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Interview with Kelly Irvin

Kelly is an award-winning author of nineteen novels, both in Amish romance and romantic suspense.

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Hello, Kelly, and welcome! You have a history in the field of journalism and public relations and have been writing nonfiction for over three decades. What did you like about that kind of writing?
I loved working for newspapers because every day was different. I learned something new every day and wrote on a wide range of topics and different styles of writing, including news, features, editorial columns, and even restaurant reviews. Journalism requires you to be a quick study, to ask the right questions, and write accurately on deadline day after day. It was challenging and enjoyable.

What led you to begin writing Amish novels?
My agent encouraged me to give it a try. I was interested in writing a novel around forgiveness. The Amish are well respected for their strong belief in forgiveness as evidenced in the West Nickel Mines school shooting in 2006. I wrote a story about an Amish woman who had difficulty forgiving the man responsible for an accident that killed her parents. My agent sold To Love and to Cherish before I finished writing it. That was the start of my career as an Amish fiction writer.

How does your writing style differ from that of other Amish fiction authors?
There’s a huge range within the genre, even though the story parameters have a narrow scope. Many authors are known for their sweet romances. Mine tend to be grittier and often have story arcs that you might see in women’s fiction.

In Peace in the Valley, the conflict centers around spiritual/theological conflict, but I’ve also written about domestic abuse, the death of a child, postpartum depression, physical disability, and other issues that affect family life, whether Amish or “English.”

What is your biggest challenge in writing fiction?
It’s not the writing itself that is a challenge for me so much as managing my time between writing and marketing. I’ve been very fortunate in the last few years to be able to write in two genres. Sometimes the deadlines come one right after the other, and every book release means marketing has to be done as well. I consider myself tremendously blessed to be able to write books that I love in two genres so I try never to whine about it. With every book there are deadlines for revisions, line edits, galleys, and marketing, so being organized and a good time manager is paramount.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser all the way. Or as Stephen James calls it, an organic writer. I have some basic idea of who my characters are and what the conflict is, but I don’t outline, not even for the romantic suspense. I love it when a character shows up fully formed out of the blue. That’s what makes writing fiction so much fun for me. Yes, sometimes I have to do a lot of rewriting, but it’s worth it to take those dives down rabbit holes and finding creative gold.

What is your strongest motivation for writing the fiction stories that you do?
Giving readers stories that take them out of their worlds and into completely new places. I’ve had readers tell me they feel like they’re in my stories with my characters, living their lives. I love that. At the same time, I want to challenge them to think in new directions, to examine their own lives and their beliefs, to stretch as human beings.

How do you reflect your faith in your writing?
First, I recognize that my number one obligation is to entertain my readers. Then I also try to identify faith issues that people like myself may struggle with. I incorporate those into my stories. My characters often struggle with some aspect of their faith in a way that is authentic and real. That’s my goal. It’s woven into the story so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t want to be preachy, but I do want to encourage readers to think about their faith even after they close the book.

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
How important it is to not only know what you believe, but be able to articulate it. Nora knows her extended family left her hometown to start a more charismatic Amish district down the road, but she doesn’t truly understand how their faith is practiced differently from her own. She can’t articulate why her district opposes musical instruments, driving cars, and wearing “English” clothes.

She finds it difficult to defend her style of worship and her beliefs to her cousins when they pressure her to pursue “a closer walk with Jesus.” She doesn’t know what that means. I think we can all be caught off guard when questioned about our faith if we’re not thoughtful about it or faithful in study of Scripture and spending time with other like-minded believers.


Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview style blog talk radio show, where she promotes those who share God’s love through writing and other ministry outlets. She hosts writers, published and unpublished, on her two blogs, The Over 50 Writer and Patti’s Porch on her website at Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three western novels in progress. When not writing or reading, she is doing volunteer work for her church or attending her only granddaughter’s sports activities. Patti lives in Colorado with her devoted feline companion, Duncan.

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