About Paradise Valley

Posted by Dale Cramer on November 3, 2010

Bethany House has put together some really good information they plan to use in advertising the new book.  The following bit I thought captured the book and where it comes from rather well.   — Dale Cramer

Bestselling Author Dale Cramer Turns to His Amish Heritage for Inspiration

The son of a runaway Amishman, Dale Cramer is also a bestselling, critically acclaimed author. Growing up, Dale’s life held a mix of the Englisher and Amish cultures, and it is here, where these two ways of life collide, that he finds inspiration for his novels.

Because his stories stem from his Amish ancestry, they captivate readers with an authenticity rarely found in Amish fiction. His new novel, Paradise Valley, in stores now, is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss. Yet it also examines a very real, and very little known, piece of Amish history—a time that shaped the lives of one Amish community—and his own family—for better and for worse.

Here, Dale talks about his unique family, reconnecting with his heritage, and the story he just had to tell.

Growing up, you had such close ties to the Plain people. Do you have a favorite memory of your Amish relatives?

I always loved staying at Uncle Jake’s place when I was little. He had a big farm, a dozen kids, and all manner of livestock. I remember helping with chores, hunting with my cousins, riding horses and milking cows. They had a remarkable sense of humor, and sometimes we’d stay up late at night talking and telling jokes around the wood stove. I still visit a lot of my cousins whenever I make it up to Ohio.

Your love for your family and its history is evident in the stories you write. What inspired your latest novel Paradise Valley?

I wanted to write a big story, something with passion, romance, and high stakes, where people struggle against tough circumstances. I didn’t really set out to find another story based on my family, but when my father told me the story of Paradise Valley, I knew I had to write it. It’s a classic adventure tale whose characters possess real honor and courage as well as a deep, genuine faith.

What was so compelling about this specific piece of your Amish ancestry?

In 1921, the state of Ohio mandated that all children attend public schools five days a week. The Amish refused because they rightly feared the effects of such constant outside influence on their children. The state ultimately arrested several of the fathers and took their kids away from them. This was why they started a colony in Mexico.

On a personal level, I knew that my father was born and raised Old Order Amish and that he was born in a colony in Mexico, but I never really knew why they were there in the first place. But what really interested me was learning that my great-grandfather was the elder statesman of the Mexican colony, and that three generations of my family lived there.

How has your family helped as you wrote Paradise Valley?

Without Amish family I would never have attempted any of these books—they’ve been a huge help. I’m in contact with several of my Amish cousins, who answer my questions and help me get the details right. My half sister was raised Old Order Amish, as was my father. My father has given me all sorts of stories about Amish life, full of details you can’t make up, giving the books an unusual level of authenticity.

Speaking of your father, you tell his amazing story in your critically acclaimed novel Levi’s Will. How does Paradise Valley relate to this previous Amish novel?

It’s the story of the same family but a generation earlier. Levi and his first wife are part of the Mexico colony, and Will (of Levi’s Will) is actually born there. This is a true thing. My grandfather and his first wife moved to Paradise Valley, and my father was born there. My great-grandfather, Levi’s father-in-law, was the elder statesman of the colony.

With all your experience with the Amish and their history, what is one thing you really admire about them?

Their work ethic is certainly admirable, but I’d also point out that there’s an innocence about them, an absence of the cynicism so pervasive in today’s society. They’re completely sincere.

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15 Comment(s)

  1. I just loved Paradise Valley, I also Loved Levi’s Will, I am really hoping that you will have another book as a take off from Paradise Valley, I really want this book to go on and on. I am so impressed with the Amish they are so hard working and I also believe in the power of Prayer. Please keep writing about the Bender’s in MEXICO

    Gods Blessings to you and yours

    Lois Klobucher

    Jan 20, 2011 | Reply
  2. @Lois Klobucher:
    Lois, you’ll be happy to know that even as we speak I’m working on the final edits for a sequel to Paradise Valley. It’s part of a proposed three book series called The Daughters of Caleb Bender. The next book should be on the store shelves by December. If you like the first book you’re going to LOVE the second one.

    Dale Cramer
    Dale Cramer

    Jan 20, 2011 | Reply
  3. Dale, I was born and raised in Mexico and have been reading about the Amish people for a long time. I had not heard about the Paradise Valley community before. Are they still settled in Mexico? I remeber growing up, my parents would sometimes buy cheese from Menonites that made their way to our neighborhood, but I never saw Amish communities. They must not be close to the city, where I lived well into my 20s. Needless to say, the Amish and Mexico are close to my heart. Have you seen the “Marias” (hand-made Mexican rag dolls)? I drew a picture for my daughter’s bedroom of a Maria and an Amish faceless doll, sitting on a bench holding hands… a symbol of how they come together for me. I cannot wait to buy a copy of Paradise Valley and begin reading the story of your family. Best regards,

    Kathy Marvin

    May 16, 2011 | Reply
  4. I just completed reading Paradise Valley and The Captive Heart of the Daughters of Caleb Bender. They were both so good but The Captive Heart was a page turner. Did not realize Levi’s Will was the first of these three, now I’ll have to read that one.

    Jackie Yancey

    Feb 1, 2012 | Reply
  5. @Jackie Yancey:
    Actually, the series is comprised of Paradise Valley, The Captive Heart, and Book 3 (which at this point the publisher is saying will be titled Though Mountains Fall– you heard it here first). Levi’s Will was a separate standalone book that was written first, published in 2005 and re-released in 2009. The series is related to Levi’s Will, but LW is not part of the series. Levi’s Will takes place twenty years after Paradise Valley, when Will Mullet is an adult. Confusing, I know, but chronologically, Levi’s Will comes AFTER the trilogy, not before.

    Dale Cramer
    Dale Cramer

    Feb 1, 2012 | Reply
  6. Dale, I really enjoy your books. I am particularly interested in the books about the Amish settlement in the Paradise Valley. Do you know where this valley is located. Could it be in Tamuliapas? My family (not Amish) settled in Chamal — they were farmers and went to Mexico to teach farming techniques to the Mexican people. I was wondering how far apart these colonies were. Your people went after the revolution — mine before. Your comments would be appreciated.
    Anita Jessup

    Anita Jessup

    Feb 13, 2012 | Reply
  7. @Anita Jessup:
    Anita, all I can tell you is what I figured out from Google Earth based on clues in old documents. If you go S/SW about 40 miles from Saltillo you’ll find the town of Agua Nueva, Coahuila. There’s a ridge that goes in a great long arc about 30 mi E/SE from Agua Nueva, and at the other end of it you’ll find a long valley that still today is covered with the circles of crop irrigators. It’s just inside the western boundary of Nueva Leone, and they grow a lot of grain there, even now. I believe that’s the valley. It’s on a line slightly E of Saltillo and about 50 mi south. A few miles off to the east of the valley is the town of San Rafael, Nuevo Leone.

    Dale Cramer
    Dale Cramer

    Feb 13, 2012 | Reply
  8. Just finished book 3. Fantastic. True, honest emotions and full of real life which is difficult and where God gives hard things and sometimes no answers.

    Levi’s Will has long been among my favorites. Though Mountains Fall is it’s equal in depth of emotion and expert storytelling. My husband and I work in Korea and thanks to Kindle I can keep up with my reading for pleasure without the long wait for new releases to be shipped. I’ll be waiting for your next book. Blessings.

    Sheila N.

    Jan 20, 2013 | Reply
  9. @Sheila N.: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a comment from Korea before. Technology has come a ways, hasn’t it. I’m glad you enjoyed the trilogy. Having never done a series before, and never attempted a romantic story line or historical fiction, I was a little nervous about it, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. Thanks for reading.

    Dale Cramer
    Dale Cramer

    Jan 20, 2013 | Reply
  10. I really like this series. Quite frankly I am in awe of the strength of the Amish people and their ability to hold fast to their way of life and their beliefs. In todays society of say one thing and do another, it is really an amazing thing to see people who really do practice what they preach, as was so clearly shown after the schoolhouse tragedy that made national headlines a few years ago. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the Amish way of life with us. There is muchthat we can learn from them.


    May 8, 2013 | Reply
  11. Dale, I have to say, the Caleb Bender series is one of THE BEST Amish Series I’ve EVER read! I love the Amish, love history, that sort of book. I’ve read so many I could never start to count them. I truly enjoyed your books. When the 3rd came to an end, I was bummed there wasn’t a 4th! Just ordered Levi’s Will for my Kindle…have to go read it!

    Melissa D.

    Jul 28, 2013 | Reply
  12. Just found your site in my search for the areas of Agua Nueva and Paradise Valley. (I like to get a geographical feel for an area when I read about it.) I am only just now reading book one of the Caleb Bender series and loving it. Grew up in Texas and never had a clue about the history of the Amish in Mexico. I’ve been as far south as Saltillo and Cola de Caballo, which is a beautiful area. I found the irrigation crop circles on Google Earth maps. Fascinating! I will be reading the entire series!

    Diane H

    Jan 28, 2014 | Reply
  13. Diane, unfortunately, Google Earth is as close as I’ve been to Paradise Valley, but from the map I saw and the descriptions I’ve read I’m pretty sure the irrigation circles mark the spot. There’s also the little village of San Raphael off to the east, which agrees with the map published in the original sales brochure.

    Dale Cramer
    Dale Cramer

    Jan 28, 2014 | Reply
  14. Dale, just wanted to let you know I love the Caleb Bender series! I’m on my second time through, and it’s just as good the second time :) I have located the area you have surmised is most likely Paradise Valley in Mexico, and I’m wondering if you know anything about what happened to the Hacienda. Was it destroyed after the Amish left?


    Apr 16, 2014 | Reply
  15. @Melanie:
    Melanie, I’m not sure about the hacienda. This may sound odd, but I’m not even sure there was a hacienda the way I described it in the book. Mexico changed dramatically in the years following the revolution and many of the haciendas didn’t survive because that whole way of life changed. But the story of the Amish in Mexico is fairly accurate apart from the fictional characters.

    Dale Cramer
    Dale Cramer

    Apr 16, 2014 | Reply

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