Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Writing about the Amish in Sin City by Jo Ann Brown

Most authors will admit that their careers don’t go as they planned when they first embarked upon them.
My first sale way back in 1987 was to Kate Duffy (who later became editor and godmother of Precious Gems) when she was at a start-up called Tudor Books. It was a sprawling 150,000 word western historical romance set in the California gold fields and mountains. Recently it was re-released in all its massive “glory” as an ebook by Open Road Media.

At the time, I planned to continue to write these long, intricate historical romance novels. Contemporaries? Nope, not for me. I was a historical romance writer through and through.

Maybe I should have mentioned that to the market, because by the early 90's, I was writing Regency romances in the 100,000 words range. Then Kate called and asked if I wanted to write for Precious Gems historicals. Oh, and the word count was 72,000 words. I gulped loudly, but agreed because I wanted to work with her again. I had a great time creating books for her, Amy Garvey, and Hilary Sares. Together, we did ten books for the line.

Since then, I’ve written lots of different kinds of books, but I never intended to write Amish books. I moved out to the Las Vegas area in part because I wanted to write western romances again. However, an editor I’d worked with on a ghostwriting project as well as two movie novelizations changed all that. She asked if I was interested in writing an Amish book for her.
I knew very little about the Amish. I used to live in southeastern Pennsylvania, and I visited Lancaster County in search of yummy cookies and pies. However, like when Kate called about Precious Gems historicals, I gulped loudly and agreed. After weeks of reading and a trip east to Lancaster County where I enjoyed more of those yummy cookies and pies – whoopie and regular ones!, I began writing and discovered that, by such a roundabout route, I’d found a writing world that fit me well.

Okay, I’m not about to disconnect the electricity in my house. How could I run my computer??? But writing about families who lived on small farms and worked together in a small community rang true for me. I grew up on a small family farm in the 60s, and the experiences my characters faced came, in large part, from events that had happened to me or friends and neighbors during those years. I’d found “my” world.

Write what you know is a cliche, but in my case it’s true.


  1. Hi Jo - I can totally relate to your publishing history and your family history. I love farms and small towns!

  2. Hi Jo! So fun to hear about your writing journey. I love those yummy Amish whoopie pies, too.

  3. Loved reading about your writing journey! Kate Duffy was truly a remarkable woman. It's cool that you're not afraid to tackle the unknown. I've done my share of "gulping" too lol

  4. I love that we all have writing journeys that are similar but different. That's for taking the time to write about yours.

  5. I have a fondness for full circles, too!

  6. Regarding full circles -- yes! Me too. Great post!

  7. A lovely post....and I'll say here how very impressed I am with your writing productivity. You are amazing!

  8. Wasn't Kate wonderful? So sad to lose her, but glad they set up the memorial. I too love that our histories as writers is so similar and yet all have gone down different paths.

  9. Jo, I've followed your career over the years. You've been an inspiration with your wonderful reinventions from one genre to another. I'd wondered how you got into Amish romance. Now I know. *g* I can understand how that environment would resonate with you given your background. By the way, really nice book covers.


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