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Interview with Elizabeth Byler Younts

I believe one of the most powerful things an author brings to their writing is their own personal history. For Elizabeth Byler Younts, that means writing Amish Historical fiction from a different perspective – a personal one. Find out more about Elizabeth, her latest release Promise to Return, and how her Amish history has shaped her story writing.

Elizabeth, tell us a little bit about your latest release, Promise to Return. Who is your favorite character from this book? What makes them your favorite?
I love Miriam. She struggles with two things that I think many women can relate with…her devotion to the people she loves and her own strong-willed nature that seems to be in direct opposition of the mainstream of her life. Life is filled with obstacles and while Miriam would love to put on the blinders, this time she can’t.

I see that you are formerly Amish. How did this play into the writing of Promise to Return?
If there are any memories that are ingrained most vividly into my mind as a child it would be the time I spent with my Amish family. My parents left the church when I was a child but they were extremely passionate about restoring the relationship with their parents and siblings. My parents were shunned and still are but we have a great relationship with our Amish family by the Grace of God. My parents provided my siblings and me with the most amazing legacy…parents who love the Lord and have taught us about true salvation in Jesus Christ, and add that to the generations of peaceful men and women who fought their way through spiritual persecution in Europe to gain freedom and then in the United States they took a stand against fighting in wars.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
My whole life is wrapped in the balm of God’s grace, mercy, and love on my life. He intimately knows me, who I am, and how much I need Him. He knows me so well it’s not fair to write anything but an authentic connection on the page for readers. This intimacy in Christ needs to flow through the “soul” of the story in a genuine and relatable way.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I’ve been writing something from even before I can remember…my mom tells me even as a two-year-old child I was writing what I called my stories. To be truthful I never thought I’d write Amish Fiction…I wanted to write historical fiction. It wasn’t until I wrote my grandma’s memoir in Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl that I realized that I’d found where God wanted me. Amish Historical. Promise to Return starts the Promise of Sunrise series that stems from the heritage of my own grandfather “Daudy” who was drafted in World War 2 but was sent to work at the Civilian Public Service camp as a conscientious objector.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
To begin with, my husband was active duty Air Force and deployed when I wrote Promise to Return. About six weeks ago my husband left active duty and entered the Air National Guard and we moved our family to Hershey, PA. Buying a home and settling with our daughters, 6 and 3, is a dream my husband and I have had for many years. We are also a homeschooling family…truly a wonderful “full-time” dream job. My dream of being a novelist came in the midst of this…Promise to Return released the day after our household goods arrived. Hundreds of boxes and a heart full of blessings. It is wonderful to realize dreams…when they come all at once it requires balance in a new way and truly total dependence on the Dream-Giver. I’m learning to focus on the priorities God has for me and remember that I don’t need to strive to be super-woman but learn to be super-dependent on God.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
I’m not sure it’s really a moment but being able to experience the amazing support I’ve received from not just my incredible family but from my little farm community back in rural Michigan and my Amish family in Michigan, Ohio, and Delaware. It’s a sweet thing to know they are behind me and support what I am writing.

What resources do you think have been the most helpful to your publication journey?
While I’d attended a few writing workshops, the critique group I was a part of in San Antonio honed my writing skills remarkably. Allison Pittman leads the group and is not just an amazing writer but truly a brilliant critique partner and phenomenally gifted teacher. I’ve learned more from her since I walked into her critique group in 2009 than I could ever have imagined. A wonderful mentor and also one of my best buddies! The growth I received in her critique group for the two and a half years I lived in San Antonio was vital to becoming published.

Any parting words?
When looking back into history we see that these passive people stand up against mainstream society for what they believe is right. Their stand against fighting in a war is braided together in with our country’s history and politics, yet it’s largely overlooked. They are peaceful without being doormats on the issues that trouble them. History itself proves their strength and passion. Miriam and Henry’s story is only one of many…

Thanks for sharing with us, Elizabeth!

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