ABOUT WINTER WISHES
Snow is falling, cookies are baking, and Christmas is just around the corner in Willow Ridge, Missouri, where a new season marks fresh beginnings for the residents of this tranquil Amish town . . .
As another year draws to a close in Willow Ridge, life seems to be changing for everyone but Rhoda Lantz. Her widowed mother is about to remarry, her twin sister is a busy newlywed, and soon Rhoda will be alone in her cozy apartment above the blacksmith’s shop. An ad posted by an Englischer looking for someone to help with his mother and children may offer just the companionship she’s looking for, but if she falls for the caring single father, she may risk being shunned by her community. Certain she can only wish for things she cannot have, Rhoda must remember that all things are possible with God, and nothing is stronger than the power of love.
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This was a charming story that gave a good glimpse into the Amish way of life. Rhoda was such a down-to-earth character, I really liked her. Even though this was fiction, I think it gave a good example of what it is like to live in the Amish Faith. Rhoda developed feelings for Andy, even though she knew it was wrong. I wish I would have read the first books in the series though, I wasn't really lost, but I think I would have understood some things better. I also liked how the community didn't put up with the things that their Bishop was doing, most Amish fiction I read, the community and people never question the Bishop. I say great job Charlotte. I have the other books in this series in my TBR pile and I look forward to more in this series.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
ABOUT CHARLOTTE HUBBARDI’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.
Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.
Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.
I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.
You can visit her website at www.CharlotteHubbard.com
1. How long have you been writing?
Short answer: a looooong time! My first story was published in “True Love” magazine in 1984, and I went on to write about 70 stories for the confessions market. Meanwhile, in 1990 I sold my first book, and after the first 6 came out I hit a non-selling gap of about 7 years. I’ve remained published since then. My first Amish book, SUMMER OF SECRETS, came out in 2012.
2. How long have you lived in Missouri?
I grew up in Kansas City, MO, later lived in St. Louis for 4 years, and then we spent more than 22 years in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri. That’s where I lived when I got my first contract to write these Amish books, so—because Missouri is also home to so many Plain people, and because I’d not seen any other Amish books set in Missouri—I decided to set both of my series there. We moved to St. Paul, MN a couple of years ago, but we still have many friends in MO and make trips back a couple times a year.
3. What made you interested in writing Amish fiction?
I was invited to write Amish fiction! This is a wonderful and rare opportunity in the publishing world: an editor for whom I’d previously written my faith-and-family Angels of Mercy series asked if I would write an Amish series for her, so that’s how the Seasons of the Heart series was born. Shortly after that, my agent heard from an editor who wanted another author to write Amish romances, so I took the pen name Naomi King and am writing the At Home in Cedar Creek series for her, which has morphed into the One Big Happy Family sub-series. Same characters as I began with, but with an additional “Brady Bunch” family entering the story line in the upcoming November book.
4. How much interaction do you have with the Amish and how many Amish communities have you visited?
I have visited Lancaster County, PA and various Amish and Mennonite communities in Missouri over the years, and did the serious research for my writing in Jamesport, Missouri. Jamesport is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, and a fascinating town. Because the Amish are private people who don’t like writers exploiting them, I spent a few days with a non-Amish tour guide who has lived in Jamesport all his life, and knows all the Amish families (and takes his buses to their stores, etc.)—but we did not announce that I was a writer. Now whenever I have questions about any little Amish thing I can email Jim and get my answers, and now my books are for sale in a Christian bookstore in Jamesport—and now those Amish owners want to meet me because they really enjoy reading my books! I consider this quite an honor.
5. I have heard before that Amish fiction is nothing like how the Amish truly are, since you have experience with the Amish, how true is this?
This is true of any sort of fiction, isn’t it? For many reasons, authors often idealize the wonderful qualities of cultures they write about and soft-pedal the parts their readers might not like to hear, or which might make their books unsalable to editors. The Amish differ from one settlement to another, as well—each colony tends to reflect the personality of its bishop, far as how “liberal” things become concerning machinery, appliances, clothing, etc.
Is there some abuse and chauvinism and shunning going on in these Plain towns? Yes, there is (or at least we non-Amish folks would see it this way.) Are all Amish children perfectly behaved? Of course not! Are all Amish women fabulous cooks? Nope. Do all Amish households have floors so clean you could eat off them? I doubt it! Do families really leave a settlement—or change from Old Order Amish to being Mennonite—because they get upset with their bishop? Yes, they do. And while most readers crave the “simplicity” of a life without computers, cell phones, electricity, and cars, they don’t realize how very hard the Amish must work to raise their large families and support themselves on small farms and with outside jobs at times.
Here again, novels are fiction, no matter who they’re written about. I have set both of my series in fictitious Amish towns inhabited by characters of my own creation. Many incidents in my stories are based on real happenings, but I’m a storyteller, not a biographer or a historian. I tend to pretty things up a bit!
6. Besides writing, what are your other interests and what do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a Border collie, Ramona, who keeps me active and herds me to my office each day. I love to travel with my husband, especially on cruise ships—we celebrated my birthday this year with a cruise to Hawaii! I crochet, especially on long car trips back to MO or to visit our families in IA and PA. I’m in my church choir and a member of various writer organizations, too. And sometimes it feels good to just chill in a deck chair . . . what with writing two Amish series, I have back-to-back-to-back deadlines for my books, so “spare” time is something I have to set aside for trips and holidays.
7. What do you have planned for the future as far as your writing goes?
This fall, I have 3 books out: WINTER OF WISHES, AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS, and AMANDA WEDS A GOOD MAN. Next spring, BREATH OF SPRING will be out, as well. Right now, my Seasons of the Heart series is contracted through book #6, and along with some other Amish titles, I will be going full tilt and full-time through the end of 2015, and those later stories will appear in 2016! I think it’s amazing, how long this interest in the Amish has lasted—as well as how my editors all predict it will continue for a few more years.
Why Does Amish Fiction Appeal to Us?
As I ponder the appeal of Amish stories, I think I can best illustrate it with two very compelling images: the image of a family gathered at the dinner table, and the image of a family seated in a church pew.
Faith and family are the essence of Amish life—the unshakable foundations of that life—and we who read (and write) these stories are drawn by those values. For readers my age and older, these images takes us back to The Way We Were as a nation in our own lifetimes: we can recall when sports and social activities and business demands were not allowed to intrude into our family lives during the dinner hour or on Sundays—and often on Wednesday nights, which were reserved for youth and choir activities at church.
And while we know those times were not as perfect or ideal as Norman Rockwell paintings depict, we crave those days. Faith and family came first, and parents and grandparents took responsibility for seeing that those priorities were maintained in our homes. That’s how the Amish have lived for centuries.
I suspect readers who are 40 or younger are drawn to the same ideal, the same Norman Rockwell simplicity of times gone by. It's not so much that the Amish don't appreciate what modern technology can do (and I lump electricity, cars, and computers/the Internet into this term). Many of them partner with Mennonites to have websites and electricity for their businesses (as my Miriam Lantz does, in the Seasons of the Heart series) to attract tourists, which in turn better supports their families. But the Amish control technology, rather than allowing technology to control them.
By not allowing electricity or phones into their homes, they have decreed that recreational chit-chat, TV, texting, tweeting, gaming, and Facebook will not distract them from their two bedrock priorities: faith in God, and keeping their families together, emotionally and financially. I think this is what readers respect most about the Amish, even if they wouldn't want to live that way themselves.
It's also important to note that—just as Norman Rockwell idealized the everyday aspects of our lives 50 years ago—any sort of fiction idealizes real life. Stories have been a favorite escape for centuries, and this current wave of Amish fiction doubles that: we readers (and writers!) are escaping into fictional homes and towns and families where we feel far more comfortable than we really would, were we to become Amish! It wouldn't take us long to miss our cars and and our dishwashers—especially those, in families where eight to ten kids is the norm!
But in our books, we also see Amish characters tackling the ongoing chores of canning, cooking, cleaning, barn raising (and barn mucking!) as a family and as a community. Nobody goes it alone. Nobody competes to be the best, or to stand out and be noticed. Everyone encourages and supports their neighbors—and best of all, these characters are expected to admit when they've done wrong, and the community and their families are expected to forgive them.
Does this always happen willingly and joyfully in real life for the Amish? Of course not! They struggle with their personal desires, just as we do. But, as with technology, they are expected to take responsibility for their actions. They believe that in the end, God will be holding them accountable for the way they lived their lives on Earth—even as they believe that God's will controls every little thing that befalls them in this life.
So, what's the appeal of Amish fiction? Simplicity, yes. But also the accountability, honesty, cheerfulness, and sense of family/community of the characters we've come to love. We wouldn't want to live their lives, but we love to put ourselves in their places as we read stories about them!