Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than thirty books, including The Sweet Life, The Moonlight School, and A Season on the Wind, as well as the Three Sisters Island, Nantucket Legacy, Amish Beginnings, The Bishop’s Family, The Deacon’s Family, and The Inn at Eagle Hill Series. She is also the author of several nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and Amish Proverbs.
In this interview, Suzanne shares some of her thoughts on her new novel, Anything But Plain.
FF: Can you please provide a brief description of Anything But Plain?
Lydie Stoltzfus, the bishop’s daughter, is a square peg in a round hole. She loves her family, her friends, and her church, but she just doesn’t fit in. Her busy, active mind works in a different way than most of the Amish. She’s an out-of-the-box thinker in a community that values the box. It’s best for everyone, Lydie decides, if she leaves. Best for her family, best for her neighbor Nathan Yoder. Leaving is hard for Lydie, but staying might be worse.
FF: Your female protagonist, Lydie Stoltzfus, has a “unique” personality that causes some problems within the Amish community. Can you please tell readers a little more about Lydie and her symptoms?
If you asked Nathan Yoder, he would describe Lydie as creative, warmhearted, and spontaneous. If you asked others, she’s led by her emotions, unrealistic, and impulsive. As wonderful as Nathan’s perspective is, the rest of Lydie’s world is one that values conformity. She’s a square peg in a round hole, and it doesn’t feel very good.
FF: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has sometimes been misunderstood or misdiagnosed. What do you hope readers will learn from reading Lydie’s story?
ADHD is real. While not without its benefits, it does create some difficulties—both for the one with ADHD as well as those who love that individual. There’s so much help to be found today! I hope readers will feel encouraged to pursue some strategies or treatments that make life a little easier for everybody.
FF: Nathan Yoder’s personality is completely opposite to Lydie’s. Can you please explain how the term “opposites attract” plays out in Anything But Plain?
Nathan is everything Lydie isn’t. He’s focused and determined, with a view toward the long term. Well aware of Lydie’s proclivities, he also sees her strengths—ones he doesn’t have. In more than one instance, she comes up with solutions to problems in the story he’s stuck on.
FF: In Anything But Plain, you show that Lydie’s uniqueness are not God’s mistakes but rather his gift. What do you mean by this statement?
Once Lydie accepts her differences as God-given, she’s able to appreciate the very qualities that make her distinctive, rather than feel shamed by them. This self-discovery, for Lydie, has nothing to do with being Plain but about trusting God.
FF: What other lessons do you hope readers can take away from your book?
Nathan realizes that Lydie sees life in very different ways than most people, but he has the maturity to welcome her differences. He embraces Lydie’s unique qualities—her imagination and creativity, her spontaneity—as gifts to be appreciated, not smothered. Nathan’s attitude is one we should all adopt. There’s an Amish saying that captures this perspective: Everyone has a place at the table.
FF: Anything But Plain is set in the fictionalized town of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, which is where a number of your Amish novels have been placed. How did you go about creating this fictional town?
Stoney Ridge is a small town with a big heart. It fulfills most everyone’s inner longing—to have a place to belong, a community that welcomes you. That was the “literary goal” in setting all my Amish novels in Stoney Ridge. Familiar faces step on and off center stage, readers could create an image of the town in their mind—the Sweet Tooth Bakery on Main Street, the Five Sisters house, the rolling hills of Amish farms that surround it. One thing I have to add—Stoney Ridge is very Lancaster-esque. True to the area, both in topography and in community.
FF: You have written both fiction and nonfiction books about the Amish. When did you first develop your love for the Amish?
My grandfather was raised Plain, one of eleven children, on a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When I was in junior high, my mother’s Plain cousins became part of our lives for a short period of time. This couple’s little boy was terminally ill, and our home was near the hospital where the child was being treated. That was my first experience, up close and personal, to observe how the Plain people handled a very real heartache. While doing all they could for their little boy, this couple also exuded a calm acceptance, a trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty. I’ve never forgotten their witness. Whenever I write about the Old Order Amish, I try to honor and respect them. While not perfect, the Amish do have much to teach the rest of us.
Anything But Plain
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Genres: Amish Romance, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 4, 2022
It’s not easy being the bishop’s daughter, especially for Lydie Stoltzfus. She’s not like other Amish girls, as much as she wishes she were. The only thing she does well is disappoint others. Leaving her family and church seems unbearable, but staying might be worse.
Knowing Lydie is “between” jobs, the local doctor asks her to fill in at the front desk for a few months. To Lydie, this is a boon. It gives her time to figure out how she’s going to say goodbye to her neighbor, Nathan Yoder–the main reason she needs to leave Stoney Ridge. Nathan claims he’s in love with her, but she knows she’s not good enough for him. If in doubt, Nathan’s father reminds her frequently.
As Dok spends time with Lydie, she recognizes symptoms of a disorder rare among the Amish. She offers treatment for Lydie. But will it be enough to make her stay? Or has help come too late?
Buy Anything but Plain from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Anything but Plain from Amazon HERE!