Dee Stewart

A literary journalist and publicist since 2003, Dee Stewart's writings have appeared in Precious Times, Romantic Times, Spirit Led Woman Magazines and on The Master's Artist Blog. She is also the owner of DeeGospel PR (,) Christian entertainment PR boutique located in Atlanta, GA. Visit her Christian Fiction Blog, which turned 6 years old in July at Her debut novel "A Good Excuse to Be Bad (Kensington/Dafina) releases Summer 2011. Talk to her in real-time on Twitter at @deegospel.

Fall Hard for Amish Lit

An interview with Cindy Woodsmall

Part I

Cindy WoodsmallCindy 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 some truths 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 you?

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 research.

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.

Romans 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 cultural roots.

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.

Why 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 find fascinating.

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 them?

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 fascinating story.

Explain the Ada’s House series.

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.

Hope Of RefugeIn The Hope of Refuge readers 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 findThe Bridge of Peace 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 secrets.

Read the first chapter of her books at and chat with her at