Welcome, Mary! Please tell us about your book Among the Innocent.
When she was sixteen years old, Leah Miller lost everything when her entire Amish family was murdered in front of her. Now, their decade’s old murder case is about to turn red hot when the true killer returns to Amish country to claim his final victim. Leah.
Intriguing! What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a story that really illuminated the idea of good versus evil. I love writing Amish romantic suspense, and I chose to set Among the Innocent in the remote Amish community of St. Ignatius, Montana. For those of us looking in, the Amish lifestyle seems unencumbered with many of the troubles we find in the Englischer world today. In a way, you might say it is innocent. I was intrigued by the idea of using that innocence and throwing in a dangerous element such as a killer returning to his hunting grounds to claim his final victim. You see the good versus evil scenario played out on each page, and for me it adds to the drama and suspense.
Sounds exciting! When you were doing your research for this story, what surprised you the most?
The St. Ignatius Montana Amish community. It is filled with intriguing gems that added greatly to Among the Innocent. To start with, the Amish community is the only US community located on tribal lands. It sits on the Flathead Indian Reservation and there are 3 different law enforcement agencies who patrol the area. The St. Ignatius police, the tribal police, and the sheriff’s department out of Polson. Among the Innocent features all three law enforcement agencies working together to bring the killer to justice.
The community itself backs up to the Mission Mountains which adds to the suspense and gives the killer plenty of places to hide. But one of the most special things I discovered while researching the area was the St. Ignatius Mission. Built in the late 1800s, the mission has 58 hand-painted murals on its walls and ceilings. I loved the mission so much that I had to have it in the book. There is a scene where Leah is supposed to meet someone at the mission who supposedly has information about the killer, only it turns out to be a setup. These are just a few of the amazing things I discovered about the St. Ignatius Amish, and I was excited to find ways to share these intriguing tidbits with the readers of Among the Innocent.
What was the hardest scene to write?
For me, some of the hardest scenes to write were the ones that involved Marge Petri, the heroine, Leah Miller’s, adopted mother.
Marge and her husband Ellis took Leah in and raised her as their own child after Leah’s family was murdered. Marge has been struggling with dementia for a while and it breaks Leah’s heart to see her mom forgetting simple things. When Marge unexpectedly blurts out something about having a son, Leah is shocked at first, but soon she realizes there might be secrets from Marge’s past that are connected to her tragic past.
What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
I love this question! My ideal writing place would be in a cabin in the mountains surrounded by trees. I would have a roaring fire in the fireplace and my desk placed in front of the window where I could see the mountains and the seasons changing around me while I worked.
My actual writing place is my living room in Texas. I have my comfortable chair facing the windows where I can watch the wildlife that passes by, but it’s just me and my laptop most of the time where I drink Bai Coconut water and snack on peanut butter M&Ms for motivation.
What would authors do without M&Ms? (Caramel or plain for me!) So, when did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
I was young when I felt the calling. I loved to read and felt the urge to try my hand at writing when I was a preteen. I actually wrote my first book then, but I didn’t really follow God’s calling until much later in life when I entered a contest for Love Inspired Suspense. Everything just fell into place at God’s doing and I sold my first book to Love Inspired in 2012.
You have been very busy in the past ten years—I counted 51 titles on your website! With 51 books out, have you had any touching moments with readers?
I had a reader tell me that they’d stopped reading for a while and had gone through a bit of reader’s burnout until they picked up one of my books. It ignited their desire to read again. That was so humbling and such a blessing to hear. We writers don’t always get to know how our work touches those who read it.
What do you read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?
I have so many Christian Romantic Suspense authors that I love. These women have been my mentors in a way. I love Lynette Eason’s books as well as Nancy Mehl’s, Patricia Bradley’s, Lynn Blackburn’s, and Christy Barritt’s, just to name a few.
I am currently reading Paricia Bradley’s latest release through Revell entitled Deception. It is so good.
Patricia Bradley was our featured CAN author just last week! Now, everyone struggles with time management in our 24/7 world. How do you stay disciplined and meet your deadlines?
This is a tough one, especially if you are dealing with multiple deadlines. Staying disciplined is difficult but key. I “try” to limit the time I spend on social media to a few minutes in the morning. I usually return emails at that time as well. Then, in the afternoon, I write until I reach my word count for the day. I have a set number of words to finish so that I can complete my book in time to do a thorough editing. Most days I am able to accomplish my goals, but there are some days where everything falls apart. This is life, though. You have to expect the unexpected.
That seems to be the way of life, doesn’t it?
Most authors love libraries! Please tell us about your favorite library memory.
I have several, but I think my favorite was when I was a preteen, and I discovered the books of Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. Their stories opened up the romantic suspense genre for me, and I am so grateful that I happened down that aisle at our library all those years ago.
Recently, I did a book signing for Among the Innocent at our local library and that was so much fun getting to read from the book and answer questions. The ladies at the library as well as those who attended the book signing were so welcoming.
I love it! So, what’s next for you? Please tell us about your next project.
I am currently working on a four-book contract with Love Inspired Suspense. I’m on book two now. Book one will come out March of 2023 and is entitled Amish Wilderness Survival! Book two is scheduled for release in September of 2023.