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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

genre & gender happenings

Murray Pura was born and raised in Manitoba, just north of Minnesota and the Dakotas. He has published several novels and short story collections in Canada, and has been short-listed for a number of awards. His first books to be published in the United States are the inspirational works Rooted and Streams (both by Zondervan in 2010). His first novel to debut in the USA is A Bride’s Flight from Virginia City, Montana (Barbour), which was released January 2012. The second, The Wings of Morning, will be published by Harvest House on February 1. Both of these novels center around the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Genre Happenings
Men and Amish Fiction

In 2009 I was asked by my agent to consider writing a work of Amish fiction. My concern was that I would write about the Amish as real people with real-life struggles and real faith concerns. I did not want to glamorize them or paint a fantasy in words that made them figures out of a fairy tale. I never looked to see who was or wasn’t writing Amish fiction at the time, so I never knew how many men were or weren’t writing in that genre. I just focused on telling a story and telling it as well as I could, Amish fiction or not.

I know about the Amish, of course. A large population of Mennonites live in southern Manitoba, where I grew up, and they share common roots with the Amish. They also hold some of the same beliefs, including a pacifist approach to war and peacefulness in their daily interactions. A number have connections to the Amish communities in Ontario, just north of those in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. I was a member of a Mennonite church for several years. So early on I gained some understanding of the Amish and Mennonite approaches to the Christian faith.

But writing Amish fiction didn’t just mean writing about Amish beliefs and lifestyle. It meant writing about Amish men and women falling in love. It also meant being sensitive to the woman’s point of view in such romances. Fortunately, I have a mother, sister, wife, and daughter, so I know something about the woman’s world. And I had fallen in love myself and know about wooing my beloved and carrying her away in my arms.

At this time, I was working on a series of novels in Canada based on the lives of two of my aunts. Even though a brother tells the story, the tale is mostly about the two sisters. And when the story moved from Canada and America to Ukraine, two more sisters enter the story as well. So when I tried my hand at Amish fiction, I came fresh from writing hundreds of pages about four sisters and a romantic relationship with the woman who became my wife. I felt I could approach the story from both the male and female points of view.

To my surprise, when I began to pen the first chapters, I enjoyed writing the romantic sequences as much or more than I did the action sequences. Something about reliving the pleasant experiences of falling in love and holding the woman of your desires in your arms and telling her how beautiful she was struck a chord within me. I grew more and more enthusiastic about creating a good work of Amish writing.

My first effort was picked up by Barbour in 2010. In it, a young woman is forced to return to her Amish roots in Pennsylvania to save two orphans from a murderer. The only one who will help her is a young rancher who refuses to carry a gun. When Barbour made a contract offer, it inspired me to write a second piece of Amish fiction. This was completed in 2011 and picked up by Harvest House.

Whereas the first story took place in 1875 United States, the second occurred in 1917, also set in the United States. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Amish are challenged to adopt the technologies that will eventually define them by their very absence from Amish communities: the telephone, the motorcar, public electricity, and the airplane. It is while they are still debating the role of the airplane that my story begins with a young Amish man who wants to fly and the beautiful young Amish woman who wants to fly by his side. This story, The Wings of Morning, became the second work of Amish fiction from my hand to receive a contract.



Since then I have written a third Amish novel and have been contracted to write two more. I try to tell the stories as beautifully, dramatically, and, yes, and romantically as I can. I strive to make my characters real people, not cardboard cutouts of Amish men and women from Pennsylvania or Indiana or Ohio―not that anyone I know writes about the Amish that way, it’s just that I was worried I might have to do so to make a sale to a publisher. The publishers were looking for Amish romance all right, but they were looking for good stories that were also well written, with flesh-and-blood heroes and heroines that are attractive and inspiring. Being able to write authentic and true-to-life Amish fiction turned out to be far easier than I thought. In fact, it became enjoyable. It was like describing one beautiful sunrise after another as my characters found faith and love together in the midst of perilous and challenging circumstances.

The romantic aspect has never been an issue with me. I still love to court my wife, so it is easy to put romance in the words of my heroes and heroines. I would give my life for my wife and family, so it is not hard to put that same attitude in the hearts of my heroes. In fact, it is not difficult to imagine being the hero in my bride’s eyes, and doing the courageous and Christ-like things that need to be done, so there are no obstacles to putting all that in the good men of my Amish novels. Nor is it problematic for me to write about the strength and depth and heart of women when I admire so much the women of my world.

Although I write for a predominately female audience, I also endeavor to write in such a way that is not only attractive to the women of America but to the men of their lives as well―sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. I want to create books a woman can read with pleasure and satisfaction, then turn around and give my books to the men of her world and say: “You’ll like this too. It’s a good read for men as well as women. Really. Give it a try.”

2 comments:

Morganne Jones said...

You have a way with the romance indeed, sir. I am very glad that you've scooped it up and ran with it. Look forward to the reads, m.

murray said...

I.M.Y.

when you look at the writers you post as some of your faves half of them are writing genre & writing it well - so I guess I'm trying to do that now too as well as the other - there are 3 or 4 books coming out this year, 5 or 6 next

please write - both in terms of dropping me a note & creating more fiction