Please help me welcome award-winning author, Kelly Irvin, a first-timer, here.
Kelly, I’m so pleased to have you visit my website!
I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.
To start off, please tell us a little about yourself.
I worked more than 20 years in public relations for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department before retiring two years ago to write full-time. I’ve published 13 novels and four novellas. My husband is a photographer, who worked more than 30 years in the TV news business. We have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. My favorite way of relaxing is reading. My husband does all the cooking now, so I consider myself quite blessed.
Kelly, your website bio states you have been writing nonfiction professionally for 30 years, including ten years as a newspaper reporter. What made you do the switchover to fiction and was it a difficult one?
I’ve always wanted to write fiction. I chose a career in journalism because I wanted to write for a living and get paid for it. My temperament isn’t really suited for being a reporter because I’m an introvert and I didn’t enjoy approaching strangers and asking questions at difficult times. But I loved learning and writing about different topics all the time. Everyday was different. I switched to public relations after I got married, thinking it would be easier to raise children. Because I worked on many special events—often on weekends and nights—it wasn’t great for family life, but it did pay better. In the back of my head I kept thinking about writing a novel. Finally, I woke up one day and realized I was 45 years old. It was now or never. I wrote my first novel that year and began to learn the ropes of the publishing industry. I thought all my experience writing news stories and features would make it easy to write fiction. It didn’t. I soon learned that writing narrative, setting, developing plots and scenes, and writing dialogue involve a different skill set. I began attending writing conferences, joined a critique group, and read many writing books.
It took three years to get an agent and another three to publish my first book, a romantic suspense novel (not the first book I wrote). In the meantime, I was working full time and my children were in middle school, so I had to run from practice to volleyball games to basketball games and sleepovers and team parties. I wrote at the crack of dawn and over my lunch hour and on weekends. It was tough going for several years. After my kids grew up, it became easier. Then I started suffering some health problems that made writing a challenge all over again. It’s been a crazy ride with many ups and downs, but I’m living my dream now.
Please share with us a little about Beneath the Summer Sun.
This is a book close to my heart. I love Jennie Troyer, my heroine. She surprised me by making an unexpected choice at the end of her story. It takes guts for her to entertain the idea of a second chance at love. Here’s the back-cover blurb:
Jennie Troyer knows it’s time to remarry. Can she overcome a
painful secret and open her heart to love?
It’s been four years since Jennie’s husband died in a farming accident. Long enough that the elders in her Amish community think it’s time to marry again for the sake of her seven children. What they don’t know is that grief isn’t holding her back from a new relationship. Fear is. A terrible secret in her past keeps her from moving forward.
Mennonite book salesman Nathan Walker stops by Jennie’s farm whenever he’s in the area. Despite years of conversation and dinners together, she never seems to relax around him. He knows he should move on, but something about her keeps drawing him back.
Meanwhile, Leo Graber nurtures a decades-long love for Jennie, but guilt plagues him—guilt for letting Jennie marry someone else and guilt for his father’s death on a hunting trip many years ago. How could anyone love him again—and how could he ever take a chance to love in return?
In this second book in the Every Amish Season series, three hearts try to discern God’s plan for the future—and find peace beneath the summer sun.
How did you become involved in the Amish genre?
Although my first agent and I sold two romantic suspense novels to a publisher that specialized in library-quality hardbacks, I was having trouble breaking into the CBA market for inspirational fiction. Mary Sue Seymour, my agent, encouraged me to try Amish fiction. Normally writers are not encouraged to change genres because one is “hot.” The market fluctuates from year to year. But Mary Sue was adamant she felt I could successfully write Amish romances. I was skeptical, but she challenged me and I couldn’t ignore the challenge. I started writing a romance called To Love and to Cherish. She sold it to Harvest House Publishing before I finished writing it. While writing about the Amish required a great deal of research on my part, I enjoyed writing the stories and everything simply came together. Now I’ve published 11 Amish romances and five novellas, including one to be published later this year. Amish fiction has become its own genre, like Westerns. While it may not be as popular as it was a few years ago, it continues to be a strong draw. People, especially women, are drawn to a simpler, more Godly life. I enjoy writing these stories while giving readers spiritual questions and life questions to ponder.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My goal always is to touch readers, so they still think about the book and the characters long after they’ve read the last page. I hope my stories inspire people and make them feel closer to God. My intention is for them to examine their own lives and beliefs. It remains to be seen what the response to Beneath the Summer Sun will be. It’s unique because it addresses a societal ill that readers might not realize occurs even in the Amish communities. We tend to think of the Amish societies as idyllic. The Amish are human beings with human flaws and frailties. The same “bad apples” are found in Amish communities, but on a lesser scale. Because they are closed societies we may not hear as much about those issues. I explore what the impact is on a woman when she keeps a secret of abuse—even from her best friends. It’s a tough subject, but Jennie learns about trust, hope, and second chances. I hope readers will identify with Jennie and cheer her on.
Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
I used Jamesport, MO, as the model for the fictitious town of New Hope when I wrote a series a few years ago called the New Hope Amish. I visited Jamesport at that time, so I used my research notes for the setting of the Every Amish Season series I’m writing now. Most of my other research occurred via phone calls and Internet research. Compared to my days as a reporter back in the eighties, it’s possible to find out almost everything on the Internet. I love doing research, though. I tend to go down rabbit holes and stay there all day! For this book I learned how to play ‘Life on the Farm,’ a game often played by Amish families. I also explored the differences between the Amish and Mennonites, which can be confusing. I spent time learning about carpentry tools and how to make a rocking chair from scratch. I also had to learn how to hitch a horse to a haw mower. With Amish fiction, you’re constantly learning!
Kelly, what do you feel makes Beneath the Summer Sun stand out from all the other Amish books out there?
Beneath the Summer Sun is part of a series that examines the lives of widows in Amish communities, which are centered around families with husbands and wives. Each book features a woman in a different season of her life. The first book, Upon a Spring Breeze, focuses on a young, pregnant newlywed who suffers a terrible tragedy. Beneath the Summer Sun is Jennie Troyer’s story. She’s in her mid-thirties and the mother of seven children when she loses her husband. In the third book, Mary Katherine Ropp is a grandmother. The fourth book, which I’m writing now, is about Laura Kauffman, a woman in her seventies who has grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I love writing about older women who’ve had many experiences in life. Amish romances tend to center around young women because the Amish marry so young. I also like tackling tough issues, which means my stories aren’t as light and sweet as some romances are. This gives readers choices and keeps the genre fresh.
Do you have a unique talent or hobby?
Nothing that’s unique. LOL. I’m a reader, first and foremost. I read mysteries, romantic suspense, historical romances, and poetry. A strange combination, I know. I also love children’s books and sometimes go back to read some of my favorite books from growing up such as A Wrinkle in Time, Gone with the Wind, and Little Women. I can’t wait for my grandchildren to get old enough to read the Little House on the Prairie series. I love Laura and Mary!
Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Any last words, Kelly?
I love to hear from readers. I hope you’ll find me on Facebook or sign up for my newsletter on my web site. And write reviews. Even short ones really help authors. The more reader support we have, the more chances we have to continue writing these stories. A community of readers and writers is so wonderful. Keep reading!
Thank you so much for taking the time to be here, Kelly. It was a pleasure to interview you!
It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me!
If you would like to win a copy of Beneath the Summer Sun, please use the Contact page and type “drawing” in the comments box. The deadline to enter is February 24th.