- by Charlotte Hubbard
Along with the pleasure of seeing my first Naomi King book, ABBY FINDS HER CALLING, on the shelves in bookstores this week, I received a fine, fun email from Jim, the fellow in Jamesport, Missouri, who assists me with the details of these Amish romances. He wrote, “Joe Burkholder’s wife read your two books, and they want to carry them in their store. You passed the Amish test!”
Now, while it’s nothing new to Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall, or other well-established authors of Amish novels to have their books stocked in Amish shops, this is a first for me. It’s important not just because Jamesport is the model for the Amish towns in my two series, or because it’s nice to have my books in the Burkholders’ store alongside those big-name authors I mentioned, but because I now have another layer of credibility. The Amish folks I’ve recently started writing about consider me authentic.
And considering how the Amish don’t much care to be exploited in print—considering how Jim, my private tour guide and resource guy, told me not to mention that I was a writer while he was taking me around Jamesport—this is a major accomplishment! It means that Joe Burkholder and his wife will now be chatting up all their Plain friends and the tourists in their store about these two novels that mention Jamesport. My books will become a unique memento for them to sell and a way for me to attract new readers.
A fun twist: during my initial tour of Jamesport, Jim told me about how the Burkholders’ home had burned to the ground when their chimney caught fire a few years ago. In the freezing cold December weather, the local men worked long shifts, eating meals their wives took turns bringing to the site, dealing with the ice around the foundation from the firemens’ hoses. They used big lights provided by their Mennonite friends so they could work after dark. They rebuilt that home by the New Year!
I got goose bumps hearing that story—my editor got goose bumps from that story—so ABBY FINDS HER CALLING features a subplot where the Ropp family’s home catches fire and is rebuilt that same way. Because Rudy Ropp had stopped trusting the bank, all their life savings had been stashed in that house . . . one of their sons had caused a major scandal in Cedar Creek, getting a girl pregnant, and he and his brother had jumped the fence (left the faith rather than joining the Amish church), but by the book’s end those family ties are restored. Healing and forgiveness come about because the fire brings the Ropp boys home again and forces their dad, Rudy, to reevaluate some of his beliefs and behavior.
It’s particularly rewarding that the real-life family who inspired a major part of my book is now going to sell that book in their store. Isn’t that the neatest piece of synchronicity?
It’s also a plus that I can pass this news on to my editor, who has been scribbling all over the margins of the manuscript for my upcoming book, “is this Amish?” or “do Amish really do this?” She’s been using her eagle-eye, asking me to validate my details and research (and she’s more accustomed to the ways of the Amish in the eastern U.S. Plain folks in Missouri do some things differently) so I hope she, too, will feel good about this on-site Amish response to ABBY FINDS HER CALLING.
After writing this book on a tabletop office, while we were selling, buying, and remodeling homes as we moved from Missouri to Minnesota, it’s gratifying indeed to hear that my work has “passed the Amish test.”