my agent and I decided Jason should be Seth’s coworker and best friend which added to the emotional depth of the story.
Brock: How much leeway do you give yourself with facts in a Historical genre?
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.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Amy: I have a laptop, and I usually write in the family room in my house or in the recliner in my bedroom.
Brock: 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’s a tremendous help with the household chores. Thanks to her help, I’m able to spend any free time at home writing. My schedule is hectic but I make it work. My family is very supportive and thankful for my book contracts.
Brock: 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. Sometimes it takes longer because I have to stop working on the draft in order to complete edits for another book. I always have more than one project going at a time since I’m working on both full-length novels and novellas. Currently, I have contracts to write two full-length novels and two novellas per year.
Brock: What do you hope readers take away from the series?
Amy: The theme for my books is always hope and faith. I pray my books will give my readers a sense of peace and help them find hope and renewed faith in God.
Brock: Expound on the spiritual themes in the series?
Amy: My Amish Heirloom series books will all contain the themes of hope, faith, love, and forgiveness. My characters experience grief, loss, and heartache, along with renewed faith and love.
Brock: 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 debuted in stores in April 2009.
Brock: 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.
Brock: What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
Amy: I read a variety of books—from Christian fiction to contemporary young adult. I enjoy a good story with romantic elements, no matter what the genre is.
Brock: 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.
Brock: 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.
Brock: Describe your feelings when you opened the box and saw the first 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! 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.
Brock: 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.
Brock: 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 God is using my voice to share his word, and I’m thankful 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.
Brock: Coke or Pepsi?
Amy: COKE!!! Diet Coke!!
Brock: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Amy: Oh, that’s a difficult one. May I please say either? I like both!
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Amy: Disney World! Since we can’t afford to go there every year, we enjoy a yearly trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.
Brock: Favorite season?
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Amy: Diet Coke and popcorn are my favorite.
Brock: Favorite color?
Brock: What’s your favorite holiday memory?
Amy: Since I lost my father in 2010, I would say all of my childhood memories with my parents at Christmastime. Christmas was always magical for me, and my husband and I try to make it magical for my two sons as well.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Amy: Romans 12:12: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
This verse was very close to my heart when my husband was on dialysis and we were impatiently awaiting for his second kidney transplant.
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
Amy: I’m not a big pasta eater, but I do love eggplant parmesan. I’ll take some spaghetti with it!
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
Amy: Yes, I do listen to music, but I’m definitely a moody writer. Sometimes I need a soft type of genre, such as Taylor Swift, and other times, I prefer more hard rock. It depends on my mood.
Brock: 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.
Brock: What advice do you give aspiring authors when they ask you what the secret is to getting published?
Amy: I don’t believe there is a secret to getting published, but I do have a list of things I believe will help writers on their journey to publication. Here is my list.
Join a Writers’ Group
I accidentally found the website for a local writers’ group while in search for a professional group to join as part of my day job as a technical writer. That group is Chesapeake Romance Writers, which is based in Chesapeake, Virginia, and is a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. When I attended one of the monthly meetings, I met writers in all stages of their careers – from brand new (like me) to multi-published. It was then that I realized that I wanted to become a published author. Through this group, I learned how to plot and polish my novels, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter that would pique an agent’s interest.
I strongly suggest you find a group near you and socialize with other writers. You’ll have fun and also learn a lot. If you’re not interested in attending local meetings, you always have the option of joining a virtual group. There are organizations that host discussion groups, and a few include America Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Join the group that best fits your interest and needs and get connected.
Attend a Conference
If you have the money and the time, attend a writers’ conference, where you can network and attend instructional sessions that cover many aspects of writing and the publishing business. Conferences are fun and informative.
Find a Critique Partner
During my journey to publication, I’ve made some wonderful friends, a few of whom have become my most trusted critique partners. They help me plot and polish my books before I submit them to my editor. Don’t write in a vacuum; share your books with trusted friends. Your buddies will not only find your typos, but they may give you story ideas that you hadn’t considered and will make your plot even better.
Find Time to Read
I know what it means to be busy. I balance a day job, two active little boys, and my writing deadlines. I enjoy listening to audio books in my car during my commute to and from work. I listen to everything from Christian fiction to young adult to romance. While reading is fun, it’s also a way to improve your skills by seeing what techniques work (and sometimes don’t work) for other authors.
It may sound silly, but writers need to write! Finish your novel and polish it as best you can before submitting it to an agent or editor. Your book represents your best work. Show a potential agent or editor that you’re contentious and eager to write for them.
Don’t Give Up
No matter what, believe in yourself and believe in your dream of holding your book in your hand! If you’ve been rejected by an agent or editor, don’t give up. I received plenty of rejection letters and I wanted to give up many times. I’m thankful for my family and my friends who told me to stop whining and keep writing.
Author Website: AmyClipston.com
Author Twitter: @AmyClipston