We’ve all heard the “switched at birth” plotline, but 
I guarantee you have never heard it like this before! In her latest release, Fraying at the Edge (WaterBrook Press), best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall adds a twist to this old plotline by asking, “What if one girl was Amish and one was English?” Ariana Brenneman is ripped from her Old Order Amish family and community upon the discovery that she was switched at birth. Skylar Nash is addicted to prescription drugs when she is shipped off to reconnect with her birth family in the Amish community of Summer Grove. How will the girls cope with their new surroundings when everything in their lives seems to be falling apart?

This plot is pretty amazing! How did you come up with it?

Thank you! It’s exciting to know you feel that way. Book one in the series, Ties That Bind, recently won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, so I was really excited to know that this storyline resonated with others like it has with me.

About 16 years ago, I became friends with an English (non-Amish) woman who had spent two decades working in an Amish birthing clinic. She shared many heartwarming and heartrending events that took place at the birthing center, and I asked her, “Could an English woman come to an Amish birthing center to have her baby?”

She explained that U.S. laws don’t allow any health facility to refuse a person based on faith, race or color, and she had tended to a few English women during her 20 years of assisting with births. When she shared the simplicity of how things work in a birthing center, which is often a home-turned-clinic, this story idea took root. I peppered her with questions about the moms who gave birth and the babies they delivered and especially the methods used to ensure each newborn goes home with her or his birth mom. This story is the result of things I learned that day.

What was it like to get inside the heads of both of these girls, one an addict and one an Amish girl?

I molded Ariana after a young Amish woman I met once and have heard stories about for years, so it was fairly easy to get inside her head. Skylar was a harder character to work with. She’s both spoiled and wounded by her childhood. In order to do her justice, I needed to find and work closely with a real person about her age who had experience with drugs in a similar manner to Skylar. But I also needed to find someone else who understood drama and music and then another person who understood the heart of an atheist, because Ariana’s English dad, the man whom she must spend time with, despises the Christian faith.

Can you tell us about the Amish community where this novel is set?

A district for the Amish is usually made up of 20 to 40 families, and this community surrounds a historic old town, which is an integral part of the story. I give towns fictional names so that when any part of any story sounds familiar to the Amish community, I haven’t named their actual town. I’ve named the town in this story Summer Grove.

Are there any unique or interesting themes in this book?

One of the interesting themes surrounds a question that both girls have to wrestle with: If a culture you’re prejudiced against turns out to be your tribe, how do you come to terms with your new identity? And how do you change your mind and heart about that culture as a whole?

How is this book different from your previous projects?

I’ve never dealt with the challenges and complexities of two people—one Amish, one English—not being who they’ve spent their lives thinking they are. Each one is forced to live the other one’s life for a season with no physical connection to the family they were raised with. Can a sweet Amish girl survive living with a very vocal atheist? Can a spoiled drug addict see the value of a people she detests?

The girls’ journeys have complications I hadn’t anticipated, but each layer brings clarity concerning the value of life, love 
and family.

This is the second book in the Summer Grove series. What’s in store?

Coming next is the third and final book in the series. Its working title is Piecing the Threads. Two young women find their place, not only in their chosen world, but within their own hearts. After all, if we can find a safe haven in our own hearts, we can be at peace wherever life takes us.

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