Author Jennifer Beckstrand discusses what motivated her to write Amish romances and gives sneak peek into what her eighty-year-old matchmaking grandparents are up to in Huckleberry Harvest.
Q: Why did you choose to write Amish romances?
A: I fell in love with the romance genre after I read Pride and Prejudice as a young teenager. When my fourth daughter was born, I started writing a Western historical and finished it sixteen years—and two children—later. My agent asked me to write Amish romance because he loved my voice and the way I brought faith elements into my writing. I immediately fell in love with the category. I greatly admire the plain faith and simple way of life of the Amish people. Writing Amish romances allows me to explore aspects of faith while writing funny, heart-warming love stories.
To research the Amish, I did a lot of reading, and then immersed myself in the culture to get a feel for how they live. I’ve been to Pennsylvania and I have an Amish friend in Lancaster County who helps keep my stories true to their culture. I have also visited Wisconsin Amish country and keep in touch with a friend in Bonduel who sets me straight if I don’t get my facts right. Her only objection to my Huckleberry Hill books, which are set in Bonduel, is that she’s never seen huckleberries grow there. I told her she needs to plant some huckleberry bushes so my books can be more authentic. She’s probably still smiling.
Q: What was your inspiration for the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series? How did you come up with your idea for Huckleberry Harvest?
A: I fell in love with the idea of two elderly Amish grandparents making matches for their resistant grandchildren. Anna and Felty Helmuth—the matchmaking grandparents—definitely have some things in common with my own parents. My mom is a fireball of energy, and my dad cheerfully goes along for the ride. Anna Helmuth knits potholders for potential suitors and regularly tries out recipes from her new international cookbook. Felty eats Anna’s horrible cooking and does a little scheming of his own.
I always begin a book by thinking of a major conflict, and there are some conflicts very specific to the Amish. In Huckleberry Harvest, an Amish father is an alcoholic, and his family has to find the best way to be true to their beliefs while still supporting their father. One character in particular, is buried in shame and does everything he can to hide his father’s addiction from his Amish friends. It’s a good thing Anna and Felty are there to save the day.
Huckleberry Harvest features a Polish hound dog, a plate of fried pickles, a hay bale tossing contest, and Anna Helmuth’s recipe for potato-lentil-and-green-bean cheese soup. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?