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Amish Cooking with Rachel J. Good

Are you a creative cook? It should be easy for most of us. We have year-round access to foods from all over the world, in and out of season. We have refrigerators, stoves and a variety of electric appliances.  Best of all… we have Pinterest! And if we don’t cook, we can still order pizza, right?

How creative would you be without all those conveniences? Day after day, three meals a day? I’d probably do great for one week and then we’d starve. My creativity is not manifested in the kitchen, so I asked Rachel J. Good, author of best-selling Amish romances, to tell us how her Amish friends do it.

Hi Rachel! What inspired you to write Amish fiction?

Rachel J. Good and Amish CookingI grew up near Lancaster, and later when I worked in the library, we had many Amish patrons. I especially loved the Amish children who came to my storytimes. My best friend gave part of her farmland as a right-of-way to an Amish school, so we enjoy watching the children walking or driving their small pony carts to school. I now have many Amish friends in Lancaster County, who have invited me into their homes and lives. I admire their steadfast belief that God is in control of all circumstances of their lives and their forgiveness of others who wrong them, so I try to incorporate those values into my books along with the love and closeness of Amish families and communities.

It sounds your relationships there are a blessing!

One of the fun things about doing research for Amish novels is visiting my Amish friends in their homes. I admire how hard they work during the day. They get up at daybreak to gather eggs, milk cows, feed chickens and other animals, and then cook breakfasts for their large families. Their houses are always spotless, so they have long lists of chores to accomplish. And during the spring, summer, and fall, they add gardening and canning to their list of chores. Actually, they can all year, because they also can meats.

I’ve sometimes gone along to pick up bulk meats, and young boys pull wagonloads of chicken and beef to the car. (Yes, our Amish friends like us to drive them to get the huge meat orders. There’s not a lot of room in their buggies once all the children have been squeezed in.) When they get home, they have plenty of work to do. If you’ve ever seen an Amish basement or pantry, it’s filled with shelf after shelf of gleaming glass jars in a dazzling array of colors. In addition to chicken and other meats, those jars hold fruits, vegetables, tomato sauce, applesauce, cheese sauce, soup, pickles, jam, chow chow, grape juice, and many other delicious foods.

Canned food To can chicken, my Amish friends fill quart jars with raw, boneless chicken thighs. They add a 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper to the jar. They cook the jars in a hot water bath for three hours. If you have a pressure canner, you can cook the chicken for 90 minutes. This chicken is great for quesadillas, casseroles, and soups.

Having canned food on hand helps an Amish wife in many ways. If she needs to serve a quick dinner (lunch to the Englisch, or non-Amish) because friends stop by or she wants a “fast-food” meal after a long day of cleaning and outdoor work, she can send one of the children down the cellar to grab a few jars of ham and bean soup and applesauce. What does applesauce have to do with soup? If you ever dine with the Amish, you will see that they put applesauce on just about everything: pizza, bread, and even in soup. In just a few minutes she has a hot meal ready to serve her friends (adding some crackers and a dessert, of course) or a hearty meal for her whole family.

If her husband’s favorite supper is yummasetti, and she just doesn’t have all the ingredients to prepare it exactly the way the recipe says, she can take some macaroni and add a jar of cooked ground beef and a jar of canned cheese sauce to it and have a quick favorite (close to the real thing) ready when he gets home from work.

*Check out the Yummasetti recipe below!*

Some of the canned foods become part of the Sunday meal the Amish serve after church. Because the Amish meet in homes, each family will host the church service, usually twice a year, depending on the size of the district. Part of the Amish church meal is pickles. Most Amish women will can enough pickles each year to feed their families and to serve when church is at their homes. Pickles are also a staple at most meals.

Cooking with the Amish - manual chopper from AmazonWe often pop things into a microwave, but the Amish don’t have electricity. So how do they can foods, cook such good meals, or heat up leftovers? The more conservative Amish groups use woodstoves; other districts use propane or bottled gas to run appliances. As long as they aren’t hooked up to the grid, these appliances aren’t considered being part of the world. My Amish friends in Lancaster use gas and also run their refrigerators with propane. To warm leftovers, they usually put them in a saucepan or baking dish and heat them on the stove or in the oven covered with foil, so it doesn’t seem much different than our kitchens. But you won’t see any electrical appliances like blenders, mixers, choppers, etc., unless the home uses solar. Our friends have several manual choppers like the one pictured. All of our Amish friends also have grills and enjoy grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish, sausages, and other meats outside.

Yummasetti

4 lb hamburger

1 onion

12 oz macaroni

1 ½ qt potatoes

1 pt peas

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

3 c milk

Bread crumbs

Cheese

In a skillet, fry the hamburger with the onion. Cook macaroni and potatoes in two separate pots. Drain both. Mix meat, macaroni, and potatoes with peas and put mixture in a large roasting pan. Mix soups with milk and pour over the meat mixture. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.   Uncover and sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake until cheese is melted.

Thanks, Rachel! It’s fascinating that even though the Amish are our neighbors, their lives are so different from our own – and in some ways, we are very much alike. I am looking forward to reading your recently released book, The Amish Teacher’s Gift! Can you tell me about it?

The Amish Teacher’s Gift was a joy to write. It’s about an Amish teacher in a special needs school. I had a wonderful time researching Amish methods of teaching their special children and was amazed how up-to-date their techniques were. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, because although the Amish only go to eighth grade in school, all the Amish I know are lifelong learners. They came to the library often to get nonfiction books on many different topics.

The Amish Teacher's Gift by Rachel J. Good The Amish Teacher’s Gift by Rachel J. Good

Widower Josiah Yoder wants to be a good father. But it’s not easy with a deaf young son who doesn’t understand why his mamm isn’t coming home. At a loss, Josiah enrolls Nathan in a special-needs school and is relieved to see his son immediately comforted by his new teacher, a woman whose sweet charm and gentle smile just might be the balm they both need.

With seven siblings to care for, Ada Rupp wasn’t sure she wanted to take on teaching too. But the moment she holds Nathan in her arms, she realizes she’ll do all she can to help this lost little boy. Plus, it gives her a chance to spend more time with Josiah. Falling for a man in mourning may be against the rules, but his quiet strength is the support Ada never knew she needed. Yet with no time to court and a family secret holding her back, how can she allow herself to fall in love?

And available for preorder now:

The Amish Midwife's Secret by Rachel J. GoodThe Amish Midwife’s Secret by Rachel J. Good
Kyle Miller never planned on becoming a country doctor. But when he’s offered a medical practice in his sleepy hometown, Kyle knows he must return… and face the painful past he left behind. Except the Amish community isn’t quite ready for Kyle. Especially the pretty midwife who refuses to compromise her traditions with his modern medicine…
The more Leah Stoltzfus works with the handsome Englisch doctor, the more she finds herself caught between the expectations of her family and her own hopes for the future. It will take one surprising revelation and one helpless baby in need of love to show Leah and Kyle that their bond may be greater than their differences… if Leah can find the courage to follow her heart.

 

About the Love & Promises series:

Following Rumschpringe the Amish face many life decisions–embracing their faith, choosing their careers, entering lifelong relationships. A group of friends shares this heartwarming time as they grow, live, and learn to love.

 

 

 

The Love & Promises titles:

The Amish Teacher’s Gift  (April 24, 2018)

The Amish Midwife’s Secret (November 27, 2018)

The Amish Widow’s Rescue (May 26, 2019)

 

Rachel J. Good:

Rachel J. Good grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for many of her Amish novels. Striving to be as authentic as possible, she spends time with her Amish friends, doing chores on their farm and attending family events.

Rachel loves to travel and visit many different Amish communities. In searching for the best Amish soft pretzels, she’s visited many Amish markets, auctions, and mud sales. Because of her love of Amish food, she tries to include recipes in her books as often as possible. When she’s not traveling, she spends time with family and writing.

In addition to her Amish novels, she’s written more than 40 books, including children’s educational books, adult nonfiction, and fiction for children and teens under several pen names. To find out more about Rachel and her books, you can sign up for her newsletter: http://bit.ly/1qwci4Q

Where to find Rachel online: 

www.racheljgood.com

https://www.facebook.com/racheljgoodnovels/

https://www.facebook.com/people/Rachel-J-Good/100009699285059

https://twitter.com/RachelJGood1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14661177.Rachel_J_Good

https://www.pinterest.com/racheljgood1/

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-J-Good/e/B019DWF4FG

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-j-good

https://www.instagram.com/rachelj.good

Thank you, Rachel J. Good, for sharing those insights into the Amish community!

 

Amish Quilts Coloring Book by Rachel J. Good

As a professional quilter, I was tickled to see that Rachel has an Amish Quilts coloring book! How fun! Amish quilts are beautiful. A funny story about that…

At a local quilt guild meeting, nearly 30 years ago, we had a guest speaker who told us about Amish quilts. A newspaper reporter was there, and he wrote up a nice article with quotes from the speaker. A few weeks later, at the Amish market, one of the Amish ladies stopped me. She said, “I have a bone to pick with you!” That naturally surprised me very much, since we had just a pleasant, passing acquaintance, talking mostly about sewing and quilting.  I asked her why. “Because you said that we Amish people always make one deliberate mistake in our quilts, because only God is perfect. And that’s not true, because only God is perfect, and we make plenty of mistakes without doing it on purpose!” I didn’t try to explain that I wasn’t the one who had made that statement, but I apologized and said I would set the record straight at our next meeting. She smiled kindly and never mentioned it again.  It’s one of my favorite memories of the Amish community we lived near in Missouri.  They were such nice ladies.

Do you like reading Amish fiction? What aspects of the Amish community and life do you find most interesting?

 

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Judith Rolfs and Jesus Time

Have you ever met someone who seemed like just another pleasant person? …but then, as you began to know her better, you realized how special she really is and that God set that woman in your life to bless and challenge you?  He does that kind of thing fairly regularly for His children, but sometimes it seems like an extra-sweet blessing. That’s how I feel about Dr. Judith Rolfs.  The longer I know her, the more I appreciate her.  She’s fun and kind and sweet and wise and just shining with faith.

Judith Rolfs is one of those rare authors who can cross genres with skill and flair, writing nonfiction, novels and children’s books.  She also speaks to Christian women’s groups, sharing her heart for marriage and family relationships.  And when I asked if I could interview her here on my blog, she generously agreed to do that, too!

Judith Rolfs Welcome, Judith!

What a pleasure to be a guest on your blog today…

As I read through the devotionals in your new book, Jesus Time:  Love Notes of Wonder and Worship,  I was struck by how intimate and true it feels. Was it hard to be so transparent?

Yes and yes. I feel very vulnerable expressing such deep emotion. It’s one thing to have a fictional character speak intimate words in my mystery novels, but this is me, my voice. I wrote these love notes originally only for Jesus and didn’t intend that anyone to see them. At the same time the longing for intimacy with Jesus is universal and something we all want whether we admit it or not.

 

Did writing  the 365 Love Notes come easily?

Even though I’ve been a published author for thirty years and Jesus Time is my twentieth book, but I’m not sure if writing is the correct word for how these pages came about. These love notes seemed to literally flow from my pen – I wrote them all in longhand first. They originated from my desire to go deeper with Jesus. I meditated, searched Scripture and prayed. I felt this longing to draw closer to Jesus, to know Him better. Don’t we all want to draw closer? To experience intimacy with the One in whom, through whom and for Him all things were created. Without Him nothing was made.

Jesus Time: Love Notes of Wonder and Worship by Judith Rolfs - interview with Cathe SwansonWhat do you want the reader to take away from Jesus Time:  Love Notes of Wonder and Worship? What overall impression of Jesus would you like them to receive?

First and foremost, that Jesus is our Divine lover who never fails us. This sounds amazing, and it’s true. We can have a supernatural relationship with Him while living in our natural world. Didn’t Jesus say the Kingdom already began when He was on earth? Peace and joy can flow from our intimate connection with Him. I pray these love notes will become like readers’ own thoughts and words to Him. Perhaps even stimulate their journaling to Jesus.

From searching Scripture what impressed you about Jesus that perhaps you hadn’t realized before?

Without a doubt, Jesus’ incredible provision for men, women and children’s emotional and spiritual neediness. He knows human nature so well. He knew we’d need forgiveness. He gives us story after story to reinforce our understanding of his desire to forgive us and love us unconditionally. The prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery, and Peter. Also, Jesus realized in advance we’d need comfort for dealing with life’s hard times so He promised and sent us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He wants us to enjoy the life we live so he says over and over, worry not and fear not. Keep glancing at those sparrows – see how they never fret.

 

 

What would you like to say to readers?

Jesus was and is super fun, as well as holy. He enjoyed being with people and liked to socialize. He used His human energy wisely often going to the point of exhaustion when meeting needs and teaching. For Him prayer to the father was always a daily priority. He was willing to give of Himself – to be interrupted, to be distracted, to deal gently with pushy and needy people. I appreciate his boldness with the Pharisees and his outspoken denunciation of wrongs. No political correctness concerns. Would that we could all be so bold and authentic.  

You’ve had quite an unusual writing background from writing marriage and parenting books and children’s books teaching moral lessons then on to mystery novels with a message as you call them, to this new endeavor – Jesus Time:  Love Notes of Wonder and Worship. How did this transition come about?

Rather simply actually. Everything I write has the same underlying theme. I’m passionate about God. Whether it’s speaking about Him or writing about Him and I love helping people apply the wisdom of His biblical principles to their lives.

Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

Visit my website or my  Amazon author page

Thanks, Judith! I’m glad to share your book Jesus Time: Love Notes of Wonder and Worship. I hope others find it as encouraging as I did.

Thanks, Cathe, for interviewing me on your blog. It’s a delight to meet your readers. 

 

Do you keep a journal?

Like Judith Rolfs, I’ve kept prayer journals for years, pouring out my needs, hurts, and gratitude to Jesus on paper.  I write out Scripture passages and prayers of intercession. I prefer hardcover books with spiral bindings that let me open the book flat or even flip the cover to the back side. As the years have gone by, in different seasons of my life, I’ve moved from plain ink to pencil, to (now) colorful gel pens.  I keep a list of “ongoing” prayers in the back of the book.  I’m not at all artistic, so I don’t have any drawings or anything like that.

Do you have a prayer or devotional journal of any kind? What does it look like?

 

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Celebrating Good Mothers-in-Law – by Heather Day Gilbert

I always like a family story, especially if it has a good mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. My favorite woman in the Bible is Naomi. She is the ultimate mother-in-law role model. Ruth’s promise to her – “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.   Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. – indicates a rather staggering level of commitment. That is love.

When I read Heather Day Gilbert’s Miranda Warning, I found a new heroine in Nikki Jo Spencer, the mother-in-law of the main character. She’s amazing.  I want to BE Nikki Jo. She gets even better in Trial by Twelve! So when it was time to write about Mothers Day, I thought of Heather, and she kindly agreed to share her thoughts about mothers-in-law . Thanks, Heather!

 

Happy Mothers Day… Celebrating Good Mothers-in-Law

By Heather Day Gilbert

 

Yes, you read that title right. Despite popular opinion, some mothers-in-law are indeed good.

We’ve all heard the mother-in-law jokes that sometimes seem eerily accurate. The controlling MIL. The imperious MIL. The _________ MIL (add your own adjective).

But I also know that good mothers-in-law exist, because I HAVE one. And I constantly ask myself how I can be a good mother-in-law someday (yes, I think about things like this and I actually keep a list of things I want to do as a MIL and grandma, although given my lack of organizational skills, I might not stumble across that list before I’m dead).

As an author, it makes sense that I write both healthy and strained mother-in-law relationships. I thought about doing a rundown of all the MILs I’ve written (Thjodhild and Runa in God’s Daughter and Forest Child), Nikki Jo in Miranda Warning and Trial by Twelve, and Esther Sue McClure in Out of Circulation and the upcoming Undercut, but I decided to focus on Nikki Jo Spencer, because so far, she’s my favorite.

If you’ve read my books, you know I have no “perfect” characters. Each of my characters struggle with real-life issues, and mother-in-law Nikki Jo Spencer in A Murder in the Mountains series is no different. She has her foibles—she’s a bit of a gossip and she can be nosy—but she’s also solid gold when it comes to backing up her daughter-in-law Tess, no questions asked. She’s a superior cook and one of the wealthiest women in the small town of Buckneck, West Virginia, but you’d never know it by the way she treats everyone.

But I think the thing about Nikki Jo I’d like to emulate is this: she respects Tess and she loves her like her own.

That might look like bringing Tess a meal when she’s wiped out. That might look like letting Tess (a relentless sleuth) stay with her when a serial killer has discovered where she lives. Obviously the danger level is more dramatic in a mystery series than in real life, but I do think there’s something admirable about Nikki Jo and Tess’ relationship.

Nikki Jo’s personality isn’t the same as Tess’, which I think is often the case with MIL/DIL relationships. Nikki Jo is chipper and peppy. Tess is a realist and a risk-taker. But they have things they can learn from each other. Tess knows she carries the Spencer name now, and that means something special to her. She loves the family God allowed her to marry into.

I’m not saying MIL/DIL relationships are easy. I’m not saying they’re all ABLE to be as good as Nikki Jo and Tess Spencer’s. Sometimes boundaries have to be set, to maintain your own sanity (whether you’re a MIL or DIL). Not everyone is a Ruth and Naomi. And let’s face it—sometimes love looks like telling the truth in love so the air can be cleared.

But if you happen to have a loving mother-in-law like Tess Spencer does, be sure to tell her so this Mother’s Day. Let her know what a blessing her love is in your family’s lives. Celebrate this extra layer of love God has wrapped around you.

Miranda Warning by Heather Day Gilbert

Read more about Nikki Jo and Tess Spencer’s good in-law relationship in  in A Murder in the Mountains Mystery series.

LIMITED TIME OFFER:

Click HERE to get Miranda Warning FREE for Kindle. The audiobook is only $1.99. That’s a super deal for audiobooks! Be sure to pick it up soon, though, because this special offer ends on Memorial Day.

 

HEATHER DAY GILBERT

Heather Day Gilbert

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.” Find out more on heatherdaygilbert.com.

 

 

 

 

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Jaime Jo Wright – Author Interview

Jamie Jo Wright - Author Interview at www.catheswanson.com

 

I met Jaime Jo online through the American Christian Fiction Writers, but even though we both live in the land of Packers and Bratwurst, we haven’t yet met in person. I recently read one of her novellas, Gold Haven Heiress, in the California Gold Rush Romance Collection, and asked if I could interview her on my website. She graciously said yes and donated a paperback copy of the book for me to give away!  Barbour makes beautiful paperback novella collections. This one has covers that open and fold out to reveal western landscapes, and the paper is beautiful soft and heavy with deckle edges. Beautiful. See the raffle form below for your chance to win it!

 

 

 

Welcome, Jaime! It’s fun to have you here.  I know authors have the best book recommendations, so tell me… what are you reading now?

I am currently in between books, actually. But LOVED reading Kara Isaac’s “Close To You” and Joanne Bischof’s “Lady and the Lionheart”. They were both so well written and have stuck with me far longer than most books I’ve read this year!

Do you have a favorite contemporary author?

Well, it sounds redundant now, lol, but I LOVE Kara Isaac. She’s new to contemporary romance but has such wit and voice I can’t get enough of her.

What’s your favorite genre for your personal reading?

I waffle between mysteries and historical romance. It’s a bonus if they’re combined!

What one book – other than the Bible! – has most greatly influenced your life?

Ohhh, that’s a great question! I was greatly impacted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship”. It pretty much hits you between the eyes in how seriously you’re going to live your faith.

How about writing? What’s your favorite genre for writing?

I love historical romance with twists of mystery and suspense!

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Time. It’s a challenge to write with a full time job and two kids under the age of 6. Balancing the home and church also makes it a tad sketchy to eek out hours of writing time.

That’s a full plate! What is your “day job”?

I’m the Director of Employee Sales, Development & Associate Relations for a medium-sized corporation. It keeps me hopping for sure!

What does your writing process look like?

Well, considering time is difficult to find, it’s more like I write scenes in my head during the day and then grab 15 minute snippets to dictate them down on my phone app or type them on my laptop. Ideally, I get an hour or two at night after the kids are in bed to really focus. Coffee is always, ALWAYS involved.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I don’t! I know that sounds weird, but if I’m not sure what to write I usually just plow ahead and write anyway. It often gets deleted, but if I just sit and stare at the laptop then I’m definitely not moving ahead.

Do you know the ending of a book when you start writing it?

Usually. I typically have the skeleton framework and then fill in the rest on the go.

Gold Haven Heiress

Gold Haven Heiress by Jaime Jo Wright, in The California Gold Rush Romance Collection

 

Gold Haven Heiress had some emotionally intense and some lighthearted scenes. Do you laugh and cry as you write your books? How emotionally attached do you get to your characters? If they were real, would they be your friends?

I’m not a crier, and I don’t usually get attached to my characters on an emotional level. I love creating them, molding them, and seeing them come to life, but they are fictional after all, and the fact that I have their conversations in my head is scary enough. Lol If they were real? Some of them might be my friends. Some of them would probably drive me nuts. LOL!

What are your current projects?  Do you have any books coming out soon?

I’m currently working on my next novella, releasing in July 2017. It is part of Barbour’s “Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection – a Gilded Age Novella Collection”. My novella is titled: “The Flyfisherman’s Nymph”.

I understand that’s set in Wisconsin, and I am looking forward to it! In the meantime, where can we find you online?

Web site: www.jaimejowright.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jaimejowright

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaimejowright

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jaimejowright

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/jaimejowright

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/13916081.Jaime_Jo_Wright

Periscope: @jaimejowright

 

Thank you for the gorgeous book you sent me. I loved it, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to share it with one of my own readers. NOTE: You do not need to sign up for my newsletter to enter the contest unless you choose to do so. I will NOT be saving the emails you use to enter the contest. I will notify the winner by email and here on my website.

Enter to win a paperback copy of The California Gold Rush Romance Collection!

 

 

 

Professional coffee drinker Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.

Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com.

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Salsa & Speedbumps ~ an Author Interview with Susan Baganz

Susan Baganz

I met Susan Baganz at an American Christian Fiction Writers meeting. It was my first experience with a writing group, and Susan went out of her way to make me feel welcome. She has the best kind of bubbly personality – the kind that hints at a deeper, more thoughtful nature. Her books are the same way. They are delightfully fun to read, but they touch on serious issues with compassion and sensitivity.

Her other books include Pesto & Potholes and a Christmas novella, Fragile Blessings. Her new book, Salsa & Speed Bumps (Prism Book Group), is a contemporary inspirational romance novel being released TODAY, January 22!

 

Salsa and Speed Bumps by Susan BaganzHi Susan! I’m looking forward to your new book! Is Salsa & Speed Bumps part of a series?
Yes! It is the second in my Orchard Hill Romance series. Book 1 is Pesto & Potholes (April 2015). Book 3, Feta & Freeways, is due out later this year and the next three are contracted: Root Beer & Road Blocks, Bratwurst & Bridges and Donuts & Detours. The individual novels stand on their own. You don’t have to read them in order to enjoy them.

What made you decide to set your series in Wisconsin?
The old adage “Write what you know” was kind on my mind. I used to live in the Milwaukee area, north side, Menomonee Falls and Germantown. I also used to work in and around Milwaukee. It seemed a good setting for the adventures I would come up with.

How did you come up with the title?
When I wrote Pesto & Potholes it was just as a fun exercise. I wanted to give a real-life example of the pothole concept that is brought out in the story. I thought it would be fun if my guy was an Italian chef. I love pesto sauce so Pesto & Potholes was born. It was just a fun lark but then a friend on Facebook said that book two should be titled Salsa & Speed Bumps. I hadn’t even considered writing another story at that point. This was just for fun! I loved the concept so when I was ready to write another book—I took the title and ran with it. I decided that my guy, Roberto, would be of Hispanic descent, and there’s a bit of “heat” in there so salsa fits. Stephanie definitely hits a speed bump.

Is there a message in this book that you want your readers to grasp?
The story explores how we, as people of faith, think about our circumstances and view others. I struggle with this myself. Philippians 4:8 is kind of a key challenge: “. . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB) I know that when pain or depression or other challenges knock me off my feet—it is a huge challenge to do what that verse says and my characters wrestle with that. I suspect I’m not alone in that struggle. Otherwise the apostle Paul wouldn’t have addressed it in Scripture.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I’ve had several back injuries over the years and I will struggle with the after-effects for the rest of my life. I think in many ways I related to Roberto’s agony as he struggles. While my pain issues/injuries were not as severe, they have at times been debilitating like he experiences. I relate to the pain and sympathize with his suffering. Writing a person with a chronic health issue while they seem healthy on the outside . . . was a challenge. Chronic pain can be redundant and for outsiders who don’t have that issue it can get tedious and boring to hear about, especially when there’s little they can do to help resolve it. Many times there is no resolution. With Roberto you can get the sense of just how fatiguing and frustrating that ongoing battle can be, even when there might some opportunity for relief.

pesto and potholesTell us about your characters! How many of them appeared in Pesto & Potholes?
Renata was Stephanie’s best friend so she appears in Salsa & Speedbumps along with her husband Tony. It’s fun to see how their story continues and how they’ve grown and are there for Stephanie in her trials.
Stephanie works for De Luca’s Cucina (owned by Tony) as part manager and hostess. (There was a bit of a reorganization of the restaurant in Pesto & Potholes). She’s a live wire. Confident, beautiful. And single. She was there for Renata after her world fell apart and was instrumental in connecting Ren with Tony and encouraging them on their journey to love. Now the table is turned and Renata gets to be the one to help her friend through some painful circumstances.
Roberto in an attorney who has some skeletons rattling his closet which makes him more than willing to accept Stephanie’s (I don’t want to give it all away!). He’s a hunk and there’s definitely an immediate attraction between the two. He’s more button up but gracious and has an integrity that shines through when life throws him curve balls. For all his weaknesses there is much to admire in him.

Are any of the happenings in the book inspired by events in your own life?
As I said, the back pain I can relate to (but I’m allergic to pain medications that contain codeine, real or synthetic). There are others but I don’t want to give away all my secrets!

I’m looking forward to reading it. How about you? What book are you reading now?
Her Deadly Inheritance by Beth Ziarnik. It’s an Inspirational Romantic Suspense. It’s a fabulous debut novel by a talented author.

What is your favorite genre for your personal reading?
Absolute favorite? Inspirational Romantic Comedy – hard to come by which makes it all more wonderful. Janice Thompson is a master of that. Sandi Bricker has also written some quirky characters as well. I read a variety of things though, mostly romance. Contemporary, Romantic suspense, Regencies (harder to come by those in the CBA). Sometimes my editing work takes me out of that box though. There is so much wonderful fiction out there!

How about writing? What is your favorite genre to write?
I love writing the Contemporary Inspirational Romance but I started out writing Regencies. I find it fun to play with the language and rules of that time period. It’s weird to go from writing a story where people might be texting to each other to one where a woman can’t even write a man who is not a family member, unless they are engaged! To go from cars to carriages and ties to cravats. It’s fun but sometimes Regency language seeps into my contemporary writing and it did with Salsa & Speed Bumps. I would challenge readers to spot it. (Hint: It’s a short phrase used three times!)

Do you know the ending of a book when you start writing it?
I only know that it will be a happily-ever-after ending. How they get there and what that will be like? I have no clue until it emerges on the page.

Do you laugh and cry as you write your book? How emotionally attached do you get to your characters? If they were real, would they be your friends?
I don’t usually cry when I write but I might get sad. I have laughed while writing though! There have been times of tears when it’s done and I’ve read it.
I have a friend who is also a writer, who tells me I have an unusual relationship with my characters. If you get me talking, you would think they are real people. I will talk about them like that. Like they are my friends and I’m just taking dictation. So would they be my friends? I would hope so! In my inner world they already are and I love them all.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Fear. I wasn’t nearly aware of how much fear paralyzed me until I started the journey as an editor and author. I suspect it is for many writers. That’s why my word for this year is “Fearless.”

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you get past it?
I don’t call it writer’s block. With every story I write I hit a wall. I will be filled with self-doubt. The part of the story will seem like it’s boring to me. I’m a panster (write by the seat-of-my-pants) so I never know what’s going to come next. Sometimes I talk to a friend and brainstorm and the story might take a fun turn. Most often though, I just force myself to sit and write through the fear. When I’m done I could never tell you where that spot was. I think ultimately the wall is fear. I fear that what I’m writing is crap. But when I push through that I find my way to the happily-ever-after ending for my characters.

Fragile Blessings by Susan BaganzIt’s always interesting to hear about our favorite authors’ writing process. What does yours look like?
The house we rent has a sunroom and I have my office in there. It’s a large room so two bookshelves make a partial wall for a bit of privacy as my daughter has a computer on the other end of the room! My desk is an antique drop-leaf table that I sanded down and painted white a few years ago. To the left of that is another desk and some box type shelving. To the right against the wall is a long table which right now is a dumping ground but when it’s cleaned up it’s my spot for sewing (which I don’t enjoy but sometimes do because I need to!) and where I can make cards.
My laptop, named Rosie (because she is pink!) is on my desk in front of me and there is a larger monitor connected to it on the left. I have two windows framed in lace, to look out of to our driveway but also to the bird feeders there.
Sometimes I do editing on paper with a pencil and I do that on the loveseat in the living room with my puppy curled up by my side.
I usually write in silence. However, I do have children and computer games can make noise so at times I put on my headphones and listen to Classical music when I write Regencies. The last few contemporary novels I’ve written were to a mix of music by Burlap to Cashmere and Steven Delopoulus (his solo records). Their personal backstory was a spring board for two of my novels (#’s 3 & 4) and I love the harmonies and the amazing guitar playing.
I’m not a coffee drinker and right now am weaning myself off my Wild Cherry Pepsi addiction. I don’t have any “must have” kind of food. There is, however, a stash of chocolate hidden though for whenever I need it. (don’t we all?)

Do you have a job outside of your writing career?
My most important job is Mom. I also volunteer at my church in a “behind-the-scenes” type of role serving the worship teams and sometimes counsel and encourage women one-on-one when the pastors send someone my way.

What do you like to do that is completely unrelated to writing?
Sleep. Although that’s not entirely true because I’m often working through scenes as I fall asleep and wake up. I like to make cards (rubber stamping) but that’s kind of writing related too, because the art of sending a card in the mail is becoming rarer. I love to sing and pretend to play guitar.

What are your current projects?
I’m not writing a new story right now as I have a lot of revisions and editing to do on mine and other projects. I have been praying about my next contemporary novel which I suspect will be written this year when the characters finally decide to settle down and take over my life. I hope it’s not too soon though as I have a lot to do!
The next story (#7) in the Orchard Hill series is tentatively titled Truffles & Traffic since Kristen Hammer at our local chapter of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) has continued to challenge me to write a story with truffles. Hey, I love chocolate so why not? It will feature a romance between a couple, Jo March and Benedict Elliot (a British import) who’ve been divorced, come to faith and after some mishaps (of course) fall in love again. That idea is based on a real life story of a couple I knew in my past. Wonder if Lindt would sponsor or endorse that one?

Where can we find you online?
Blog: www.susanbaganz.com
Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz
Twitter: @susanbaganz
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/silygoos

Do you have any other books coming out soon?
Salsa & Speedbumps releases January 22, 2016
The Baron’s Blunder (a novella and a prequel to my Regency romance series), releases August 2016 as part of the “Love is . . .” series of novellas by Prism Book Group.
Feta & Freeways hopefully in September 2016

I’ll be looking forward to those. Thanks for sharing your book and your life with us, Susan. Have a blessed day!

 

Disclosure:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

Disclosure:   I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.