Ervin R. Stutzman was born into an Amish home in Kalona, Iowa, and spent his boyhood years in Hutchinson, Kansas. He serves as executive director for Mennonite Church USA. He holds master’s degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and received his PhD from Temple University. Ervin married Bonita L. Haldeman of Manheim, Pennsylvania. They live in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where they are members of the Park View Mennonite Church. Ervin and Bonita enjoy spending time with their three adult children and four grandchildren.
1) What’s the most memorable “rabbit trail” (tangent) one of your characters took you on?
Unlike my first two books in the Return to Northkill trilogy, (and other previous books) I didn’t really have any rabbit trails in Christian’s Hope. I think that’s because I stuck to the dictum that every scene needs to follow logically from the one before it, and lead to the one after it.
I did write a number of mini-scenes that didn’t quite carry their weight in the first draft, so I cut and pasted them into a separate document called “extra,” just in case I’d need them later. I didn’t, and then I deleted that file when the final draft was finished. For the sake of response to this question, if wish I could retrace my steps to see what I had put it that file, but the tracks have been obliterated, so to speak.
2) Are there any secret wishes hidden in your books?
Perhaps my love for fiction writing itself is motivated by an inner urge to make life turn out the way I think it ought, or to understand how the hard things I’ve faced in life have made me a better person. Put another way, sometimes I feel like God is writing a novel in which I’m the protagonist, living through the twists of a plot which is shaping my character on an arc that I have yet to fully comprehend. As the writer of novels, I get to shape both the plot and the character arc, and to see the progress from start to finish. That’s very satisfying for me, since it’s something that’s impossible to do in real life.
3) Sound (music, coffee shop) or silence when you write?
I mostly write in silence at my desk at home, although I sometimes play mood music. On a couple of occasions, I’ve written scenes on my laptop while jetting across the country. That’s only because I felt the hot breath of pending deadlines on the nape of my neck, or the rush of inspiration which could not wait for a quiet place. Would to God I felt the rush of inspiration as frequently as the press of deadlines!
4) If a genie could grant you two wishes, what would you ask for?
First of all, I’d ask the genie for an imaginative mind to envision a captivating plot filled with memorable characters who act in wildly unpredictable yet perfectly plausible ways to keep readers in suspense from start to finish.
Secondly, I’d ask for an ability to write stunning copy in the first draft, rather than having to spend more than half of my limited writing time revising the mess I’ve made.
5) If you wrote an autobiography, what would the title of it be?
The Humble Pursuit of Purpose
6) What are the two things you love most about your protagonist(s) in your latest book?
The two Point of View characters in Christian’s Hope are Christian Hochstetler (aka Stargazer) and his stepmother Anna Hochstetler.
I love Christian for his fierce loyalty to the Shawnee people and their way of life, which includes a care for the earth and its creatures. I also identify deeply with his longing for—and his eventual embrace of—a purpose in life large enough to envelope both his love for the Shawnee and the Amish family that gave him birth.
I love Anna Hochstetler for her courage to face the rumors which have plagued her life due to the abusive lies of a man trying to redeem his own image. But I love her most for the way she leverages her role as a stepmother to help bring redemption to the Hochstetler family.
by Ervin R Stutzman
When Christian Hochstetler returns after eight years of life with the Shawnee Indians, he finds that many things have shifted. His father, Jacob, wants him to settle back into a predictable Amish life of farming, and Christian’s friendship with Orpha Rupp also beckons him to stay. Yet Christian feels restless, and when he meets an outgoing preacher with a new take on the gospel message, Christian stands ready for a change. Will Christian choose to remain Amish, or will he depart from the faith of his childhood?
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