I have been inspired by many authors, both as mentors at writing conferences and in my critique group, and from reading a good book—be it penned 100 years ago or last week. Reading fine literature inspires me to improve my craft and to take new risks.
I’d better start by saying I have written five Amish novels (two are CBA bestsellers) but still feel inadequate when writing about the Amish. Each church district of about 200 people follows the teachings of the Bible but has slightly different rules called the Ordnung, so what is true of one church district may not be true of another. And Amish are admonished to not become entangled with what they call the English world. I was so nervous about my first Amish novel, that I asked an Amish couple and a Mennonite woman to read it before I sent it in to the publishing house and tell me if I was getting my facts about the people and culture straight. Meeting them was an answer to prayer.
I don’t know about you, but for me as a reader, fiction requires correct facts and information or the whole story loses its validity. Simply plunking characters into an Amish setting or anywhere else does not fly. Writing historical fiction might be easier than writing Amish fiction, as Amish people today read these books. I have asked several and they affirm I understand their culture. Very gratifying. Plus, they enjoyed my stories and characters. My goal is to write about relationships and forgiveness. Stories that will appeal to all lovers of fiction.
One special author comes to mind when I recall writing my most recent novel, Starting from Scratch. For years, I had wanted to meet Amish author, Linda Byler, a proficient writer who speaks of salvation through Jesus. Knowing that Linda Byler is Old Order Amish and only went to the eighth grade, as is the Amish custom and accepted by the Supreme Court, I was fascinated by her superior writing style and vocabulary. Of all the authors, general market or Christian, I wanted to meet her the most, but knew I never would. She’s private, not on the Internet, and had no phone in her home. The odds were against me! How I came into contact with this Amish woman was more than a coincidence.
An Amish woman in the Midwest gave me Linda’s phone shanty number. I took the plunge, called, and left a message. I was pleasantly surprised when she returned my call. She told me I could contact her anytime and she would do anything to help me. How’s that for generous? Now and then I called her to verify facts. Since I had to leave messages on her phone shanty sometimes I waited a week, but sometimes she would be walking right by the shanty and answer. What a lovely woman, who ended up being a huge inspiration and encouragement to me.
Linda writes her books by hand as she is not allowed to use a computer. (I actually get some of my best ideas when writing longhand.) I told her I was having a difficult time finishing a manuscript, which I’d promised the publishing house would be 100,000 words. Not out of the realm of possibilities for me, but my manuscript had seemed to end at 85,000 words and I didn’t know what to do. An author can simply go back and add a thousand or so more words to each chapter, thus inflating the word count. But I wanted to keep the pace of this book rolling.
Linda gave me great encouragement and inspired me to press on to my goal. I had no idea what was going to happen, but the story unfolded itself to completion in a way that surprised even me.
Late last fall my husband and I visited Lancaster County, PA, as we often do. Linda Byler invited us to come to dinner at her home a couple hour’s drive from Lancaster County. What did we talk about? Writing and good books we’d read. And family. The time we spent in her home was delightful.
One lesson learned is to pursue a relationship with a writer who inspires you. I did not have the option of sending her emails or becoming Facebook friends, as Amish are not allowed to use the Internet, except for some in business purposes, granted with special permission. But speaking to her on the phone and traveling that great distance was well worth the effort. I’ve found that most authors are generous.
Have you or would you take the chance to reach out and meet an author who inspires you?
Author Kate Lloyd is a passionate observer of human relationships. A native of Baltimore, Kate spends time with family and friends in Lancaster County, PA, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and its sequel, Pennsylvania Patchwork, and Forever Amish, the third book in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy. Her novel A Letter from Lancaster County released July, 2017. Kate’s most recent novel Starting from Scratch released April, 2018.
Kate and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest, the setting for Kate’s first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite. Kate has worked a variety of jobs, including car salesman and restaurateur. For relaxation and fun, Kate enjoys walking with her camera in hand, beach-combing, and playing with her two young grandchildren.
Find out more about Kate Lloyd at KateLloyd.com where you can sign up for her Newsletter.
Kate loves hearing from readers!