Some Amish communities aren't so cosy.
Six years ago I moved from the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to a northern Kentucky Amish community. I brought twenty-four horses with me and set up my established horse-back riding business at the new farm. Within a few weeks of arriving in Kentucky a stream of Amish teens were coming to the arena to participate in riding activities with the English kids (the Amish refer to anyone who isn’t Amish as English). Watching the interactions between the two groups, and observing some obvious flirting going on, I began to wonder how a relationship between the two vastly different cultures could possibly work out. It seemed impossible and incredibly intriguing at the same time, and from there, the seed for Rose and Noah’s story and my first book, Temptation, sprouted in my mind.
I dedicated two years to learning as much about the Amish way of life as I could. Besides my observations at the arena, my life was inundated with the Amish culture as Amish girls babysat my younger children, Amish teens hung out with my own teen sons, as I drove the Amish women to town to shop and even took a Tennessee vacation with an Amish family. I attended five Amish weddings and numerous schoolhouse benefits and private dinners with neighbors. When I was confident that I’d gained enough experiential knowledge, I began writing and a year later, I had an agent and Harlequin Teen had purchased the forbidden love story.
For me, the more I became immersed in the Amish community around me, the thirstier I was for knowledge about them. Some things about their culture leave me scratching my head, while other times I’m humbled by their ways. Their vast differences from us and their secretive ways make them a delightful group to write about.
The Amish are stuck in a strange time-warp, where they’re surrounded by the modern world and yet they reject it all. Why do the women put up with the anti-feminist structure of their culture? Why don’t they refuse to do laundry by hand or secretly sneak birth control so that they don’t have to give birth in the double digits? The questions can go on and on and usually infuriate the curious, but at the same time that we’re exasperated by the life choices of the Amish, we’re also fascinated at the stubborn strength of these people. We respect them and want to understand why they live the way they do and what really makes them tick.
I began writing Lamb to the Slaughter over a year ago after my agent asked me if I could create an Amish murder mystery. I was instantly on board with the idea, especially since I had personally witnessed some strange and almost creepy goings-on in my own Amish community. I really wanted to delve deeper into the darker side of being Amish, especially in relation to my personal passion, the lives of the teenagers and some of the harsh realities they’re faced with.
Interestingly enough, all of my neighbors know about my books and many of the teenage girls and women and even a grumpy old man have read them. One girl who had already left the Amish to be with her English boyfriend contacted me to let me know that she cried through the entire Temptation series. She related very strongly to what Noah was going through and reading my books actually helped her to deal with her own shunning from her family and community. For the most part, the reactions from my neighbors has been positive, although it’s taboo for them to discuss their children having romances with outsiders and the possibility of anyone leaving the community, so there are those who have shied away from the series.
Lamb is a representation of the Amish Church’s worst fears and it illustrates a tragic scenario of when a young person doesn’t fit into the strict structure of its society and is forced to run away. This is obviously a work of fiction, but much of it is derived from actual occurrences that I’ve personally witnessed and discussions that I’ve had with my neighbors and several people who grew up Amish but chose to leave their Church and became English.
It still amazes me that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and Canada, with the largest population centers found in the Midwest, live their lives like those born in the distant past. They turn away from modern conveniences and technology, oftentimes enduring many hardships to live a quieter and highly religious existence. You would think that the population would be dwindling away, but instead, it’s growing by leaps and bounds. The Amish have large families, sometimes as many as ten or more children and many of those kids are remaining in the culture, even after they step out and see the world for a bit. The young people have discovered that the lifestyle that we all take for granted and can’t live without is not all it’s cracked up to be in their eyes. In the end it’s all about the freedom of choice to live in a way that makes a person happy and as long as it doesn’t interfere with others, so be it.
I hope that Lamb to the Slaughter and my Temptation series opens up the fascinating and secretive world of the Amish to mainstream readers everywhere. The culture’s anti-feminist ways and primitive lifestyle are sure to ruffle some feathers, but there’s no denying that many of us are captivated by the Amish and want to learn more about them.
I’ve enjoyed spending time at Glorious Books today! I love to hear from readers and answer any of their questions (especially the Amish related ones) too! Please contact me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or you can visit me on my website at www.karenannhopkins.com. I also have a special giveaway going on right now that I’d like to share with you. If you purchase Lamb to the Slaughter on either Kindle or Nook for the promo price of only $2.99, you can be entered in a giveaway for a three book autographed set of the Temptation series. It includes copies of Temptation, Belonging and Forever! All you have to do is personally contact me on FB, Twitter, Goodreads or my website and let me know that you’ve purchased Lamb and I’ll get you entered. The drawing will be held on May 30th in conjunction with the blog tour ending. This is a separate giveaway from the Rafflecopter below. Happy reading!
Karen Ann Hopkins
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