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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Q&A Interview with Adina Senft, Author of The Wounded Heart: An Amish Quilt Novel

Please help me welcome Adina Senft author of  The Wounded Heart: An Amish Quilt Novel
I am looking forward to reading what looks like a beautiful story.
Adina:  I really hope you like it. And thank you for inviting me over to join you on the blog. Here, I’ve got an apple crumble pie that my heroine Amelia made this morning. Would you like ice cream on the side, or fresh cream overtop?
Oh yummy - I love ice cream with warm pie!
1Q.  When you started The Wounded Heart, did you plan to do a series and if so, did you have each book plotted out before you started or did the subsequent books flow from the first book?
Adina:  The Amish Quilt trilogy has always been three books. When I came up with the series idea, I knew the issues I wanted to explore with each central character’s struggle: The Wounded Heart would be chronic disease. The Hidden Life would be the perpetual spinster. The Tempted Soul would be emotional infidelity. But that was all I knew!

So for a month before I begin writing each book, I read everything I can get my hands on about those topics and about my Amish setting. Then I begin to do character work, and the plot grows out of that.  The fun part is weaving in hints about what will happen in the next books into the current one. It’s like planning a treasure hunt J
Ha- I never thought about it quite like that! I love treasure hunts and maybe that is why I really like series books. J
2Q.  What inspired you to write this genre?
Adina:  It was one of those things where the universe closes a door in your face, but you feel a breeze on the back of your neck from the window that opened behind you. I grew up in a plain house church (I wasn’t Amish, but was often asked if I was), but it never occurred to me to write from that viewpoint until my editor gave me an elbow in the ribs and suggested it. It was a real “aha!” moment mixed with a whole lot of “duh!”
I love when you get that nice breeze on the back of your neck. Your editor sounds like she encouraged you to look at writing from “what you know” even if it wasn’t exactly.
3Q.  Where did you get the idea for this story/series?
Adina:  I have a friend who suffered for nearly a decade, wasting away and losing control of various bodily parts. She almost died before she went to the dentist and he realized that she was suffering from mercury poisoning from the fillings in her teeth, not fibromyalgia or M.S. After he got all those out of her mouth, she entered a chelation program to cleanse her blood of heavy metals. Her story triggered the idea for The Wounded Heart … and the way the Amish care for each other’s health without help from government formed a nice avenue of conflict that I could use as my heroine pursued treatment.
 Oh my goodness. I am so glad your friend got a proper diagnosis before it was too late. That makes for a good plotline.
4Q.  Could you please share one surprising thing about your research or experience writing this book?
Adina:  There is so much to learn and enjoy about the Amish and the research curve is so steep that nearly everything was surprising to me, LOL! But the biggest thing I learned is how mistaken were my own preconceptions about their culture. There is a reason why they do the things they do and look the way they look. For instance, each piece of a woman’s clothes means something historically and says something about her service to God. The white organdy prayer covering (called a Kapp in Pennsylvania Dutch) is pinned to the hair with three straight pins. But where you pin it says something about how willing you are to submit to the Ordnung. If you wear it far back on your head so that your ears are exposed, maybe you’re having a hard time submitting to the community’s expectations. And if you leave your strings free and not tied, you’re really walking the edge J because the Amish feel the next step after that is to remove the Kapp altogether, and then your principle indicator of submission is gone. You’ll notice in the other Amish communities outside the Old Order, the Kapp is smaller, covers less, and some have no strings at all.

So the art department and I worked together closely when it came to the portrayal of my heroine, Amelia Beiler, on the cover of The Wounded Heart. In the first versions her Kapp was pushed back on her hair, and the strings hung loose in front. But we worked together, and through the marvels of Photoshop, she now looks exactly as she should.
 Thanks for sharing this tidbit - something I never knew.
5Q.  Did your family support you in becoming a writer?
Adina:  Oh, yes. My husband is my biggest fan. He doesn’t go anywhere without a bunch of postcards in the side pocket of the door of the truck, and there are always bookmarks for my latest release in his pocket. He talks to the people in the doctor’s office, in the checkout line, and recently, on his annual hunting trip, he gave one of my excerpt booklets to a fellow hunter miles from anywhere out in the bush!
How great to have supportive family.
6Q.  What kind of books do you enjoy?
Adina:  I’m an eclectic reader. I have healthy collections of women’s fiction by Kristin Hannah, as many of Donna Leon’s Venice-set mysteries and C.S. Harris’s historical mysteries as I can get my hands on, science fiction by Connie Willis, urban fantasy by Jim Butcher, romance by Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre, children’s books by Troon Harrison . . . you name it. At the moment I’m immersed in George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” books. Thank you, HBO. I read lots of Amish fiction, too, but not usually during the actual writing. I have a huge fear of being derivative and echoing someone’s book without being aware of it.
Now I have to go check the Martin books. Good thinking to keep your own voice and not echo someone even accidentally.
7Q.  What are some of the best tips you’ve received on writing?
Adina:  Jenny Cruise was the guest speaker when I was in the M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, and she said something about plotting I’ve never forgotten. Besides “Start where the trouble starts,” she said, “Two people are arguing about a coffee table. Remember that the table isn’t what they’re fighting about. It’s what’s under the table.” In other words, in important scenes, dialogue should have two levels of meaning—what’s on the surface and what is really bugging the characters down deep that they’re unwilling to come right out and say. I’ve never forgotten it. Of course, it took me the rest of my time in graduate school to figure out how to actually do that on the page.
Very good tip…that depth could make a big difference in how the dialogue and characters.
8Q.  What do you hope your readers get out of your books?
Adina:  If they can spend a couple of hours in my imaginary town of Whinburg, Pennsylvania, becoming friends with my characters and getting so involved in their lives that they forget the troubles and cares of their own, then I’m happy. That’s all I want. Company in my world. The coffee is on!
Oh yes… Sometimes I miss the quiet country of Pennsylvania where I grew up.  Next time maybe we could have Shoo Fly Pie.
Thank you for sharing with me and my blog readers.
Adina:  And thank you so much for the opportunity to visit. Have another slice of pie. I know I want one!

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