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Interview with Shelley Shepard Gray

Shelley Shepard Gray may be a household name in Amish fiction, but if you think that’s all she writes, think again! During a recent book tour stop in Lancaster County, loyal fans of her writing turned out to meet her and talk books. When one visitor (me!) admitted with embarrassment to never having read any of her books, Shelley’s welcome was warm and gracious. Not only is she a talented writer, she’s friendly to strangers, and her stories draw readers into worlds both Amish and English, historical and contemporary.

Many readers know you as an author of Amish fiction, but you have books in other genres as well. Which stories came first for you? And what prompted you to branch out to other genres?
I've actually been published since 2000. I wrote for many years as Shelley Galloway for Harlequin's American Romance line. I've also published western inspirational romances for Abingdon Press. I'm one of those authors who truly enjoys writing. I love writing all sorts of things, just like I enjoy reading all sorts of books. I've been truly blessed to have an agent who encouraged me to take chances and to write for publishers who have given me so many opportunities.

Why did you want to tell stories set in Amish communities?
My agent remembered that I live in southern Ohio, just an hour from an Amish community. When the opportunity arose at Avon Inspire to write some Amish romances for their new line, I jumped at the opportunity. It's been a wonderful partnership and I truly love writing stories featuring the Amish.

What have you learned from and about the Amish through your research and travels that would surprise your readers?
I've actually gotten to know many Amish men and women over the years. I'm constantly learning things that surprise me, such as when I learned that the New Order Amish do missionary work in other countries. This new series is set in Pinecraft, Florida. Pinecraft is an Amish community located in the heart of Sarasota. Amish live there and travel there by bus for vacations. I've discovered that a lot of fans of the genre didn't know about Pinecraft.

Tell us what you did before you became a writer and how you made the leap to writing books.
I used to teach elementary school. I started writing one day during my lunch break, simply because I had forgotten the book I was reading at home. My husband is a salesman, and over the course of his career we were transferred to several states. When we were transferred to Ohio, he encouraged me to complete my first novel.

A quick glance at your "bookshelf" page on your website shows you to be a prolific writer, sometimes with three or more books releasing in one year! What is your writing process like? How long does it take you to plan, plot, research and write a book?
I have been publishing four and five books a year for several years now. The only way I am able to do this is by writing every day. I usually write ten to twelve pages per day, six days a week. I also usually work on several projects at a time. I actually have a fairly short attention span. Working on multiple projects helps keep me focused. Currently, I turn in an Amish book every three months and a historical romance about every eight months.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
I've been reading Christmas books! Right now, I'm reading Anne Perry's latest Christmas mystery. I also have been reading all kinds of Christmas romances that have been on sale on my Kindle. I read pretty fast, so it's been fun to try out some new authors right now.

Who inspires you as an author?
Other authors inspire me. Going to conferences inspire me. And my readers inspire me too. Their interest in my books makes me want to work even harder. I'm grateful for them.

Finish this statement: If I joined an Amish community, what I would miss the most about my English life is …. computer! Since writing is such a solitary occupation, I rely on my computer to stay in touch with folks. I don't often have time to go out to lunch with friends here, but I often will hop on Facebook for a few minutes to see what everyone is doing!

Any parting words?
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Thanks for sharing with us, Shelley!
Thank you! This has been a lot of fun.

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