Monday, September 17, 2018

The Birth of a Series: The Amish of Weaver's Creek

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by Jan Drexler

My next book releases tomorrow, September 18, and I’m busy working on the second book in the series, so I thought we’d talk a bit about how this series came about.

This post isn’t a lesson on how to write a series – it’s a narrative about how your series could be written.

We’ll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!)

Two years ago this week, I was at ACFW 2016 in Nashville. Maybe I met some of you there! One of the things I enjoyed was a breakfast meeting with my editor from Revell, Vicki Crumpton, and Michelle Misiak and Hannah Brinks from Baker’s marketing department (Revell and Bethany House are both part of Baker Publishing.) We discussed my current series at the time (The Journey to Pleasant Prairie) and bounced around some ideas of what my next series might be.

From that meeting, I had an inkling of what this next series should be…but that was just the beginning of my work. I had a lot of research to do before I could think about submitting a proposal.

I knew this series would be about the Amish, and I knew it would be historical, so I started reading through my research materials. I found a book called “Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War” by Lehman and Nolt, and I knew I had my time period. As I continued my research, I discovered that there were Amish who fought in the war – very few – but that fact was the nugget. The series was born.

I created a place – Weaver’s Creek in southern Holmes County, Ohio. Then I created a family – the Weavers. I gave the family members names. Abraham and Lydia are the parents, and they have six children (four of them married) and nine grandchildren. Then I started thinking about which family members would be the main characters for the three books in the series.

Wait a minute…back up. At the same time as I was creating this family and their neighbors, I was thinking about the scope of the war, the setting (central Ohio), the political climate of the time, and the coming schism in the Amish church. All of those things also needed to be included in this series. 

Let’s think about what a series is:

It’s a group of books, each telling an individual story within a larger story arc. The series might consist of many books (like the House of Winslow series by Gilbert Morris which has forty titles!), or only a few. Most series published now are three or four books long, although with indy publishing, a series can be as long as an author and readers wish it to be.

The larger story arc for The Amish of Weaver’s Creek is the Civil War. The first book starts in the spring of 1862, when the war is a year old, and I think the third book will end around 1866, a year after the surrender at Appomattox. 

Once I had developed my time line, I found three major historical events that would serve as the background for each of the three books in the series. Then I determined who the lead characters would be. Finally, I created a brief synopsis for each of the books. 

My proposal was ready. I submitted it through my agent. My editor liked it (yay!), and she took it to the publication committee. They approved it (yay again!) and offered me a contract (big yay!)

Now I really had to get to work. The first book is done and ready for readers, but the second book in the series is due October 1st, and the third book is due in October 2019. It is work, and it gets pretty hairy sometimes (especially this close to a deadline!) but it is always wonderfully rewarding.

This is my dream job, and I am always, always, grateful. I am enjoying an embarrassment of riches!

Now, let's talk!

Do you read series? 

Do you like series that revolve around one character and one story, or a series that has a distinct story for each book but are related through the setting and characters?

Have you ever attempted to write a series? Do you think you ever will?

One commenter will win a copy of “The Sound of Distant Thunder,” the first in The Amish of Weaver’s Creek series. 

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Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents' insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother's name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother's place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation?

From the talented pen of Jan Drexler comes this brand new Amish series set against the backdrop of the Civil War. She puts her characters to the test as they struggle to reconcile their convictions and desires while the national conflict threatens to undermine and engulf their community.


  1. First, disclaimer: I loved this book... I got to read it early, and I heartily endorsed it.

    Second... The human psyche isn't to be second-guessed easily. Just because we belong to something doesn't mean we embrace the entire teaching and/or mindset and that's human nature.

    Should we accept all teachings?

    Should we argue?

    Should we push division?

    Sometimes it's the only way... and sometimes it's a power move. How do we discern it and how do our characters handle it?

    Great story.

    And it shows that growing up was never, ever easy. Even in simpler homes, simpler times.

    1. Good morning, Ruthy!

      First of all, thank you so much for endorsing The Sound of Distant Thunder!

      You're so right about growing up never being easy. That's one thing that draws me to historical fiction - the people in the 19th century (or any other century) were people, with the same struggles, joys, dreams, and tragedies that we have. The situation might be different, the name of the tragedy is different, but people are still people.

      So the things my characters wrestle with - those things you listed above? They're things we deal with every day.

    2. Ruthy, good explanation of why God gave us free will and why the Scriptures say, "Examine all things."

  2. Hi Jan,
    The combination of an Amish man and the Civil War is really intriguing. This sounds like a series I would really enjoy. I like series that have the same setting and characters, but focus on a different character in each book.

    Congratulations on the release of The Sound of a Distant Thunder. I'm looking forward to it and the other books in The Amish of Weaver's Creek series.

    1. Hi Tracey! I felt that same intrigue when I started researching this series. What surprised me was the variety of reactions from various Amish and Mennonite people that showed up in my research - everything from ignoring what was happening around them to being very outspoken in their opposition to the war. It's been a fascinating subject to research!

  3. Jan, I enjoy both reading and writing series. I love the continuity of reading a series and plunging into that author's and those characters' world.
    My own writing tends to flow toward series because I can't help asking, "What is this secondary character going to do next?" So I have three series with two books written for each and an idea of what I want to do with the third. But only one is contracted, so I've got my Work Cut Out For Me.
    The only thing I don't like in reading a series is when it gets top-heavy with characters and the author thinks she/he has to explain who EVERYONE is and where EVERYONE is in each new book. That can get cumbersome and boring. Mostly happens in family sagas.
    Writing series hasn't been hard so far because I fall in love with my secondary characters and imagine a future for them, but I'm sure my luck is going to run out at some point. I'm not opposed to writing a stand-alone, I'm just not wired that way.
    Some semi-bad news: I think I have a concussion. I've had a headache on and off since last Wednesday. I'm so afraid this is going to mess with the ACFW conference. Please pray for me. I'm staying away from the TV, books and all but necessary keyboarding to see if that makes it better.
    Be careful what you wish for.

  4. Jan, enough about me. I love the premise of your book. Since the Amish community is so self-sufficient, we often forget that their lives still play out against what is going on in the greater world. Great concept!

    1. Oh, Kathy! I hope you feel better by conference time!

      And I agree with you whole-heartedly about authors who feel the need to catch everyone up with the family in every book. But it's a fine line! I like my books to be able to be read as stand-alones, so I tend to just charge ahead with the new story. But at the same time, if someone has read the previous book (or books), they want to know what is happening with the characters from the earlier stories. So I sprinkle the updates in, a lot like sprinkling in the backstories. :-)

  5. I enjoy series and I also enjoy stand alone books. Even though I'm not published yet, I am working on a series. While I was in the middle of the first ever novel I wrote the idea of a series from that book rose in my mind. Now I am totally rewriting that book changing it from journal form and 1at person to third person with multiple points of view. I had already started the second book in the series. I have the title for the 3rd book but I'm waiting to start until I complete the first draft of the second. I also have an idea for a 4th book but no title yet.

    My body is still reeling from the effects of Florence. Hoping that in a few days the vertigo will subside and I can get back to normal.

    By the way my best friend was raised Mennonite.

    1. Hi Wilani!

      I've been wondering about you and this storm! That slow-moving system wreaks havoc in more ways than one!

      And congratulations on your progress with your writing. I often write the first book or two of a series with only a brief idea of what is going in subsequent books. But I find that the stories develop as I work, with ideas for the third book coming in while I write the second!

      I've had many friends and relatives who are Mennonite! The denomination is so diverse - everything from extremely conservative to extremely liberal...yet they all claim the name of Mennonite. :-) I'm sure your friend has many stories!

  6. Jan, it was interesting to read how you developed your series. The book I have finished writing is intended to be part of a series. We will see how that goes. Please put me in the drawing. I also love to read series.

    1. Hi Sandy!

      I am so excited for you! Finishing that first book is a huge milestone!

      I always intended my Love Inspired Historical books to be a series, but most of them were contracted one book at a time. I didn't let that stop me - all of my Amish books from Love Inspired are connected, and readers can read them as a series.

      As the author, we are always in control of our own writing (after God, of course!), even if we don't feel that way!

  7. Jan, I love how just one nugget from your historical research sparked this idea. And you may have just sparked one for my next series. Though I write contemporary and I won't be working on a new series until next year, but it's never to early to ponder. Thanks.

    1. No, it's never too early to ponder!

      A nugget I ran across in my research for my previous series might be the beginning for the series after "The Amish of Weaver's Creek." It's too early to tell, but it's in the back of my mind. :-)

  8. Jan, congrats on your new series!

    I tend to like series where each book has a new hero/heroine. That may be more because I tend to read romance. :)

    1. Thank you, Missy!

      I also like series where the hero and heroine change with each book, with one exception - cozy mysteries. :-) I love following the same sleuth through their mysteries!

  9. I love reading series. Many of the series I read are detective novels, so the main character stays the same over many, many books.

    I'm currently writing a series, and that's a lot of fun, laying in the groundwork for the future books as I write the first one. :)

    1. That is the fun part, isn't it? Like setting out breadcrumbs for readers to follow through to the rest of the books in the series!

  10. Hi Jan:

    I like a series to add up to more than the sum of all its parts.

    For example: you could have a series with ten books that take place during the War of Northern Aggression each which offered a similar backdrop and war experience. This, in a way, would be the same book/war experience ten times.

    On the other hand, a series could have ten books with ten diverse settings and distinct war experiences, such as being in the Navy, on the western frontier, at the New York City riots, being a slave in the Confederate Army, etc.

    In such a story the effect of reading ten individual books would give the reader a far greater picture of the Civil War -- which would in itself provide a more comprehensive understanding of the total experience that no one book could provide.

    In this sense, I prefer a series that builds into a more perfect understanding of the events than could be experienced in any single book.

    It's like the difference between an assembly line worker who has ten years of experience doing the same thing and a worker who has ten years of experience working in a different department each year.

    BTW: In your research did you find how the Amish looked at buying your way out of the draft? Would paying someone else to fight for you be the same (morally) as fighting yourself?

    Your title, "The Sound of Distant Thunder", makes me think of a book I am now reading, "Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal", in which the soldiers on Guadalcanal watched a grand naval battle going on miles away at sea and how the they were entranced by the beauty of the 'light show' provided by distant ships exploding in silence while lighting the sky in amazingly beautiful colors.

    "The Beauty of Distant Death & Destruction". Those same soldiers and marines were subject to that same naval bombardment as they crouched in their damp foxholes for days just a week before the engagement. They knew what was really happening on the ships as they were hypnotized by the spectacular light show.



  11. Hi Vince,

    Your idea of ten different books showing ten different views of the war is intriguing. That war was pivotal in the life and thought of our country, and even its variety of names point out how it affected us. "The Civil War," "The War of Northern Aggression," "The Great Rebellion," "The War of Secession," and my favorite, "The Late Unpleasantness," all bring forward a different view of the war.

    But I think those ten different books should probably be written by different authors. My own views of the war were shaped by my Yankee upbringing, and were further molded by the years we spent living in the Southwest (Texas) and the Near South (Kentucky.) As a result, I have sympathy for both sides on the conflict...but I'm still a Yankee. :-)

    And your story of the soldiers watching the distant naval battle during World War Two is haunting.

  12. Oh the more I read the more intrigued I am by this story...
    I guess I know what my bedtime story is tomorrow, would love to win a copy for my mom !!! She loves Amish fiction.
    Linda Marie Finn
    Faithful Acres Books

    1. Hi Linda! Thanks for stopping by!

      And this isn't the only place you'll have a chance to win. You'll be at the Keeping Up With the Amish Facebook party on Thursday, right? :-)

  13. Replies
    1. Hi Anne! I hope you get an opportunity to read the book!

  14. I love reading series. One character one place is ok but More than one character in one place is much better.

  15. Our Church Library has many books that are in a series. One particular series has 40 books. I enjoy reading a distinct story for each book but are related through the characters and the setting.
    Thanks for entering me in your giveaway.
    Janet E.

  16. I like series. I like them to bring in a little about the main character from the previous book because I wonder how things worked out for them! And also how they are connected to this character. These sound wonderful. Thank you.

  17. Jan!! I can't believe I missed your post :(

    Just hopping in to say I already have my copy of The Sound of Distant Thunder and can't wait to dive in. It looks so good!

  18. Thanks for this post Jan! It's interesting to hear about your process of writing a series. I do enjoy a series but just a handful of books. I had a favourite author who wrote a series about a family. I enjoyed the first two series but am tired of reading about them (I think there are a total of six series about the same family or secondary characters connected to them), so I don't even check this author's new releases any more because it's likely about the family I don't want to read about. :( I have an idea for a series in my own writing as I was drafting the beginning of another novel. I had fun creating the secondary character and thought she might deserve a book of her own! lol From that point on, I envisioned how I could make a 3 or 4 book series. My idea wouldn't center around one individual because I think there is such a thing as reader fatigue, but would stem from secondary characters and perhaps some of the lead characters from other novels would make guest appearances. Thanks again for this post. Lee-Ann B

  19. I love series! I like both types. It's so enjoyable to get to know the characters and watch them grow and develop over several books.

  20. I do read series and I enjoy seeing how a character develops or how an event determines what we will be reading in a future book. Thanks for sharing!

  21. I love to read series sounds like a great read! Congratulations Jan and Thank you for the chance to win!


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