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Interview with Gail Sattler

Gail is the author of more than 30 novels and novellas including the Bloomfield Series. Her newest release, The Path to Piney Meadows, a romantic comedy, has a male protagonist and is set in the remote Mennonite community of Piney Meadows.

Why a male lead in this novel?
It happened quite by accident – I was tying this book to the first book in the series (The Narrow Path) and took a new visitor to Piney Meadows, Chad Jones, who just arrived at the end of The Narrow Path. As I dug into him to find out what secrets he held and how he got there, boy did I ever find secrets! And the story just went from there.

You’re saying The Path to Piney Meadows is the second in the series. We know many authors take a character from a previous book and give them a story of their own, but I hear the way you did it is quite unique. Please tell us about it.
The Narrow Path ended with the culmination of the Christmas Pageant that Ted and Miranda had been working on the entire book. In the last scene, a stranger showed up, and of course that scene was shown to the reader in the POV of Ted and Miranda’s world. In the opening of The Path To Piney Meadows, I re-used that same scene, and wrote it from the POV of the new hero, Chad Jones. It was great fun rewriting the same scene with that different perspective of a stranger to the community who didn’t even know why he was there.

How does writing for the Mennonite community differ from writing for a general readership or an Amish one?
The Amish are very legalistic and much more primitive than Mennonite societies. Even the present day Old Order Mennonite communities use electricity and things from modern society even though they do stay away from most technology. They sometimes have cars, but only if “necessary”. For example, there are few cars in Piney Meadows. One is owned by the pastor, for when people need rides, another is owned by the town mechanic, who must go out to fix broken down farm equipment.

How do you translate comedy, a sense of humor, or whimsy to your writing?
I don’t know. It just happens. I think it’s just voice, it’s who I am and the way I tell my stories. I had a friend once tell me that when she was reading one of my books she wanted to look back over her shoulder and say “Shut up Gail, I’m trying to read.”

Underneath the comedic is a strong sense of faith. How do the two mix?
Life isn’t always serious. Everyone has to smile sometimes, granted some more than others, but God wants us to have joy in our lives, and that means doing some things that are fun and can glorify God at the same time.

Of all the protagonists you’ve introduced, do you have a favorite?
At first I was going to say Chad, but maybe that’s because he’s my most recent. I like all my protagonists, but Chad holds a special place for me because he has a lot to deal with, and he honestly tries to do the decent and honorable thing when he knows how out of place he is.

Music is a large part of your life. You play for your church, in a jazz band and in a community orchestra. How does music influence your writing?
In most of my books, someone plays some kind of instrument, some better than others. My recent project is learning the viola (written in alto cleff! Yikes!). So one day soon, someone in one of my books is going to have to learn that one!

What’s the funniest story you wish you could include in a novel but haven’t yet had the opportunity?
I have no idea. Stuff just happens to me. Right now I’m working on a story that I can finally include the day I had my first (and hopefully only) trip in an ambulance. I’ve been waiting about 15 years to be able to use it. I’ll share one thing on that – good ambulance attendants tell bad jokes. Although I sure wasn’t laughing at the time.

Parting thoughts?
I think the best thing I can say to writers is that when you write, always be yourself. You have your own unique perspective which gives you your own unique voice and style. Don’t be afraid to use them. Write on!

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