Author Spotlight | Mary Alford
How would you describe your writing to someone who hasn't read any of your books?
I like to hook the reader from the beginning and fill the pages of the story with suspense. And hopefully at the end of the book, the reader will be surprised and say, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.”
What inspired you to write Among the Innocent?
I wanted to write a Christian suspense novel and set it in an Amish community to create the contrast between the innocent Amish ways and the darkness of the killer returning to the place of his first kill. Among the Innocent takes place in the Amish community of St. Ignatius, Montana, backdropped against the Mission Mountains. The story features a former Amish woman, Leah Miller, who lost her entire family to a killer. She is now a police officer and must return to the scene of her family’s deaths to find the person who has killed again. With the help of the new chief of police, Dalton Cooper, they soon learn both Leah and Dalton’s past are connected in a way that Leah never imagined.
How would you describe this book to someone in a 30-second blurb?
A decade's old murder case turns red hot in the shadow of the Mission Mountains of St. Ignatius, Montana, when the killer returns to Amish Country to claim his final victim.
How did you plan your book?
When I first decide to write a book, I let the story simmer in my head for a bit while I get to know my characters better. When I have the characters figured out, then I look for the perfect location for the book. In Among the Innocent, I knew I wanted it to be set in a remote Amish community. I’d researched several before for other books. I decided on St. Ignatius, Montana, because it is remote and the community sits near the Mission Mountains. With the location and characters in mind, I write out a rough outline for the story, and then the fun begins.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope readers will see that no matter what struggles we face in life, God is there with us, and if we let Him, He will carry us through any trial.
How much of your own life goes into your books?
I hide little bits of myself in most of my books. For instance, I love vacationing in the mountains. Among the Innocent is set near the mountains. And I love coffee, just like most of my characters.
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from lots of places. I can read a news article or hear a story—I’ve even gotten some ideas while walking in the woods. Whatever the case may be, something triggers my writer’s senses and before you know it, I have a story of suspense percolating in my head. Some make it all the way to completed novels, but not all of them are gems.
Do you have any writing quirks or quirky habits when you're on deadline?
I’m a planner, so I like to have my work schedule planned out for the month, even though it doesn’t always work out that way. Life has a way of changing schedules, but it really bugs me if I can’t make my word count for the day. To help me along the way, I usually have a Bai Coconut Water drink (or two or three) and some peanut butter M&M’s.
What (person or thing) has been most beneficial to your writing career?
My husband—hands down. He has been there with me through the joy and tears that come with writing. I couldn’t do what I do without his support.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Before I wanted to be an author, I still laugh about my first career choice as a child. I wanted to work in an office and answer phones. I’m not sure where that came from. But I did actually work in an office for a long time and I answered phones. It wasn’t all my childhood mind thought it would be.
What's your passion in life?
My God. My husband. My family. My grandchildren. They are my passion.
If money was no issue, what would you be doing right now? Where would you be?
I would do exactly what I’m doing now, only I’d probably be doing it in the mountains. Maybe in a cabin in the woods but with spectacular mountain views.
How have you changed or grown as a writer?
I hope that I have grown as a writer and become a better one. I have gotten better at letting go of rejection when it comes my way.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I think I would tell my younger self to go after that dream of becoming an author earlier.
Do you have a favorite verse? If so, what is it?
I do. John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” I love the promise Jesus gives us that one day we will be with Him in Heaven.
About the Book
When Leah Miller's entire Amish family was murdered ten years ago, the person believed responsible took his own life. Since then, Leah left the Amish and joined the police force. Now, after another Amish woman is found murdered with the same MO, it becomes clear that the wrong man may have been blamed for her family's deaths.
Did You Know?
America first used fireworks to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, 1777. Philadelphia celebrated with 13 rockets, and fireworks became a part of July 4th celebrations ever since. My character in Peyton’s Promise puts on fireworks displays in 1902. In researching fireworks, here’s what I learned:
The Chinese invented fireworks. The story goes that a Chinese cook mixed sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal, packed it in bamboo, and it exploded. They then used fireworks to scare away their enemies.
Italy brought colors and shapes to fireworks. Italians learned how to mix various chemicals and create aerial shells with different colors and shapes.
Blue fireworks are the hardest to make. The chemical compositions to make blue fireworks is trickier, especially because blue burns the hottest of all the colors.
Barges are often used to launch fireworks. Because fireworks are shot off barges over water, they add a measure of safety.
Fireworks are expensive. A typical community fireworks show lasting 10 to 20 minutes costs around $7,000. In 2020, fireworks sales hit a record-high sales of one billion dollars!
I’m looking forward to the July 4th fireworks, aren’t you?
-Susan G Mathis, Peyton’s Promise
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“I love shopping at bookstores because I know I’ll find resources perfectly suited to my grandkids’ unique interests.”