By Cindy Woodsmall
Let me share with you a scene that happened in my house a few years ago…
Taking a deep whiff of the cinnamon-cookie-scented candle, I slide on my fingerless writing gloves and snuggle under an Amish-made quilt. Fuzzy slippers on, I settle in front of my computer to work on my Christmas novella. A scrumptious mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows sits on my side table, and I take a sip here and there.
After a few hours I put on my swimsuit, turn the air conditioner back to a normal temperature, and leave the house to go join my granddaughter at the neighborhood pool. Extreme and a little silly? Maybe. But if setting up my office like Christmas can help me get into the story I’m writing, I’ll do it. Anything to break up the logjam that sometimes invades my brain when I’m trying to finish a book.
Because I write Amish fiction, I’ve decorated my office with Amish-made quilted wall hangings, Amish-made drawings and paintings, and other things that remind me of Amish life. I immerse myself by burning candles scented like baking bread, or dumping orange peels and cinnamon into a pot of steaming water.
For my recent series, The Amish of Summer Grove, I indulged in going to coffee shops and enjoying the homemade goods and amazing flavored coffees.
I meet my daughter-in-law there from time to time, and we brainstorm for hours. We both live in a small town forty miles northeast of Atlanta, and our area has two coffee shops—one in the historic district that’s very quaint and a more modern one in a strip mall. The two places provided inspiration for my main character, Ariana, and her family-run café, Brenneman Perks.
As I talk to the owners, they share struggles that my characters will face, and the setting is so inspiring. It not only energizes me via delicious cups of coffee served in lovely ceramic mugs, but the sounds and aromas inspire me to write scene after scene.
Another thing that helps me enter my characters’ worlds is looking at pictures of research trips I have made in the past. I have folders and folders of pictures from various places in Amish country, from tourist spots in Lancaster County to the homes and farms of Old Order Amish friends.
I have an upcoming Christmas novella that is my first non-Amish book, and it’s set in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s titled The Gift of Christmas Past, and it’s coauthored with my daughter-in-law, Erin. We spent a lovely, snowy weekend in Asheville, hoping to get a lot of research done. Our husbands and her three children, ages five and under, went with us, so I wasn’t sure how much research we’d accomplish. But I was caught off guard by how many unexpected things fell into place. That weekend served as great inspiration for the book.
My current writing project is also non-Amish. Its title is Soft Dusks and Noonday Fire, and its setting is St. Simons Island, Georgia. Renting a house and staying there with my daughter-in-law and her family for a week was lovely and, again, surprisingly productive. We met and interviewed people who’ve lived there all their lives and one whose occupation is the same as the main male character. I have pages of notes we took during the interviews and hundreds of beautiful pictures we snapped throughout the week. Whenever I need to be transported to where my characters are, I open the Photos folder on my computer and look through the pictures.
What are some things you’ve done to help get into your book’s settings?
Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written 20 works of fiction, including her most recent series, Amish of Summer Grove. Her connection with the Amish community has been widely featured in national media outlets, including ABC’s Nightline. The Wall Street Journal listed Woodsmall as one of the top three most popular authors of Amish fiction. RT Book Reviews recently presented her with a Career Achievement Award and gave her latest release, Gathering the Threads, a Top Pick review. Woodsmall and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.Learn more about Woodsmall and her books at www.cindywoodsmall.com. She is also active on Facebook (@authorcindywoodsmall). Learn more and purchase a copy: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/books/242926/gathering-the-threads-by-cindy-woodsmall/