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November 14, 2011

Beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart and Families of Honor series, Shelley Shepard Gray has a new Seasons of Sugarcreek novel, CHRISTMAS IN SUGARCREEK, which was inspired by a Christmas sermon. Judith Graber’s dull, overworked life is completely changed when her father hires “bad boy” Ben Knox. In this interview, Gray describes her writing process, including the visits she takes to the places she writes about. She also shares her own Christmas traditions and gives us a glimpse into her next book, coming out in March.

Question: CHRISTMAS IN SUGARCREEK was inspired by a Christmas sermon at your church. What was it about?

Shelley Shepard Gray: The sermon was about the three wise men following the star when Jesus was born. Our pastor talked about how we can all be someone's “star” or guiding light. I loved that image, how it's possible for each of us to make a difference in another person's life. After that, I decided to make the three storylines in the book be variations on that theme.

Q: What do you want your readers to come away with after reading CHRISTMAS IN SUGARCREEK?

SSG: Most of all, I hope that readers will have enjoyed the book. My first goal is always to write a book that people will want to finish, and will consider as time well spent. I hope readers might also consider how they've influenced their loved ones’ lives in a positive way.

Q: Do you have any special holiday traditions?

SSG: I do! I've been collecting “Snow Village” houses for over 20 years. Right after Halloween, I start putting out my Christmas houses. I also make Christmas sugar cookies with my daughter. We also always have a beef tenderloin on Christmas Eve, followed by evening candlelight services at 9:00 pm. Even though my children are in college now, I still find myself eager to watch their faces when they open gifts on Christmas morning.  

Q: How did you first start writing about the Amish?

SSG: I live just an hour away from an Amish community in southern Ohio. Since I've always loved visiting their shops and driving around the area, setting novels in an Amish community seemed like a natural fit for me.

Q:How do you research for your novels?

SSG: I like to visit the places I write about. I've visited each location of my four series multiple times. I also have a number of friends who are either Mennonite or Amish who answer my questions.

Q: Has your work researching the Amish influenced your spiritual beliefs at all?

SSG: Definitely! The Amish have such a strong faith that I've felt my beliefs grow stronger too. Writing inspirational novels has been a wonderful way for me to tackle questions, explore my faith, and integrate some of my personal beliefs into fiction. I definitely feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to write novels for Avon Inspire.

Q: What are you working on now?

SSG: I'm currently working on FOUND, the last book in The Secret of Crittenden County series for Avon Inspire. This series is set in an Amish community in south-western Kentucky. The first book, MISSING, will go on sale in March 2012.