Meeting people for the first time can be rather intimidating, wouldn’t you agree? In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the importance of the first two seconds when meeting someone and how it takes just that amount of time to make a first impression.
TWO SECONDS??? YIKES!!!!
Clearly, first impressions do matter, if two seconds are all that it takes to form an opinion that we are hard-pressed to change. So, when I tell you that my preferred writing genre is Amish fiction, I ask that you hold back those two seconds and learn a little more about the merging of my love for the Amish culture and my passion for Jane Austen.
In college, I studied anthropology and writing. I loved traveling and, from the time I was ten, was blessed to visit new countries every year. As an adult, I made it a habit of escaping the confines of the United States (particularly New Jersey where I live) as frequently as possible. I’ve always said that the best education one can receive is traveling abroad. Studying cultures, learning new languages, sampling exotic food…what could possibly be better at teaching us tolerance and acceptance while expanding our horizons?
My paternal family is as close to American royalty as you can get. The Price family (then spelled Preiss and Priess) escaped religious persecution in Prussia by emigrating to the United States and, upon settling down in Pennsylvania, arranged for their son to marry the daughter of Chief Netawatwees and great-granddaughter of the Chief of Clans of the Lenni Lenape Indian tribes, “King” Tamanend. With such a rich history, you can probably understand my love for cultures as well as stories.
What I neglected to state is that the Price family was Anabaptist and, ten generations later, most of my relatives still are Mennonite and live on the same land that our ancestors once owned. My fascination with the Amish began at an early age and never abated. With my rich Anabaptist heritage and a propensity to study cultures, immersing myself into the communities, it was only natural that I began writing stories about the Amish, long before Beverly Lewis published her first Amish fiction book. Since that time, the genre has exploded. And this is where Jane Austen comes into play.
There is often a misconception that Amish fiction books are poorly written formula romances. And then there is often a problem concerning many authors’ inaccurate portrayal of Amish. Many authors do not have first-hand experience with the Amish or readers are basing what they know on “reality shows”.
I decided to raise the bar on both my fans as readers and myself as the writer. So, my Amish Classics series was born. My goal is to provide more than a great, authentic Amish experience for the reader: I want to also provide quality literature. Clearly, there is something intellectually stimulating about the classics that is missing in many of the lighter reads. Like most of you, Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is brilliant, her attention to detail is amazing, and her character development is second to none. So I decided to challenge myself and retell Jane Austin’s book, Pride and Prejudice, within an Amish setting, combining the Amish culture and religion with a Jane Austen style of writing and story-telling.
The challenge was not as hard as I thought it would be. There are many similarities between Elizabeth Bennet’s early 19th century England and Lizzie Blank’s 21st century Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both young women deal with issues of morality, manners, and marriage. The differentiation between genders and, to some degree, class, are also similar. The one challenge that I faced was the issue of pride and prejudice. At the core of their religion, the Amish shun worldliness and practice acceptance of others. On the surface, both pride and prejudice are two character traits not normally associated with them. Yet, they are human and, as such, not immune to desires and opinions, even if they choose not to vocalize them.
First Impressions is the result of this exciting literary odyssey. I have embarked on this journey with great enthusiasm, honing my desire to present Jane Austen to my regular readers of Amish fiction while introducing many Austenites to the possibilities of the Amish genre. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.