More recently you’ve probably seen The Solace of Water and The Bright Unknown floating around, but did you know that Elizabeth Byler Younts started out writing Amish fiction? Or that she was born into an Amish family that left the community when she was in preschool?
I recently read and reviewed Elizabeth Byler Younts’ series Promise of Sunrise. Even as I read I knew that this was one I’d love to have an author interview for. She included a lot of rich history and I was curious where the truth and fiction weaved together. I had the privilege of meeting her in person last year at the Fiction Readers Summit in Grand Rapids, MI and I find her family’s story fascinating. I was pretty excited that she was willing to chat a little bit about how it influenced her writing 🙂
You can check out my full reviews:
About the Author:
Go to www.elizabethbyleryounts.com to subscribe to the newsletter and receive the audio of the first chapter of THE SOLACE OF WATER as a thank you gift.
Award-winning author Elizabeth Byler Younts writes historical fiction for Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson. She gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl. She is also the author of the Carol award-winning novel The Solace of Water, critically-acclaimed novel The Bright Unknown, and The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect for two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a small menagerie of well-loved pets.
If you don’t mind, I like to start out with a few fun questions:
Do you prefer warmer or colder weather?
—I’m going to be one of those authors who sidelines a question by saying both. Haha I really love the relaxation of summer but will usually sit in the shade. And I love the colder months because I love sitting in front of a fireplace and watching snow fall. If I had to choose I’d choose a milder climate over an always hot climate though. It’s easy to add a layer for warmth but you can’t always take a layer off!
That’s very true but I’d still rather deal with the warmth than the snow haha.
If you were the eighth dwarf (Snow White), what would your name be?
—Oh my word, what a fun question. I would first want to fight Sleepy for his name because I LOVE LOVE LOVE naps! I’m the queen of the 20-25 minute power nap! But since that’s taken, I’ll say my name would be Jumpy. I’m always jumping from one thing to another and trying to get it all done! Haha
Haha fun choice!
What’s a talent or hobby of yours that others might not know about?
—I really enjoy crocheting and knitting. I’ve been crocheting for over 15 years and knitting for maybe 5-6. Crocheting is easier for me but I prefer the look of knitting. I don’t often get time with having the responsibilities of homeschooling and co-op duties/teaching along with writing and making my best efforts at being a good wife and mother…but when I get the chance to sit with a hook or needles in my hands and some yarn…it’s definitely one of my happy places!
How fun! I can crochet too but I’ve never been too successful with knitting.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
—I’d love to go to England and hit all the great places where authors I love lived. I especially want to see Oxford and the Rabbit Room because I’m a huge Lewis & Tolkien fan. Of course, London would be a huge highlight also. I love Tudor History and would want to see EVERYTHING and walk where the walked.
Oooh, that’s an adventure I’d love to go on too!
Okay, now for the good stuff:
Do you feel like your Amish roots helped you create this series and how so?
—Absolutely. Growing up among my Amish cousins (my parents left the church when I was a preschooler) was just normal life for me. There was very little research I had to do in just how the Amish live. The historical aspects were areas I had to dig deeper into but I had my mom and grandma to ask. The language is my first language so that also came with ease. Of course, there is a spectrum to some Amish values, expectations, and rules so the reader always needs to be open to that. What is okay in one district is not always okay in another.
What was the most challenging part of writing this series?
—I have a heart for my heritage and I love my family. I was challenged, however, with holding to an honest story while not wanting to paint broad brush strokes over all the Amish. I wanted to make sure I spoke honestly that sins and issues do exist in the church, just like anywhere else! It is not the main thing they should be judged for either. Every church has their flaws and the Amish church is not without them. I wanted this to settle deeply into the story so that the reader could see each character as a real person and not an Amish person on a pedestal.
I think you did a wonderful job with that 🙂
At the end of Promise to Keep, you shared that your parents inspired Joe and Esther’s characters. Could you share a little more about that?
—That was mostly just the use of their names and the bravery it took to make some very difficult decisions. My parents are some of the bravest people I know. Even though they loved their parents and didn’t want to hurt anyone, they made a decision to leave the only church they knew and it set a completely different course for our family. They really didn’t know what was ahead of them, but they were willing to trust that God did.
I find your family’s story fascinating!
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
—This is a hard question, Becca! But a good one! I’ve never been an author that feels like I need to make sure everyone learns a lesson in my books or come away with a specific thought. Everyone comes to my stories, or any story for that matter, from a unique place so I never plan to make all these unique readers see all the same lesson or take-away. I would love for readers, however, once they finish reading one of my books wanting more and looking back and recognizing their own face somewhere in the story. It probably isn’t their whole face, but the pieces and parts that don’t always get exposed. But I want my stories to remind them that they are seen and that they matter. So when they see that hidden fear or that deep wound or struggle, maybe they’ll see that there can be healing and that they matter to God. This is a pretty abstract concept and answer and a loft desire, but there it is…
Love this! And I can say from personal experience that you do a wonderful job of drawing out and processing those emotions <3
What led you to move away from the Amish fiction to what you write now?
—I went into writing with a lot of ideas and dreams and I knew from the beginning that this Promise of Sunrise series was only the start and not where I would stay forever. I know that can be hard for readers to transition genres sometimes too but I wanted to still make the effort toward a more historical literary fiction. It’s where my heart is at and where I feel I can share what’s inside of me. I really hope readers who enjoyed my Amish Fiction will give The Solace of Water, which does have Amish elements, and The Bright Unknown a try.
Oh, I’ve read both and loved them too 🙂
Can you tease about what’s coming up next for you?
—I’d love to share! Unfortunately, I’m not able to just yet. But know that whatever comes next (wink) will continue to have a focus on those people in life who tend to live on the fringes of society and are often either forgotten or unnoticed. These are the characters who are more ready to me than any shiny perfect one and I can’t wait to offer you another feast between two covers.
Thanks for stopping by! 🙂