Where Do I Get My Ideas?
From the beginning, this Seasons of the Heart series has felt special—almost magical—to me. First, editor Alicia Condon at Kensington invited me to write this Amish series, which is so much easier than conjuring proposals and story lines, then sending them to your agent and editors on spec. Because Alicia had previously bought my Angels of Mercy series, she already knew I could write faith-and-family stories and I already knew I enjoyed writing for her. While she’s quick to say what ideas won’t work for her, she’s also very enthusiastic once I send in finished material. Her compliments inspire me to keep my rear in the chair even on days when writing two Amish series for two different publishers threatens my sanity!
And when it came time to research the Amish in Missouri, where my series is set, I came across a magazine article that hooked me up with Jim Smith of Step Back In Time tours in Jamesport, a large Old Order Amish settlement. Happenstance? I don’t think so! Jim isn’t Amish, but he grew up in Jamesport and he knows all those Plain folks—takes his tour buses to their stores—so my time riding around the back roads of Jamesport with him gave me a bunch of great ideas and understanding of the Amish culture. And as I write, Jim is only an email away when I have questions about stuff like, how do they run the windshield wipers on their buggies? Or, what color apron would a young girl wear to church? Jim and I have become really good friends, and he promotes my books on his buses, so when his guests get to the Christian bookstore located in the Oak Ridge Furniture, they snap up copies to take home!
Then, there’s the way ideas and characters have been coming at me from out of nowhere! When I proposed this series and began writing about Miriam Lantz and her three girls, I knew all these women would eventually find the loves of their lives—that’s a given, in romance—but I had no idea that Ben Hooley would blow in during a storm in AUTUMN WINDS and then bring his two maiden aunts, Jerusalem and Nazareth, to Willow Ridge, along with four little goats! I got that idea when I spotted a book on raising goats in Lowe’s, and I just knew I had to write about them! And while I knew the bishop, Hiram Knepp, was arrogant and determined to marry Miriam himself, I had no clue about how far he’d take his underhanded tactics. It was sheer joy to bring Hiram to justice in WINTER OF WISHES—although he’s by no means going to disappear. My readers, my editor, and I love to hate this man! Even though he gets tossed out of Willow Ridge, he’ll be plotting his revenge from afar, even into books 4 and 5.
Another unexpected gift of writing this series has been the invitation to write a Christmas anthology featuring novellas by Charlotte Hubbard and Naomi King (the other me) which allow characters from both of my series to mix and mingle! AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS comes out October 1, 2013—another ingenious idea of my editor. And just last week, she asked if I would participate in the Amish holiday anthology slated for 2014. While lying half-awake in the wee hours this morning, I got the idea for a Christmas pageant in Willow Ridge, again “out of nowhere” and by 1:00 this afternoon I had sent the synopsis for my story. The rabbits just seem to keep popping out of the hat without me having to tug very hard.
In reality, however, I believe the “ask and you shall receive” system is at work here. It is an act of faith to sit down and write a book. Even now that I’ve been published for nearly 30 years, there’s no guarantee that story lines and characters will show up when I need them, or that these fictional people and their activities will entertain my readers. As I continue to write the Seasons of the Heart series, however, I will keep asking God for help and I’ll keep believing He’ll bring it to me. He’s never failed me yet!
Drawing upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi, longtime Missourian Charlotte Hubbard (a.k.a. Naomi King) writes of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Like her heroine, Miriam Lantz, Charlotte considers it her personal mission to feed people—to share hearth and home. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.