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Interview with Beth Shriver

Beth Shriver credits her childhood spent on her grandfather’s Nebraska ranch as a catalyst for her fascination with the Amish and their quiet rural lives. Her interest in their world of buggies, plum jam, and simplicity—coupled with God’s call—has inspired her to write the Touch of Grace series. Grace Given, her second book in the series, released earlier this month.

In your frequent visits with an Amish bishop and his wife near Fort Worth, what has been the most rewarding part of the experience?

The first time I met the Amish was after I moved to Texas and visited some of the communities. Since then I’ve been to an Amish wedding, church services, spent time with the bishop and his wife in their home and farm. We do simple things like work in their greenhouse and eat sticky buns, talk of family and faith.

How has your firsthand glimpse into the Amish community inspired your writing and your own life?
I’m fascinated with how the Amish can remain separate from the outside world. I admire their commitment to live as one body, living by customs of their forefathers. Their way of life reminds me of spending time at my grandfather’s ranch when I was growing up. I have a lot of good memories there, and with the similarities of the two.

What interests you the most about their lifestyle? How have you tied this aspect/s into your novels?
Nickel Mines was the first time I really paid much attention, but I definitely did after the shootings because we lived down the street from Columbine High School, and the Nickel Mines brought all that back to me. I mention the tragedy in my book Annie’s Truth. The way the Amish dealt with the tragedy amazed me, it still does to this day.

Grace Given’s Elsie Yoder struggles to forgive her sister for leaving their community and subjecting her family to ridicule. With your background in social work, how has your career training provided insight to write about difficult relationships and emotional issues, etc.?
My characters carry a lot of emotion, which I can identify with in working with broken families as a case worker. We’ve lost a lot of family values; electronics plays a big role in that, taking over our lives in both a good and bad way. The communication just isn’t clear or dealt with. One of the things I admired so much in my grandmothers was their art of conversation. I’d sit for hours with them talking the time away and found it much more rewarding than any electronic device could ever be.

On your website, you list your favorite Bible verse as Philippians 4:6-7 about not worrying and embracing God’s peace. How do you feel God has used your spiritual struggles to strengthen not only your faith but provide a message to readers through your novels?
The reason I write is to create touching stories for Christian and non-Christian reader alike. Even if I wrote for a secular publisher there would be an inspirational undertone, it’s just who I am and what I stand for as a writer. Being a social worker I usually have the social issue in my head first and a faith point, then a takeaway that’s not been overused. Many times I wait and let the story tell me what those are and how they’ll work into each of the characters personalities.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
What I know now that I didn’t know then when I first started was not to take things so personally. It’s a business; it’s just really difficult to get to that frame of mind when you’re passionate about your writing dreams.

How did the journey of writing your first book begin? Was there a specific inspiration to do it?
Author Steve Lawhead is a family friend and his wife encouraged me early on to write, and my friend Shelley Sabga, or better known as Shelley Shepherd Gray, was a great encourager to me. We knew each other long before we started writing and when she told me about her first published book she gave me the courage to write those first words.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
I’m fortunate to work part-time which leaves me a lot of room to write. But I’m not as disciplined as I used to be because I have more time. I write fast once I’m into the story so I’m always way ahead of deadline and get too comfortable. I do much better when I’m in a pinch.

Finish this question…If you were a member of the Amish community, what part of the lifestyle would you look forward to the most? The least?
My dad and his five siblings lived much like the Amish in that they had no heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electricity and rode in a buggy to school, and of course, there were always chores to do. When I spent time on my grandfather’s ranch when I was growing up, we did some of those same things. The one that bothered me the most was the little runt piglet my grandfather let us nurse to health one summer. Come Easter we found out after the meal that Sneakers the Pig was the Sunday ham.

Any parting words?
Thank you for the opportunity to share my writing journey!

Thanks for sharing with us, Beth!

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