Kelly Irvin is a bestselling, award-winning author of over twenty novels and stories. A retired public relations professional, Kelly lives with her husband, Tim, in San Antonio.
In this interview, Kelly talks with us about her latest book, Every Good Gift.
FF: What inspired the story in your book?
The Amish Blessings Series was born out of a blurb in the Amish newspaper The Budget, in which a scribe wrote about a young Amish couple who planned to adopt a baby being given up by a non-Amish mother. The mother changed her mind at the last moment. The couple was grieving the loss of the family they’d planned to start. The scribe said their community was reaching out to support them in their loss. I began thinking about adoption in the Amish world and how it might be different and/or the same as we see in the mainstream world. Every Good Gift is the third book in the series. It focuses on a young unwed teenager who faces the repercussions of having a baby fathered by a non-Amish man. There are a few similarities to our mainstream world, but far more differences in the way the situation is treated. The story delves into her dilemma and how she’s treated by her family and community as she tries to redeem herself.
FF: What can you tell us about the main characters in your book?
I do love these characters—I don’t know if authors are supposed to say that, but Joshua and Maisy are two special characters. Maisy is young and in some ways still very innocent, despite her predicament. She reads inspirational romances. She loves words and collects them in a notebook so she can practice them. She loves animals, flowers, and gardening. She’s trying hard to understand how God can make good come from all things—including her “mistake.” Joshua has his own difficult past with which he hasn’t made peace. He’s stuck and he doesn’t know how to move forward. He keeps his pain hidden behind a uncommunicative façade. Then Maisy comes along and he can’t help himself, he feels responsible for her after he finds her sitting alone in a train station in Hutchinson, Kansas. He helps her out and an unlikely friendship is born.
FF: Which character surprised you the most?
Joshua, without a doubt. The way he steps up and supports Maisy when others are keeping her at arm’s length says so much about his strong, noble character. As the story developed, I discovered he has a sense of humor and he’s good with children. He’ll make a good daddy someday. But mostly importantly, he’s a good friend. He does for Maisy what few men would do—Amish or English. In the process, he confronts his own issues and grows as a person. One worthy of respect and love.
FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
From very young, people love to be told stories. Some of my most lovely childhood memories are storytime at the public library and my elementary school teachers reading to us in class. While entertaining through our stories, we are able to reflect important truths and gently ask readers to ponder those truths even after they close the book. We can wrap hard lessons in powerful stories of bravery and strength.
FF: What can you tell us about your next book?
The Heart’s Bidding is the first book in a new series, The Amish Calling, set in Virginia. The men in this series belong to a family of auctioneers. Each young man has his own challenge in the world of auctioneering that impacts on his love life. With the heroines, I explore how Amish families deal with a higher incidence of inherited genetic disorders or diseases caused by the closed nature of their communities. Amish have a small group of founders, large families, and they rarely marry outside their communities. As a consequence they have a greater incidence of diseases or disorders such as Down syndrome, Limb Girdle Muscular Dystropy and other less common inherited genetic diseases. How a young school teacher educates her students with physical and development disabilities in a one-room schoolhouse serves as a jumping off point for The Heart’s Bidding. This first book debuts in November.
FF: What kind of research did you do for this book?
I started with a trip to Kansas where the story takes place in the tiny Amish communities of Yoder and Haven. I set each of my series in new locations, and I liked Yoder and Haven because the Amish there use tractors. This is uncommon for the Amish and gives the stories a unique flavor. The towns are about 90 minutes from my hometown of Abilene so my mother and two sisters drove with me on my research trip. It’s extremely rare for all four of us to be in the same place at the same time! We really enjoyed eating at the Carriage Crossing Restaurant and Bakery. We browsed in the gift shop and dropped into the Amish-owned Yoder Furniture Store. These and other stores, fictionalized, appear in the series. I also did a lot of online research. Amazingly, the Women’s Birth and Heath Center in Yoder has a website that includes a virtual tour of the center and videos of natural childbirths occurring there. This served as a great way to gather information and paint a realistic picture of Maisy’s experience in a fictionalized birthing center. Research is fun and it’s so important to help get the details right.
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
There’s always a way forward no matter how bad they mess up. God forgives. He redeems us. The truth of Scripture is reflected in the story. Every baby, every child, is a gift from God, no matter the circumstances. God can and will bring good from every situation. When we mess up, He adjusts his plan accordingly. I want them to be happy for Maisy and Joshua and for Vicky and Isaac. I hope the readers won’t sit in judgement of Maisy or of the people who believe what she has done (with Nate) is wrong. The world’s standards are very different from those set by the Amish for their communities. They are based in Scripture. They may seem overly strict or “old fashioned” to some readers, but the situation hopefully will give readers food for thought.
FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
I have to be supremely careful to be as true as I possibly can to the authentic Amish worldview. It would be easy to let my own beliefs and experiences color the way my characters respond to situations. The Amish adhere strictly to Scripture in matters such as premarital sex and the sanctity of marriage. In my new series Amish Calling I’m walking a careful line between how the Amish view children with disabilities “as special gifts from God” and how the mainstream disabled community feels about these “labels.” As a Christian woman with a disability I can see both sides of the issue, but my goal is to always be respectful of all viewpoints.
FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
So many. It probably depends on what day you ask me! I love William Krueger Kent’s standalone books No Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land. I’m working my way through Charles Martin’s books. I tend to read in many genres, including mystery, suspense, women’s fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, and even young adult fiction. I like to stretch and be challenged by new authors.
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
My ability to write stories is a gift from God. Everything about these stories is impacted by that knowledge. I always wanted to be a novelist, but life kept getting in the way. I realize now that I couldn’t have written these stories without having experienced life first. I didn’t publish my first book until I was 52 years old. That’s a lot of living that serves as building blocks for stories that I hope resonate with my readers. They too have had similar experiences. They may be seeking escape or solace or understanding. I hope they find all three in my books. I don’t always know what the underlying theme or truth or spiritual thread is when I start writing, but it always becomes clear to me in the end. God is teaching me as I write and readers as they read. At least that’s my hope!
Every Good Gift
Amish Blessings Series #3
Genres: Amish Romance
Release Date: February 7, 2023
During the most difficult season of her life, how could she know whether their meeting was a gift from God—or another temptation?
Maisy never expected that a Plain girl like her could have her heart stolen by an Englisch boy. But when her rumspringa ends and Maisy realizes she’s pregnant, the reality of their choices—and their differences—sets in.
Maisy knows she will never leave her faith to marry her baby’s father. But she also knows the road to acceptance as an unwed mother in an Amish community will be long and hard. To protect her family from the scandal, she goes to live with her cousin in Haven, Kansas, where she will have some solitude to figure out what kind of future she might have.
In Haven Maisy begins to find her way—thanks in no small part to Joshua Lapp, a Plain man who’s made it clear he isn’t bothered by her situation or ashamed to be seen with her, despite the bishop’s warnings. But Joshua has struggled with his faith ever since the death of his twin brother, leaving Maisy to wonder: How can two people who are so lost ever help each other discover Gott’s plans for their future?
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