Wednesday, December 15, 2010


“...making it as a writer is sort of like waiting for the right train to come along. While you’re waiting, you’re learning and reading and writing and practicing your craft in any way you can.

My guest today is Marta Perry. Marta has published over thirty books in her career. She writes Amish Suspense for HQN, Pleasant Valley Amish series for Berkley, and romance for Love Inspired.

I agree with Marta, I think the appeal of Amish stories is the simplicity. Their focus is on God, family, and community. There is a certain appeal to simpler times without all the distractions of gizmos of today’s world. An awareness, if you will, of what is truly important in life.

I truly enjoyed her article and I hope you will too. :-)

Years ago, when I first started writing, (and no, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was!) I had the opportunity to hear Phyllis Whitney speak. She was one of the first authors to hit it big with the romantic suspense genre, and I had been reading her books and admiring her work for years. I was so star-struck at actually seeing her that I probably couldn’t have told at the time what she’d said. But a story she told about how writers find success has stayed with me ever since.

I’m paraphrasing, but basically she said that making it as a writer is sort of like waiting for the right train to come along. While you’re waiting, you’re learning and reading and writing and practicing your craft in any way you can. And if you’re both diligent and lucky, eventually the right train for you will come along—you’ll find that the latest ‘hot’ thing is exactly what you want to write and what you do well, and you’ll be off on your journey.

Phyllis Whitney had written career books for young adults and ‘little’ romantic mysteries for years, never thinking of herself as anything but a working writer. Then, almost out of the blue, the romantic suspense craze hit, and she was ready to jump onto that train. A number of New York Times bestsellers later, she was still a bit bemused by how it all happened!

Taken as I was by Phyllis’s story, I certainly never expected that lesson to apply to my own writing life. I was working along, writing the series books I love for Love Inspired and Love Inspired suspense, and feeling terribly fortunate to have someone actually pay me for doing the thing I loved best in the world. I wasn’t really expecting anything else. Then, in an existing story set in my native rural Pennsylvania, I introduced a few Amish characters, wondering what my editor would say to that.

Her reaction was immediate—do more of that! The popularity of Amish fiction had just begun, and to my surprise, I found I was ready to jump on that train. I’d already built an audience for my work, and suddenly something in my own backyard, something that fit my own Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and lifestyle, was exactly what editors were looking for. Every publisher wanted an Amish author for his or her list, and there I was, ready and waiting.

No one has been able to fully explain the current popularity of Amish fiction. Why, in the midst of a wave of paranormal romances, would stories about simple families living without most of modern technology suddenly find a place?

My own feeling is that many of us are drowning in a sea of technological advances and constant input. The internet and the twenty-four hour news channels feed us a continuing diet of scary stories, and while what’s happening half-way around the world engrosses us, we don’t find the time for face-to-face interaction with the people around us. Maybe, especially in a time of economic uncertainty, we experience a longing to live for a few hours in a simpler society, where families are close to each other and people can work together without the interruptions technology brings. Maybe we can even draw strength from visiting a community in which people still have time to talk and are ready to drop everything to help a neighbor.

The ironic thing about the popularity of Amish fiction is that it has developed around a group of people who really want to be left alone to live separate from the world, as their faith teaches them. For the writer, this is a touchy business. I value my relationships with Plain People, and I try to write about them honestly and with respect. I can only hope I’m managing to do that in a way that doesn’t offend.

Like Whitney, I’m still a bit bemused, even as I’m writing a series of Amish romance trade books for Berkley and an Amish suspense series for HQN Books. Still, as she said, I was ready to jump on board when my train came along.

Someone more mathematically minded than I am could probably create an equation from this. Maybe Preparation + Opportunity + Timing = Success!

I’m not saying that every career is meant to go in this direction, but I do believe there’s something almost magical about the results when the one subject about which you’re prepared to write, about which you can be most knowledgeable and passionate, suddenly penetrates the popular culture and creates an opportunity that couldn’t come in any other way.

Murder In Plain Sight Blurb:

There are secrets buried in Amish country...

Did a sweet-faced Amish teenager brutally murder a young woman? To save her career, big-city lawyer Jessica Langdon is determined to defend him—against the community’s bitter and even violent outrage. Yet without an understanding of Amish culture, Jessica must rely on arrogant businessman Trey Morgan, who has ties to the Amish community—and believes in the boy’s guilt.

Jessica has threats coming from all sides: a local fanatic, stirred up by the biased publicity of the case; the dead girl’s boyfriend; even from the person she’s learned to trust the most, Trey Morgan. But just when Jessica fears she’s placed her trust in the wrong man, Trey saves her life. And now they must both reach into a dangerous past to protect everyone’s future—including their own. EXCERPT

Marta Perry realized she wanted to be a writer at age eight, when she read her first Nancy Drew novel. Most girls reached the end of that book wanting to be Nancy. Marta wanted to be the person who created the story.

The dream lay hidden for years while she pursued other career goals, but eventually it re-surfaced, and she began to write, beginning with short children’s stories for Sunday school take-home papers. After seeing hundreds of her short stories published in a variety of magazines, Marta finally started work on the novel she’d always wanted to write. Thirty-some published novels later, she still feels the same excitement when she begins a new book.

A lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led Marta to the books she writes now about the Amish. The Pleasant Valley Amish series from Berkley Books are longer, more complex emotional stories with Amish main characters, while the Amish Suspense series from HQN Books are more adventure-filled books set in Pennsylvania Amish country. She also writes a Love Inspired series, The Bodine Family, set on the South Carolina coast where she and her husband have a second home.

Marta lives with her husband in a century-old farmhouse in the Pennsylvania countryside, but spends winters at their vacation home in South Carolina. When she’s not writing, she’s active in the life of her church and enjoys traveling and spending time with her three children and six beautiful grandchildren.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Marta, welcome to Over Coffee. I love looking at your recipes and love how so many of your books on your website have excerpts, too. :-)

Anyway, pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. My virtual coffee bar has coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and lots of homemade goodies--especially this time of the year. :-)

Mason Canyon said...

Marta, what a wonderful story. I think people are interested in Amish stories because of the fast-pace world we live in we want to know what it's like to live simpler. Wishing you continued success.

Sia, thanks for adding more to my 'wish list' of books and introducing me to a wonderful 'new to me' author.

Thoughts in Progress

readwriteandedit said...

Marta, I think you and Phyllis are exactly right--when you're prepared AND the opportunity presents itself, they you'll be able to step in. So, while you're waiting for the right opportunity, prepare yourself. Practice craft and write, write, write. Position yourself. Study. They you'll both be ready to recognize the opportunity when it arrives and ready to seize it.

Marta Perry said...

Thanks so much for the warm welcome. And warm is really appreciated, since it's 15 degrees outside my office window. I kept thinking my alarm was beeping at five this morning, but it was the county salt truck, trying to keep the roads passable!

I'll share your goodies, Sia, and offer a few of my own. I just baked a big batch of my mother's Candy Jar Cookies, so dig in!


Anonymous said...

I read this latest of Marta's Amish books, and as usual, the story was romantic, suspenseful, and interesting. You can always depend on Marta for a good read, one that will hold your interest page after page.
Besides, being a good writer, she's a dedicated Christian, and very active in her local church.
Irene Brand

Kat Sheridan said...

Marta, what a wonderful inspiration both you and Phyllis Whitney are! And what wonderful timing. I spent a number of years living in rural PA myself and was endlessly fascinated by the seemingly simple life of the Dutch. More interesting was to discover that in spite of appearances, they are just like us, with all the possibilities for conflict and suspense in their lives.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marta, thanks for the inspirational story. I love the thought of waiting for the right train.
Thank you and thanks for the wonderful books.


Marta Perry said...

Thanks, everyone. I hope you'll all have a wonderful Christmas!


VA said...

Having grown up on a tiny island with few of the "modern" things I do understand the peace and freedom that one can have. Of course, as a kid I couldn't wait to run away and explore the big world.

I do like to visit it though and a good book is a fine diversion. Off to read the excerpt. Thanks, Marta and Sia.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

What an interesting concept! I have to say that try as I might to keep up, living in Egypt I'm always a bit out of the loop on the newest trends - I've never even heard of Amish mysteries! I have to say that it does seem an attractive setting though - I am always happier when I finally manage to totally disconnect :)

Marta Perry said...

Totally disconnecting is really difficult, isn't it? The best I can do is take off in the camper with my husband. And even then, now the campgrounds have wireless, so I can't resist checking in!