Kelly Irvin — Research and “The Saddle Maker’s Son”

I am excited to host author Kelly Irvin today as she talks about the importance of research, even when writing a contemporary novel.

Kelly is giving away a print copy of “The Saddle Maker’s Son”. Simply leave a comment and your email address to be entered into a drawing.

I’m very much a seat of the pants writer, but I knew going into The Saddle Maker’s Son that a great deal of research would be required for this unusual topic for an Amish romance. I needed to know how custom saddles are made; how the influx of young refugees through the Texas-Mexico border is being handled; and the customs, language, and culture of the people from El Salvador. These are in addition to the usual challenges of writing about the Amish and their varying culture and language.

I love a challenge. This book came about as a what if. What if a young Amish woman encountered two starving, scared runaway children in a shed outside the school where she works? Would she be required to turn them over to authorities? What would happen to them if she did? Fortunately, this controversial and complicated topic is covered in great detail in the media in South Texas so I had a lot of information with which to work. Additionally, I spent a year and a half in Costa Rica during my college career so I speak and read Spanish. Among my acquaintances in San Jose was a Salvadoran political refugee so I learned about pupusas (and ate a few) as well as cultural differences. The internet provides a great deal of information, including recipes, making research easy.

To learn about saddle making, the occupation of my hero, I contacted a saddle maker in the nearby town of Fredericksburg, Texas. Tom Kline was kind enough to allow me to visit his shop where he showed me the tools of his trade, demonstrated some of his techniques, and answered an endless number of questions about how he became a saddle maker. Once a working cowboy, he had a lot of insight into why a ranch hand would want the more expensive custom made saddle.

I know it’s important to readers that stories be realistic and sprinkled with factual details. To do otherwise brings them out the story. Everything comes to a screeching halt. I try to live up to my end of the bargain. The result is a story in which two youngsters from El Salvador teach their Amish friends a few Spanish words and how to make foods from their native lands. The Amish struggle with the legal system and try to find a way to help their new friends while teaching them German and English words as well as feeding and clothing them. Along the way they must examine their beliefs and what God’s expectations of them as Christians are. I hope readers will ask themselves the same questions while enjoying the story.


Kelly Irvin is the author of The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. It follows The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.

 A former newspaper reporter and public relations professional, Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors.


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