If you haven’t read Ties That Bind, the award-winning, best-selling first book in the Amish of Summer Grove series, please avoid specific Q&A about the characters or storyline.
I grew up in Maryland. We lived in numerous counties, from a packed suburb of DC to the countryside where there wasn’t another home in sight.
I was inspired to write my first published novel by my childhood. While growing up in Maryland, I had a best friend who was an Amish-Mennonite. The moment I stepped inside her house, I could sense that there were a lot of differences between her home and mine. Neither of our parents liked the relationship, and we spent years navigating around their disapproval. As an adult, I connected with an Old Order Amish woman through a mutual acquaintance. We became good friends, and before I was under contract for my first book she and her husband were willing to help me in any way I needed, as long as I didn’t put the Amish on a pedestal. The Amish have many virtues, but there are issues too, and my heart’s desire is to give balance to the honesty of the Amish way of life.
The books that have most influenced my writing life are the novels by Janette Oke and Catherine Marshall.
My biggest challenge when writing is settling in to write. Once I get settled in, I’m focused and productive, but getting myself to that point is never easy. I often feel like that elementary-school child whose teachers used the words distracted and daydreaming a lot when talking to or sending notes home to my parents.
If I wasn’t a writer, I would be an elementary-school teacher. For me, the only thing that comes close to the pleasure of writing is the pleasure of teaching children in a way that makes the concepts clear and fun.
The superhero talent I would love to have is time manipulation. According to superhero speak, that means the ability to slow, accelerate, reverse, or stop time. As a wife, mom, Mimi (grandmother), and writer, I would love to be able to reverse time. I’d write a novel, juggling all the family and friends aspects of life to the best of my ability, turn in the manuscript to my editor, and then reverse time and be with my family and friends unencumbered by work hours. Ha! That would great. But if having a superhero talent was a real thing, I’d choose something less selfish and more helpful to mankind.
Family, community, faith, and love.
These “quilt blocks” sewn together made Ariana’s beautiful life.
When they are pulled to pieces,
will anything familiar remain?
The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago. Now she’s immersed in the Englischer world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana’s worldview. Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living Englisch, can help steady Ariana’s tilting ground between the two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?
At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spend several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life—no electricity, no technology, no fun. What the young woman can’t leave behind is her addiction to illegal prescription drugs and deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn’t belong in either family.
New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have. Can they find the wisdom and strength they’ll need to follow God’s threads into unexpected futures?
Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in The Amish of Summer Grove series.
My latest novel can be described by these five adjectives: emotional, insightful, distinctive, tender, and driven.
My main character is optimistic and vulnerable. Ariana is a go-getter despite being raised in poverty. She knows how to have almost nothing and turn that into something that will put food on the table. But she’s convinced that all she’s been taught inside her sheltered Amish community is completely right, and she has the willpower to honor her Amish parents through obedience…until her intellectual atheist “English” dad confuses her on all fronts.
A previously unknown fact about this novel is that my research for Skylar, a young woman whose biological parents are Amish but who has been raised English, caused me to dig deep into illegal prescription drug use among young people. And I had long, intense conversations with an intellectual atheist in order to create Nicholas, Ariana’s biological dad and the man who helped raise Skylar.
My story’s spiritual theme is grace, which is probably best summed up by a character’s thoughts: “She wasn’t sure what the difference was (between the various translations of the Word), but it seemed there needed to be more grace and less legalism about exactly how to live.”
The book’s title was chosen by teamwork between my editor, the publisher’s marketing department, and me. I sent my editor a list of titles that I liked. She found one or two words in that list that felt magnetic and true to the story. She took that information to the marketing team, and after they brainstormed, my editor and I shared several e-mails until we unearthed a title that felt right to both of us. Honestly, titles are not my strong suit. Thankfully, my editor and the marketing team are very good at building on the concepts and ideas I send to them.
As an author, the hardest scenes for me to write are confluence scenes. Confluence is where two or more rivers or streams join to become one. I think of scenes as tributaries. They flow from several sources with varying speed and power, but at different points in the novel, the tributaries must meet. Confluence scenes usually happen every seven to ten chapters, and they take much longer to write than any other types of scenes. Once I’ve written one, I often need days to hone it, hoping that readers never feel as if they’re drowning in the confluence of storylines. I want readers to feel as if they’re rafting down a crystal-clear, lazy river with a lush canopy overhead.
The story I’m currently working on is book three in the Amish of Summer Grove series, Gathering the Threads.
You may not know this about me, but I only turn on the TV in my bedroom when I’m ready to go to sleep. I hit mute and slide the sleeping mask over my eyes, then quickly fall asleep. I have no idea why that’s so comforting and relaxing, but it is. The TV turns itself off within the hour.
If I could be a character in any novel, I would want to be Ramona Quimby from the Beverly Clearly series of children’s books. She’s inquisitive, funny, determined, and confused, and no one ages slower than Ramona!
Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times, CBA, and USA Today best-selling author who has written nineteen works of fiction. Her connection to the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards, and the Wall Street Journal listed Cindy as one of the top three most popular authors of Amish fiction. Cindy and her husband reside in their now empty nest near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.