For me, this is one of the most exciting posts (or post series) I’ve written to date! I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoy sharing it with you.
Okay, before I begin, I’ll need to lay some ground work, so please bear with me.
It all began in 2012 in California. This is the year I, along with two of my daughters, began writing Amish fiction. (If you’ve heard the story about how we got started, feel free to skip on to the next section.)
One day, while out grocery shopping with me, Brandi was reading aloud from one of the Amish fiction books I’d obtained from the library. Since our children were homeschooled, I felt this was a good way to do school while we were out and about. Reading aloud tends to boost one’s self-confidence and makes you a better reader in general. Anyway, when she closed the book, she turned and asked me, “How come they don’t have books like this for people my age?”
I pondered her words and began doing a little research on teen Amish books. I already knew of one series and I found out about another one, but other than that, she was right. There just wasn’t much Amish fiction out there for teens. So, I then suggested, “Why don’t we write some?” And the Amish Girls Series was created. It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned.
Originally, I had in mind for them to be a sort of ‘American Girl’ type book. But as we wrote, we got into some deeper issues and the characters just felt older, so I decided it was more geared toward a teen/young adult readership. Fortunately, adults have enjoyed them too, which is good because I don’t think there are too many modern teens interested in Amish fiction, sadly.
I didn’t want to launch the Amish Girls Series as my first book because I was afraid readers would think that teen fiction was all I wrote. I already had plans for more books with a Christian adult readership in mind. One of those books was Amish by Accident, which became the first book I officially launched. And what a launch it was! Wow, I never expected that readers would respond to Amish by Accident the way they did. It was such a blessing!
The crazy thing about all of it was that the story came to me in a totally unexpected – and very tragic – way. In June of 2012, my cousin Bobby was in a terrible motorcycle accident that took his life. He was just 24 years old. Bobby was also my next door neighbor at the time and he knew we’d been writing books. (You should have seen his face the first time we took him to a Conservative Mennonite ‘singing’ – it was priceless! He loved it.) I think he would be glad to know that his death inspired a story in a roundabout way.
It was while Bobby was in the hospital that the idea for Amish by Accident had been sparked. A funny thing occurred at the hospital, but I wasn’t there to experience it first-hand. You see, while my family was in the waiting room, a woman stepped out of the elevator. That woman, I’m told, looked just like me! My aunt was on her way to give ‘me’ a hug when my uncle told her, “That’s not Jennifer!” She had to do a double take. My sister and my husband both thought it was me at first too! Can you imagine? Well, that’s not the first time something like that has happened. Over and over again throughout the years I’ve been told, “Hey, I know someone who could pass for your twin.”
That incident, along with another true story I’d heard around that time about a woman who had amnesia (and I’ll admit I was also reading Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at the time,) set the wheels in my head in motion. Fast forward to November 2012, Amish by Accident hit the market with a boom and eventually propelled me to the #4 spot on Amazon’s Top 100 Authors in Religion/Spirituality. All glory and praise to GOD!!! What an exciting time!
What, you ask, does all that have to do with making a documentary? Hold on, I’m getting there, I promise!
These events filled me with a longing to connect with my readers in a tangible way. It also caused me to want to know the Amish better – to meet them in person, visit them, get to know them on a personal level. At that point, everything I’d learned about the Amish had been from non-fiction books and documentaries, and research I’d done. For me, that just wasn’t enough.
Over the next year, I researched moving to an Amish-occupied state. (I don’t think that was worded correctly.) Anyway, since we homeschooled, academic freedom was very high on my priority list. It turned out that Pennsylvania and Ohio were too liberal for our liking, so the Hoosier state became very appealing. I’ll tell you, never in a million years would I have guessed that I’d move to Indiana. Isn’t it awesome how God has things in store in our future life that we can’t even begin to imagine? This was one of those things for me.
The moment I saw my house online, I fell in love. Truly. I prayed, “Lord, if there is any way we can buy that house, please make it happen. But only if it’s Your will. You know what’s best for us.”
Y’all, God heard my prayer that day! Not only did He hear it, but He gave me the desire of my heart!!! It was so amazing the way it all worked out.
We flew to Indiana in October 2013 and came and looked at the house, along with a few others. That was all it took to convince my hubby that he wanted to move as much as I did. We both fell in love with Indiana. Next May, we sold our house in California and headed east. When we left, we hadn’t purchased any property. As a matter of fact, the Amish house that I wanted had been in escrow with another buyer. The deal fell through, which caused the price to drop even more, and we were able to place an offer on our 17 acre piece of paradise.
During the time we were considering moving, we became good friends with a local man, Samuel, who just so happened to be former-Amish. It was through him that we learned of the Amish documentary. His wife’s cousin, Joseph Graber, also former-Amish, had a dilemma. He was a film director and producer and he needed an Amish home where he could do the filming. They needed to film scenes of a family supper, a church service, and others. Samuel had offered his home, which he’d built while still Amish, but it was now too modern because he’d added electricity and other Englisch trappings. What they really needed was an authentic Amish home, but what Amish family would allow former-Amish to come in and film scenes for a documentary? None that he knew of.
So Joseph began praying. He knew that God would work it all out in His timing. He’d thought, if we could maybe just get an Amish home that was being purchased by an Englisch person but wasn’t converted to Englisch standards yet, that would be perfect.
Enter us. ☺ Samuel introduced us to Joseph, who in turn asked us, “Would you allow me to film an Amish documentary in your home?” He’d explained the situation and his dilemma. Of course, we said, “YES!” And that’s how it all started.
So, you see, God didn’t just answer my prayer and fulfill my family’s needs, He answered Joseph’s prayer and fulfilled his needs as well! Don’t we serve an AMAZING GOD?!! He never ceases to amaze me.
Photos ©Copyright, J. Spredemann – show the empty house being transformed into an Amish home, a Swiss Amish buggy (all open buggies)
If you enjoyed this blog post and want to learn more, please stay tuned for part 2 of my ‘Making of An Amish Documentary’ post! The documentary itself, called ‘Breaking the Silence: My Amish Story’ will begin airing via live stream on Facebook on February 2, 2018. This will continue for 6 consecutive weeks, until all six episodes of the documentary are shown. The documentary will eventually be available for purchase as well. For more information, you can visit: https://www.facebook.com/MyAmishStory/
What do you think? Feel free to comment below!
By the goodness and grace of GOD, Readers’ Favorite GOLD & SILVER Medal Book Award Winner J.E.B. Spredemann, Author of the beloved Amish by Accident and Amish Secrets series, was born and raised in California and now resides in beautiful southern Indiana Amish country. Amish by Accident (by J. Spredemann) was first released in November 2012, and the author held a steady spot in Amazon’s Top 100 Authors in Religion & Spirituality, topping out at #4. Find J.E.B. on Facebook or visit jebspredemann.com.