Monday, July 25, 2011

Amish Overload

After reading Conlan’s blog on Steampunk I thought I’d write about the genre I’m presently writing in. When my agent suggested I write an Amish story I wondered how I would do that without knowing much about them. Having a parent who grew up on a farm and the other on a ranch did help with knowing about country life. And I have always admired their determination to live a life that is from the past, somewhere between the prairie days and a modern day farm, but there is nothing modern about them. And there are a lot of different groups with different names that mean different things. There’s the Old Order, the New Order, the Progressive Amish and the Beachy Amish, Beachy Amish Mennonite, and Amish Mennonite, Swartentruber Amish, and there’s even more. Whew! Are you confused yet? I was

I like to give the reader a real account of the facts with whatever I’m writing but I had no idea how much research there would be about the Amish. That’s when I discovered how many other people were searching for information about them too. I don’t know when it happened or how, but people are crazy over Amish. The conversion rate is up and tourism is at an all time high. There are Amish documentaries, movies and even a reality show called Amish in the City. You can buy a Whoopie Pie at Starbucks and Shoofly Pie at your local Corner Bakery.

So great, there’s a ton of info out there to do research for my books, but once I got started there was so much I had to start piecing together what I needed for each story. There is always research when writing a fiction book, no matter what you’re writing about, but I’d never had access like this. It’s turned out to be just as much work sorting through the information than trying to dig up info on a less demanding subject.

There’s another problem. The Amish don’t want to be the center of attention or have their picture taken, so there are not many ways to get a first account from the very people I’m writing about. Fortunately, I’ve found an Amish group close by so I have some Amish to observe first-hand in case there is something I’ve written that may be questionable or doesn’t depict them correctly. I recently attended an Amish wedding which was very different than any I’ve been to or read about, so the information was important to know before writing a similar scene in one of my stories.

My conclusion as to the fascination about the Amish is that people like to read about them because it takes them back to a different time, when things were simpler and people lived as a community that puts God first.

Questions: Do you have a specific genre you like to read or do you prefer a variety?
Do you like a fast paced life or do you prefer a slower way of living?


Jillian Kent said...

Hi Beth,
I have no idea how you can figure out what you're doing with all the Amish information you have, it is overwhelming.

I grew up on a farm. There's so much work to be done that there isn't much time for anything else. :)

One of the things I think I would like about that kind of life is not being aware of all the the things happening in the world that can promote sadness and anxiety.

I would love a slower pace of life, but it doesn't seem to be possible for me.

i do love England's history though and for now I'm content to stay in the Regency era.

Blessings as you write your Amish novels.


Beth Shriver said...

I always wanted to grow up in the country. Where did you live when you were young? I think it builds a good work ethic for kids when they have all of the chores to keep them busy.

I love the regency era so I'm looking forward to reading your books! Have you gone to England to do research? That would be a blast!

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Beth,
I grew up in western Pennsylvania about an hour east of Pittsburgh. I was in England the first semester of my senior year of college way back in 1976. I hope to go again someday. I loved it and would love to do more research at this point in my life.

Beth Shriver said...

So were you close to any of the Amish in Penn? Would love to go to England. You could go for research on your books:)

Jillian Kent said...

The Amish in Pa. from what I remember were in Lancaster much further east. I'm no expert so there may be other Amish areas in Pennsylvania. I remember going there with a group of students when I was in 7th grade.

And I just noticed this morning that we have a new background on out blogsite which I love! How long has it been up?

Beth Shriver said...

Lena changed the back ground a couple of weeks ago. I like it much better don't you?