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Author Talk: February 2014

Leslie Gould knows a thing or two about love and faith in Amish country. COURTING CATE, which marked the beginning of her Courtships of Lancaster County series, was an ECPA bestseller, and now she returns with MINDING MOLLY, the third book in the series (following ADORING ADDIE). It’s about Molly Zook, who is struggling with her mother's wish that she marry Mervin Mosier to save the family farm, especially after she meets tall, muscular and confident Leon Fisher. In this interview, Gould opens up about why she started writing Amish fiction to begin with, and the beauty that Lancaster County has always held for her. She also talks about her writing process, adapting her novels from Shakespeare plays, and working with soccer games buzzing in the background.

Question: Tell us about your writing journey.

Leslie Gould: I seriously started writing fiction in 1991, beginning with short stories. Over the next decade I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had a few short stories published, placed as a semifinalist in a novel writing contest and submitted three novels for publication. But it wasn’t until 2001 that I signed my first contract, though. My first novel was published in 2003, and my first Amish novel, co-written with Mindy Starns Clark, was published in 2011. MINDING MOLLY is my 18th novel to be published.

Q: How did you begin writing The Courtships of Lancaster County?

LG: When I started writing the series, my husband, who is in the Army Reserve, was commanding a field hospital in Afghanistan. Writing about the non-resistant Amish and courtships in Lancaster County was a wonderful escape for me --- I was very aware that there was no such escape for him, although he did proof COURTING CATE for me while he was over there.

Q: Tell us a little about MINDING MOLLY.

LG: MINDING MOLLY is the third novel in my Courtships of Lancaster County series. All of the novels are inspired by Shakespeare plays --- COURTING CATE by “The Taming of the Shrew;” ADORING ADDIE by “Romeo and Juliet;” and MINDING MOLLY by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Q: What are some of the themes and topics you explored in MINDING MOLLY?

LG: Molly is dealing with grief over her father’s death, her mother’s worry about losing the farm, some pretty troublesome health issues with her mother, an uncooperative little sister, and a best friend who isn’t acting like one. In the midst of all of this, she’s falling in love with one young man --- while being pressured to marry another.

Q: Besides Shakespeare, did anything else inspire MINDING MOLLY?

LG: In each of the novels I’ve written, I’ve tied a Bible verse to the theme. For MINDING MOLLY it’s pretty short: 
“…love one another.”
John 13:34

Q: Do any familiar characters show up in MINDING MOLLY from earlier in the series?

LG: Cate, who was the leading lady in COURTING CATE (the first book in the series), becomes a mentor in MINDING MOLLY, encouraging Molly to trust God with her future instead of trying to control everything and everyone in her life. Cate speaks with authenticity, based on what she learned from her own struggles.

Q: What was the hardest part of writing this novel?

LG: Each of my novels inspired by Shakespeare plays has had its own unique --- but fun --- challenges. One of the challenges in writing MINDING MOLLY was that Shakespeare used fairies and magic to manipulate the characters. Those would have been a stretch in an Amish novel, so I used a toddler named Robbie, fireflies and a yellow lab named Love.

Q: What do you have coming up next?

LG: In the fourth novel in the series, Bea finally gets to tell her story. BECOMING BEA is inspired by “Much Ado About Nothing.” It will be released in October 2014. I’m really excited how this story wraps up the entire series. Much of the action takes place at the Millers’ farm, with Cate playing a key role, and it gives us glimpses of Addie’s family and a nice window into Molly and Leon’s new life together.

Q: What is your personal background with the Amish?

LG: I live in Oregon where there are currently no Amish communities, and it’s been that way since the 1930s. (We do have Mennonite communities in Oregon, and my four children all attended a Mennonite preschool.) But my husband lived in Pennsylvania as a child and loved visiting Lancaster County. He and I visited Amish country there and other places on a trip around the states in 1987 --- that experience really spurred my interest in the Amish. After extensive research, more trips to Pennsylvania (and later Indiana), and developing contacts with people in Plain communities, I began co-writing Amish fiction with Mindy Starns Clark, and then branched out on my own. I am by no means an Amish scholar or expert. I keep reading, asking and learning!

Q: Where do you do most of your writing?

LG: All over! I have an office in our basement where I sit in a recliner, even though I have a desk. I also write in coffee shops, at the mall and in our living room, too, especially on Saturday mornings while hubby is watching English soccer. I don’t have to have silence to work --- in fact, a background buzz seems to inspire me.