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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