Suzanne Woods Fisher is the award-winning, bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series, the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well the coauthor of an Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp.
She has also written nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
Suzanne and her family live in California.
You write both fiction and non-fiction. What started you on your writing journey?
I used to be a magazine writer. I never thought of myself as a fiction writer, but after my children left for college, I realized that I was the one stopping myself from trying to write a novel. Just trying! So I took the plunge. I wrote a World War II love story that was published by a small press. It won some awards, which caught an agent’s interest, and she signed me on—then introduced me to an editor at Revell. I’m now writing my 26th book under contract to Revell. But I started small. Good things start small, I think.
But here’s my words of wisdom for aspiring writers: I was surprised to discover that my nonfiction skills gave my fiction more credibility. Now flip it around. My fiction writing jazzed up my nonfiction. I try to encourage writers to not put themselves in a box. Ever.
Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives will often write in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
I love how you described that! I have definitely had moments when something arrives subconsciously (credit for those insights goes to the true Author), coming out of the blue to add a wonderful twist and turn to a story. Here’s an example: I was researching a story for a non-fiction book, and an Amish person shared this true story with me about a young German immigrant, living in Ohio, in the 1800s: This young man wore to church his beloved red Mutza, a color of a coat common in the Old World but frowned upon in the New World. That red Mutza caused all kinds of church unrest—to the point where communion itself was stalled until the issue was resolved. The true story (which can be read in Heart of the Amish, which releases in May) had so much meaning to it that I wove it into Anna’s Crossing, a novel about the first Amish who came to America on the Charming Nancy. The red Mutza became a significant part of the novel. God’s Divine Detour!
I’d love to! Here’s the hook…
When Anna König first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. She’d rather be back on her grandparents’ farm in the Rhine Valley. Years of ship living hardens a man and Bairn is resentful of toting these naïve farmers–dubbed ‘Peculiars’ by deckhands—back and forth across the ocean. He’d rather be tending cargo than complaining, seasick passengers.
As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna’s serene nature. What is it about that bold and blue-eyed lassie from the lower deck that he can’t forget? There’s just something about Anna…
Eager for fresh air and sunshine, Anna can’t seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship’s carpenter, despite warnings. What is it about that tall mysterious man with the sad eyes that she can’t forget? There’s just something about Bairn…
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
The more I dug into the realities of ship life in the 1700s, the more gruesome details kept emerging. One example: a deckhand died and was buried at sea. The next day, a shark was caught. As the cook prepared the shark for supper, he discovered … (ugh, you guessed it) … the dead deckhand. That’s a somewhat amusing story … but the ocean voyages were dangerous, frightening, difficult to endure … and who knew what they would be encountering on the other side of the ocean! Our ancestors were very brave pioneers—and most of us can trace our heritage to someone who took that voyage across the ocean (Atlantic or Pacific) in hopes for a better life. I finished Anna’s Crossing with a great appreciation for those hearty souls, who set the stage for us.
A few fun questions…
You’re also a columnist for a cooking magazine. What is your favorite comfort food and why?
Our family has an Everyday Salad that is ridiculously delicious! We’re all hooked on it. In fact, I just gave a shower for my future daughter-in-law. I gave her a wooden salad bowl and wooden forks, the recipe for our Everyday Salad, and all of the ingredients! Even a head of cabbage.
This website features musicians as well as authors. If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
A classical piano piece, like Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie. Simple but satisfying.
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?
I think … the girl next door. Maybe … two doors over. Easily overlooked!
Your family trains dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I had tears in my eyes while reading your story about Arbor, the first dog you trained. I hope everyone will click here and read it too. Please tell us about your current pet(s). Have you ever had a dog fail to make the program and, thus, return to live with you?
My youngest son got me into puppy raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind—and it was like eating a potato chip. You couldn’t stop at one. We’ve raised ten puppies, and now I’m a breeder custodian (easier to do with writing responsibilities). Currently, I have Toffee, a golden retriever/yellow lab cross, who just had nine puppies. And I’m also the breeder custodian for Vesta, a yellow lab. While we were raising puppies, we did have some dogs who didn’t graduate (over half are dropped for one reason or another—makes you realize how remarkable a dog in harness is). We’ve kept one or two and have placed a few with family. I love being a part of this organization—partly for the dogs, partly because it’s a way to make the world a better place.
Thank you, Suzanne! It’s been a pleasure having you as a guest at DivineDetour.
Thank you for letting me visit your blog today! I enjoyed your “out-of-the-box” questions. Very fun!
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