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Interview with Suzanne Woods Fisher

What keeps Suzanne Woods Fisher going as a writer? An expedition to reach the South Pole in the early 1900s. No, that’s not a typo or a copy-and-paste mistake. It’s true. Keep reading to discover the writing tactic that helps this prolific author continue to put words on the page. (And get the scoop on her new series, featuring a new group of Plain people!)

You are known for your Amish novels. With the release of Phoebe's Light, you are heading in a new direction. Tell us about the change.
While there are many differences between the Amish and the Quakers, they’re both communities of faith, both with fascinating histories. So, to paint with a broad brush, they have more in common than what separates them, writing and research-wise.

What similarities exist between the Amish and the Quakers. What are the major differences?
The Amish and the Quakers share some cardinal values, like pacifism and simple living. They have some curious overlaps, too. For example, 18th and 19th century Amish immigrants had worn European peasant clothing, not the distinctive garb they wear today. Their trademark style became influenced by the Quakers—women’s big black bonnets, men’s somber dark overcoats.

Now, the major differences are really major. The Amish hold tightly to certain sacraments, like baptism and communion. Not so the Quakers.

And then there’s the role of women in the church. BIG differences there! The Amish have always had an extremely conservative view about a woman’s authority in worship. From the very beginning, Quakers have given women an equal voice. Mary Coffin Starbuck, the 17th century woman who sparked the ‘Nantucket Legacy’ series, was a Quaker minister.

Your interest in the Amish began with your grandfather's Plain upbringing. Did you always know you would write about the Amish? If not, how did that come about?
I’ve had a more-than-typical interest in my relatives’ lifestyle and expression of faith, but I could never have imagined myself writing about them. Maybe non-fiction…but fiction? It still surprises me! This path developed when my agent, Joyce Hart, knew of my grandfather’s background, and also knew of an editor who was looking for a writer with an authentic connection to the Plain people. Joyce connected me to this Revell editor, and out of that conversation came the non-fiction Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World. I dove deep into research to get past the distraction of “bonnets, buggies and beards.” Writing fiction came out of writing non-fiction about the Amish—I had a credible foundation to write from.

With dozens of Amish fiction books to your credit, how did you keep the stories fresh? How did your story ideas come about?
It’s a common question, as if creativity is a well that risks running dry. Creativity should never be tied to scarcity, but to abundance. There are so many stories still to be told! And there are countless variations to discover about being Amish—the more I know, the less I know.

It seems like readers either love Amish fiction or don't want anything to do with it. What would you say to someone in the latter category to try to persuade them to give one of your books a try?
So true! Amish fiction brings out very strong reactions: love it or hate it. The one thing I wish readers wouldn’t do is sweep away all Amish fiction. There are some outstanding writers of Amish fiction (Dale Cramer, for one) who write compelling stories. I ask readers to give an author a chance, based on their writing, not based on their genre.

The story of how you became involved raising Guide Dog puppies is inspiring and heartwarming. How has this experience changed you? And will you write (or have you written) about it in any of your novels?
Thank you for noticing! GDB has been a big part of my life—the dogs and the people. And I have written about my experience—a story about our first puppy that graduated was published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. One of my first novels, For the Love of Dogs, featured a woman who had a guide dog. It was published by a small press publisher, Vinspire, won some awards, and caught the attention of my agent, Joyce Hart. And, well, you know the rest of that story!

As a seasoned and successful author, can you offer some encouragement, or a story about the early days of writing, for those of us who are yet to be published?
Hangeth thou in there! If God has called you to write, you need to write. But the path may not look like you thought it would, or in the timing you hoped it would. Try to be open to an unexpected journey. God will use all kinds of opportunities to develop your skills. Every part of your life can be useful and redeemed for your writing career. It’s all grit for the oyster.

What keeps you going as a writer?
My 20-Mile March. It’s a metaphor from the 1911 attempt of two teams that set out to reach the South Pole. In a nutshell: one team accommodated the weather conditions. They advanced as far as they could on fair weather days and rested during inclement weather. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The other team advanced twenty miles per day and stopped, regardless of conditions. The Twenty Mile March team made it to the pole and safely home. The other team perished.

I have a targeted word count every single day, except for Sunday. It might not all be great work, but it keeps me advancing the plot. It keeps the story moving toward the “pole.”

Any parting words?
Yes! What’s your 20-Mile March? What goals do you have that you will set out to hit with great consistency no matter what’s happening around you? Despite everything in your world that distracts, discourages, or delays you? What is your march?

Thanks for letting me pop in today! I enjoy connecting with readers and writers and welcome emails. You can always find me at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com, or hanging out on facebook at www.facebook.com/SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor, or instagram, too! @suzannewoodsfisher


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Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at http://lisabartelt.com.






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