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I will confess that I have been slacking a bit in the Amish fiction department lately. I’ve been missing some great stories! However, I am excited to introduce Kelly Irvin to you today. Her books look so good, I definitely need to add them to my list! Kelly is also offering to give away a paperback copy of The Bishop’s Son. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a summary:
Leila has been drawn to Jesse Glick, the bishop’s son, since the first day she met him at his father’s store, and she knows he feels the same way about her. But she can’t understand why he seems to make overtures one day, then withdraw the next.
Jesse has a secret. He has been attending an Englisch church youth group, and he’s starting to believe he’s being called to be a minister, something Amish men cannot be unless they draw the lot. He’s considering leaving his Amish community to follow his calling. The only reason he has stayed is Leila. Will, Jesse’s cousin, has his own feelings for Leila, but he has stood back in deference to his cousin for many months. Until he can’t stand the thought of Leila being hurt.
Leila can choose Will and know that she will never have to leave her home or family. Or she can choose Jesse and the love her heart desires, knowing she’ll have to say goodbye to her entire community. The day comes when Jesse, Will, and Leila all have to make their choices, choices that will deeply affect their small, close-knit community of Plain families.
Welcome, Kelly! What inspired you to write The Bishop’s Son?
So often Amish novels center around a young Amish woman or man who wants to leave the faith to have more freedom to enjoy things like driving a car and dressing the way he or she wants to dress. To have freedom in general. In The Bishop’s Son, I wanted to explore the scenario in which an Amish man feels called to be a minister so he can “win the lost and make disciples.” The conservative Amish don’t evangelize. They keep themselves apart from the world. He wants to attend Bible study and Sunday school, which aren’t allowed in his strict Amish community where such things are believed to lead to dissension.
It’s sort of the reverse situation. The Amish are faithful Christians, and like most denominations, they have rules that are unique to their denomination. In most cases, ministers are drawn by lot. No one would be so arrogant as to say he was called by God to do something. They are a humble group who show their Christian faith by example. I wanted readers to think about what they would be willing to give up to follow a calling from God. Jesse has to decide if he is willing to give up everything, his friends, his family, and possibly the woman he loves.
That’s a great question! It does seem like most often the choice is to either stay or leave the faith, rather than pursue it more fully… What intrigues or inspires you the most about the Amish?
Their work ethic and their awesome ability to forgive. I often hear people express the idea that they would like to become Amish. They’re drawn to the simple way of life and the strength of their family ties. I have to wonder how many of us could actually work that hard. Not only work that hard but enjoy it. Work days are called frolics for a reason. They enjoy working with no electricity, no microwave, no air conditioner, no dryer. They work from dawn to dusk and they like it.
I would also like to be as forgiving. The first Amish romance I ever wrote, To Love and to Cherish, was about forgiveness. It was also the theme of Love Redeemed in my second series. It’s a theme to which I keep returning because I think we all struggle with it. I really have to work on it. I’m sure it’s not always easy for them, but they do an incredible job of living out the biblical principle of forgiveness. That’s something to which we can all aspire.
They are hard workers! “Simplifying” doesn’t always mean life is made easier. Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?
I just finished my first round of edits on the third book in the Amish of Bee County, which is called The Saddle Maker’s Son. It centers around the question of what is more important, obeying scripture or obeying man’s law. It’s a tough decision for Rebekah, my heroine, and her community. Especially when it involves two sweet, young children who barely speak English and are far, far from home, and alone in a strange new world. I hope it will make people think and recognize that no issue is black and white. The world is filled with gray that forces us to God to make the right decisions.
I was in too big a hurry. I had some good ideas but I didn’t take the time to learn the craft and hone my manuscripts until they were the very best they could be. They were rejected because the writing wasn’t good enough. Had I waited a little longer and spent more time polishing, I might have been published sooner. It’s become more and more difficult as there are fewer publishing houses and smaller fiction lines. A writer has to submit only the best work to have a shot at those limited slots at traditional publishing houses.
I imagine you’re not the only one… Wouldn’t it be nice to have a first draft already publication-ready?! Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Micah 7: 18-19 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
It gives me comfort to know that God’s grace and mercy are available to all of us, no matter what we’ve done. He is the God of second and third and fourth changes. I love the imagery of Him grinding our sin under his foot and throwing it into the sea to be forgotten. As a first class sinner, I need to know I’m forgiven.
I am so thankful for His compassion, even when we struggle over the same sins. He picks us up to try again. Can you share briefly something you feel the Lord has been teaching you recently?
It’s been a tough year and half for me. I developed problems walking in July of last year and later had major surgery to correct some back issues. Despite the surgery and physical therapy and numerous specialists, my walking isn’t normal. I’m still scheduled to see another specialist but I can’t get in until November 16. I’m on a waiting list, which is excruciating. I can only imagine that God is teaching me patience (again). That and to know that my body is only a shell. The important stuff is housed inside. I feel like Paul with the thorn in my side, waiting for it to be removed but knowing it might not be. It’s not a lesson I’m enjoying, but I’m trying to be a cheerful soldier and learning a lot about myself. No one wants to be a fair weather believer!
I can’t imagine how hard it is to live with chronic pain and yet remain cheerful. But you are so right — we can’t only be faithful to the Lord when everything goes the way we want. I pray that He will hold you up through this experience and draw you closer to Himself because of it! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us, Kelly!
More about Kelly:
Kelly Irvin is the author of The Bishop’s Son, the second 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 “an intricately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing Publishing. She has also penned two inspirational romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.
The Kansas native is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She has been writing nonfiction professionally for thirty years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. She has worked in public relations for the City of San Antonio for twenty-one years. Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two young adult children, two grandchildren, two cats, and a tank full of fish. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.
Amish of Bee County, book 1
Sometimes it takes a barren landscape to see the beauty of God’s creation.
Phineas King knows better than to expect anything but shock and pity wherever he shows his face. Horribly scarred from the van accident that claimed his mother’s life, he chooses to keep his distance from everyone, focusing his time and energy on the bees his family raises. If no one sees him, no one can judge him. So why does he start finding excuses to seek out Deborah Lantz, the beautiful new arrival in town?
Deborah can’t get out of Bee County, Texas, soon enough. Once her mother and younger siblings are settled, she is on the first bus out of this dusty town. She is only waiting on the letter from Aaron, asking her to return to lush Tennessee to be his fraa. But that letter never comes. As she spends time getting to know Phineas—hoping to uncover the man beneath the scars—she begins to realize that she no longer minds that Aaron hasn’t sent for her.
As both Deborah and Phineas try to come to terms with lives that haven’t turned out the way they imagined, they discover that perhaps Gott’s plans for them are more extraordinary than they could have dreamed. But they need to let go of their own past sorrows and disappointments to find the joy and beauty that lies just ahead for them both.