Last week I took a nostalgic look back at my Bee County series, which comes to an end with The Saddle Maker’s Son. Today, I want to look ahead with a peek at my new series, which will debut with Upon a Spring Breeze in 2017. This four-book series, entitled Every Amish Season, takes me back to Missouri, where I previously visited a fictitious town called New Hope in the New Hope Amish series. In the new series the setting is Jamesport, which has the largest Amish settlement in Missouri behind Seymour.
When I was writing the New Hope series, I had the opportunity to visit Jamesport with my husband. Neither of us had ever visited an area before where Amish folks live. We found it fascinating. We went in July for an annual two-day school auction fund-raiser. It was over one hundred degrees the entire time we were there. The Amish women wore their long sleeved, long dresses with aprons and kapps. The men wore their long sleeved shirts and long pants. The heat didn’t seem to bother them, one of the advantages of not living with air conditioning in their homes.
The auction was raucous—people visiting everywhere, discussing prices, looking at livestock, eating homemade ice cream and hamburgers. Three or four auctioneers worked their perspective crowds simultaneously. I didn’t know where to look first. It was hard for my husband, who is a professional photographer, not to take photos of such interesting people. He did take photos of the buggies and horses, which led to two young girls getting out of their buggy so they could get their pictures taken. That was interesting for us.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast ran by a non-Amish couple who obviously had found their niche. They offered buggy rides around the countryside to show how the Amish live there. We didn’t partake of the ride but we did gladly accept the map that showed us where the Amish businesses were, as well as their schools and cemeteries. We made the rounds on our own. We saw phone shacks with solar panels and visited a store where quilts were being made while customers browsed. I found Amish romance novels in that same store. They know their customers!
It was a fascinating visit and one I hope to repeat someday—in the spring when it’s cooler and they’re planting crops and gardens all across the countryside. They have craft days in the downtown area that I love to visit as well.
All this research will hold me in good stead as I write the new series set in Jamesport. The setting isn’t as crucial as one might think, however. These are universal stories that reflect not only the seasons of the year, but the seasons in the lives of the women who are portrayed. The four women are widows in a community where family units are so important. They have trouble figuring out how they still fit in without their husbands. Each is in a different season in her life. In Upon a Spring Breeze, which is already written and turned in for editing, Bess is a young, pregnant woman who sees her whole life change in a terrible instant that makes her fearful of ever loving again. Her season of change is just beginning.
In the books that come after we’ll follow the lives of Bess’s friends, each in a different season. Jen, who is in her thirties and has seven children; Mary Katherine, who has grandchildren, and Laura, who has great grandchildren. I’m excited about the idea of writing about older women and how they find their second chances for love. I hope you will join me for this emotional, thoughtful journey. As always, I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you.