Most people think of Beverly Lewis when they think of Amish fiction, but did you know there are several men writing Amish stories? Today I’d like to introduce you to Patrick E. Craig, one of those writers.
Welcome, and thank you for being here! How/why did you pick the Amish genre?
Most of my books are Amish fiction although I’m branching out into Literary Fiction and YA. As far as my Amish books, I don’t write traditional happily-ever-after romance that seems to be the mainstay of the mostly women, mostly older readers who follow the genre. I try to write outside-the-box stories about desperate people who face desperate situations that only God can fix, and who happen to be Amish.
I got started in this genre … well, basically on a dare. My friend, Nick Harrison was Senior Editor at Harvest House and asked me for an Amish quilting story one-sheet. I knew nothing about the Amish or quilting, but I submitted an idea for a story about an Amish woman lost in a terrible storm who saves a lost little girl by wrapping her in a prize quilt. To my great surprise, Harvest House bought the idea and asked for two more. So there I was, an Amish writer who was unencumbered by any previous knowledge of the subject. Thank goodness for Google!
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
When I first started writing Amish, I had never read Beverly Lewis or Wanda Brunstetter and basically did not understand the inner workings of the Amish community. Then I connected with Sicily Yoder, a woman who had grown up Amish and left because of the grace issues surrounding shunning, and that was a huge blessing. She took me under her wing and schooled me thoroughly. Any question I had she would answer in great detail.
One thing she told me was that despite their squeaky-clean representation by the bulk of Amish authors (most of whom are non-Amish, by the way) there are some grim sides to Amish life. Jerry Eicher, an Amish man, writes about one of those issues, sexual abuse, in his recent book, When Hearts Break.
The hardest issue most Amish face is that they do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Many Amish think they are saved by following the Ordnung, the verbal law that has been passed down since the days of Menno Simons and Jackob Amman. I try to point all my books toward the great truth that the law cannot save you; only Jesus Christ can do that. My stories have to be set up with a plot that brings the protagonist to the great crux of their life: the law or Christ?
How long does it take you to: write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
Most of my books take about three months to write because I’m still working part-time. Sometimes it goes a lot faster. When Murray Pura and I wrote our recent book, Far On The Ringing Plains, it took us thirty days to finish 90,000 words.
As far as editing, I give my Indie books to one of several outstanding editors I’m connected with and do my third draft rewrites as they send back their edited copy. I also use Pro Writing Aid software to pick up the most glaring grammar and style issues. If I’m doing an Indie book, I will finalize the project in Vellum, a great piece of software that produces all the different files I need.
For my covers, I use Simona Cora Salardi at Cora Graphics and she is brilliant. I am also producing several books for Elk Lake Publishers and when I do, I will do edits with one of their staff and then they do the final cover and formatting.
If you’ve written multiple books, which was harder: the first book or the following books? Why?
My first book, A Quilt For Jenna, was the hardest to write because I had never done a novel before. I didn’t even know how many words should be in it. My agent told me around 80,000 but when I sent the manuscript to Harvest House, they sent it back with a request for 20,000 more words. Believe me, it’s much harder to add words to a finished book than remove them. When Harlequin bought The Amish Heiress for their Walmart Amish program, I had to remove 20,000 words for the mass-market paperback. Compared to adding, it was a breeze. After the first book, I had an idea about how to go about it and had established my preparation format, so it was much easier.
What’s your favorite writer’s conference? What do you like about it?
My first writer’s conference was The Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference. I was told about it by Barbara Curtis, a brilliant friend who encouraged me to write fiction when I was a pastor writing teaching books. The first year I met Tim Riter, Nick Harrison, Kay Marshall Strom and her husband, Dan Cline, Sue Loeffler, James Scott Bell, and a bunch of folks who have been my friends ever since. I went several more years until I moved to Idaho from California and have attended other conferences, but I would say that Mt. Hermon is still my favorite.
What conference do you most want to attend? Why?
If I can be very blunt here: I would like to attend a conference where the faculty, the speakers and the awards are not dominated 90% by women.
The truth is, the Christian Publishing Industry has been pushed into a tiny box since the seventies: publishers drove out Christian Literary Fiction and now generally want books written by women, for women, about happily-ever-after romance. Even my genre, Amish fiction, has been over-romanticized and double glossed. Instead of real, gritty life challenges the biggest obstacle in most Amish books is the wheel coming off the Brad Pitt look-alike Bisschop’s son’s buggy as he’s on his way to court the drop-dead gorgeous Amish girl. Actually, that’s why I put together my latest book, The Amish Menorah and Other Stories, and only invited the men who write Amish fiction to take part.
I want to see a return to gritty, honest, literary writing that challenges readers where they live. And I think that will take men authors to lead the way. So if anyone out there knows of a writer’s conference for Literary Fiction featuring male authors, drop me a line.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different?
I’m a plotter. Before I write, since most of my books are not contemporary, I research the period I’m writing about. Then I do a timeline for the story and after that I lay out the chapters. I do a blurb for each chapter so I know what will happen inside of it. I don’t set them in stone though. In the Amish Princess I moved a prologue into the middle of the book. Once I get the prelims done, I do a first draft. I don’t edit; I don’t stop; I don’t rewrite—I save all that for the second draft.
What does your revision process look like?
Once I finish the first draft, I go to a second draft and do heavy rewrites, salvaging the flotsam and jetsam of the terrible writing in the first draft. Then I will use writing software like Pro Writing Aid to clean up the spelling and grammar stuff, put that into draft three and send it to my editor. What they send back becomes draft four as I work through their suggestions and changes.
Draft four goes to my copyeditor (my wife) for a close scan for all the grammar and spelling again. Those corrections become draft five. Then I reread and do any final adjustments and that becomes draft six. I put that into Vellum and format the book. I usually do six drafts on my Indie books, because I am responsible for everything: writing, editing, cover, format. When I write for a publisher, it rarely takes that much work because they take over a lot of the load.
Six short stories that will entertain and educate you. You’ll journey with an Amish man and the Jewish woman whose life he saves, suffer with an Amish girl in love with an Englische man, agonize with two sisters both in love with the same man, pray with the family whose child is injured in a fall, join forces with a non-violent Amish sheriff in a violent western town, and laugh at the girl forced to be Amish for the summer.
Amazon Best-Selling author Patrick E. Craig, is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful music career to become a pastor in 1986. In 2007 he retired to concentrate on writing and publishing fiction books. A writer of Amish fiction, he has collaborated with several authors to publish The Amish Menorah and Other Stories (available now). Patrick and his wife Judy live in Idaho. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.
Find his books online at: http://tinyurl.com/n6sfagg