Author Interview with Jan Drexler, author of the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series

Today, we have author, Jan Drexler on the blog to chat about her latest release, Naomi's Hope as well as her writing style!  Welcome, Jan!

1. Hi Jan! It was so nice to meet you in person at last year's Christian Fiction Readers Retreat! Welcome to Just Commonly! For readers that are new to your books, can you tell us what kind of books or subject matter do you like to write about?
Hi, Annie! Last year’s Christian Fiction Readers Retreat was so much fun, and I’m sorry to have to miss it this year! Hopefully, next year, though!
I write Historical Amish Fiction, but I like to think of my books as historical novels with Amish characters.

We will miss you this year, Jan! And hopefully we'll see you next year!

2. How about giving us 5 words to describe your current release, Naomi's Hope?

Tender, poignant, suspenseful, heart-warming, hopeful.

3. What was your inspiration? What made you think you had to write this story?
I had developed Naomi’s character when I wrote the second book in the series, Mattie’s Pledge. As soon as Naomi started coming to life in the first chapter, I knew she had to have her own story. 
Mattie was the pretty and adventurous sister, and next to her, Naomi felt plain, ordinary, and left behind. She has what used to be called a “cast eye,” and that small defect is a huge barrier for her as boys have passed her by to flirt with her adorable younger sister. 
But I wanted to show how God has a plan for each of us, no matter how poor our self-image is. I wanted to give Naomi hope for a life of fulfillment and happiness.

4. This being the 3rd book in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series, what can we expect in connection to the first two books in the series? What are some differences in terms of theme?

The series story arc – the story of a group of Amish families moving west from Pennsylvania and settling in northern Indiana – is concluded in Naomi’s Hope. Readers will see how the families they have met in Hannah’s Choice and Mattie’s Pledge have carved out their homes in the wilderness.  
Some of the thematic differences are played out in the relationships between the characters. Naomi lives with her parents, and is much more reliant on their help and advice than Mattie was in the previous book. Cap is a new character in the series, and he brings a new perspective on life to Naomi, and part of their conflict is watching them try to fit their differences together. 
But the main thematic difference is in the antagonist in the book. Instead of being an outsider, as in the two previous books, Shem is part of the church. That is a difficult thing for the characters to accept.

5. Can you describe your main characters, Naomi and Cap in 3 words or less for each?

Naomi is cautious, loving, protective. Cap is capable, stubborn, introverted.

6. Which secondary character in Naomi's Hope grasp your attention the most and why?

I want to say Davey, Naomi’s seven-year-old son, but I think the antagonist, Shem, is the one who captures my attention the most. He is one of those characters you love to hate! It was so much fun giving him his comeuppance at the end!

7. What would you like your readers to take away with Naomi's Hope?

I hope my readers will learn what Naomi learns – that no matter who you are, we all need a new heart turned toward God.

8. Which part of the book is your favorite? Can you share a line/paragraph (without a spoiler)?

Cap is a widower, having lost his wife and son during childbirth several years before the story starts. When he meets Davey, they hit it off right away. This conversation between Davey and Cap is one of my favorite parts of the book: 
“Do you miss your boy?”
Cap cleared his throat again. “For sure, I do.”
Davey pushed away from him and turned to look into his face. “You don’t have a boy, and I don’t have a daed.”
Cap nodded. What was Davey trying to say?
“Could you be my dead?”
His throat tightened. “I think your mamm would have something to say about that.”
“Not really my daed. We could pretend.” Dave’s grin was infectious and Cap found himself smiling.
“Maybe we could.”
Davey threw his arms around Cap’s neck. “I love you, Cap.”
Cap’s cane pole dropped as he wrapped his arms around the small body. “I love you too, Davey.”

Wow, you're right. I love this. *teary eye reading this!

9. Let's chat a little more about you. How different is it writing historical Amish fiction versus other historical novels?

I see my Amish stories as historical novels with Amish characters. It’s part of who they are as people, and I don’t find that writing the stories is that much different than writing stories with characters who are cowboys or teachers.

10. Is there a place you love to go for research?
For research, I go “home.” My Amish and Mennonite ancestors settled in northern Indiana in the 1850’s, and I love to spend time traveling the back roads of Amish Country in LaGrange and Elkhart Counties. My dad still lives there, so we visit often.

11. How about a favorite place to write? 
After our daughter married the love of her life last year, I took over her room as my office. So now I can work whenever I want to, even if the rest of the family is in the house. A big improvement over the corner of the family room where I used to work!

12. Do you like to plot out all details or sort of just wing it?
I plot out a skeleton of the story. I know the beginning, end, and several key plot points. But while I’m writing the connections between those plot points, I wing it. I love it when my characters take on a life of their own. Sometimes they surprise me!

13. What's one tip you can give aspiring writers of historical fiction?
Make sure your research is accurate! There is nothing that spoils a story more for a reader than to be distracted by a fact that doesn’t seem right, and people will call you on it! Accurate research also helps you, as a writer, immerse yourself in the setting – and the more your live the setting, the more your readers will be able to, also.
14. What's currently on your nightstand?
Susan Anne Mason’s “Irish Meadows,” book one of her “Courage to Dream” series.

15. And last, a fan favorite, please give us 5 random facts about you.
  • I am addicted to counted cross stitch.
  • I love to travel, but hate being away from home.
  • I absolutely love living in the Black Hills of South Dakota!
  • My best furry friend is a tri-color Corgi named Thatcher.
  • My passion, other than writing, is teaching Sunday School. Give me a half-dozen preschoolers and my Bible, and I’m in heaven.

What great facts!! Thank you Jan for spending time with us!! 

© Magnified Photography
Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of thirty-five years, where she enjoys hiking in the Hills and spending time with their expanding family. She is the author of The Prodigal Son Returns, A Mother for His Children (winner of the 2013 TARA award), and A Home for His Family (finalist for the 2016 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award), as well as Hannah’s Choice and Mattie’s Pledge (finalist for the 2017 Holt Medallion).

CONNECT TO JAN:  website,  facebook,  twitter

Title:  Naomi's Hope
Series: Journey to Pleasant Prairie, Book 3
Author: Jan Drexler
Publisher:  Revell
Audio Release Date:  June 6, 2017
Genre: Historical Amish Fiction

Despite growing pains in her 1846 Amish community in Indiana, Naomi Schrock has settled into a comfortable life in her parents’ home with her adopted son, Davey. Surrounded by family and friends, she tries not to think about the fact that she’s not at the top of any man’s list of potential wives. Yet when Cap Stoltzfus moves into the area and befriends Davey, Naomi finds herself caught between the plans she has made for her future and the tantalizing thought that Cap might be part of a life she never dared to hope for. 

When a couple shows up claiming to be Davey’s true family, Naomi and Cap must unite to make the decision that will determine the boy’s future as well as their own. How can she relinquish him to these unknown relatives? And can God somehow bring wholeness to her heart?






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