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Interview with Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman has written for Christian magazines as well as writing novels of mystery and now Amish fiction.

Vannetta, you explain on your website that you gained a love for the Amish while researching your grandfather’s birthplace. How did you discover his birthplace? Had you delved into your ancestry?
I was actually working on a narrative historical about my grandfather’s life, and I came across a bundle of correspondence which was all in German. I already knew that his birthplace was Albion, PA. He was born in the 1880s, and my father has already passed, so I need to get those letters translated in order to delve deeper.

Were you able to visit your grandfather’s birthplace? Describe some of that experience here.
I have been to PA recently on a book signing tour, but I wasn’t able to take the time to stop and research. I hope to soon!

What ultimately prompted you to begin writing Amish fiction?
My agent, Mary Sue Seymour, suggested I try my hand at writing Amish fiction. It was the first time I ever told her “no.” I was teaching full time then, and writing a lot of proposals, plus finishing several romantic suspense books which she was submitting. Mary Sue patiently explained to me why Amish fiction would be a good fit for me, and the rest – well, it’s history. My first book, A Simple Amish Christmas, released in 2010. The Christmas Quilt, my most recent and 8th book, released in October. And I have 8 more books contracted to release through 2016.

Tell us a bit about your new release, The Christmas Quilt, and how you came to write it.
Abingdon was looking for authors for their Quilts of Love line. Ramona Richards approached my agent and asked if I would consider writing a sequel to A Simple Amish Christmas.

The Christmas Quilt began as a book that centered around the making of a quilt, but like most things in our lives it turned in an unexpected direction. I found myself writing a story about faith and God’s grace in our lives. In particular, Annie's quilt reflects the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. As each block of the Christmas Quilt is sewn, Annie and Leah share a story based on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It's a romantic story, set in the heart of the Christmas season and focusing on the gifts that God so freely gives to us.

Did you have to do any specific research about Amish quilts and quilting? Explain.
Yes! I’m a beginning quilter. I know enough to understand how much I don’t know. Fortunately I have some wonderful friends who helped me. In particular, Martha Cashbeer agreed to read through the book with an eye to the quilting details. Martha also hand sewed me a 9 patch quilt to go with the book. Needless to say, I dedicated the book to her.

In the past you have taught English on the college level but now write full time. Are there still responsibilities that keep you from writing? If so, how do you make sure your writing is accomplished? Do you have tips for keeping a writing schedule?
I’ve tried various strategies to deal with the “time management” issue. Currently, I’m writing 1300 words a day and the only days I’m exempt from that is Sundays. In theory, I’ll finish in 90 days … and currently I’m on track at 57% complete. We all have other responsibilities, and in many cases they are just as important or more important than writing. For instance, I’m always willing to take time off if our children are in town and want to have dinner or see a movie. My mom recently moved to our town, so many days I will take time off to be with her. However, I still have to write my 1300 words a day.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I’m fortunate to have a strong church community and this has helped tremendously. I wouldn’t want to try and stumble through each week without them. I was raised in the Christian faith, and my relationship with the Lord has always sustained me. That said, we’ve had some very tough years. My father died when I was only 35. Bob and I have 4 children together (a patchwork family), and there has been plenty of joy and a lot of trials we have all faced together. My father-in-law recently passed after a long journey through Alzheimer’s disease, and both of our moms need a certain amount of time and attention. That said, all of these things have served to improve my writing, in my opinion. I certainly understand many of the issues our readers struggle with.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Following the advice of my agent, even when I thought I couldn’t—I was too tired, had too many responsibilities demanding my time, and had no knowledge of the subject. Her faith in me propelled me past those hurdles.

What advice do you have for aspiring fiction writers?
Keep writing. The first book I sold was the 9th book I wrote. The other 8 are safely stored in my closet! The biggest mistake I see is that pre-published authors grow discouraged and stop, or they continue to work on their first manuscript. Finish it and move on to the next. Also, I think it’s critical to keep reading while you write—read bestselling fiction, literary fiction, classical fiction, popular fiction, even nonfiction. Just. Keep. Reading. It will do much to improve your writing.

What other parting words do you have to share?
I’m very appreciative of the awesome group of authors we have at ACFW—people who are generous with their time and their advice. And thanks for the chance to interview!

Thanks for sharing with us, Vannetta Chapman!




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