Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A long time ago, when I was young and single I moved to Springfield, Missouri, to live and work.  My mom lived in Arkansas, and when I drove home to visit Mom, I would drive through Seymour, Missouri.  I would see the horses and buggies along the sides of the road and thought oh, how neat. Amish. That was before Beverly Lewis was published. And as a young single I was a long way from bringing my writing “out of the closet” to seriously learn the craft. Let alone come up with a brilliant idea about writing a story centered around the Amish. 

Years passed. I married and had children. My husband’s family lived outside Springfield, so even though we moved away we’d still go through Seymour in order to visit them. When I came up with an Amish story idea, the first place I considered was Seymour. It is only two hours away from where I live. My husband has an aunt who lives there. And everyone wrote their stories in Ohio or Pennsylvania at that time. 

My husband’s aunt laughed when I mentioned I was writing a story in Seymour. She said “There’s nothing here!” I said, “There are Amish.” And we drove up. We discovered Amish love McDonalds. Of course, that’s pretty much the only fast food in Seymour. I saw an Englisch driver carrying a trailer full of Amish boys down the highway. They were all standing and were packed in very tight. I wish I would’ve followed that vehicle to see where they were going! 

We made several trips up to the area, discovered where the Amish lived (obviously, not in town!) and drove down the back roads. One nice Amish family allowed us into the main areas of their house, although I think it rather shocked them that someone would ask! And they answered some questions. I met another couple at the Dollar General who had the most adorable baby girl, and talked with them awhile. And my aunt-in-law got into the research by tracking down interesting news stories about what happened with the Amish. 

In Surrendered Love, the real life stories where the bear in the tree—it was actually on my aunt-in-law’s street!  And she heard the bear rummaging around in her garage before it climbed the tree. And also the buggy accident where the horse fell down, but that actually happened when the horse ran into a school bus. I changed it slightly for the story. There unfortunately was a fatal accident involving a speeding car and an Amish buggy. 

I listened as the Amish corresponded in their dialect (which, in Seymour isn’t Pennsylvania Dutch, since these are Swiss Amish) but I did use Pennsylvania Dutch and their dialect in my stories since that is what most Amish readers expect. I am somewhat familiar with the language as my maternal relatives came from the Pennsylvania Amish and my mother grew up speaking the language. 

When you use a real location, you do need to be careful to get the facts right—even though some may change due to creative license. If you use real business names in your stories (which some publishers allow) you need to be careful they are still there when the book comes out! In one of my stories the main characters visited the Starbucks in the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield. But when I went to Springfield, Starbucks had moved across the street and another coffee shop was inside the Bass Pro Shop. I called my editor in a panic and she did a quick change to the manuscript to a genetic term, instead of a name. 

Research is fun and it definitely helps to know the area you are writing about. If you can’t go there, make sure you find a friend who lives there who can help you with the familiarity of the location, and contact the tourist department for further information. Also some areas have pages on Facebook. 

Stop by Friday when Laura will be giving away a copy of her book, Surrendered Love.

Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and their five children make their home in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom and home-schoolsthree of her children. Her two oldest children are homeschool graduates and are in college. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor.


  1. As a Missourian, who has visited Seymour and a fan of Amish Literature, I must say thank you for this post. I truly enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks for joining Laura today, Mary. Come back Friday for a chance to win her book!


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