One of the many aspects of writing Amish romances that I enjoy is doing the research. Especially when it means traveling. My current series, Every Amish Season, is set in Jamesport, MO, one of the largest Amish settlements in the state. This is the second series I’ve written set in Missouri, the first being the New Hope Amish. While preparing to write New Hope, I had the opportunity to visit Jamesport with my husband. Neither of us had ever visited an area before where Amish folks live. We found it fascinating.
We went in July in order to be there for an annual two-day school auction fund-raiser. The temperature hovered around one hundred degrees the entire time we were there. The Amish women wore their long sleeved, long dresses with aprons and kapps. The men wore their long-sleeved shirts and long pants. The heat didn’t seem to bother them, one of the advantages of not living with air conditioning in their homes.
Noise filled the air at the auction—people visiting everywhere, discussing prices, looking at livestock, eating homemade ice cream and hamburgers. Three or four auctioneers worked their perspective crowds simultaneously. I didn’t know where to look first. It was hard for my husband, who is a professional photographer, not to take photos of such interesting people. He did shoot photos of the buggies and horses, which led to two young girls getting out of their buggy so they could get their pictures taken. That was interesting for us.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast ran by a non-Amish couple who obviously had found their niche. They offered buggy rides around the countryside to show how the Amish live there. We didn’t partake of the ride, but we did gladly accept the map that showed us where the Amish businesses were, as well as their schools and cemeteries. We made the rounds on our own. We saw phone shacks with solar panels and visited a store where quilts were being made while customers browsed. I found Amish romance novels in that same store. They know their customers!
It was a fascinating visit and one I hope to repeat someday—in the spring when it’s cooler and they’re planting crops and gardens all across the countryside. They have craft days in the downtown area that I would love to visit as well.
All this research will hold me in good stead as I write the new series set in Jamesport. The setting isn’t as crucial as one might think, however. These are universal stories that reflect not only the seasons of the year, but the seasons in the lives of the women who are portrayed. The four women are widows in a community where family units are so important. They have trouble figuring out how they still fit in without their husbands. Each is in a different season in her life. In Upon a Spring Breeze, which debuted in June, Bess is a young, pregnant wife who sees her whole life change in a terrible instant that makes her fearful of ever loving again. Her season of change is just beginning.
In the books that come after we’ll follow the lives of Bess’s friends, each in a different season. Jennie, who is in her thirties and has seven children, fights to overcome a terrible secret in her past and love again. This book is called Beneath the Summer Sun and releases in January. In Through the Autumn Air, Mary Katherine is an empty nester with grandchildren. Her desire to open a bookstore with an English friend is at odds with what the district believes a woman her age should be doing. Then there’s Laura, who has great grandchildren, and finds that even a woman in her seventies can find love. That’s the theme of With Winter’s First Frost. I’m excited about the idea of writing about older women and how they find their second chances for love. My research in Jamesport is reflected in each story.
I hope you’ll join me for this thoughtful, emotional journey through the seasons of life and love set in Jamesport. As always, I welcome your comments and look forward the hearing from you.
Two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist Kelly Irvin is the author of the critically acclaimed Amish of Bee County, Bliss Creek Amish, and New Hope Amish series. Her latest work is Upon a Spring Breeze, the first novel in the four-book series Every Amish Season. Her work has also appeared in three Amish anthologies, An Amish Market, An Amish Christmas Love, and An Amish Christmas. Kelly is a retired newspaper reporter and public relations professional who lives with her husband in Texas. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats.
Kelly began writing Amish fiction six years ago when she decided to explore the theme of Christian forgiveness. Awed by the example set by the Amish, she decided to write a novel around that theme. This led to the publication of To Love and to Cherish, the first book in the Bliss Creek Amish series. Kelly recently learned that her great-grandmother’s grandparents were “Pennsylvania Dutch,” who migrated from Pennsylvania to Kansas in covered wagons.