Today I'm delighted to welcome Laurie J Edwards to the blog. Laurie is a former librarian and teacher, and is the author of some 30 books and more than 2,300 magazine and educational articles. She writes under several pseudonyms, and also juggles freelance editing and illustration careers. I reckon the term prolific was coined with Laurie in mind!
In this interview we'll focus on Laurie's work as Erin Johson and Rachel J Goode. Before I kick off the Q&A, here's a little about Erin and Rachel:
Erin Johnson is the author of the YA Wanted series (do read it - it's brilliant!): Grace and the Guiltless and Her Cold Revenge, published by Capstone/Switch Press. She grew up watching classic western movies with her father, which fuelled her lifelong love of horseback riding. Erin's always dreamed of being a fierce-talking cowgirl, but writing about one seemed like the next best thing. She loves travelling, painting, riding motorcycles, and teaching, and lives in North Carolina.
Rachel J Good writes life-changing, heartfelt novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. She is the author of Amish romances in the Sisters & Friends series: Change of Heart (published by Christian Books) and Buried Secrets (published by Charisma House). She is also the author of the Amish Quilts Coloring Book (published by Golden Fairy Arts). Rachel grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for her novels. A former teacher and librarian, she completed her MA from Vermont College while raising five children. She is presently an MFA student at Hollins University.
Welcome to the blog, Laurie, it's so exciting to have you here. Huge congratulations, too, on the publication of Change of Heart, the first in the Sisters and Friends series. To kick off the interview could you tell us what inspired you to write stories featuring the Amish community?
I lived near Lancaster, PA, the location of a large Amish community. I was always fascinated by the Amish lifestyle, so when my agent asked if I’d be interested in writing Amish novels, I jumped at the chance. I also love Amish quilts, which led to creating the Amish Quilts Coloring Book.
What’s Change of Heart about?
In Change of Heart, Lydia Esh’s younger sister Emma is running wild during Rumschpringe,* causing the family major heartaches.
Although it means risking her reputation, her job as a schoolteacher, and her courtship with Jakob Zook, Lydia attends parties to watch over Emma and protect her sister’s
When Emma begins a relationship with Kyle, an Englischer (nonAmish), Lydia teams up with Kyle’s older brother, Caleb, to keep the couple apart. As Lydia and Caleb spend time together keeping an eye on their siblings, Lydia falls for this forbidden love. Will she stay true to her faith even if it means giving up the man she loves?
*Rumschpringe is the Amish teens’ “running around” time. During this period of their lives, the teens decide whether or not they want to join the Amish church. A few experiment with Englisch (nonAmish) ways—driving cars, partying, drinking, and using electrical appliances.
That sounds amazing. Did you do much research for the book?
I knew quite a bit about the Amish already, but I spent a lot of time researching all the details. I’m a former librarian, so I thoroughly enjoy the research. Then I sent the book to an Amish beta reader, who pointed out anything I might need to change.
Your book cover is gorgeous. Who created it and how much input did you have into the final design?
A designer at the publisher (Charisma House/ Realms), Lisa Rae McClure, created it, and I love the design and colors she chose. I did request a few changes in clothing details after my Amish beta reader pointed out the dress looked more like a Midwestern Amish style. Although to outsiders, Amish clothes all look similar, clothing details are unique to each area. For example, the backs of the Lancaster Amish prayer kapps, or headcoverings, are usually heart-shaped. Those in the Midwest are pleated.
With the cover for the second novel, Buried Secrets (March 7, 2017), we spent some time discussing possible cover ideas, and one of my favorite ideas was a picture of the hero and heroine with the Irish setter that’s an important part of that story. But then the marketing team decided to go with a cover that’s very similar to the first one. Although I would have liked a dog on the cover, I really like this one too.
I did have one request for my covers that the publisher honored. I didn’t want the faces visible. I feel very strongly about that because the Amish do not believe in having pictures taken, so they’ll turn away when someone is taking pictures. I wanted to honor their beliefs.
What will readers take away from reading this book?
I try to write stories of faith, hope, and forgiveness. Forgiveness is an important part of the Amish faith, and I hope through the story, readers can see how forgiveness can heal broken relationships.
I also want readers to come away with the assurance that even if their present circumstances might seem challenging or dismal, there’s always hope of a brighter future. I’ll never forget hearing Corrie ten Boom tell of her time in the concentration camp. She likened life to a tapestry where we only see the underside and don’t understand why the dark threads are being woven in. But when the pattern is seen from above, it becomes obvious that all of those threads were necessary to make a beautiful design.
That's such a moving anecdote, Laurie, thank you for sharing it. I’d like to move on now to your Erin Johnson books. I love the Wanted series. For those who don’t know, what’s it about?
After her family is killed by outlaws and a crooked sheriff refuses to help, sixteen-year-old Grace Milton determines to capture her family’s murderers and bring them to justice. She becomes a bounty hunter, braving danger and risking her life to track down each member of the gang. But once she meets a rugged range rider, she’s torn between revenge and love.
The first two books in the 4-book series, Grace and the Guiltless and Her Cold Revenge are out now. In the first book, Grace, although grieving for her family, learns the skills she needs to be a bounty hunter and challenges a gang member who’s about to commit a crime. In book 2, Her Cold Revenge, she must prove her skills and stop a train robbery by the outlaws who slaughtered her family.
They're such exciting books! What drew you towards writing westerns?
I’ve always been interested in history, and I spent a lot of time researching the West when I was writing the Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. I also enjoyed visiting Arizona after my father moved to a ghost town near the Mexican border, and I was fascinated by the town of Tombstone, where much of the series is set.
Who’s responsible for the brilliant book covers? Did you have any say in their design?
I’m in love with the cover designs by Kay Fraser from Capstone Publishing Company. I didn’t see the design until the ARCs arrived, and I was thrilled. I couldn’t have asked for better covers! I was also happy with her interior design.
When can we expect the next instalment in the Grace Milton story?
No release date has been set for that yet, but books 3 and 4 are already written, so I can tell you that Grace becomes a sharpshooter in a Wild West show to capture another criminal, she escapes to Mexico when the crooked sheriff tries to frame her for a crime, and she almost dies trying to save the itinerant preacher who helped her in the first book. So there are a lot of adventures ahead.
Ooh, I can't wait until books 3 and 4 are published!
We've come to the end of today's interview. Read Part 2 on Saturday, September 24th, where Laurie and I chat about how she juggles her various commitments, plus she gives us an insight into her writing process, offers some writing advice and...well, that would be telling - check in on Saturday to see for yourself!
Meantime, to read more about the amazing Laurie J Edwards check out her website. Alternatively, connect with her on Twitter. To discover more about her alter-ego, Rachel J Good, take a look at her Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads pages, or connect with her on Twitter. For more information on Erin Johnson read her blog, or take a look at her Wattpad page.