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 Melanie Dobson is Sue Stone! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (ckrumm@litfusegroup.com)

This week Karen Vogel is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of her book, The Amish Doll  leave a comment on this post!

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

I live in the best of both worlds: halfway between Pittsburgh and Amish country, (Smicksburg). I love rural life, but I’m not a total country bumpkin…my hubby of 31 years is. We’ve raised our four kids in rural small-towns, homeschooled, but now they’re all in their 20’s. Tim and I were empty nester for two years, but some of the birds are coming back. We’re turning our big old farmhouse into a duplex and my son and his wife will live on one side. Then my youngest daughter, soon to be married, will live in a little guestroom above the garage. Both couples are saving to pay cash for a foreclosed home; unfortunately, there are many out there. I used to work at our family online bookstore full-time, Thrifty Christian Shopper, but I spend most days writing now, and am thrilled about that.

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

I’ve been fascinated with the Amish and small-town life for years. Having lived in small towns among the Amish, I felt there needed to be a book about what that would be like, English and Amish living side-by-side. So I like to write with a mixture of these two cultures colliding at times, embracing at others.

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

I love children and have written books for my own four kids and their friends. I’d read them to Sunday school classes and to any child who would listen. I also write poetry and lyrics to songs. A novel seemed like a monumental task, so I shied away from trying, but when my mom and two cousins died three years ago, I started to write as therapy. I imagined what it would be like to live across the street from my Amish friend, Lydia, who also was experiencing grief. Lydia was also single, so I imagined a good friend of mine, Joseph (still single and a photographer in real life) was my brother who came to live with me. What would happen between Joseph and Lydia? It was fun so I just kept bringing in other characters, who are real people. Even real places like Smicksburg, Pittsburgh Mills Mall, SuzyB Knits, and Oakmont Bakery. The complete Serenity Prayer also played a huge part in the grieving process, so I have characters dealing with loss that learn what I was learning in real life. So my first novel was born, Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel.

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?

The Amish built an addition on the side of our house, and when the door is closed, it means I’m writing and enter at your own risk. ☺ I try to write at least four hours a day, and usually start with bowing my head in complete silence, asking for the Lord’s direction. I do a lot of research too. When a character needs help, I call my counselor friend, Maryann, and ask her about the really tough issues. I also go frequently to Smicksburg, with a list of questions to ask my Amish friends. So it’s not just sitting down to write, but prayer and research, too.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication?

I was shocked that other writers in American Christian Fiction Writers, ACFW, wanted to help me, not being in competition. I befriended several authors through the Mid-Atlantic group on Facebook, run by Carrie Pagels, who looked over my writing. I learned so much from Carrie Turansky, Jennifer Hudson Taylor and Rita Gerlach. I was terribly redundant and I had little imagery. I highly recommend ACFW. It’s fellowship of Christian writers who really care about each other. I also attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference and was in a writer’s clinic with Joyce Magnin, and took classes with Cec Murphey on writing dialogue. These conferences are really worth the expense. My friendship with Kathi Macias, who’s an award winning author, started as a ten minute pitch for my book. She’s helped me improve my writing and has been a great encouragement.

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

I never thought I’d have so much fun writing! It’s like creating your own universe and having complete control! In Little Women, I always thought Jo should have married Lawrence. Now, when I write, I can arrange the marriages. And using my creativity daily is simply a joy I can’t really express. I love it!

What are your biggest distractions?

Well, having four wedding in three years! Juggling writing proposals and being a wedding planner is a challenge. But it’s so much fun attempting to have a nice wedding on a budget; it certainly gets your creative juices moving. We have two weddings down, two to go.

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

I’d only been published one month when I got to be on the radio with Beverly Lewis. Now, that’s a way to kick-off a career. It was so surreal, talking about the Amish with my favorite Amish author who I’ve adored for over 15 years. I haven’t really had any major low points yet, being a newbie. So I’m just enjoying the ride.

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

I don’t like the isolation, and try to make a good schedule to get out and about. But it’s challenging at times, since I’m writing so much. But having a flexible schedule, being able to stay up late writing, and sleep in, is worth its weight in gold. I’m a night owl and my stories seem to when the sun sets. I used to be a substitute teacher, and it was torture getting up at 5:30 a.m. to answer the phone to get my assignment.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Write about life experiences. They may be familiar to you, but life-changing to others. In the movie, Little Women, the professor tells Jo she needs to stop writing silly tales and write from her heart, If you have the courage. Writing from the heart required Jo to rehash the death of her sister, which would be painful. You might want to write a story based on someone else’s life. I hope someday to write about my grandparents love story…much better than fiction. And my dad’s stories about growing up in the 1930’s during the Great Depression, being bored and making up their own fun, could be Huckleberry Finn 2. I highly recommend the book, Writing Fiction For Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. It’s the best book I’ve found on writing, and is useful for beginning writers as well as seasoned ones.

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.

My books show the Amish and English together in a small-town, based on true stories.

What’s on the book horizon for you?

I’ll continue to write the continuing series, Amish Knitting Circle. Granny Weaver’s had two knitting circle now, and will be on her third soon, as the women knit for charity. I’m also writing another Amish Knitting Novel, based on an herbalist in Smicksburg, and his daughter. And I love Christmas, so am working on an outline for an Amish Christmas novella.

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

You can contact me at www.karenannavogel.com or on my author page on Facebook. My blog, Amish Crossings, is meant to be a place to cross paths with others interested in the Amish or simple living. Please join me there at www.karenannavogel.blogspot.com I also share my Amish photography on Pinterest, and you can follow me on Twitter. My eBooks can be found on Amazon, B&N, Sony, and anywhere eBooks are sold. My paperback, Knit Together and The Amish Doll, on Amazon for now, but soon to be distributed to brick and mortar stores and other websites. Our store, Thrifty Christian Shopper, www.thriftychristian.com (Also on EBay) will carry the paperbacks as well.). You also might find them in your local library. Ask the librarian to get a copy if they don’t have one.

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers)

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