Beth: In your author’s note, you mention that you drew inspiration from family members who still own and completely run their own dairy farm. To what extent were Noble’s and his family’s experiences drawn from things your family has experienced?
Amy: Aside from the beautiful setting, the story is all unique to my imagination. I have worked in ministry before, but I’m not a pastor. The farmer’s suicide was based on at least three stories I read in the news about farmers taking their own lives because of the hopelessness of today’s market for independent farmers, and I have heard similar stories about pastors, too. The more the story formed, the more I was blown away by the parallels between the two professions.
Beth: Let’s talk about your writing process. What type of research did you do to prepare to write this story? Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow of the story as it comes? What was the hardest part about writing a story of this nature?
Amy: When I first began writing fiction, I was a pantser. But more and more, I am becoming a plotter. However, it takes me a good three or four drafts before the intricacies of the plot really firm up. Sometimes in the middle of a scene a character will change his/her mind about what is going to happen, and so I do go with the flow of the story at times. But I try not to let them get too out of control. 🙂
Beth: I am a nostalgic person by nature, so Lead Me Home really brought those feelings to the surface for me, especially how I often yearn for more simplicity. At the same time, you gave readers a sharp contrast with examples like megachurches and the show-business lifestyle. In terms of faith, how do you think we can honor simplicity and stillness in such a busy, flashy world? Is a true balance even possible, and is this something you pursue in your own life? How so?
Amy: More and more I crave quiet and solitude. The smartphones, the television, the radio—all of it feels so loud sometimes. These things have their purpose, but I think we have to put boundaries around our hearts to protect the part of us the Lord calls to be still and know, to be aware of his presence. Proverbs 4:23 says that above all, we are to guard our hearts, and I think we have to be more purposeful than ever about finding slower, quieter ways to live outside the cacophony of our daily lives. For me, that involves leaving my phone in another room while taking time to swing on my back patio, or taking a walk without earbuds and music and listening to the different birds and the sounds of children laughing and playing, the leaves rustling in the trees. It means keeping my phone in my purse while I’m at one of my children’s concerts and closing my eyes and really hearing each instrument, each note. Overall, I think true balance is possible, but we have to be diligent and purposeful to find it.
Beth: Eustace is a person who finds joy in the small things. What do you think we can learn from people like Eustace, especially in a society where our eyes are often pointed in so many different directions?
Amy: For a long time I felt sorry for people like Eustace when I saw them in a store, at church, their awkward forms trudging through life while the rest of us push past them. As a pediatric nurse and a mama who spends a lot of time in schools, I’ve become more and more aware of how these special folks don’t care nearly as much about what we think about them as they do about the simple joys and interests they home in on. I think this is a great parallel in the story, too, about how we can find joy that feels so elusive these days simply by slowing down and noticing.
Beth: There were several emotionally charged scenes within this story. Some of James’s lowest spiritual moments had a deep effect on me. How did you prepare to write scenes like that? What did you do to replenish mentally and emotionally after working through these moments?
Amy: Many of my most difficult, emotionally charged scenes I have to write in longhand. I can’t say that I prepare to write them as much as I tend to get “stuck” and unable to move past a certain scene. It is then that I realize it’s because the character is about to go through something intense. Sometimes I have to stop and do something completely different, like work on a painting project or go to the gym to sort out what needs to be written. And it’s not until I pull out a notebook and a pen and hand-write that the emotions begin to spill onto the page. Afterward, I often have to take a nap. Taking a walk helps too. But naps are my favorite. 🙂
Beth: What is up next for you? Please share if you can!
Amy: My next novel is coming out in 2017 and is inspired by the story of Moses’ two mothers, Jochebed and Pharaoh’s daughter. The story is set in the present day and the theme is about what motherhood really means from two very different perspectives. I had to take a lot of naps while I was writing this one!