Monday, March 12, 2012

Give Me the Simple Life With Guest Blogger: Karen Harper

Win a copy of Return to Grace
and chat with romantic suspense author
Karen Harper today at the Book Boost!

She's here to chat about The Amish and Books and here's what she had to say...

Today in publishing, all the talk is of e-books, what sort of e-readers people prefer, and how the changing technology will effect print books and the industry in general. But in the world I write about for my romantic suspense novels—the world of the Amish—all that is not at all under discussion. The Amish are voracious readers, but hitting the local book mobile is as high-tech as it goes.

Rural Amish settings make a great backdrop for crime novels. You’re just not expecting arson or murder to come calling. If an Amish hero or heroine falls in love with an outsider, it’s instant conflict and forbidden love. Ironically, in my many visits to Ohio Amish country, I’ve found that the Amish love to read about themselves. The simple family and love stories are probably the favorite, though I write with an emphasis on thriller/suspense.

I’ve seen the Amish flock to the library when they can get to town and inundate book mobiles on rural roads. But these Plain People, who only go through eighth grade, also love to read books about many nonfiction subjects. I have met Amish who are experts in birding, history, constellations…

Which means that the Amish characters in my novels (I’ve written seven so far, plus an Amish romantic suspense novella Dark Crossing out July 2012) are well read people. But it is still fun to bring out how amazed they are when they come across modern crime-solving technique. Even such a simple (to us) thing as finger printing is something they have had no part of. Nor do the Amish tend to trust outside law enforcement, because they were once arrested, imprisoned, tortured and martyred by them in Europe.

However, I have a key character county sheriff in this Home Valley Amish trilogy, who has earned the trust of the Plain People. But if an FBI agent or an arson investigator comes in—instant conflict.

Which makes for a fun read if an Amish woman must work to solve a crime with an FBI agent or arson investigator from the state fire marshal’s office. I held my breath one year when several Amish people bought my book at the annual Buckeye Book Fair in the heart of Ohio Amish country. And when I heard one couple was the bishop and his wife, I was really on edge.

But the next year, they were back, gave me a nod, so I guess I passed muster. I have corresponded (snail mail, of course) with several Amish readers, who liked my books, although one did take me to task for confusing straw and hay—which I have been careful not to do again. She did not, however, want me to thank her, so I usually say something like, “I appreciate the kindness and generosity of the Amish who do not wish to be individually named.”

In my office, I have a photo of the busy interior of a book mobile in Amish country. I use it to remind myself that my characters may live in a horse-and-buggy world, but they are avid readers just like the rest of us. And their rural area and very different lives make for fascinating reading.

A Note from the Book Boost: Karen this is very interesting to me and I love the idea of the Amish communities raiding the bookmobile for hidden treasures--in books! I've always found their culture fascinating and can't wait to check out your newest. Thanks for sharing this with us today. Please tell us more.


Hannah Esh fled her Home Valley Amish community with a broken heart, throwing herself into her worldly dreams of a singing career.

But when she and some friends return to the Amish cemetery for a boos and booze party, shots ring out: one friend is killed and Hannah is wounded—or was she the target?

Working closely with handsome, arrogant FBI agent Linc Armstrong and her former betrothed, Seth Lantz, Hannah is caught between two worlds. She must choose her future, unless a killer chooses it for her.


Hannah was afraid of the rush of feelings that overwhelmed her near this man she had once loved, memories, yes, but too strong a reaction to him even now.

Distrust, dislike for what Seth had done to her but also raw need far different from the curiosity she felt about FBI agent Linc Armstrong. Not moving to follow Seth at first, she asked, “Do we really have anything but the shooting—which we’ve been over backward and forward with Linc—to talk about?”

“I want to show you—you, not him—something I found stuck or caught in your window with the slit screen. He didn’t climb a ladder to look at your window from the outside so I did.”

“Which means now your footprints are probably where you said they weren’t!”

“We’re both starting to think like him, aren’t we?”

“But what did you find out?” she asked, following him around the corner into the barn, not that she wanted to feel even more alone with him.

He reached past her into his buggy and brought out what looked to be a big chicken feather, until Hannah noted its strange black-brown markings in the light from the open barn doors.

“That was stuck in my bedroom window?”

He nodded. “So you couldn’t see it from inside, or almost from outside either. Wedged lengthwise with the side of the quill and the outer edge of the feather holding it. It’s from an eagle, I think. A wing pinion. I heard John Arrowroot say they were sacred to his people and that the graveyard where you were shot was once holy land his people used for sacrifices.”

“Human sacrifices? Did his tribe used to bury people there too?”

“I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.”

Want More Karen?

Visit her website here:

Pick up a copy of her book today! Click here.

Contest Time:

Leave a question or comment for Karen and be entered to win 1 of 3 copies of Return To Grace.

**Winners for Book Boost prizes are drawn the first week of the following month and posted in the Recent Winners box in the right hand side of the blog. Check back to see if you are a winner and to claim your prize! Please leave your contact information in your blog post!**


Karen Harper said...

I'd love to know if any guests on Book Boost live near any Amish settlements and if you have interacted with the Amish.

Debby said...

I find the community very fascinating but have not had any contact with anyone Amish.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Na said...

I've read a few Amish stories and have found their way of life different and interesting. There is so much to learn and their quieter pace of life - some aspects are really neat. I like the set up for the story which has a suspense element to it.


Karen Harper said...

Hi NA and others:

I've had people ask me how a peaceful Amish setting can work for a suspense/thriller. It works well because, if something happens to them, it's a big shock. Also, they are isolated with no cars, phones, electricity, so the idea of them solving crimes themselves (or with outside help, which they often don't trust,) works well. And there's nothing like a forbidden love story between an Amish woman and an outsider!