The author on what motivates her to write about struggling, flawed characters.
The New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than sixty novels, Shelley Shepard Gray enjoys writing about the Amish—and visits Amish communities in Adams and Holmes counties several times a year.
She kicks off her new Walnut Creek series with The Patient One (Gallery Books): In this evocative and heartrending novel, seven former best friends reunite and struggle to heal after the tragic death of one of their own.
In this exclusive interview, Shelley tells us what inspired the novel’s diverse mix of characters, explains the differences between the Amish and Mennonites, and reveals why she enjoys writing inspirational novels…
Shelley, The Patient One is about a group of people who are reunited following the death of one of their childhood friends. These characters come from three different backgrounds—Amish, Mennonite, and English. What inspired you to bring together this mix of characters?
I’ve visited Holmes County, Ohio a lot. One thing that’s always struck me was the strong sense of community there.
I’ve known Amish moms who were part of the public elementary school PTA, English ladies who share recipes with their neighbors, who just happen to be Amish, and Mennonite teens who will tell you about their big group of friends, never once mentioning whether they are Amish, Mennonite, or English.
For a long time, I’ve hoped to write a series about a big group of friends from different backgrounds. I was so happy to finally get the chance!
Is this also about these people being reunited with their respective communities? Or how did they drift apart?
Since this book centers on a group of men and women in their mid-twenties, I wanted to explore something that I think a lot of us have gone through. As one gets older and opportunities become available, it’s easy to drift apart. So, for me, these best friends, ‘The Eight’, are exploring what their friendship means to them-and how to reconnect, even though they might not have as much in common as they once did.
The Patient One is also the first book in your Walnut Creek series. What’s the overarching theme or concept of the series?
Though each book features a romance, the series also focuses on relationships-with friends, with family, and with God.
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