My new friend Clara
by Shelley Shepard Gray

HIDDEN, the first of my SISTERS OF THE HEART novels for Avon Inspire, is now in bookstores. Talk about exciting! Though I've been published in other genres, HIDDEN is my first foray into inspirational romance. It was also the first time I've ever written a novel with Amish characters.

We're fortunate to live fairly close to an Amish community. I've visited there often and know several people who have Amish friends. So, I was able to do a lot of research that way. But a few months ago, I was able to accompany a few ladies from my church to Holmes County, which is four hours north. Holmes County, and the town of Berlin, just happens to have the largest Amish population in the United States.

Oh, the town of Berlin is so charming! There are wonderful places to eat there and lots of fun crafts to buy. But my favorite part of the day was meeting Clara. She and I ended up sharing the back seat of a Toyota Corolla on our way to the quilt show. When Clara sat next to me, I tell you, I had to work to keep my mouth shut. Inside, every bit of me was so excited. Here was A REAL AMISH LADY!

It was all I could do not to open a notebook and start jotting notes about her clothes. But, as we began to talk quilts and the weather, I realized that we had a lot of things in common. She's a grandmother and also works at a hotel, cleaning rooms. She juggles responsibilities and chores. She just doesn't happen to use electricity and can speak Pennsylvania Dutch.

A few hours later, when we were waiting for a few members of the group to purchase quilting supplies, I gathered my courage and asked if I could ask her a few questions about being Amish. She looked at me strangely, then nodded. After I got out my little list, though, I made her laugh. I asked her about engagements and courting. Weddings and refrigerators.

She actually chuckled when I asked her about alarm clocks. As in...did she have one? Sure she did! Then she wanted to know how I thought she and her husband got up at four in the morning. I told her I hadn't thought that far. A rooster? Maybe the Amish just naturally got up in the morning without a problem?

Obviously, I still had a lot to learn.

Over lunch, we talked some more. Then, when she very kindly gave me a tour of her home, I noticed her bookshelf. It turned out that she loves to read as much as I do! She was a Karen Kingsbury fan! Excitedly, we started talking favorite books and promised to recommend other books to each other soon.

Then the tables were turned.

It turned out she was just as interested in my way of life as I was hers. I happened to be the first romance writer she'd ever met. She wanted to know about characters and plotting. About how the publishing business worked. This time, it was me answering questions thoughtfully.

By the end of our visit, Clara and I both knew we'd become friends. We'd bonded over books and a love of reading...which, I can now safely say, transcends all kinds of cultural boundaries.

Just last week, I sent a copy of HIDDEN to my new friend Clara, who just happens to be Amish. She sounded interested about the idea of an English girl hiding out in an Amish bed and breakfast. And because of her, my heroine in HIDDEN's sequel has a nifty alarm clock at her bedside. I have a feeling Clara will smile about that.

24 Comments:

Blogger Jean said:

Congratulations, Shelley. I can't wait to read it.

12:46 PM  

Blogger Jessica said:

Wow, I don't usually read Amish books but this sounds really good! Congrats on meeting a real, live Amish lady, lol.
I hope someday to write a book for Inspire. Congratulations on them picking this up!

1:15 PM  

Blogger Carla Capshaw said:

Hi Shelley!

It's great to read about the new books at Avon Inspire. Isn't it wonderful how the Lord turns things around, flips them up-side-down and works them out for our good. He's amazing!

Congrats on your new book!!

2:19 PM  

Blogger Linda Goodnight said:

The book sounds fascinating, Shelley and the cover is gorgeous! How cool to meet up with a real live Amish lady while researching the story. God loves to sneak in little surprises like that, doesn't he?

Congrats on the book. I hope Avon Inspire takes off like a shot!!

Linda goodnight
RITA finalist

2:40 PM  

Blogger Teresa Slack said:

I don't usually read the Amish books either. Some of them seem the same to me, but I can't wait to give yours a try. All the best on your publishing success.

2:41 PM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Jean, thanks! I hope you'll enjoy HIDDEN.

Thanks, Jessica. I hope things work out for you with Inspire. Believe me, I was smiling for months after my agent called with the good news!

Carla,
I know the Lord has had a lot to do with my writing success. I'm so proud to be writing for Inspire!

2:57 PM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Linda,
Thanks so much for taking a peek at HIDDEN. Yes, it sure has a beautiful cover! Congrats on your RITA nomination, too. : )

Teresa,

I hope you will give HIDDEN a try. And thanks so much for the good wishes.

Shelley

3:00 PM  

Blogger Janna said:

Shelley,
I just finished reading "Hidden" last night - I started it around midnight and couldn't put it down until I was done at 2:30 am! It was so good... I can't wait for the next one to come out. I'll be blogging about it on my site on June 30th and will be posting a review with it. I can't wait to introduce my blog readers to your book!

Janna
http://www.cornhuskeracademy.blogspot.com

4:42 PM  

Blogger Heather Webber said:

Shelley, LOL on your real Amish lady. I can really relate to holding back on the opportunity to quiz her. Congrats on the new book! Can't wait to get my hands on it.

6:25 PM  

Anonymous shelley shepard gray said:

Wow, Janna,

Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed HIDDEN. I'll look forward to your blog on June 30th. Thanks for making my day. : )

Shelley

6:47 PM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Heather,

Thanks for the congrats and for coming over here to visit. : )

Shelley

6:48 PM  

Blogger patricia sargeant said:

Wow, Shelley! Exchanging experiences with the Amish lady sounds like it was a really wonderful experience.

Congratulations on your upcoming release and best wishes for continued writing success.

7:39 PM  

Blogger flchen1 said:

Congrats, Shelley! What a neat story of friendship--thank you for sharing that. I'm looking forward to read your book, and I imagine Clara's going to enjoy it, too!

9:31 PM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Thanks, Patricia, for the good wishes!

flchen1, I'll keep my fingers crossed that Clara will think the story is a good one. : )
Thanks for commenting today.

Shelley

9:40 PM  

Blogger Cathy Liggett said:

Shelley,
How fun to hear about your new friend Clara -- I'm looking forward to meeting your fictional Amish friends as well. I love, love, love HIDDEN's gorgeous cover and can't wait to peak inside. Major congrats on this exciting new series!!

10:46 PM  

Anonymous Cindy Kirk said:

Shelley,

Your cover is beautiful. Can't wait to read the book!

11:12 PM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Thanks, Cathy and Cindy!
I hope you both enjoy the book!

Shelley

7:49 AM  

Blogger WK said:

ohh THIS IS AN EXCELLENT BOOK! I'd recommend everyone read it. The story is so very moving. And the subject while deep and often tough to get right, Ms. Gray, handled it expertly and did an outstanding job. I found this one to be a romance not just between a hero and heroine but also a romance with God. And it's a wonderful reminder that when we are broken, bleeding, hurting and lost, that God is there walking with us, waiting for us to just let Him hold us and remind us that He loves us above all others. It's a great story. I finished it in one sitting.And can't wait to read more!

A wonderful book.
WendyK

11:45 AM  

Blogger Ann Roth said:

Shelley-

Congratulations on the book. The cover is gorgeous and I'm sure the story is wonderful.

11:52 AM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Wendy, oh your remarks about HIDDEN made me so happy! Thank you for reading HIDDEN, and taking the time to post a comment. It really means a lot.

Thanks again,

Shelley

2:33 PM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Thanks for stopping by, Ann! I hope you like the book.

Shelley

2:34 PM  

Blogger Sharon A. Lavy said:

Best wishes and God Bless you.

11:49 AM  

Anonymous Shelley Shepard Gray said:

Thanks for the good wishes, Sharon!
May God bless you, too.

Shelley

5:49 PM  

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