Shelley Shepard Gray  is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 100 books, including Unforgiven. Two-time winner of the HOLT Medallion and a Carol Award finalist, Gray lives in Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.

In this interview, Shelley talks with us about her latest book, Unforgiven.

FF: Can you please provide a brief summary of your novel, Unforgiven?
Unforgiven is the story of two former members of an Amish community in Crittenden County, Kentucky. Both Seth Zimmerman and Tabitha Yoder have faced traumatic experiences in their pasts and have struggled to come to terms with the people they have become. When Tabitha at last decides to trust Seth, they form a close friendship that soon hints at a burgeoning romance. Unfortunately, when Tabitha’s ex-husband begins sending her mysterious and threatening messages, she knows she’s not entirely free from her past. She must learn to trust Seth, believe in herself, and reach out to the community who has seemed determined to believe that her past transgressions remain unforgiven.

FF: In Unforgiven, you have two outcasts—one an ex-con and another a divorcee. Both have been rejected from the community they used to be part of. How do the two find healing through their friendship with each other?
I enjoyed creating moments for Seth and Tabitha to not only find common ground but also revisit their pasts, which are intertwined with each other. As the novel continues, when they realize that they’ve accepted each other, they begin to accept themselves. I also strived to give both characters family members who love them unconditionally. Finally, as each character’s faith grows, they realize that the Lord has been at work in their lives as well.

FF: What events led to Tabitha Yoder’s decision to leave her husband?
Tabitha is a victim of domestic and emotional abuse. When her husband’s violent temper puts her in the hospital, both the sheriff and a lawyer encourage her to leave him.

FF: Seth Zimmerman is an ex-con but desires to make amends for his past by helping others. How does Seth know Tabitha and how does he seek to help her?
Seth is four years younger than Tabitha and was once her student in the Amish school. He was crushed when she quickly married a man many in the community believed to be violent. Years later, when he is released from prison and discovers that Tabitha has also returned to their hometown but is essentially shunned, he decides to look out for her as much as he can by chopping wood, shoveling her driveway, and sometimes delivering boxes of groceries. He does these things with no expectation of being thanked. When Tabitha begins to trust Seth after several months of visits, he’s elated.

FF: Your novels are very character driven. Who is your favorite character in Unforgiven?
My favorite character in the novel is Seth because he’s never shied away from admitting his mistakes. I love creating characters who are more than they seem, and Seth, for me, is just that. He’s more than just an ex-con, yet he really isn’t perfect. I enjoyed his faults as much as his strengths.

FF: Unforgiven is set in Crittenden County, Kentucky. Can you please tell readers about this community?
Crittenden County is located in southwest Kentucky, and it’s home to a rather small but growing Amish population. It’s a rural community, with a lot of ponds, lakes, and rivers. A lot of people—both Amish and English—are simply struggling to make ends meet. That said, most people there are generous and proud of their heritage. From the moment I first visited the area, I knew I wanted to set a novel there.

FF: Unforgiven delves into the topic of forgiveness and healing. Are there other lessons that readers can learn from reading your novel?
It’s my wish that if someone reading my novel is a victim of abuse, they’ll be inspired to seek help.

FF: What do you love most about writing Amish fiction?
I’ve always loved portraying the Amish as multifaceted and individual, just like members of any group of people. In addition, I am continually inspired by their faith in God. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to write so many novels featuring the Amish.

Shelley Shepard Gray
Genres: Amish Romantic Suspense
Release Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎0800745795
ISBN-13: ‎978-0800745790

Book Summary:
They’re each other’s best hope for redemption—and love

Ex-con Seth Zimmerman has spent the last three years making amends by helping the vulnerable in his former Amish community. Lately, this mission includes calling on Tabitha Yoder, whose divorce from her abusive husband has isolated her from the community. Even though she never comes out of her house to talk to him, Seth knows she watches him from the window while he chops wood, clears her driveway, and drops off food.

An uneasy friendship is just starting to take hold between them when small gifts begin to appear at Tabitha’s home—gifts that can only be from her ex-husband. Seth might be Tabitha’s only hope at maintaining her hard-won freedom from the man whose violent outbursts had almost cost her life. But coming to her rescue might mean he ends up behind bars once again.


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About The Author

Shelley Shepard Gray lives in southern Ohio and writes full-time. A busy wife and mother of two, she spends her days writing and keeping track of her two teens. Shelley enjoys writing about the Amish and visits Amish communities in Adams and Holmes counties several times a year. When not spending time with her family or writing, she serves on several committees in her church.