Rachel J. Good’s debut Amish novel releases Tuesday, May 3rd. We thought it would be fun to get to know the author behind the Sisters and Friends series. Enjoy reading our interview with Rachel and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Change of Heart this Tuesday!
Two Girls: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Rachel J. Good: I’ve always loved reading and books, so most of the jobs I’ve had in my life have been book-related. I’m a former teacher and children’s librarian, and I began writing when my fifth (and last) child was born. I started writing articles, then children’s books, and now I’ve moved into novels. Over the years I also worked as an editor and recently started working as a picture book illustrator.
Two Girls: What inspired you to write your new Sisters and Friends series?
Rachel J. Good: I met agent Mary Sue Seymour at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. She liked my writing and asked if I’d ever considered writing Amish novels.I’d lived near Lancaster, PA, for many years and enjoyed reading Amish books, so I was definitely interested. When I sent her my synopsis, Mary Sue liked the novel, signed me on, and sold the novel to Charisma House in a 3-book deal. The novel’s debut in May will be bittersweet because Mary Sue went to heaven last month, so she won’t be around to see the book that she championed.
As for my choice of topics, I’m the eldest of two sisters, so I chose to write about an older sister whose younger sister gets in trouble during Rumspringe. (And no, the wild sister doesn’t resemble either of my two younger sisters.) And I hope my sisters won’t say I resemble the bossy older sister.
Two Girls: How many books are in the series?
Rachel J. Good: The original contract was for three books- one about each of the three sisters- so Buried Secrets (Emma’s story) comes out in Fall 2016, and Sarah’s story, Gift from Above, will be out in Spring 2017. But we titled the series Sisters and Friends because I have ideas for more novels about the sisters’ friends. The next two books I have in mind are about Abner and Rebecca, Lydia’s teaching assistant, and one about Kyle, Caleb’s brother. And Emma makes friends with a family of six sisters, so I’m hoping each of those girls will have her own book.
Two Girls: The cover for Change of Heart is absolutely beautiful by the way! Did you create it?
Rachel J. Good: Thank you. My publisher, Charisma House/Realms, created the cover, and I’m thrilled with it.
Two Girls: Did you decide to write this series before or after creating the Amish Quilts Coloring Book? Which was a bigger challenge: writing a book or creating a coloring book?
Rachel J. Good: Actually, the novels came first. As I was working on edits for the first book and thinking about the quilts the girls’ Mamm made for their beds, a friend gave me an adult coloring book. I thought it would be fun to have a quilt-related coloring book. Writing the novel took a lot longer, but the coloring book was more of a challenge to create. I enjoyed using my illustration skills, and it was nice to have a chance to exercise different areas of my creative brain.
Two Girls: Do you have a favorite Amish quilt pattern?
Rachel J. Good: I love the white-on-white quilts, where the pattern is created by stitching. My favorite quilts are those with floral designs on white backgrounds, like the quilt on the cover of the Amish Quilts Coloring Book (Are you noticing a white theme here? I love lots of white space in design and also in books, so you’ll notice my novels often have a lot of dialogue, which leaves white space on the page.) As for pieced quilts, I like the 3-D effect of Tumbling Blocks and the intricate patterns of the Double Wedding Ring and variations on Grandmother’s Fan.
Two Girls: Did you enjoy researching your Amish novels? Did you find the Amish community willing to answer questions you had during your research?
Rachel J. Good: Yes, I love the research part; perhaps because the librarian in me enjoys digging up information. I’m grateful to Leslie Gould who suggested a beta reader, an ex-Amish woman who maintains close family ties to the community and still participates in all the events. She’s a wonderful resource. I think getting to know someone from the community makes it easier to get answers to questions.
Two Girls: How many Amish communities have you visited? Do you have a favorite?
Rachel J. Good: I’m mainly familiar with the Lancaster, PA, Amish community because I lived near there. I also got to know some Amish families in northern Dauphin country in PA, who used the library there, so book 2, Buried Secrets, takes place in that area. I’ve recently discovered some small communities in North Carolina.
As for a favorite, the Lancaster area has a lot more shops, restaurants, and tourist areas, and it’s a much larger area, so you can meet more Amish people during your day-to-day activities and see more buggies on the road. But it’s also more commercialized. The other communities are smaller and rural, so it’s nice to see their more leisurely pace of life. Someday I hope to visit the communities in OH, FL, and the Midwest.
Two Girls: What do you want readers to take away from your books?
Rachel J. Good: I try to write stories of faith, hope, and forgiveness. Forgiveness is an important part of the Amish faith, and I want people to realize it’s important to forgive others, because God forgave us. In Change of Heart, Lydia also comes to realize that self-righteousness can be as great a sin as any of her sister’s shortcomings.
I also want readers to come away with the assurance that although we can’t alway see the larger picture, God can, and He’s working out a wonderful plan for us. Our present circumstances might seem challenging or dismal, but He knows the final results. We need to trust Him even during the darkest times, because “all things work together for good.” I’ll never forget hearing Corrie ten Boom tell of her time in the concentration camp. She likened life to a tapestry where we only see the underside and don’t understand why the dark threads are being woven in. But God sees the pattern from above and knows just what it needs to make it beautiful.
Two Girls: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer and was there a book or author that inspired you?
Rachel J. Good: Although I always loved to read, I didn’t really think about being a writer until my five children were age 8 and under. I started writing to preserve my sanity. 🙂 I have to say the writer who most inspired me when I was young was Madeleine L’Engle, and that’s why I started writing for children. I’ve also enjoyed so many books that I wanted to give others that same pleasure and inspiration.
Two Girls: Will you continue to write both Amish fiction and contemporary fiction?
Rachel J. Good: Yes, I enjoy writing both. I have several books written in a contemporary inspirational series that I’ll be revising to send to my agent after I get back from my book tour in PA. I also like writing historicals. I’m working on a middle-grade historical set in the Ukraine during the 1900s.
Two Girls: What can we expect from you in the future?
Rachel J. Good: More Amish novels, of course. I’m also looking forward to selling the contemporary inspirational series. Under a different name, I’m working on various books for children-historiical YA and MG, a chapter book series, and I have several picture books coming out, some I’ve written, and other’s I’m illustrating.
Thank you, Rachel, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer all of our questions. It’s been fun chatting with you and getting to know you better!