A Chat with Ruby Weaver from The Roll of the Drums by Jan Drexler

Gideon Fischer’s only desire is to get his family far away from the disastrous effects of the Civil War, find a peaceful place to live, and mourn the death of his wife. However, he has grown to enjoy Ruby’s company and appreciates her help with the housework and the children. But is she the right person to spend the rest of his life with? 

Ruby Weaver is content being single in her 1863 conservative Amish community. However, Ruby’s ailing friend Lovinia has other ideas. Lovinia makes her husband, Gideon, promise to marry Ruby and has Ruby make a similar promise. With both Ruby and Gideon reluctant to keep their promises, a compromise must be reached. Ruby agrees to be a housekeeper and nanny to the children. Unfortunately, this arrangement raises eyebrows in the community. It soon becomes clear that Ruby must make a decision—marry Gideon or break her promise to her friend. Will Ruby accept Gideon’s proposal or turn her back on the family she has grown to love?

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Help us get to know you – What do people notice about you when they first meet you?

It has to be my red hair. Not just red, but wiry and curly. It never lies flat and never does what I want it to. Especially on humid days! Most Amish women have straight brown hair that lies smoothly under their kapps. My hair is always in my way.

What would someone notice about you after they learn to know you?

That I’m not the typical Amish woman. I don’t like to do quiet things like quilting or sewing. I’d rather be working outside. I like the open sky, and the wind blowing, and the smells of the earth. I enjoy spending a day in the woods hunting for a bee tree or an evening watching the stars come out.

Tell us about your family and where you live.

I don’t think my family is anything special. After all, we’re much like the other families in our community. My grandparents settled along Weaver’s Creek here in Holmes County, Ohio in the early 1800’s. They were the first Amish settlers here. I remember Grossmutti’s stories of bears and other wild animals in the forest, but now, sixty years later, this is a peaceful and settled area.

In my family I have two brothers, one older and one younger, and three sisters. Two of my sisters are married and live away in Berlin Township. My younger sister is my best friend. We’re having fun keeping house together while her husband is away fighting in the War Between the States.

You said your sister is your best friend. Who are your other friends?

I didn’t have any other close friends until recently. The girls I grew up with have all married and are busy with their husbands and children. Since I don’t plan to marry, we have even less in common than we did when we were growing up.

But when Gideon and Lovinia Fischer came to Weaver’s Creek, I found a kindred spirit in Lovinia. I long for the day when she finally recovers from her illness and we can do more than sit in her sickroom and visit. She is a true friend and I love her dearly.

You made an interesting comment earlier, that you don’t plan to marry. I thought all Amish girls wanted to get married.

That’s probably true. Every girl I know wants to marry and have a family. But in my experience, most men – except for my Datt and my brothers, and maybe Lovinia’s husband Gideon – are selfish pigs who only think about themselves. I had a bad experience with a boy when I was younger, and then I see my sister Elizabeth’s unhappy marriage. I’m not going to take a chance on any man when things can turn out so badly. 

There I go, being too outspoken. It’s a good thing I don’t plan to marry because I can’t think of any man who would put up with my temper and my opinions. Mamm says that both of those things go with my red hair!

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

I would be careful to think before I speak. Mamm is so wise and good. Everyone comes to her for advice and help. I’ve never heard her say anything unkind and she is always patient, even when Salome Beiler is visiting.

There I go again! I should never have said that about Salome, and yet I can’t seem to stop myself. Forget I said anything, please.

But back to your question, if I could change anything about myself, I would want to be more like my mother. She is as strong-willed and opinionated as I am, but she tempers it with a gentle spirit. I can’t seem to learn to do that.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

Even though I say I will never marry, I would marry the right man if I could find him. All I want is to meet a man who will love me for who I am and not try to change me. Is that too much to ask? 

What are you most afraid of?

I did something very stupid when I was younger, and because of me, Elizabeth married the wrong man. I didn’t realize how much influence my actions and my words would have on her. My greatest fear is that another younger girl would follow my stupid, sinful life. I don’t fit in with the others at church, and that’s all right. I’m used to it. But I fear that someday one of my nieces or another girl will think that kicking the goads is a good thing to do. I fear that I will unknowingly influence one of those girls to be like me.

What do you think your future holds?

I hope I will spend the rest of my life surrounded by my family and friends. I would like to watch Lovinia’s children grow, and to reach the end of my days being useful to them and to my nieces and nephews.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with her expanding family. She is the author The Sound of Distant ThunderHannah’s ChoiceMattie’s Pledge (a 2017 Holt Medallion finalist), and Naomi’s Hope, as well as several Love Inspiredhistorical novels.

Katie Stuckey Stopped By from Jan Drexler’s The Sound of Distant Thunder

The Sound of Distant Thunder-Book CoverName: My name is Katie Stuckey.

Parents: Papa’s name is Gustav, and Mama is Margaretta, but I only call them Mama and Papa.

Siblings: I have three brothers and two sisters. They are all married, and I have nineteen nieces and nephews. My siblings are much older than I am, and they were all born in Alsace-Lorraine, in Europe, before my family came here to Ohio twenty years ago.

Places lived: I have only lived here on our farm in Weaver’s Creek.

Jobs: I have never worked away from home, although I think it would be fun to be a mother’s helper for some family.

Friends: My friends are Millie Beiler and Rosie Keck. I’m also becoming friends with Jonas’ sisters, Ruby and Elizabeth, even though they are older than I am.

Enemies: I’ve never liked Ned Hamlin, but I rarely see him. And Elizabeth’s husband, Reuben Kaufman is just like him.

Dating, marriage: I’m going to marry Jonas Weaver. Isn’t that exciting? But Papa says we can’t marry until after my eighteenth birthday.

Children: I hope to have many children. I want to have two girls first, and then boys. Jonas wants to have boys first. Isn’t that just what a man would say?

What person do you most admire? Lydia Weaver, Jonas’ mother. My Mama is so demanding and in a bad mood much of the time, but Lydia always welcomes me into their home for a cup of tea or to share a receipt for cookies or one of Jonas’ favorite meals.

Overall outlook on life: I can’t wait for my life to start! When Jonas and I get married, it will be wonderful.

Do you like yourself? Most of the time. I try to have a fun time and help others have fun, too.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I would like to be older. It is so difficult to wait until Jonas and I can marry.

How are you viewed by others? My friends like me, and Lena, my brother Hans’ wife says she likes for me to visit. Sometimes though, I think Mama considers me to be a little girl still. I wish she would let me grow up.

Physical appearance: I have brown hair and eyes, just like the rest of my family. I’m a little plumper than my friends, though. Millie says I take after Papa, but I’d rather be slim like Ruby and Elizabeth.

Strongest/weakest character traits: I don’t like to be alone with men, other than Jonas and my family. That’s my weakest trait. My strongest trait is that I will always be faithful to Jonas. He is my one true love.

How much self-control do you have? None. If there are fresh cookies on the table, I’ll eat them.

Fears: Strange men.

What people like best about you: I’m friendly to all the girls. Millie and Becky are my closest friends, but I get along with everyone.

Interests and favorites: I’ve recently begun making a quilt. It’s the first one I’ve made all on my own, and I have enjoyed choosing the colors and the pattern. I’m afraid Mama will say it’s too fancy, but it’s for me and Jonas.

Food, drink: I love pies of all kinds, and cookies. Hot tea is my favorite drink in the winter. I had lemonade one time in the summer, and I’d like to try it again. I think it could easily become my favorite.

Books: I liked to read when I was in school, and I remember enjoying Uncle Tom’s Cabin very much. I wasn’t able to finish it, though. Our teacher passed away suddenly and the school was closed.

Best way to spend a weekend: Sundays are my favorite day. We have church every other week, and the off-church Sundays are spent with our family.

What would a great gift for you be? Something for our new home. Jonas gave me a lamp for Christmas and it is very pretty.

When are you happy? I’m happy when I’m with Jonas.

What makes you angry? When Mama and Papa treat me like a little girl.

What makes you sad? Being the last one at home. I wish I had a brother or sister that was close to my age.

What makes you laugh? Being with Jonas. He likes to tease me.

Hopes and dreams: I like to go to the house Jonas is building for us and dream about what it will be like when we are married. I like to pretend I can see our children playing in the yard.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I killed a man – or at least he died because of me. But please, don’t tell anyone. I’d rather forget about it.

Wow!

Biggest trauma: My last day of school. It was terrible and embarrassing, and then Teacher Harrison… well, I don’t think I’ll say any more.

What do you care about most in the world? Besides Jonas, I care about my nieces and nephews. They are all so sweet and fun to be around, but each one is different from the other. I spend all year making Christmas presents for them.

Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Katie!

Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with her expanding family. She is the author of several Love Inspiredhistorical novels, as well as Hannah’s Choice, Mattie’s Pledge (a 2017 Holt Medallion finalist), and Naomi’s Hope.

Drexler_Jan

 

An interview with Kate Burkholder from Linda Castillo’s A Gathering of Secrets

Thanks to Elise Cooper for conducting this interview!

Editor’s note: While this is a contemporary novel, we are including it here because of the historical background it offers readers.

For those who do not know Kate Burkholder she helped to break the glass ceiling by becoming Chief of Police in a small town whose community consists of Amish and “Englishers.” Some cases she has to solve are more personal than others.  Chief Burkholder has had to deal with her own Amish MeToo Moment, but also wonders if many of the Amish girls have a similar experience.  Kate has spoken many times of her struggles with this peaceful and deeply religious community that at times appears to be conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about. Kate has agreed to open up about her personal and professional experiences.

 

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Elise Cooper: Having left the Amish community are there any parts of you that you consider were influenced by your Amish upbringing?

 

Kate Burkholder: Every part of me was influenced by my Amish upbringing.  Good or bad or somewhere in between, I think that’s true for most of us.  The Amish influence on my life was mostly positive.  I was raised in a very traditional family with a lot of rules (some of which I didn’t follow) and structure.  I was close to my siblings.  As kids, we worked hard, but we played just as hard.  My father was the disciplinarian.  I was close to my mother.  Everything changed in the summer of my fourteenth year, and I never saw my family—or the Amish community—in quite the same light.

 

EC: What do you miss most and least about the Amish? 

 

KB: What I miss most about being Amish is the sense of belonging, of being part of such a close-knit community.  I also miss the closeness I once had with my family.  That said, there are a couple of things about being Amish I didn’t like and ultimately couldn’t live with.  One is that it tends to be a patriarchal society (not always, but generally speaking.)  And one of the Amish tenets is to be compliant and accepting.  I couldn’t always abide.  Even when it came to something as final as death, I would not readily accept it and I would rail against the unfairness of it.  The Amish are also pacifists.  I am not.

 

EC: Do you ever want the approval of the Amish community or your Amish Family? 

 

KB: That need for approval is important to a young Amish person growing up. Your family and the Amish community are the center of your universe.  But I do still find myself craving the approval of my brother, Jacob, and my sister, Sarah.  And then there’s Bishop Troyer, one of the elders who has been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember.

 

EC: Do you think having been Amish helps or hurts you as police chief? 

 

KB: Being born and raised Amish in the town of Painters Mill (where one third of the population is Amish) has definitely made me a better and more effective police chief.  I understand the culture, the religion, and I also speak Deitsh, the language. All of those things have gone a long way toward bridging the gap that exists between the Amish community and the “English” government.

 

 

EC: One of those you interviewed, Milo Hershberger, is under the bann.  Can you tell us what that’s like for an Amish person?

 

KB: The bann is the Amish practice of social avoidance.  Basically, when an Amish person breaks the rules set forth by the church district, that person is called out and excluded from the entire community, including his or her family members.  No one will speak with them or associate with them or even take meals with them.  What many non-Amish people don’t realize is that the practice is intended to be redemptive. A way to bring the person back into the fold.  With the family and community being the nucleus of an Amish person’s life, taking away those associations can be devastating.  Most often, if an Amish person wants to get back in the good graces of the community, all he or she must do is confess their sins and follow the rules. Some of the Old Order practice excommunication, which, depending on the offense, can be permanent.

 

EC: Because the Amish are somewhat a “closed society” and keep to themselves, are crimes more difficult to solve? 

 

KB: Sometimes an investigation is much more difficult if it involves the Amish, mainly because of the “tenet of separation” many of the Amish practice. They try to remain separate from the rest of the world.  Sometimes they try to protect their own.  The reluctance of some Amish to come forward makes information hard to come by.  In the course of any case, information is the most important commodity.

 

EC:  You once told me about the Amish rule of forgiveness?

 

KB:  An Amish boy who does something terribly wrong, even raping someone, can get off.  If he confesses before the Church congregation, he is forgiven.  This is why many of the girls do not speak up, some committing suicide, because they knew the boy would have been forgiven and they would be caught up in the stigma.

 

EC: Are you content with your life?

 

KB: I’ve come a long way since the first major case I worked as chief of police in Painters Mill.  I attribute that mostly to my relationship—and love—for BCI agent John Tomasetti.  My love for my small department of officers plays a role, too.  They are my family when my own aren’t there for me.  I would be remiss not to mention my love for the community as a whole—both Amish and “English”—all of those souls who call Painters Mill home.

 

EC: Through the years what has made you stronger?

 

KB: You’ve heard the axiom: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s the way life works and I’m a stronger and a more centered person because of the curve balls life has thrown my way, some in the form of difficult cases and various investigations. On a more personal level, I’ve worked through the trials and tribulations of being formerly Amish and a female chief of police in a small town.  All of that combined has made me a stronger person.

 

THANK YOU!

 

LINDA CASTILLO is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder novels centering around the Amish community. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including a nomination by the International Thriller Writers for Best Hardcover, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and a nomination for the RITA. In addition to writing, Castillo’s other passion is horses. She lives in Texas with her husband.

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photo by Pam Lary 2017