Laurie Stroup Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in both athletic training and exercise science— and later a master’s degree in health promotion and education. She is now a full-time writer and was a finalist in the 2017 ACFW First Impressions Contest and a semi-finalist in the 2018 and 2019 ACFW Genesis contest. She writes both Amish fiction and contemporary romance.

Laurie, her husband, and their two daughters live in Cincinnati.

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What started you on your writing journey?

Around the age of nine, I remember telling my parents I wanted to be an author, but my interests later led me to become a Certified Athletic Trainer. Writing has always been important to me. One of my college professors requested a copy of my master’s thesis to keep as an example for other students, and the manager of the physical therapy clinic where I worked asked me to help write new versions of our treatment protocols. While serving for six years as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, I started a blog as a resource for other leaders. But it wasn’t until I wrote a story for our daughters and shared it with an author friend, who then encouraged me to pursue writing, that I remembered my childhood dream.

Let’s talk about your debut book, Pockets of Promise (Vinspire Publishing, April 2020). Please tell us about it.

Pockets of Promise is about a young Amish woman—torn between two worlds and two men—who travels to the Amish snowbird community of Pinecraft, where she receives wisdom and guidance through secret notes tucked into the pockets of a special quilt.

Mariah Mast’s best friend Josiah Weaver has concentrated his efforts on providing for their future together, but on her eighteenth birthday, Mariah finds herself edging away from Josiah and her faith. An encounter with police, a misunderstanding of intentions, and hurt feelings compound her confusion. Her grandmother sends her to stay with an aunt in Pinecraft and gives her a pocket quilt with handwritten messages tucked inside.

Thrilled to have her help at the bed and breakfast, Aunt Birdie introduces Mariah to a group of new friends, including Luke Yoder, a young Amish man who works for his father’s construction company. Spending time with him opens up a new world for Mariah. Her grandmother’s words of wisdom offer guidance as she makes a decision that will have lasting consequences for those she loves. Will she find fulfillment in Florida? Or does her heart belong in Holmes County?

What led you to write Amish fiction?

Inspiration for the book originated from an image of a quilt I saw on Facebook. In the hopes of helping our daughters who were grieving the loss of two grandparents, I started writing the story about a seventh-grade girl who needed to rely on her faith to get through a tough time. When I pitched the idea to my agent, she instead strongly suggested I consider telling the story from the point of view of a young Amish woman during her Rumspringa. I’m so glad I followed her advice!

Three years after I submitted Pockets of Promise to my agent, I was editing my seventh manuscript, and I received THE CALL. She had found a home for Mariah’s story, and now I get to share the book with you.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

I had a Middle Grade audience in mind when I started writing the story for our daughters, and I had brainstormed ideas for a three-book series. When my agent suggested the Amish twist to the quilt story I pitched, I hesitated but was then nudged by a friend who writes Amish fiction and with whom I’ve worked as an assistant for seven years. During this time, I have visited Amish communities in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. I’ve shared meals and made memories with our Amish friends. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with readers of the genre as well as other Amish authors. God’s plan for this season of my life soon became clear. Since I promised to follow where He leads me, I figured I’d better give this a try.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Barbecue! My husband has both an electric and a charcoal smoker, and he enjoys experimenting with different recipes. Pulled pork is hands-down my favorite protein (especially when smothered with Travis’s homemade barbecue sauce). My top five sides include: smoky baked beans, vinegar-based coleslaw, collard greens cooked with bacon grease, cheesy jalapeno grits, and Carolina Gold potato salad. The aroma and flavors remind me of gatherings with family and friends and the great times we’ve spent together.

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

Mark 4: 35-41. Jesus calms the storm. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

As I consider my faith journey and the storms I’ve weathered, these verses immediately come to mind, and I’m reminded of the power, the presence, and the promise of Jesus. In the midst of uncertainty, I can experience grief, anger, and fear, but I can then choose to surrender the situation to God and have faith that He is in control. He’s proven to me countless times that He can be trusted.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

Fun question! I’m definitely the girl next door.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

I’ve never had a pet—well, I once had two fish, but they didn’t survive long enough to count. It would be fun to have a horse—a chestnut mare with a star, and I’d name her Morning Glory. Growing up, my dad would greet me each day by saying, “Morning, Laurie,” but he’d run the words together. He is the only person in the world who, on every other occasion, calls me by my given name Laura, so this was sweet and special to me.

Thank you, Laurie! It’s nice to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.

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For more information about Laurie, visit her website and/or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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