Earlier today, I received an email from one of my dear readers who asked me about my inspiration for the characters in my novels. I thought that was a wonderful question and, after giving it some reflection, I wanted to share the answer with all of my readers.
As many of you may be aware, the Amish of Lancaster Series is based, in part, on my own experiences when I was living at the Lapp farm as a young woman in the 1980s. I had traveled to Lancaster County, determined to “meet some Amish people.” However, wherever I went, people laughed at me and, one place in particular, actually informed me that not only was this an impossible quest but it was even more difficult and unlikely because I was a woman. In short, I was told “it simply cannot be done.”
That’s all it took to increase my determination. In my own quiet way, I see such challenges as sent to me from God. We can listen to the doubters or we can believe the Scripture which clearly states that God will guide us along the weaving path to His intended destination for us: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Well, the stars must have been aligned because that very same day, I found someone who knew someone who thought they knew someone who was friends with…and I met the Lapp family.
The beginning part of Fields of Corn is my experience (fictionalized) of what happened during my first weeks at the farm. The friendship between Shana and Emanuel was real as were many of the conversations shared between the two characters. Of course, there came a point in the novel where truth took a turn down the path of fiction. But many of my experiences have been woven throughout all of the books.
When I develop a character, I do base the core of each character on the different people I have met through my years living among the Amish. They are not made from cookie cutters, devoid of individuality or personality. In fact, many of them are just like the people I know in my non-Amish life: happy, sad, funny, witty, moody, lively, shy. It’s a process, to be sure and certain. In many ways, I fall in love with my characters and don’t want bad things to happen to them. Just like my children, I want to nurture them and help them grow up in the stories with the least amount of pain. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes we have to let our characters develop wings and learn how to fly on their own. And, as their mother, I look on in both fear and anticipation, holding my breath and clutching my hands together as I watch to see what they do…and how you, dear reader, will react.
It pleases me greatly that so many of you have written to tell me how much you have enjoyed getting to know these children of mine. I read your words with a mother’s pride.