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Interview with Mary Ellis

Mary Ellis loves immersing herself in Amish culture during long weekend trips. Her research and Old Order contacts encouraged her to try her hand at Amish fiction All three of her Miller Family series, A Widow’s Hope, Never Far from Home, and The Way to a Man’s Heart have made the CBA, CBD, and ECPA bestseller lists. A Widow’s Hope was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards for 2010 in the long contemporary category, and a runner-up in the 2010 Holt Medallion Awards.

Mary, congratulations on the 5 star ratings on Amazon for your new release Abigail’s New Hope. The novel’s main character is an experienced Amish midwife who, during the course of a delivery, loses the mother in childbirth. Abigail is sent to jail for the death of the mother. How were you able to write a storyline related to incarceration when you’ve never experienced it?

You are making a very broad assumption, no? But seriously, I spent time with prison inmates locally and also spoke at the women’s correctional facility through Jail Ministries—a wonderful Christian outreach organization. I also interviewed sheriff’s deputies and jail personnel in the city where my story takes place, since the main plot is loosely based on a real-life case.

In your bio you said that you attend country auctions. I am a bit of a city girl, please tell us what the day at a country auction is like.
If horses are involved, it can get downright dangerous. I attended one draft and buggy horse auction in which horses were pulling pony carts, being ridden through the crowd, and paraded around to demonstrate the horse’s temperament. I was nearly trampled before I climbed into the bleachers, out of the way. It’s difficult to watch an auction of baby goats and lambs without jumping in because they’re so cute. Once, I almost bid on a heifer (milk cow) that no one seemed interested in. I feared something bad might happen if no one purchased her. But in the end, she found a new farm. I would have had a lot of explaining to do that night when I got home.

How do you balance storytelling and the spiritual aspects of your characters?
That’s not hard to do with Amish fiction. I craft stories about people whose faith is central to their daily existence. It’s not that they lead sin-free perfect lives, because they don’t. But I respect Christians who are willing to remove themselves from the worldly temptations most of us struggle with every day.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
I “retired” from my day-job a year ago, yet I still haven’t mastered time management. I try to fit too much into a given day, which leads to continual frustration. If I would only plan to accomplish my daily page count, walk the dog, and put one meal on the table, I would feel better. Anything beyond that should be considered gravy and a reason for celebration.

Share with us how you plot a new novel.
My stories usually have a main (romantic) plot, plus two offshoot stories. I plot the main romance first and then the two subplots. Then I interlace the three conflicts into a rough outline, giving the romance center stage before I start writing. Believe me, plenty of things change along the way but I like working from a “skeleton.”

I see you just joined Facebook, thanks to your two nieces Rena and Ashly. What prompted you to join that fast paced crazy world?
I was dragged kicking and screaming into this century. I would have preferred to remain cloistered in my guest room/office, gazing at my hundred-year-old barn, strumming away on my computer keys. But alas, every writer must interact with the real world and now that I do…it turns out I like it! Who would have thought?

Fun question. You are stranded on a desert island and you can only bring THREE things for the week. What are they?
Let’s see…Johnny Depp…no wait, my beloved hubby might get jealous. So I’ll bring my devoted hubby, a case of Green Tea Diet Snapple, and a giant bag of Hanover’s sourdough pretzels.

Tell us about your next release and the date it will be available.
The second in the Wayne County series, A Marriage for Meghan, will be released in September. My heroine is a former problem child who wishes to redeem her past as the district schoolteacher.

Mary, thank you for taking time to share with our ACFW readers!
Thank you so much for inviting me. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be part of such a helpful organization.

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