Hello, Kelly! How long have you been writing?
Kelly: All my life, it seems. I wrote poems, plays, and short stories growing up. Then I went to college and became a journalist so I wrote nonfiction for a living. It was all-consuming so I put my dreams of writing fiction on hold. I married my husband and we had two children. One day I woke up and realized I’d turned forty-five. My dream of being a published novelist was slipping away. It took seven years to publish my first novel, but my dream did come true! Now that I’m retired, I’m writing full-time and loving it.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
Kelly: My agent, Mary Sue Seymour, encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. I was hesitant at first, but then I realized I’d found a place where I felt at home. I grew up in a small, rural community. My parents had a huge vegetable garden. My mom canned everything. She sewed our clothes on a treadle sewing machine. She taught us to make homemade bread and desserts. We had no phone—not for religious reasons, but for economic ones. I had all this experience and knowledge that helps me step into writing the scenes in Amish fiction. I’m challenged by what the Amish believe and how they live their beliefs. I’m challenged to examine my own beliefs and whether I live them. I hope my readers are as well.
What are some of the references you used while researching your book?
Kelly: I interviewed a saddle maker who used to be a working cowboy on a ranch. That was a lot of fun. I also did a great deal of on-line research for newspaper and magazine articles about the influx of young, unaccompanied children into the United States via the Texas-Mexico border. A Spanish-English dictionary came in very handy, and of course, my standard resources, Amish Society, by John A. Hostetler, and The Amish, by Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Kelly: I loved Lupe and Diego, my little ones from El Salvador. Having the mix of the Plain families with these two, who shook up their lives and stretched their cultural understanding. I loved doing the research into what toys they might have and what foods they would miss. It was fun writing a story that is very different from what you might typically expect in an Amish romance in terms of setting, characters, and even some of the language. I found myself stretched as a writer as well.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Kelly: I recently completed the first book in a four-book series for Zondervan. It is entitled On a Spring Breeze. It’s so completely different than the Amish of Bee County series set in south Texas. Changing things up really keeps me on my toes! I also have two novellas coming out next year as part of Thomas Nelson anthologies. Lots to do!
It sure sounds like it. Thanks so much, Kelly, for dropping by!
Kelly has graciously offered a print copy of The Saddle Maker’s Son to one person who leaves a comment below. 🙂
Kelly Irvin, a Kansas native, is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and multi-published author. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for more than thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. She recently retired after working 22 years in public relations for the City of San Antonio. Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two young adult children, two grandchildren and two ornery cats. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.
Rebekah Lantz feels imprisoned by circumstances she didn’t create. Tobias Byler is haunted by regret. Can two young runaways from half a world away teach them the healing power of true family?
Rebekah isn’t like her sister, but the watchful gaze of her family and small, close knit Amish community makes her feel as if she’s been judged and found lacking. The men avoid her and the women whisper behind her back. She simply longs for the same chance to be a wife and mother that her friends have.
Tobias Byler only wants to escape feelings for a woman he knows he should never have allowed to get close to him. Moving with his family to isolated Bee County, Texas, seemed the best way to leave his mistakes behind. But even a move across the country can’t erase the past that accompanies his every thought.
A surprise encounter with two half-starved runaway children forces both Rebekah and Tobias to turn to each other to help a sister and brother who have traveled thousands of miles in search of lives of unfettered peace and joy.
In doing so, Rebekah and Tobias discover the key to forgetting the past is the one that will open the door to love and the future they both seek.