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Interview with Amy Clipston

Amy Clipston is best known for her Amish stories set in a bake shop. Her own baking experiences may not rival those in her books, but she does make a regular stop at a Lancaster County bakery whenever she’s in town. Besides Amish fiction, Clipston’s passions include organ donation and cats. She’s got a new series in the works, and she confesses what she would miss if she joined an Amish community.

How did you get interested in the Amish community and what led to you writing books in that genre?
I was always fascinated with the Amish when I was a child. I remember visiting Lancaster County, and my father, who was a German immigrant, told me the Amish speak a similar dialect that my German relatives speak. I was drawn to their simplicity and faith. Due to my German heritage, I feel a loose connection to the culture. I was inspired to write my own Amish novels after reading other Amish authors in the industry.

As with all of my Amish books, I double-check my details by referring to books and also talking to my Amish friends and other contacts in Lancaster County. One Amish friend lives on a dairy farm with her husband and seven children. She and I keep in touch through letters and on the phone. If I leave a message on her voicemail, she’ll call me back from her phone shanty. She reads the drafts of my novels and answers all of my questions.

You also have a few contemporary YA books and a memoir. Which came first, the Amish fiction, the YA books or the memoir? And do you plan to continue writing in any other genre besides Amish in the future?
The Amish novels came first, and the young adult novels were a surprise. My publisher asked me to write the young adult novels. Currently, I am only contracted to write more Amish books, but I hope to have the opportunity to write more young adult novels in the future.

My memoir, A Gift of Love, was inspired by my husband’s journey with kidney disease. Some readers may not know that my husband, Joe, has endured two kidney transplants. Joe received a kidney from his brother in 2004, and it only lasted four years. In 2008, he went back on dialysis, and he was very ill. I was willing to donate to Joe, but I wasn’t a perfect match. Instead of donating a kidney to Joe, I found another way to help him.

I donated a kidney on June 14, 2011, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through my donation, Joe received a second kidney transplant. Joe and I matched another couple and swapped kidneys with them. I donated a kidney to a woman, and in exchange, her husband gave a kidney to Joe. My memoir, A Gift of Love, details our journey with Joe’s kidney disease and his two kidney transplants. You can find my memoir here:

Due to Joe’s kidney struggles, I’ve become an advocate for both organ and blood donation. I volunteer with the National Kidney Foundation, and I also run blood drives at my church. If you are healthy and able, please give the gift of life and donate blood.

One of your Amish series is set in a bakery. Do you bake? What was your research like for those stories and did you try any recipes that you wrote about?
I’m embarrassed to admit I do not bake very often, and when I do, it’s normally something simple, such as banana bread. My Kauffman Amish Bakery series was inspired by the Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop in Bird-in-Hand, PA. I included Amish recipes, and I did try a few of the recipes in those books.

Your latest book, The Forgotten Recipe, is the start of a new series, correct? What sets this one apart from your other series?
The Forgotten Recipe is the first in my brand-new Amish Heirloom series and features the fictional Fisher family, who live in Bird-in-Hand, PA. This series is different from my Kauffman Amish Bakery and Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series because it centers around one family with three daughters —Veronica, Rachel, and Emily. Each of the first three books will center around one of the daughters, and the fourth book will go back in time to reveal a mystery surrounding how the parents met and married. I’m really excited about this series, and I look forward to hearing what my readers think of it.

What is one challenge and one blessing about writing series?
The blessing in writing a series is I can connect with the characters and have the opportunity to delve into their personalities throughout the course of the series. The challenge is that the books and the mystery I reveal throughout the series have to be planned out before I start writing the first book. This means I have very little wiggle room, and I can’t change something in book three that was already mentioned in book one. I’m sort of stuck with what I decided ahead of time. It’s not really a problem, but I sometimes worry I will forget a detail and a reader will email me to tell me about an inconsistency. I’m thankful to have an amazing line editor who often remembers the details I tend to forget.

Finish this statement: One thing I would miss if I joined an Amish community is ________.
My MacBook. I can’t imagine having to write books longhand. My iPhone is a very close second since I would miss listening to audio books and music.

How do you balance full-time work, family and writing?
It’s definitely a challenge, but my family and I make it work. I work four 10-hour days for the City of Charlotte in order to have Fridays off for writing, running errands, and volunteering at my boys’ school. I’m also blessed to have my mother living with my family. She’s a tremendous help with the household chores. Thanks to her help, I’m able to spend any free time at home writing. My family is very supportive and thankful for my book contracts. When I am not on deadline, I do special things with my boys. We also make time to watch at least one movie per week at our house. I love movie night because I get to snuggle with my 10-year-old.

You have visited Lancaster County, the setting of some of your books. What is one activity that is a must-see or must-do when you go?
The Bird-in-Hand Bake Shop is my absolute favorite place to go, and it’s usually my first stop. Not only is the food delicious, but it was my inspiration for my Kauffman Amish Bakery series. At the Bake Shop, you’ll find a wide assortment of homemade goodies, such as cookies, cakes, whoopie pies, and breads. I once brought home a container of sprinkles, telling my sons that they were Amish sprinkles. My boys are still convinced that Amish sprinkles are the best, and it always makes me smile that sprinkles are on the top of their wish lists when I visit the Amish Country. The Bake Shop has a vast gift shop, including souvenirs such as dolls, framed art, and T-shirts. Outside there’s a petting zoo for the children, and, if you’re fortunate, you’ll find a pretzel cart parked there as well.

Tell us about your cats! Names, brief descriptions, and how did you become a multi-cat family?
This is an emotional subject for me because we lost one of our precious kitties, Molly, unexpectedly on Nov. 3. My family and I have three spoiled-rotten cats who rule our house. I grew up with cats, so I have always loved them. My husband, Joe, often jokes the cats own the house and allow us to live there.

Our oldest feline is Jet, an eleven-year-old, fluffy, tuxedo cat who can be found upstairs in our bedroom. We joke that the upstairs is his apartment. He is the biggest, but he’s a chicken. He’s afraid of everything from strangers to plastic grocery bags. Jet is attached to me, and he follows me around, often meowing at me.

Rico, a plump, black short-haired cat, is approximately seven years old. We’ve decided his mother never taught him how to meow and never weaned him. His meow consists of a wimpy squeak, and he likes to lick everyone, except for me. He’s attached to Joe and follows him around like a shadow. Rico also loves to eat and he runs to the door to greet all of our visitors. I think he’d go home with friends if we allowed him.

Lastly, there’s Lily, a mouthy tabby, who is approximately six years old. She’s in love with Rico, and they often snuggle and clean each other. She’s small but mighty and harasses Jet mercilessly. One of these days, we’re hoping Jet will realize he can knock her over with one swift swat. If you’re bored or lonely, you can have a conversation with Lily. Just ask a question, and she’ll give you a long, loud “meow” in response.

We adore our cats, but the box is always full and the bowls are always empty.

Any parting words?
Please drop me a line or send me a message through social media:

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Author Twitter: @AmyClipston

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Thank you so much for interviewing me on the ACFW Blog! I have enjoyed talking with you.

Thanks, Amy!

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