With Sarah Price, Jennifer Beckstrand, J.E.B. Spredemann, Patricia Davids, and Tracy Fredrychowski.
In order to breathe life into the books you’ve come to love from us here at Amish Fiction Authors, we need to be familiar with the backdrops we use. Whether it’s a one-room schoolhouse, a small country store, a multi-generation farmhouse, a German-style bank barn, or the front seat of a buggy, the trick in making our chosen setting one in which a reader can lose themselves in is to get the details right. To make it so the person turning the pages feels as if they are in that buggy, or shopping in that store, or shucking corn in the handcrafted table in the middle of a large, sunny kitchen.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that we spend a fair amount of time in Amish country—whether that’s in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, or one of the other states these plain people have chosen to settle. And just as most of you probably have your favorite spots to explore and visit, we do, too!
Let’s take a look at some of our favorite spots, shall we?
“My original go-to place was Leola, PA. I have a lot of Amish friends there and stayed on a farm for a while. My favorite place is the “Amish Walmart” which is down Musser School Road. It’s a fun Knick knack store. The Amish call it their Walmart.
Today, however, I feel most comfortable in the Shipshewana area do a lot of my books are focused around there or made-up communities. My friend Marlette invited me there and I fell in love with her family and their Amish friends. Just driving along the backroads is enough for me, although there are some great Knick knack stores that have everything from books to fabrics to clothing and candles! I love those stores.”
“Most of my books are set in Bonduel, Wisconsin, a small Amish settlement an hour west of Green Bay. It’s such a fun, tiny Amish community with several little shops and businesses if you’re willing to explore. There is an auction every year on Memorial Day, and that is so much fun to see. There are dozens and dozens of quilts and enough homemade goodies to keep a small town well fed.”
One of Jennifer’s favorite places to visit in this quaint Amish community is Lark Country Store. She says it is an authentic Amish store with food, candy, clothing, clocks, and quilts.
Planning a visit to Bonduel? One of Jennifer’s favorite tour stops is the Amish schoolhouse!
“As far as communities go, my books are set all over the place. My Amish Girls Series and a few others were set in Pennsylvania. Lately, though, I’ve been writing about Indiana/Kentucky. My communities are always fictional and may or may not resemble the actual community in that area. For example, since there are many Amish in my area, I drive by their houses anytime I go out.
The clip-clop of horse hooves and rumbling of buggy wheels is a daily occurrence. In a recent (yet to be released!) book, I’ve written a story that centers around an abandoned Amish house. The setting is authentic to the area, the buggies driven are authentic, but my characters’ beliefs might not be exactly in line with the local Ordnung.”
As for places to visit in your Amish country travels, J.E.B. has some ideas. “Since I was just in Pennsylvania for a book signing (with Laura!), I’d say you HAVE TO visit the little Busy Bee’s roadside stand in Ronks and indulge in a soft pretzel. Oh, my! They are so so good. Best pretzel I’ve ever had. For SE Indiana, if you’re ever in the area on a Friday night, ask someone local if there are any Amish dinners at one of the schoolhouses. (FYI, they are by donation only and benefit the local Amish community.) Be sure to have cash on hand any time you visit an Amish event or business, as they often don’t take credit cards – at least, in my area! (see flyer).”
“I have based most of my books in Ohio. The Brides of Amish Country and The Amish Bachelors were both set near Sugarcreek, Ohio. I haven’t personally visited the area but there is a lot of information on-line about the Amish settlements there. I chose the area because it has the largest Amish population of any state.
For my current books I have chosen more out of the way settlements. One near Garnett, KS and the other is a new settlement being started in northern Maine. Both areas are small and don’t cater to tourists. The Amish moving to Maine are doing so to get away from what they see as a detriment to their way of life. They want to focus on faith, family and farming. Not on tourist friendly crafts. The Amish in Garnett, Kansas are also farmers. You will find very few Amish run businesses there. I decided to write about these two places for that reason. The small, close-knit community feeling is important to me and something I know well living in rural Kansas myself.”
“I grew up near the Old Order Amish Community located in New Wilmington, PA, and often write about this area that I hold so dear to my heart. I am fortunate to have a few Amish friends in that area that help me write as accurately as possible. The community is made up of 19 church districts and has a population of around 2600 members. Their distinctive brown-topped (or some say yellow-topped) buggies can be seen traveling the back roads of Lawrence County from miles away.”
A must-see for Tracy when she visits Northwestern Pennsylvania? Byler’s Grocery. “We stock up on Pennsylvania Maple Syrup and pure vanilla on every visit. The owner, Susan Byler, has five boys that love to come in and talk to her visitors. They have a big map on the wall and make sure they ask all their English visitors to add a pin to the map marking their hometown. If you are ever in the area, call my friend Susan, who runs Simple Life Tours, and she will lead you through the backroads of Amish country for a first-hand look at this Old Order Community.”
Me: Laura Bradford:
I set my Amish-based women’s fiction novels and my An Amish Mystery series in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Before I sit down to write each new book, I spend several days losing myself in this picturesque setting, reacquainting myself with the pace, the people, and the overall feel. For me, the details I crave are not in the tourist-y areas but, rather, off the less traveled (by English, anyway) roads. It is while roaming those areas that I’ve stumbled across a bench wagon being unloaded…teens playing volleyball at a hymn sing…men plowing the fields with their sons…women tending their gardens…young girls hanging clothes on the line…a soon-to-be driver practicing in a field with her siblings in a horse-drawn cart…a mother pulling her little ones in a homemade wagon.
It is while exploring in this way that I’ve stumbled across some of my favorite moments—an Amish shopkeeper who asked me to help him fold a quilt an earlier customer hadn’t put back properly, a young Amish girl selling homemade candles out of her dat’s barn, a young man giving buggy tours who left before baptism, and on and on it goes.
My tip for visiting Lancaster? Put the tourist-y stuff in your rearview mirror and just drive! But remember, keep the speed down.
Now tell us what Amish communities you’ve visited, and what you think is a must-see!