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Writing my Harmony series began with a concept for a mystery novel. Although I wasn’t originally interested in writing Amish/Mennonite fiction, I got the idea that pitting a murder against a backdrop of simple purity, like an Amish community, would make for an intriguing “good versus evil” scenario. My publisher asked me if I would be willing to turn my story, at one time titled “Murder Pure and Simple,” into a romantic suspense novel set in a small Mennonite town. Although I wasn’t certain about it at first, I decided to give it a try. As I reworked the proposal, I realized that in many ways, the bones of romantic suspense had already been created. It didn’t take much to turn the mystery concept into my Harmony series.
The first book, Simple Secrets, has been well-received by readers. The second book, just released, is getting good reviews as well. Simple Deceit takes place in the Mennonite town of Harmony, Kansas. Gracie Temple, a young woman from the big city, has moved to Harmony, a place she never thought would be her home. But in this small town she’s found the love of her life, Sam Goodrich. She’s also discovered that the simple lifestyle lived by the mostly Mennonite community has captured her heart. Gracie and I share this interest. As I wrote the Harmony books, I began to understand the draw of Amish/Mennonite fiction. The world has become complicated and full of unpleasantness. But in Harmony, readers are reminded of a time when the world was simpler, people still treated each other with respect, and the roar of technology was much quieter. Harmony is a place where residents can hear birds sing during the day, cicadas serenade at night and where they can enjoy the magnificence of the stars without the lights of the city dimming their brilliance. I tried to create Harmony as a place of respite from the strife and confusion of everyday life. Evil may enter Harmony, but it is always faced with faith and resolve. I describe visiting Harmony like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
In Simple Deceit Gracie is instrumental in bringing the outside world into the peaceful town. She is doing freelance graphic design work for the ad agency she used to work for in Wichita. A developer, one of the agency’s clients, wants to build a small retirement community near Harmony. Gracie believes this is a good opportunity to bring needed revenue to local businesses. But when the plans begin to fall apart, the town is thrown into turmoil. Gracie’s home in Harmony is threatened as is her relationship with Sam. A winter storm rages around her while an emotional storm seethes in her heart.
I enjoyed writing Simple Deceit because the people in the story continue to evolve. I believe that as authors, we should never create one-dimensional characters for our readers. No one is perfect. Fictional individuals should be as “real” as possible. Many mistakes are made by main characters in Simple Deceit, and almost everyone will have to deal with their weaknesses in some way. A few will win that battle – and several others will not. Also, I reveal a huge surprise about one person who had a much smaller part in Simple Secrets. That was fun. I hope readers will be surprised. Simple Deceit isn’t a typical Amish/Mennonite romance. There is mystery, intrigue, and suspense threaded throughout the story.
- Nancy Mehl
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