Persistence. This one word is the main reason I got published. Most of the time a good product isn’t enough. Neither is experience or knowledge for that matter. When I finally did get the magical phone call from Christina Hogrebe, my amazing agent from the Jane Rotrosen Literary Agency, telling me that she would be thrilled to represent me for my Amish themed YA novel, I had neither experience nor knowledge of the publishing industry. I was about as green as writer could get. Truth be told, I wasn’t a writer at all. I was a horse-back riding instructor and 4H coach. My only writing experience was the monthly articles that I’d submit to the local newspaper about the farm’s events and activities. My entire life had been dedicated to learning about horses, not writing. I’d attended just about every equestrian discipline and husbandry clinic available in a tri-state region, but I’d never taken a single creative writing class. But...once upon a time, before the five children came along and the homeschooling began and the horse farm grew, I’d been an avid reader myself and that's what helped me get started.
At this point, you might be wondering how I ended up writing a three hundred and eighty page novel that would eventually become the first of a published trilogy with Harlequin Teen. Persistence and strange circumstances are the answers. There’s that P word again, but I’ll get to that later. You see, in 2008, my family moved from the mountains of Tennessee to the middle of an Amish community in northern Kentucky. It was one of those reluctant moving experiences. My husband had found a better job in Kentucky and we made the move, leaving behind a successful horse-back riding stable, dozens of much loved students and close family to start over fresh in another state.
My general advice is that If you’re ever faced with such a major life changing move, think very carefully first, AND take your parent’s advice into account before deciding. Of course I didn’t do those things and a few years later, I was a divorced woman caring for five children and a slew of horses and other pets on my own in unfamiliar territory. My ex returned to Tennessee and immediately remarried another woman. I learned the hard way about not listening to my momma, and my gut.
Getting back to the beginning of my writing career and moving away from unpleasant thoughts, I found myself living in the middle of a community of people who lived their lives as if they were trapped in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. It was completely fascinating! Immersing myself into learning about and understanding my new community is what kept my mind distracted from the troubles I was enduring at home.
I was in a unique position. There was a group of about fifteen Amish teens visiting my farm on a weekly basis to watch my non-Amish students take their lessons in the arena. Soon enough, the Amish youth were riding with the non-Amish ones and some of the older Amish girls even assisted me with my lesson program. Through these experiences, a seed of a thought began to grow in my mind. What if a non-Amish teen and an Amish one fell for each other? I soon realized that it wasn’t far fetched at all as I witnessed the daily interactions between the two groups of young people. Friendships were forged and there was some definite flirting going on.
“How could this ever work out?” I asked myself. That question plagued me day and night and the idea of Temptation took hold. It took almost two years of experiential research, observations and discussions with the Amish before I felt confident enough about the foreign culture to tell Rose and Noah’s story. I was lucky. I interacted with the Amish on a daily basis. The youth spent time at my farm, the boys hung out with my teenage sons and the girls babysat my small children. I drove Amish families to town to shop and I even took an Amish family along on a Gatlinburg vacation. I had a lot of opportunities to observe and ask questions, and that’s just what I did.
I had to write Temptation for two reasons. First, I knew that it was a unique and fascinating story, especially for young adults. Second, I was a single mom with five kids and a farm and I needed the extra income.
That’s where the persistence part came in. I had to learn to write, which I did through trial and error and many rejections. I thankfully took advice and continued over the course of a year to revise and improve the work until it was finally at the level where an agent embraced it. That’s when the real work began. My agent helped me with some more edits before she began submitting to publishing houses. I was lucky, having both Harlequin Teen and another large publishing company make offers on Temptation. Ultimately, I chose Harlequin Teen and began a writing career in earnest.
Through the process of working with editors like Adam Wilson and TS Ferguson, my writing continued to improve and what was once an unattainable dream has become a career. If I’d given up early, when the rejections were coming in, Rose and Noah’s story would never have been told. The fan base for this series continues to grow and I’m reminded almost every day by people reaching out to me that the books have made an impact on many lives. I was even contacted by an Amish girl who was shunned by her family for leaving her community to marry her ‘outsider’ boyfriend. She tearfully told me how much my books mean to her and how they've helped her get through her own ordeal. The Temptation series has opened up a mysterious culture to mainstream young people and I’m ever-so-glad that I was ever persistent with the project.
I'm excited to say that Forever, the third book in the series, will be available on January 28th! Rose and Noah's journey, which began in Temptation and continued in Belonging, will finally be resolved in this final installment. Be ready for a roller coaster ride of emotions!
I love to hear from my readers! If you have questions about the series or the Amish lifestyle in general, please contact me on Facebook.
Karen Ann Hopkins