30 June 2010

Spotlight On . . . Marta Perry

Welcome to the Literary Road Trip and my Spotlight On . . . Marta Perry. Unlike many of the Pennsylvania authors I feature on the Literary Road Trip, Marta lives in the countryside and she is a jack of all trades in the author business. She is currently writing three different series.

First is a Harlequin Love Inspired series about the Bodine family, which is set along the South Carolina coast. The newest book, The Guardian's Honor, is out in just a couple of weeks.

The second is a brand new suspense series. In fact, the first book, Murder in Plain Sight, won't be out until December. These books are set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, known for beautiful quilts and wonderful food.

The third is the Peasant Valley series, which is about a Pennsylvania Amish community. The newest novel is Anna's Return, which was just recently released. The story is about a woman who is moving back home after spending three years in the outside world. Here's a bit from the publisher's summary:

Anna Beiler returns to the Pleasant Valley Amish with a baby girl, which will surely cause a stir since Anna is unmarried. What they don't know is that the baby is adopted, and Anna desperately needs to protect it from its violent father.
Intriguing, isn't it?

Now, you might be wondering about Marta's interest in the Amish. Well one reason is that the Plain People are in her blood . . . literally. Let's learn more.

Uniquely Pennsylvania

After living all my life (never mind how many years!) in Pennsylvania, I've just recently come to appreciate what we all owe to William Penn. Oh, sure, we studied him in 8th-grade Pennsylvania history, but not very much has stuck since then. But as I've stumbled through some research on my own family genealogy, as well as researching the Plain People for the two series of books I'm writing about them, I've renewed my appreciation for Penn's unique attitude, which has made us what we are. Without his "holy experiment" in encouraging immigrants of all religions to settle here and to worship as they chose, our culture would be so much poorer.

I read an estimate recently that nearly one-quarter of all Pennsylvania residents are of German descent, which seems astonishing to me. Probably most of those Germanic ancestors landed in Philadelphia in the 1700s, mine among them, and after all these years, we're still here!

Among the groups who came seeking religious freedom, the Amish must be the most fascinating. Amish culture may have made its first impression on a general audience when Harrison Ford donned that Amish straw hat in Witness, but folks in publishing are still shaking their heads over the current wave of popularity of Amish fiction. Though searching to understand why readers across the country suddenly can't get enough of tales of rumspringa and barn-raisings, publishers are naturally eager to provide what the reading public wants.

Several years ago, in the course of an existing inspirational romance series set in Pennsylvania, I introduced a few Amish characters. They seemed to fit the story I was telling, and they simply walked on. I wondered what my editor would say. Her response? Do more of that!

So now I have two separate series going for two different publishing houses, both with Amish settings. The Pleasant Valley series, for Berkley Books, is series of trade-size books focusing on the residents of a mythical central Pennsylvania valley, based very much on what I see when I look out my office window. Anna's Return, book 3, came out this month, and it seems to be doing well. Book 4, Sarah's Gift, will be out in March 2011. It's completed now, and my editor and I have been back and forth via e-mail all week, trying to firm up the cover. For some reason, the art department just doesn't seem to "get" Amish, and didn't understand why I wouldn't want a woman wearing bright pink lip gloss on the cover!

My second series, for HQN Books, is a romantic suspense series which begins with Murder in Plain Sight, releasing in December. The two main characters are not Amish, but are involved in defending an Amish youth accused of murder. This series is set in Lancaster County, and since that's obviously a real place, I have to be considerably more careful about my setting, though I hope readers may forgive a little artistic license in what I put where.

Writing about the Plain People has been a trip into my own family's past for me. The Dovenbergers and the Ungers came to Pennsylvania from the same areas of Germany and Switzerland and at the same time as the Amish, and although not plain, have held onto many of the same traditions, especially when it comes to food. I've compiled a brochure of Pennsylvania Dutch recipes from family and friends, and I'd be happy to send a copy to anyone who cares to e-mail me at marta@martaperry.com.

Happy Reading and Eating,
Marta Perry
(And give a tip of the hat to Billy Penn the next time you pass him!)

Thanks so much, Marta. I have lived in central Pennsylvania for a lot of years now, and I will join you in tipping my (straw) hat to Billy.

I laughed at the image of the Amish woman in shiny pink lip gloss. What a hoot. How generous of you to offer your recipes. I hope lots of my readers take you up on it. You so kindly sent them to me, and I was excited to see the Peppernuts recipe. I really love them. Now I'm thinking of baking some for the Fourth of July.

Marta Perry has written everything from Sunday School curriculum to travel articles to magazine stories in more than twenty years of writing. Marta’s books have received numerous awards, including the HOLT Medallion, RT Reviewers Choice Award, the Rising Star Award, the Write Touch Award, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and she has been a Rita Finalist. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Marta lives in rural Pennsylvania, where she is active in church and community activities. When she’s not writing, she’s probably visiting her children and her six beautiful grandchildren, traveling, gardening, or relaxing with a good book. Visit her at her website or her blog.

For more posts in the Literary Road Trip project, visit the LRT link page. Thanks to Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves for hosting this fabulous project.


Julie P. 6/30/10, 7:10 AM  

Great guest post. As a resident of Central PA, I'll have to look into these books.

I agree about the lip gloss! LOL!

Sandy Nawrot 6/30/10, 7:51 AM  

We had a huge community of Amish in northern Indiana, so I think that is where my interest came from. That and the movie Witness! (And hey, what's a little lip gloss going to hurt?)

Heather 6/30/10, 8:54 AM  

One of the last trips my grandparents were able to make together was to the Amish country. I was just married, so of course I didn't get to go. How convenient of them to wait until I moved out! I always thought their trip sounded so fun and interesting; I hope to follow in their footsteps someday. This was a great post; thank you!

bermudaonion 6/30/10, 9:45 AM  

What a great guest post! I love that she closed it by saying Happy Reading and Eating - she's my kind of author!

Anonymous,  6/30/10, 4:15 PM  

Fascinating - Beth F, thanks for introducing me to a new author. For some reason I love Amish fiction and am currently beginning Linda Castillo's Amish thriller series. I'll definitely have both of these finished in time to pick up Martha's new title in December.

As a recent visitor to Lancaster (I went to the Rainbow Dinner Theatre to see a show), I really enjoyed the charm of the area and was thrilled to see multiple Amish families while frolicking around town. The culture fascinates me and I hope to visit PA again soon.

Anonymous,  6/30/10, 4:16 PM  

Oh no I said Martha went I meant "Marta" - my apologies!

SandyCarlson 6/30/10, 9:19 PM  

These sound like great reads, Beth. And you've helped me make up my mind to bring my daughter back to PA this summer. Penn was visionary. And your state is special.

Margot 7/1/10, 11:17 AM  

Thanks for this post featuring Marta Perry. I read my first Marta Perry book just last year. Hide In Plain Sight was one of the first books I downloaded on my new Kindle. I guess you can tell I truly like the way she writes.

Deborah 7/3/10, 2:58 PM  

I've read most of Marta's book and I really liked her Pleasant Valley series because the books weren't typically Amish. By that I mean they weren't portraying them as the ideal lifestyle or that they were a safe place to hide away from the real world. I really liked how she mentioned that due to people only marrying within the same community can lead to a disease that is prevalent in the Amish community and is never talked about in other books.

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