Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Choice - Author Chat & Giveaway!

UPDATE: Fri, 1/22/10 at 2:00 p.m. CST

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Timestamp: 2010-01-22 19:54:46 UTC

Congrats to Mary Lou! Please send me your address by 6:00 pm Sunday and the book will be sent to you.

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One of the things I love about blogging is the opportunity to meet (sometimes face to face, sometimes just virtually) and interact with authors. Suzanne Woods Fisher is an author I stumbled across last year. Although she's a relatively new author, she has been cranking out the books, each of which I've enjoyed. I've been eagerly awaiting her latest novel, The Choice, and I was not disappointed.

Lancaster County has always been her home--but where does her heart belong?

One moment Carrie Weaver was looking forward to running away with Lancaster Barnstormers pitcher Solomon Riehl--plans that included leaving the Amish community where they grew up. The next moment she was staring into a future as broken as her heart. Now, Carrie is faced with a choice. But will this opportunity be all she hoped? Or will this decision, this moment in time, change her life forever?

A tender story of love, forgiveness, and looking below the surface, The Choice uncovers the sweet simplicity of the Amish world--and shows that it's never too late to find your way back to God.

Suzanne Woods Fisher's interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Dunkard Brethren Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Because of Fisher’s ties to the Amish, she has made every effort to keep her storytelling authentic, showcasing the Amish’s strong communities, their simple life-style and their willingness to put each other first. Suzanne's work has appeared in many magazines, including Today's Christian Woman, Worldwide Challenge, ParentLife, Christian Parenting Today, and Marriage Partnership. She has contributed to several nonfiction books and is the author of Amish Peace and several novels. Fisher resides in Alamo, California.

If you think you "know" Amish culture, you will have a fresh new perspective after reading this book. I could not put it down. Like any community, a variety of personalities can be found among the characters of this novel. I wanted to hug and encourage Carrie, smack Solomon, and keep my distance from Esther (Carrie's step-mother), among others! Wounds go deep and scars are tender in this compelling story, and healing will only come with soul-cleansing confession, forgiveness and love. The choice is easy: grab a copy of The Choice today!

Suzanne graciously allowed me to ask her some questions, and she's given a fresh new perspective to my Englischer view of the Amish. Grab a cup of your favorite brew and enjoy the chat. And don't miss the giveaway at the bottom of this post!


It seems that novels about the Amish are popping up everywhere. What insight do you have from your upbringing that you want to convey in your writing?

My grandfather was raised Plain. Not Amish, but a close cousin. He was one of thirteen children born in an Old Order German Baptist Brethren home (also known as Dunkards). He began his career as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and ended it as publisher of Christianity Today magazine. He chose to leave the farm because they were running out of farm land. And I think he had an intellectual bent, too. But he left amicably and kept in close contact with his family. We are all still in close contact. I’ve always had an interest in my Dunkard relatives and the reasons behind their lifestyle. Had I been born into a home that practiced Plain living, I think I would have stayed in it.

There’s a direct correlation between how complicated our lives are—with all kinds of time-saving technology that oddly consumes time—and peoples’ longing for a simpler life. It seems as if people are hungry for margin in their lives—for leisure time, for fewer demands, for quiet, for peace. I’m not sure life ever has been simple, but there’s a perception that a rural, less materialistic life is more manageable. And who better personifies the simple life than the Amish?

Many readers are attracted to the simple, uncluttered lifestyle, yet there are aspects of the Amish faith that seem contradictory to what the Bible teaches about grace and forgiveness. Shunning is probably one of the greatest aspects of the Amish faith that we as non-Amish believers have a hard time understanding. What is your perspective on this?

I think a lot of assumptions about the Amish faith (including shunning) come from Amish fiction. A lot of stereotypes, too. I say that as a writer of Amish fiction!

It’s important to realize that the Amish do not have a centralized church hierarchy. Each district is self-governing, so there is a great deal of variation among the districts. Among states, too. As much as I have read about and researched the Amish, I kept coming back to trying to represent in my novel the people. Those Amish have a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith affects all parts of their lives.

I think we emphasize different aspects of our faith. For example, the Amish do not evangelize. They believe that their lives should speak as a silent example to others. Many get stuck on that point of non-evangelizing. And yet…look at how the world was touched by the Amish example of forgiveness over the Nickel Mines School Shooting. Now consider this…most Protestant churches do not emphasize confession of sins. The Amish hold communion twice a year and one of their practices—prior to communion--is to admonish everyone to make amends with others so that they accept communion with a unified spirit. In other words, church members are encouraged to keep short accounts and resolve grudges. I’m sure there are Amish who accept communion while still holding a grudge, for example, but the high bar is a wonderful model. Feelings follow intention.

In this book you portrayed Carrie's step-mother Esther as a harsh, rigid woman who makes life miserable for everyone around her and who has no tolerance for anything that goes against her deeply ingrained beliefs. Yet others in the community, such as Yonnie and even the bishop, seem more tolerant of blurring the lines and allowing such things as studying the Bible and spontaneous verbal prayers (as opposed to the customary silent rote prayers). Where on the spectrum do most Amish individuals or communities stand?

The non-Amish definitely have some assumptions about the Amish, and legalism is one of them. But I have to say that the Amish people I met and have kept in touch with aren’t legalistic. Yes, they do pay careful attention to tradition, and they highly value it, but I feel it has to do with honoring God.

Esther loves rules. Abraham loves “heart.” But both of them aren’t necessarily Amish-types. There are plenty of people in my own church who are just like Esther! And many (thankfully!) who are just like Abraham.

How did researching and writing this novel impact your own spiritual journey?

I was significantly affected while doing the research for the first (non-fiction) book, Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World (Revell). I visited Pennsylvania and Ohio Amish communities a number of times, stayed in Old Order Amish homes, and interviewed many families, as well as experts about the Amish. That book has become a foundation for my fiction series about the Amish. I wrote from what I observed and learned; many story lines come from the families I met. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how the Amish respond to what life throws at them…with a sense of yielding to the sovereignty of God. It’s not just an Amish way of thinking…it should be how Christians think! That “yielding” has trickled into my every day thinking. Moments like when I’m stuck in a traffic jam, or taking care of my dad (he has Alzheimer’s), or when life just doesn’t go very smoothly. I’ve definitely felt God’s peace in my life in a much more tangible way.

What message do you hope the reader takes away from this novel?

I really believe the Amish, at their best, are close to the heart of Christ. They love The Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. They desire to live as Christ would have them live—to put aside pride, to practice forgiveness on a daily basis, to avoid materialism and look to putting treasures in Heaven. There are so many principles, like those, that the Amish live out and ones we could (we should be!) incorporating into our lives.

Can you give us a hint of the second book in this series, The Waiting, which will be published in October? Does it pick up the story of one of the characters in The Choice, or is it about someone different?

The second in this series takes place in the same town of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania, but in a different time period—during the 1960s. Jorie King is in love with Ben Zook—a fellow who has a tendency toward “fence jumping” and is currently serving in Vietnam as a Conscientious Objector. Everyone assumes Jorie will marry Ben when he returns, but life in Stoney Ridge takes a few unexpected twists and turns.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with the readers?

In every book I write, I hope the reader ends the story feeling closer to God than she began. I never want to whack someone on the head with faith. I just want to encourage a reader to trust God a little more, rely on Him a little deeper, to get to know Him in a fresh way.

I have to end with a heartfelt thank you to each and every reader. Your time is valuable and I’m grateful you choose to read one of my books.

Where can readers find your books?

Amazon, CBD and your favorite bookstore.

And where can they find YOU?!

You can find me on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com, my blog or on Facebook or Twitter (suzannewfisher). I love to hear from readers and try to respond to each one.

Thank you so much, Suzanne!

Book Bomb and Author's Talk with Suzanne Woods Fisher
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Readers will have a chance to talk directly with Suzanne on February 15! Hear the story behind The Choice win some great prizes (Amish cook books, Auntie Anne's Pretzel gift certificates, Amazon gift certificates), get a sneak peak at her upcoming releases, and join in the chatter! Suzanne will be answering all your burning questions and asking a few of her own. (oh, and hint, hint. Be sure check out Suzanne's website before the party - the answers to the trivia contests can ALL be found on there!)

To participate, simply head to the event page on the 15th, 8 pm EST (7 pm CST, 6 pm MST, 5 pm PST) and join in the conversation. We'll use the Event Wall to chat (just hit refresh to keep up with the current conversation) and we'll post all the info and trivia questions in the Description section.

Also - Suzanne will be making a fun announcement about something she's launching this spring. You won't want to miss it!

* * * GIVEAWAY!* * *

Suzanne has offered to give an autographed copy of to one of my readers! Just leave a comment on this post by 12:00 noon CST this Friday, 1/22/10. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog. US Residents only, please.

Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book for my review.

Available January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group


View blog reactions


Denise said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful review! The Amish have always fascinated me and this will be a delightful book to read!

sara said...

this sounds really good. I lived very near the Amish in IN for years and think I would enjoy reading this!

Suburban prep said...

Sounds like a book I would find interesting.
Thank you for the review.
msgb245 at gmail dot com

Kim said...

Wonderful Linda! Great minds think alike!! Sure wish we could chat over a good latte!! :)

Anonymous said...

Ooh, sign me up! This sounds awesome!

Suzanne said...

Thanks, Linda, for sharing your blog and bleaders with me today! ~Suzanne

collettakay said...

Thanks so much for a great interview. The Choice is on my wishlist!


Barbara H. said...

The main problem I have with "aspects of the Amish faith that seem contradictory to what the Bible teaches" is that, at least in most of the Amish fiction I have read, theirs is a works-based faith rather than a gospel or grace-based faith, thinking their rightness with God is based on keeping the dictates of their particular church.

I also don't know if it is quite as idyllic as people think. The lifestyle would be much harder work, physically, than most of us are used to. All those modern inventions came about for a reason. :-)

♪♪Melody♪♪ and Puddin said...

I enjoyed your interview with Suzanne. I have always been fasinated with the Amish and reading books about the origins of their style of life. I appreciate the chance to recieve a free copy of this book. Thank you.

CeeCee said...

Can't wait to read the book. Thanks Suzanne and Linda!

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed your posting and interview...have visited the Amish in Lancaster, PA numerous times...i am fancinated by their lifestyle...thanks for the opportunity to read this fabulous book.


Anonymous said...

Good interview! I have a friend who left the Plain community. There definitely has to be a conviction to live that way, and I admire those men and women who have chosen that simpler lifestyle.

Cathy said...

Looks good, I would love to win this.

quilly said...

My tbr pile is growing by leaps and bounds, but please put me on the list! This sounds like it is filled with real-life people. Great characters make a great book.

windycindy said...

Your interview with this author was quite interesting! I live about 2 hours away from a very small Amish
Community. Their way of life has always intrigued me.
Many thanks, Cindi

Anonymous said...

I enjoy "amish" books...please enter me. Thanks!!!

Mary Lou said...

I love the books about the Amish,she gives a different perspective than I have read in Beverly Lewis's books. Would love a copy of this to read. The interveiw was great and loved all the info.
Mary Lou

Mary Lou said...

Linda, did you receive my email with my snail mail address. I sent it yesterday. I am pumped..thanks for doing this.

Mary Lou said...

Linda, I know you are busy, just checking to see when/if you have mailed this book yet. Thanks for all you do and for your ministry.