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Interview with Patrick E. Craig

I’ve chatted with this week’s author often. He’s a walking totem pole of knowledge, a cherished tome of experience. A steely-eyed veteran of Amish Fiction, Patrick E. Craig knows more about the publishing industry than most publishers.

With such a wealth of knowledge in one person, how do I begin to tap his brain for information? How do I begin to interview the Burning Bush of Christian Fiction, the oracle of novel-writing wisdom?

Words flow in Patrick’s blood. Before he reached 10 years old, he dreamed of writing a book. At every school he attended, he reigned as editor of the school paper. His columns were filled with his own poems and prose. But a pretty new love entered his life. Music. She pulled him from writing, and soon he played in jazz bands, stage bands, symphony orchestras, marching bands, surf bands and the highlight of any music career—a Beatle band. At age 17, he was writing his own music. By age 30, he signed a record contract and was living the musician’s life in San Francisco.

But writing kept calling. For instance, he wrote songs filled with stories. When he joined the church, he wrote non-fiction books about music’s role in the church, along with a few discipleship courses. “But lurking inside me was always the desire for stories and to put them into books.” In 2007, he wrote a YA mystery and used a vanity press. But it wasn’t long before he signed a contract with Harvest House. Publishing with a traditional company was a surprise since “I was self-publishing before they invented it.”

So, why Amish fiction? “I got into writing Amish fiction basically on a dare. Nick Harrison, former Senior Editor at Harvest House Publishers, challenged me to send him a one-sheet with a story idea—the caveat being that he liked quilting stories and Amish stories. Now I knew nothing about either the Amish or Quilting, but I prayed about it and came up with an idea for an Amish Quilting story. That idea became A Quilt for Jenna, my first book for Harvest House.”

Patrick’s naturally drawn to history, and his research is comparable to James Michener. “My favorite author has always been Zane Grey. I have 60 or so of his books on my shelf. I especially loved the ones set in the period of time around the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War in the Ohio/Kentucky wilderness.” So, in his current release, The Amish Princess, the historical “setting was already near and dear to my heart. I would love to write a Western, and I also have some thrillers, some cozy mysteries and even a fantasy novel in my 'Current Books and Ideas' folder.”

As a child, his home was a library of history books—and he pored over them. “Research is not a dull part of the process for me. I love finding out new information. In my browser (thank God for the Internet) I have a folder for every book I'm working on. In that folder can be dozens and dozens of bookmarks to articles, Wikipedia posts, blogs, relevant books and other information like burial records and marriage certificates. I refer to them constantly.”

Patrick starts his day at 6:00 AM and works part time for his son-in-law. Then he writes, his goal a minimum of 5,000 words a week, with the hope to push the count to 10,000. As he works, he sits in absolute silence while looking out on the Idaho mountains. There, he meticulously outlines chapters, getting his ideas from his previous novels. After researching, he writes. Since he comes from a long line of storytellers—he’s been studying craft from age 7—he knows to take feedback and integrate the advice into his writing. Adding writing conferences and workshops, he’s now the teacher, while forever learning.

Some Amish focuses on romance. But Patrick wanted more. “When I came to Christ in 1984, I was a desperate person in a desperate situation, and just in time, I figured out that only God could solve my dilemma. When I started writing Amish and read a few of the books, I realized that I did not want to write light-hearted romances where everything turned out peachy keen just because the hero or heroine was Amish. I wanted to write about desperate people in desperate situations that only God could fix, because that was my own story. The interesting thing about the Amish is that many of them do not have a personal relationship with Christ—they depend on their Ordnung, their ordinances, to keep them in right standing with God. So it was very easy to set up situations where the protagonist had to come to the realization that the law did not save them, only Christ could do that. As a Christian writer, I feel that I have two imperatives: to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a non-preachy way that touches the heart of the reader, and to preserve our beautiful English language. So, I try to present spiritual concepts that are hidden in the language. It's a wonderful writing practice and helps me with the descriptive scenes in my books.”

Reviews show that people attach themselves to specific characters in his books. “I suppose that many of those people have found a place in my heart and kind of ooze out onto the page. A lot of my characters, male and female, reflect different aspects of my own personality or things that I wish I had more of in me.”

The Amish Princess took Patrick a full year to write, but usually his novels take a few months less to finish. The characters in all his Amish work have family connections to each other, making a larger picture of the historical family tree.

He’s currently reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, and previously read The Nick Adams Stories and To Kill a Mockingbird. Between those, he’s read 40 Louis L’Amour novels! His current writing project is book three in The Paradise Chronicle Series, The Mennonite Queen. When he’s not writing, he’s traveling in his trailer, a life-long dream. He fishes and takes short car trips with his wife. Writing articles and filling in as a teacher for Bible studies rounds out his time.

Marketing takes up his time as well, and when asked if it’s a chore, he says, “Social media has become such a huge part of the publishing industry that these days you cannot neglect it. Even if you are traditionally published, the modern author must do his part with a mailing list, Facebook ads, Tweeting, etc. It can be wearing.”

Patrick loves the mountains, drinks coffee, prefers North America over Europe, and when asked his favorite fruits or vegetables, he says steak. His favorite historical character is Joshua Chamberlain, a name every student of the Civil War knows.

Patrick will be teaching a class on Indie Publishing—Cracking The Indie Egg-A Recipe For Publishing Your Book— at the ACFW conference in Grapevine, TX in September! Go, talk to him and tell him Peter Leavell sent you!


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Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.





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