By Debby Giusti
I’m hooked on Amish Suspense!
The first book I read in the genre was Linda Castillo’s Sworn to Silence. The contrast between the God-fearing and peace-loving Amish and the evil villains drew me into the story and kept me turning page after page after page. At the time, I was writing my Military Investigations series and decided to introduce an Amish thread into my next book.
TheAgent’s Secret Past released in March 2014 and had a CID agent heroine who had been raised Amish. She left the community, eventually joined the military and went into the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. But her Amish past follows her, including a man who seeks to do her harm. Adding the Amish twist was a refreshing change of pace, and the story went on to win the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence for Inspirational Romantic Suspense.
After writing a few more military stories with an Amish connection, I pitched a straight Amish suspense series to my wonderful editor, Emily Rodmell. Emily liked the ideas I presented and offered me a four-book contract. My Amish Protectors series features three sisters who are caught in a human trafficking racket in the North Georgia mountains, near the fictional town of Willkommen with its surrounding Amish community. Each heroine relies on her own Amish or soon-to-become Amish hero to keep her safe.
Amish Refuge, book 1, and Undercover Amish, book 2, hit Publishers Weekly Bestsellers Lists and have been well-received by my wonderful readers, for which I’m so grateful. In April, book 3, Amish Rescue, will be in stores and available through Amazon and other online merchants. The fourth book in the series, Amish Christmas Secrets features a secondary character from book 3 and will be out in October.
Writing Amish suspense takes me into another world. I leave electricity and technology and creature comforts behind and travel by buggy to an Old Order Amish home that exudes peace and tranquility with its simplicity, sparse furnishings and lack of indoor plumbing.
I stoke the wood-burning stove, pull homemade biscuits from the oven, and pour coffee from an aluminum drip-pot that warms on the back of the stove. The rich aroma of an apple pie cooling on the sideboard fills the air as I snap beans and slice fresh tomatoes from the garden.
I discard my jeans, T-shirt and fleece and instead wear a blue, calf-length dress and white apron. My hair, pulled into a bun, is covered with a prayer kapp as I interact with my characters, sans makeup and jewelry.
I like that fictional world, but I’ve found a few stumbling blocks that create challenges for the Amish suspense writer. The three that top the list for me are the following:
Phones, including cell phones, are verboten. Forbidden. So are computers. Some Amish businesses have computers or phones in their shops, but phones and power lines and technology—anything that would undermine or pull apart family unity—are not allowed within the home. My characters don’t text or send emails or share information from a home phone. They can, however, use pay phones. They also correspond by mail, and as within any Amish community, news travels quickly by word of mouth.
In my current work in progress, a neighbor has a phone shack on the edge of his property. The shack looks somewhat like an outhouse, but instead of a toilet, it contains a phone and answering machine, powered by solar panels. In real life, the phones are primarily used for business dealings and the answering machines for incoming orders from customers. The phones can also be used in case of emergency, such as if an ambulance needs to be summoned.
Englisch heroes and heroines often carry weapons—Glocks and Sig Sauers--when they’re running for their lives or caught in a villain’s crosshairs. But the Amish are pacifists and don’t believe in violence so self-defense can be a problem in Amish suspense.
The characters must have a strong motivation before they raise a hand against another. Even then, it’s probably not what a true Amish person, especially those who are Old Order, would do. But In my books, the heroes protect the women and children. I’ve used hunting rifles, guard dogs, and forces of nature to deter or stop the bad guys. Kitchen knives and farm equipment can cause harm as well.
The Amish are allowed to ride in cars, they just can’t drive or own them. They can travel by bus and train, but horse-drawn buggies are their main means of transportation for distances of about fifteen miles or less. For longer trips, they rely on Englisch friends and neighbors with cars or hire taxis to drive them from one place to another. Charter buses transport Amish tourists to vacation destinations, usually in the winter months when the fields lay fallow. A favorite holiday spot is Pinecraft, Florida, an Amish and Mennonite enclave within the city limits of Sarasota. When the buses arrive, a crowd gathers to welcome the new vacationers. In Amish Christmas Secrets, my heroine rides her bike to town, which is another source of transportation used by many Amish folks and one that’s particularly popular in Pinecraft. My heroine also rides horseback as she did in her youth. Of course, she slips on a pair of sweat pants under her long skirt so she can climb into the saddle and still maintain her modesty.
Share your ideas about how writers can work around the Ordnung rules on transportation, self-defense and communication in Amish suspense stories. Mention other areas that could be a challenge when writing Amish suspense. Leave a comment to be included in a drawing for an advance copy of Amish Rescue, the third book in my Amish Protectors series.
What’s coming in the future? Maggie Black, Dana R. Lynn and I were asked to each write one of the books in an upcoming Amish Suspense Continuity, published by Love Inspired Suspense. We’re excited about the stories that feature heroes and heroines who enter the Witness Security Program and are hidden within Amish communities.
Titles are pending, but the first book, by Maggie Black, will release in January 2019. My story—book 2—follows in February and Dana ends the series with book 3 in March. We’re having fun crafting the stories and promise more information in the months ahead. Be assured that each of the books will be fast paced and filled with the exciting danger found in every Love Inspired Suspense.
The coffee is brewed and hot tea is available. Pour a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy an Amish breakfast of eggs and country ham, fresh baked biscuits with apple butter and pancakes with warm maple syrup. Enjoy!
Happy writing! Happy reading!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
by Debby Giusti
Hiding with the Amish
Englischer Sarah Miller escapes her captor by hiding in the buggy of an Amish carpenter. Joachim Burkholder is her only hope—and donning Plain clothing is the only way to keep safe and find her missing sister. But for Joachim, who’s just returning to the Amish, the forbidden Englischer is trouble. Trapping her kidnapper risks his life, but losing Sarah risks his heart.