Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with
the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front
page of the Wall Street Journal. This fall she sits down with Christian
Fiction Online Magazine to share her new novel series and
about Amish culture in Christian fiction with a 2 part series.
Cindy, you live in
Georgia, where there is no Amish community, so how did this happen for
My childhood roots are in Amish
and Plain Mennonite country. At the age of ten, while living in the
dairy lands of Maryland, I became best friends with Luann, a Plain
Mennonite girl. The moment I stepped into her home, I noticed a lot of
differences between us, and my imagination took off.
Both sets of parents were
uncomfortable with our friendship, so Luann and I spent years
navigating around their disapproval. We spent the night with each
other, but when our parents wouldn’t let us see each other, we’d meet
at her aunt’s home and enjoy a few hours of jumping from the hayloft
into mounds of hay and such. I loved who she was, including all her
differences, and she seemed to feel the same way. That’s where the
ideas for my debut series (Sisters of the Quilt) took root.
When I was living in Georgia
with my husband, two older teens, and a kindergartener, I became
friends with a wonderful Old Order Amish family. We met by way of a
mutual friend I knew through my sister, who lives in Pennsylvania. The
friend introduced Miriam and me through letter writing and phone calls.
After a year of this long-distance relationship, she invited me to her
home. That was about nine years ago.
On that first visit I felt very
unsure of myself. My youngest son and I boarded a train in Georgia at
midnight. The Amish travel by horse and buggy, hired drivers, and
trains, and I knew my main character in the Sisters of the Quilt series
would travel by train, so it was the perfect opportunity for hands-on
It started out as an
uncomfortable visit for us as we tried to connect in spite of the vast
differences in our lives. We live seven hundred miles apart
geographically, and a century apart by customs. But in spite of our
differences, we forged a strong friendship. She and I have written a
book together about our first visit and subsequent ones. It’s a
Christian Living (nonfiction) book called Plain Wisdom. It will be out
in March of 2011.
When we talk about
multicultural diversity in Christianity, we often think about people of
color. However, Amish culture is another form of diversity. What
misconceptions have you heard since you began writing these stories
that you have cleared up in your novels?
There’s a lot to admire about
the Amish community, and I bring out in each book specific areas of
strength that the Amish possess. I also remind people that any culture,
regardless of how pure it looks, has dishonorable people. Every culture
has areas of weakness that must be dealt with or sin will flourish. All
of us are influenced greatly by our culture, but our lives are shaped
by our personal decisions.
No matter how much we may try to
insulate ourselves from the world, the sin nature is part of each of
us, and it must be dealt with on a personal basis. No one is free of
temptation or the desire to give in to it, regardless of their culture.
What truths about Amish
culture benefit the body of Christ?
I think we all benefit greatly
when we keep in our hearts and minds the truth that God is no respecter
of persons. (Acts 10:34) If we think He favors one denomination or
culture over another, we’re mistaken. Since none of us can live
righteously enough to win His favor, why would anyone point out someone
else’s flaws? After all, no denomination or culture has perfect wisdom
or a lack of off-the-mark positions or teachings.
12:9-10 (NIV) says, “Love
must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted
to one another in
brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
I think that sums up our goal as human beings, regardless of our
The context of this Scripture
speaks of offering our bodies as living sacrifices, not conforming to
this world, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Inside
those truths is a blessed encouragement to keep our hearts open to each
other while we strive to keep our own lives in tune with Him.
are so many people fascinated with the Amish?
The Amish lifestyle seems
simple, serene, and plain, and many people want to know the real story
behind the idealistic image. Amish men are raised to view having a wife
and family as the highest honor accomplished on this earth…yet many
have the same desires as the barhopping womanizer. Amish women aren’t
expected to juggle careers along with parenting and homemaking. Yet
Amish women today are gently challenging the traditional roles. These
are common struggles we can all identify with.
A good Amish novel has
characters with the pent-up passions of the Victorian era, facing the
issues of our contemporary society while constantly fighting not to
enter the modern age. That’s a new twist to romance that many readers
The Amish subgenre has some
similarities to science fiction’s time-travel stories. People from
another century find themselves plunked in the middle of a computerized
age. Now what do they do, and how do they interact with those around
But this isn’t fantasy. People
of faith are playing out these issues in our own country, and the
results are both freeing and heartbreaking. The written and unwritten
rules of the Amish are difficult to keep, yet breaking any of them
breaks the hearts of the family. That angst has the power to make a
Explain the Ada’s House
I have loved writing these
books! Each one has its own set of main characters and a separate
storyline, but the characters that readers fall in love with in one
book come back in the next one, and their story line continues.
In The Hope of Refuge
meet Cara and Ephraim. Cara was raised in foster care and is now a
widowed single parent living in New York. She struggles against
poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads
Cara and her young daughter away from the city toward an Amish
community, she follows every lead, eager for answers to mysteries from
her past and a fresh start. She quickly discovers that Dry Lake,
Pennsylvania, is no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim
Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes he received from God—“Be
Me to her”—despite how it threatens his way of life.
In The Bridge of Peace readers
meet Lena and Grey, who find that love alone isn’t always enough to
overcome obstacles. Lena is a young Old Order Amish schoolteacher who
has dealt all her life with a noticeable birthmark on her cheek. Grey’s
wife, Elsie, has shut him out of her life, and he doesn’t know how long
he can continue to live as if nothing is wrong. Lena and Grey have been
lifelong friends, but their relationship begins to crumble amidst
unsettling deceptions, propelling each of them to face their own
Read the first chapter of her
books at www.cindywoodsmall.com and chat
with her at