Author Spotlight: Valerie Weaver-Zercher

Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Lisa T. Bergren is Betti Mace! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (

This week please welcome Valerie Weaver-Zercher in the spotlight! To win a copy her book Thrill of the Chaste (The Johns Hopkins University Press 2013), leave a comment on this post

Valerie_smallShare a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I am married and have three sons, ages 12, 10, and 8. I am a freelance editor and do developmental editing and copyediting work for a variety of publishers and individual authors. In addition to writing Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels, I write book reviews, features, and essays for a variety of publications. I love both writing and editing, and try to maintain some balance between the two.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

In addition to more academic or analytical nonfiction, I enjoy writing creative nonfiction and memoir. Frankly, I love to combine a journalistic approach to a topic with personal narrative writing, so that the prose ping-pongs back and forth between an investigation into some issue and my own experience of that issue. I also enjoy writing review essays that examine two or more books that revolve around the same topic.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?

I have enjoyed writing ever since I was in elementary school. My first job out of college (after a year abroad) was in editing, and it gave me the chance to write editorials and features and news articles. That first job was invaluable in terms of teaching me to write in a disciplined way, and under deadline! It also gave me critical experience in the editing side of the publishing equation; now that I have editors editing my writing, I understand and appreciate their role more than I would have had I not had that first job.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

That first editorial job gave me the opportunity to publish short pieces, and it gave me the confidence to keep submitting pieces for publication even after I had moved on to other jobs and to graduate school. Only after I had kids, however, did I begin to take myself more seriously as a writer and start treating it as a vocation that I wanted to pursue rather than just a hobby to be dabbled in. I don’t think I started really seeing myself as a writer until a few years ago, actually. It was much safer to call myself an “editor” or a “mother” than a “writer.”

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I usually write in my basement study. (This room, which we remodeled a few years ago into my study, is likely different from most home offices in that it is, shall we say, a “multipurpose” room. There are a toilet and a sink in one corner! Our house was built in the 1960s, and we assume that the original owners decided to add a toilet in case they ever added a whole bathroom. We have simply put bookshelves up in front of it to hide it from view.) Anyway: I write best by myself—i.e., not in a coffee shop and not when my kids are home. I don’t have to have a beautiful place to write: just a computer, a desk, a chair, and some quiet.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

Although I had already been publishing by the time we began meeting, my writing group has been invaluable in terms of helping me learn to revise. The women in my group are incredibly intelligent, careful, and compassionate critics and teachers of writing, and they offer helpful feedback whenever I show them a piece of my writing.

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? 

I don’t think I anticipated how much I would love the writing life. It is much more difficult than almost anything I’ve done, but also much more absorbing and lovely than most activities that fill my life. When I am in the middle of a large writing project, the time passes extremely quickly and I am surprised and saddened when the end of my work day arrives.

weaver-zercher rev comp.inddWhat are your biggest distractions?

Apart from raising kids and keeping a household running (someone always seems to be getting sick, and the laundry always accumulates way too fast), my biggest distraction these days is worrying about how my book is being received. I am very distracted by reading reviews of my work, scheduling interviews and signings, and worrying about whether people like my book. My tendency is to become the epitome of the needy-writer stereotype, and I’ve really had to work on separating myself from those extrinsic rewards and criticisms. I’m slowly learning to focus on the work of writing itself rather than people’s responses to it.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

One of the difficult things for me about being a writer is that it’s such a private, at-home activity that many people who know me don’t really know what I do. That is, people at church and friends and acquaintances aren’t necessarily reading the things I write or edit, so I think they sometimes wonder what I do all day! Freelance writing and editing is also difficult in that the payments I receive for various jobs are quite inconsistent, and so it’s hard to plan on any specific monthly income. There also aren’t the usual “perks” of a regular job—health and retirement benefits, tech support, raises, and a supervisor to help you figure out how to do your work better,

Having said that, I feel incredibly privileged to be able to do the work that I most love to do in the world. Being able to devote some daytime hours to writing, rather than only after the kids are in bed, feels like a gift.

What advice would you offer to new writers?

I have found getting published to be an incredibly slow process of accruing contacts and confidence and skills. Frankly, I would not recommend it to the faint of heart! Learning to just keep writing and to remain hopeful in the face of rejections is akin to a spiritual discipline. In fact, writing often feels like a spiritual practice to me. So I guess I’d say: approach writing with care, cautious joy, and fear and trembling!

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.

A new Amish romance novel appeared on the market at the rate of one every four days in 2012. Ten years earlier, only two new Amish novels were published. What has changed between then and now? Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels explores why Amish-themed fiction is so incredibly popular. If you find yourself curious about why so many people are curious about the Amish, you will enjoy this book.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

Thrill of the Chaste is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


  1. A new author to me. I’d love to read this book, sounds like a good read.
    Thanks for chance to win.

  2. Ida Davis says:

    I would love to win this book. she is a new author to me. Ty and God bless u and your family.

  3. Nikia says:

    I would love to read this book! Sounds extremely interesting.

  4. Naomi Martin says:

    I would love to win a book from a new author, sounds really good. I love to read Amish stories and anything about the Amish. Thank you.

  5. Jean Smith says:

    Sounds like a great book, can’t wait to read it!

    • CAROL MOORE says:

      I am addicted to reading the Amish stories that I get from the library. It would be wonderful to own my own copy!

  6. Carmee Ross says:

    I, too would love to win this new book…sounds like a great read for the beach!

  7. Andrew T. Kuligowski says:

    I saw a plug for Suzanne’s interview with Valerie on FB, and the title intrigued me. So, I wander over, and I discover that it is a book ABOUT writers and readers and taste and … I am seeing different things as I read different genres by assorted writers, so an analysis of one of those would make a good addition to my TBR pile!

  8. Shaun Paulsen says:

    Would love to win a copy. Love trying out new authors.

  9. Rachel says:

    Sounds like a great book, I would love to read it.

  10. Vickie Wyman says:

    I would love to win a copy. I just love reading amish books, I am always looking for a new author. Happy Reading!!!

  11. mary ellen ashenfelder says:

    Always exciting to discover a new author. Sounds like a very interesting read. Please enter me in the giveaway. Thank you.

  12. Karen Schula says:

    I have been very interested in what I have read about this book, and would love a chance to win a copy. Thanks for the opportunity!

  13. Karen Schulz says:

    can’t even spell my name right!!

  14. Andrea says:

    Sounds like an awesome book! Would love to read it! Thanks for hosting these author spotlights. I love learning about new (to me) authors.

  15. Loretta Shumpert says:

    Have seen this author’s name around lately, more and more.
    That has to be a positive thing for her!
    Hoping to win this book, thank you!

  16. Linda Ortiz says:

    Would love a chance to win!!! Please enter me in the contest 😀

  17. Linda Fast says:

    I would really love to win this otherwise I will definitely buy this. I think this would be the perfect Mothers Day gift for my mom.

  18. Allyson L says:

    Sounds like a fabulous read! I love finding new authors.
    Thanks for the answers Valerie and thank you Suzanne for this excellent giveaway!

  19. Linda Baio says:

    Love to read the Amish books , they are all so good!! Love new authors too!

  20. Carol Carman says:

    I would thoroughly enjoy reading this book because I love reading anything Amish-related. Do you have any advice for someone who would LOVE to do copy editing? I’m one of those people who are forever finding misspellings and incorrect punctuation or the wrong use of a word (theirs instead of there’s, your instead of you’re, etc.) on professional websites and in books, and especially in e-books. How would I get started? Thanks for your time (if you can spare it, LOL. If not, I understand.)

  21. Trudi McDaniel says:

    I’m always eager to read an author new to my shelf and I must say, I love the title!

  22. Sue Gibson says:

    You would be a new author for me, but I relish finding new Amish authors (or just good Christian authors). Can’t wait to read this book! If I don’t win it, I am sure I will be finding it somewhere!

  23. Beverly Lytle says:

    This sounds like a very interesting book to read. I would love to win a copy! Maybe then I could explain my fascination to my family LOL.

  24. Rachel Gingrich says:

    Would love to have a copy of this book.

  25. LeAnn Mooneyham says:

    Wow her book sound sawesome. Please enter me. Thsnks Suzanne. A new author for me.

  26. I would love to win this book. I answered questions about this from Valerie, via a phone call, a while back. Would love to see the end product.

  27. Kathy Conto says:

    I would feel like it was a special gift chosen for me, as many of by dear friends are Amish.

  28. kim amundsen says:

    Love reading new books by new authors. Looks like a really good book.

  29. Robyn L says:

    I am very interested in the Amish having followed the TV program last year
    of 4 Amish youngsters leaving their home and a Mennonite girl also.

    You are new to me as an author and it would be great to win this book. Thanks.

  30. pam kowal says:

    For me, the allure of Amish fiction is not chastity but rather a glimpse into a lifestyle based on simplicity and a deep connection to the natural world. I will, however, ask my library to order your book as I think it will be a very interesting read. Good luck! pam

  31. Christine says:

    I just ordered a copy for the library I work at as Amish fiction goes over big (myself included) and this looks interesting non-fiction many of us fans will want to read. Very excited!

  32. Would love to read this book. A new author for me. Love amish stories!

  33. O Norman says:

    Interesting topic. I’d love to read this book.

  34. Joanne Vine says:

    I have always felt attached to the Amish lifestyle. When I can manage to get hold of Amish books (fact or fiction) I love to read them. Living in a small country town in Australia means that I can’t get hold of many Amish books and have made do with the few that I have been able to get hold of. Even our small town library admits that they can’t get them either. I would love to have the chance to read another Amish book, especially this one. Thanks for this chance to win one. xx

  35. Linda McFarland says:

    Would love to read this book. Sounds very interesting. I enjoy reading Amish fiction. I’m glad it has become so popular. Thank you for the opportunity to win…Linda

  36. Bonnie Jean says:

    I would love to win a book from a new author. I’m looking forward to reading this.

  37. Katie J. says:

    I would love to read Thrill of the Chaste!

  38. Bonnie says:

    Always looking to read new Amish books. Would love to win a copy. Thanks for the opportunity. 🙂

  39. angela chesnut says:

    would love to win. thank you!!!

  40. Hi there mates, how is the whole thing, and what you would like to say on the topic of this piece of writing, in my view its
    genuinely awesome in favor of me.