Prolific author Tricia Goyer talks about her latest Amish fiction novel,
Along Wooded Paths (B&H Fiction): A young Amish woman recently moved from Indiana to Montana is torn between marrying a man from back home or the Englischer whose active faith is calling to her.
Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK?
Every great novel starts with a bit of fact. My Big Sky Series (Beside Still Waters, Along Wooded Paths, and Beyond Hope’s Valley) started with more than that: A few years ago, I was asked if I’d ever consider writing an Amish novel. The truth is, I hadn’t. But the first seed of an idea was planted and my mind started to feed and water it. That’s how novels usually start.
Later that day, I remembered that my daughter had a friend, Saretta, whose parents were raised Amish. They moved from an Amish community in Indiana to Montana, and that is how we met. I also remember my daughter telling me Ora Jay and Irene lost two daughters in a buggy accident.
Hmmm, I thought. I’d love to hear their story. Maybe someday, if I see them again, I’ll ask.
The next day, my daughter Leslie and I went out for some mom and daughter time. We went to a bookstore to browse and get coffee. As we looked over the bargain rack guessed who walked in … Sareta. We hadn’t seen her for six months at least and there she was.
“Saretta,” I told her. “I think I’m supposed to talk to your parents—hear their story.”
“Sure, I’m sure they’d love to talk to you!”
Less than a week later Ora Jay and Irene sat in my living room. They told me about being Amish, about losing their daughters, about their move. They also talked about their faith. They shared what the meant to be Amish. They shared how their faith had grown after moving to Montana. They shared many ways God had changed their lives and their hearts. I listened amazed. Their story added more water—the Living Water—and sunshine to the seed of a novel planted in my hearts.
After talking to Ora Jay and Irene, I met many other Amish women from the West Kootenai Community. I was honored as they shared their lives with me.
While these stories are still a work of fiction, I’ve tried to be as true to the lifestyle and faith of this Amish community.
Q: YOUR BOOK IS FICTION, BUT WHAT ARE SOME ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK THAT CAME FROM REAL LIFE?
In Along Wooded Paths there are many scenes inspired by true events. First, my characters start reading an Englisch Bible, even at the risk of getting disapproval from Amish spiritual leaders. This came from the lives of my friends. My characters (and the real people) built solid friendships with their Engisch neighbors. There is also a scene with a horse that runs away with a buggy through the woods inspired by true events! My sweet friend, Irene, lived to tell about that one.
Q: WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I just finished the first novel in my new series, Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors. I’m also working on a new Love Finds You book with my co-author Ocieanna Fleiss. This one is: Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska.
Q: FACT VS. FICTION: WHAT EXAMPLES DO YOU HAVE IN THE BIG SKY SERIES WHERE YOU TOOK SOME LIBERTIES WITH THE FACTS?
Good question! In my friends’ true stories Irene was pregnant when she lost two daughters in a buggy and semi accident and she had a son some months later. In my novel Beside Still Waters Ruth Sommer loses two daughters and a third daughter is born that night. I took liberties with when the baby was born … and the sex of the child.
I try to make my Amish characters as true-to-life as possible, but they are all made up people with made up issues.
Q: WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?
I want readers to put down Along Wooded Paths with a sense that God puts people in our lives for a reason—even those who are different than us. I want them to see others around them as potential friends and gifts from God.
Q: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
I come up with a lot of book ideas. Some I forget after a few days, but if they stick around I talk to my agent about them. If she likes them then we write a short blurb and send it to my publisher (or a few publishers). If others get as excited as me then I know I’m on to something!