We are thrilled to have Kelly Irvin take time out of her busy schedule to chat with us! Kelly is the author of The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. It follows The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
A former newspaper reporter and public relations professional, Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors.
And now our interview with Kelly!
TG: We want to say that we’ve enjoyed your books, starting with the Bliss Creek Amish, New Hope Amish and now the Amish of Bee County. Was it difficult working a full-time job and doing research for these series?
KI: It had its moments, but I love writing so I looked forward to squeezing in the time to do the necessary research and time to write the stories. We took a week off and went to Jamesport, MO., a few years ago before I wrote the New Hope series. It was my first visit to an Amish district and I loved it. We went to a school fundraiser auction July 4th weekend. It was a hundred degrees out and we stood in the blazing sun to watch three auctioneers working at the same time. Later, when I wrote the Bee County series, I went to Bee County several times because it’s only about a two-hour drive from San Antonio. I attended their auction fundraiser, visited their store, bought honey, and tried to soak up the cultural differences. I had to take off work to do these things, but I tried to find a balance between the two. Now I’m retired so I can devote my full attention to my first love.
TG: Do you have a favorite series, book, and/or characters?
KI: My favorite character is Mordecai King, who is the beekeeper in the Bee County series. He is so wise and so plain spoken. He loves to tell a story. He’s full of trivial facts and important life lessons. He’s a great father and husband. My editor says she needs a bumper sticker that reads I LOVE MORDECAI. I guess if I had to pick one series it would be the Amish of Bee County because the setting is so different from one you typically find in Amish romances. South Texas can be a very inhospitable place and the Bee County Amish make it work with no help from electricity or other niceties. It gave me the opportunity to explore some issues that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, like the influx of young, unaccompanied illegal immigrant children over the Texas-Mexico border in The Saddle Maker’s Son.
TG: Will your next book be the beginning of a new series? If so, what is the release date?
KI: Yes, On a Spring Breeze, is the first book in a new four-book series, Every Amish Season. I turned it over to my editor in May. It releases in Spring 2017. I’m excited about this new series because it follows four widows, each in a different season of her life, through their experiences with finding a second chance at love. It’s an opportunity to write about older women and romance, which I really like.
TG: Do you outline your books or just let things happen as you write?
KI: I never outline. That would be like homework. I love to see what happens and I’m often quite surprised. It’s harder in some ways and occasionally I have to do a lot of re-writing, but it’s worth it to let the creative process have its way. I don’t do character sketches either. I’m always amazed at what the backstory is for each character. I don’t know until I start writing. The characters’ stories often influence where the plot goes.
TG: We’ve been praying for you and your husband as you’ve both faced health challenges recently. Would you consider having any future characters experiencing any of the challenges that either of you are going through?
KI: Thank you for the prayers. They are truly appreciated. Every experience a writer has goes into future books in some form or fashion. I have spent a great deal of time in hospitals and doctor’s offices in the last two years. Recently, my husband had quadruple bypass surgery and spent two nights in surgical intensive care. While my characters may not have the specific illnesses (although they could!) the familiarity with the medical settings will help in shaping scenes in the future. I already have a scene in mind for the book I’m working on now that will incorporate some of the sights, sounds, and smells I experienced while sitting with Tim in ICU. Some details can’t be acquired any other way. Personally, I could do without any more direct experiences, however!
TG: Have you thought about writing a memoir?
KI: What I’m doing now is writing a journal. I started it after I received the Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS) diagnosis in November followed by the Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in January. I’m not sure what format it will ultimately take, whether it’s a memoir or devotional, but I hope it will be shared with other folks who are fighting chronic and/or life-threatening diseases. Often times books are written after the fact when it’s a little easier to be positive and hopeful. When you’re in the storm and it’s scary, that’s a different place to write from and to minister to. Finding God in those dark places is so important.
TG: Facing all of your health challenges this year, how did you stay motivated to write?
KI: Writing is the escape to which I look forward. It’s the fun stuff. I find meaning in it. Aside from my family, it gives me reason to want to stay for a while longer. Throughout chemotherapy and when I had surgery, I tried not to lose sight of that. I have a four-book contract with Zondervan and two novellas contracted. I want to meet those obligations and have more in the future. I believe this is the gift God has given me and I’m expected to use it for his glory. There are no guarantees so I want to write all I can while I can. That’s a lot of motivation!
TG: What or who inspired you to be an author? Is it something you’ve always wanted to be?
KI: Always. As a child I wrote poems and plays. My sister and I had a newspaper when we were in grade school. I wanted to write fiction, but in high school I decided to be a journalist so that I could write for a living and get paid to do it. I was a very practical kid who grew up in a working-class family. I wanted to make sure I could support myself. I didn’t get around to writing fiction again until I was forty-five. I work up on my forty-fifth birthday and thought if I don’t do it now, I’ll never get the chance. It took seven years to publish my first novel. It’s been a long road. Writing is like breathing for me. I couldn’t not do it.
TG: What is the hardest or most challenging thing about writing?
KI: For me, it’s probably fear of failure. Of not writing well. Of rejection. I imagine many writers feel that way. I wite my stories and then have to share them with a world that can be very unkind. I’ve been fortunate to have kind readers who let me know how much they enjoy reading the books and how much they are touched by them. That’s what it’s really about. I try to avoid reading reviews as much as possible. I don’t want to be influenced by one person’s opinion. If a book gets a bad review, I get back to work on the next story and put it behind me. It’s important to stay focused on telling stories for God.
TG: What is your all-time favorite book?
KI: That is so hard. Different books have spoken to me at different times in my life. In grade school, I read all the Little House on the Prairie books. In junior high and high school, I read Gone with the Wind and Little Women over and over again. Then it was To Kill a Mockingbird. It is such a perfect gift of a story. I love everything about it. I also really love The Help. What makes a book special often has to do with what’s going on in your life at the time. As you go through different seasons, different books speak to you. For escape and fun, I read mysteries and suspense by the dozens, not looking for literary greatness, but simply reading enjoyment.
Thanks again to Kelly for answering all of our questions. Kelly is an inspiration to us and all of her readers. Be sure to connect with Kelly to stay up-to-date.
Rebekah Lantz feels betrayed and abandoned. Tobias Byler is bound by regret. Can two young runaways from a world away teach them the healing power of a true family?
Rebekah isn’t like her sister Leila, but no one seems to believe that. Ever since Leila made a decision that has haunted her family and their small Amish community, Rebekah has been held to a higher standard under her mother’s watchful eye. Boys avoid her. She simply longs for the chance to be a wife and mother like the other girls.
Tobias Byler only wants to escape feelings for a woman he should never have allowed to get close to him. Moving with his family to isolated Bee County, Texas, seemed the best way to leave his mistakes behind. But even a move across the country can’t stop the past from accompanying his every thought.
A surprise encounter with two half-starved runaway children forces both Rebekah and Tobias to turn their focus on others far more desperate.
In doing so, they discover the key to forgetting the past may open the door to the love and the future they both seek.
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