The Importance of First Impressions, by Sarah Price

The Importance of First Impressions, by Sarah Price

Meeting people for the first time can be rather intimidating, wouldn’t you agree? In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the importance of the first two seconds when meeting someone and how it takes just that amount of time to make a first impression.


First ImpressionsClearly, first impressions do matter, if two seconds are all that it takes to form an opinion that we are hard-pressed to change. So, when I tell you that my preferred writing genre is Amish fiction, I ask that you hold back those two seconds and learn a little more about the merging of my love for the Amish culture and my passion for Jane Austen.

In college, I studied anthropology and writing. I loved traveling and, from the time I was ten, was blessed to visit new countries every year. As an adult, I made it a habit of escaping the confines of the United States (particularly New Jersey where I live) as frequently as possible. I’ve always said that the best education one can receive is traveling abroad. Studying cultures, learning new languages, sampling exotic food…what could possibly be better at teaching us tolerance and acceptance while expanding our horizons?

My paternal family is as close to American royalty as you can get. The Price family (then spelled Preiss and Priess) escaped religious persecution in Prussia by emigrating to the United States and, upon settling down in Pennsylvania, arranged for their son to marry the daughter of Chief Netawatwees and great-granddaughter of the Chief of Clans of the Lenni Lenape Indian tribes, “King” Tamanend. With such a rich history, you can probably understand my love for cultures as well as stories.

What I neglected to state is that the Price family was Anabaptist and, ten generations later, most of my relatives still are Mennonite and live on the same land that our ancestors once owned. My fascination with the Amish began at an early age and never abated. With my rich Anabaptist heritage and a propensity to study cultures, immersing myself into the communities, it was only natural that I began writing stories about the Amish, long before Beverly Lewis published her first Amish fiction book. Since that time, the genre has exploded. And this is where Jane Austen comes into play.

There is often a misconception that Amish fiction books are poorly written formula romances. And then there is often a problem concerning many authors’ inaccurate portrayal of Amish. Many authors do not have first-hand experience with the Amish or readers are basing what they know on “reality shows”.

I decided to raise the bar on both my fans as readers and myself as the writer. So, my Amish Classics series was born. My goal is to provide more than a great, authentic Amish experience for the reader: I want to also provide quality literature. Clearly, there is something intellectually stimulating about the classics that is missing in many of the lighter reads. Like most of you, Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is brilliant, her attention to detail is amazing, and her character development is second to none. So I decided to challenge myself and retell Jane Austin’s book, Pride and Prejudice, within an Amish setting, combining the Amish culture and religion with a Jane Austen style of writing and story-telling.

The challenge was not as hard as I thought it would be. There are many similarities between Elizabeth Bennet’s early 19th century England and Lizzie Blank’s 21st century Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Both young women deal with issues of morality, manners, and marriage. The differentiation between genders and, to some degree, class, are also similar. The one challenge that I faced was the issue of pride and prejudice. At the core of their religion, the Amish shun worldliness and practice acceptance of others. On the surface, both pride and prejudice are two character traits not normally associated with them.  Yet, they are human and, as such, not immune to desires and opinions, even if they choose not to vocalize them.

First Impressions is the result of this exciting literary odyssey. I have embarked on this journey with great enthusiasm, honing my desire to present Jane Austen to my regular readers of Amish fiction while introducing many Austenites to the possibilities of the Amish genre. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

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Carol Settlage
Carol Settlage
April 5, 2015 8:21 AM

I was delighted to see your post here, as I found your book by accident when it was one of the “featured” selections on my kindle… I went right to Amazon and found a real physical book, ordered it and read it… and, I just loved it!! If I were better at writing reviews I would have sent one to one of the Austen Blogs I enjoy reading, and so was so happy to see it here! I have always admired much about the Amish and wanted to know more about the culture and religion and this was such a delightful way to learn… thru my favorite story. I have read many many JAFF and this is up there at the top of my favorites!

I loved hearing about your amazing heritage, and your views on travel and education ring so very true with my experience, though I’ve not traveled so extensively as you, but did live abroad with my family for 3 years when the children were very young and we are all better for it! (My daughter ended up living and teaching in Cairo for 6 years and is now back home.) I would love to visit an Amish neighborhood, and perhaps one day we will. Best wishes to you, and I look forward to reading more of your books… and will go and add the first two to my kindle as well… as I agree with you there too, that packing has become so much easier and lighter with my kindle! 🙂

Patricia Finnegan
Patricia Finnegan
April 4, 2015 10:56 AM

I have this book. It is wonderful!

Joana Starnes
April 4, 2015 5:09 AM

Welcome, Sarah, and sorry to be late to the party!
Oh, my! It only takes 2 seconds for first impressions? That’s so tricky – especially for people who are prone to put their foot in 😉
I think you’ve chosen a great setting for your P&P retelling, and I’m looking forward to reading it.
All the best and welcome to the club!

Deborah Fortin
April 3, 2015 5:34 AM

I have First Impressions on my TBR. I am looking forward to reading the book. We, very often, go camping in Amish country and travel around on our bicycles. We get waves from the Amish. Sometimes they even cocoon us between their buggies when we are travelling in the same direction. There is a couple that come through the campground every evening selling fresh vegetables and home baked goods. On alternating weekends the Amish come from as far as 20 miles away to sell their crafts.

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
April 2, 2015 12:25 PM

Hi Sarah, I admit I have yet to read your books but after reading this interview I’ll be off to Amazon! Great fun! ~Jen Red~

Regina Jeffers
April 2, 2015 10:10 AM

Sarah, I am pleased to have you among us. We are now 20 strong!!! Like Rose mentioned in her welcome, I, too, spent many years in Amish country in both PA and OH.

Lisa Rankins
April 1, 2015 9:42 PM

Very excited to read your book. My paternal grandfather grew up in the Lancaster area. He came from a large family and he and my grandmother had 18 children of their own. They live in Delaware. I have always been fascinated by the Amish. I read books from various authors. I love all the series books and losing myself in a storyline.

Sarah Price
Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 10:24 PM
Reply to  Lisa Rankins

Hi Lisa,

I think you’ll enjoy these books, for sure and certain! I still have family in Lancaster and I do love visiting. It’s been a while for a variety of reasons. But I have been involved with a few different communities for over 25 years. Their culture and their religion fascinate me as well as their ability to remain so grounded when the world around them spirals out of control with technology, politics, economy, society, etc. They are great role models for those who wish to learn about how to live simpler lives.

Now, as far as your grandparents, THAT sounds like a book right there. 18 children??? Holy Hannah! I wonder if he has Anabaptist roots…

April 1, 2015 8:31 PM

I look forward to reading your book. I work at a Mennonite school in Lancaster County, so I appreciate authentic Amish stories. Mixing this with the P &P story sounds like a great combo! 🙂

Sarah Price
Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 10:31 PM
Reply to  Maureen

Hi Maureen,

I hope you let me know what you think. One of my biggest complaints about the genre is other authors who are NOT authentic. I find it very disrespectful when “writers” just put a bonnet on a woman’s head and throw in a few Dutch words so they can call it an Amish book. Just like I work hard to have my storyline show respect to Jane Austen, I want the same respect for the Amish culture and religion.

One of the things I LOVED about combining Jane Austen with the Amish culture/religion was trying to find ways to stay true to both. It has also introduced Jane Austen to many readers who would not have preciously considered reading her books. A win-win all the way around, I’d say!:D

Jenni James
Jenni James
April 1, 2015 4:40 PM

Welcome! Sorry, I would’ve responded sooner but my phone doesn’t let me reply to these.

So now I’m curious! Please tell me you’ll continue and adapt all 6 of the major Austen novels into Amish titles. What a fun series that would be for you.

Sarah Price
Sarah Price
April 2, 2015 10:49 AM
Reply to  Jenni James

Hi Jenni,

Yes, I just received a contract for more Jane Austen AND two of the Bronte sisters!!!!! 😀

April 1, 2015 2:12 PM

Happy to have you here, Sarah! I grew up in Pennsylvania and spent a lot of summers in Lancaster County, so I have a certain affinity.

And this is a perfect fit because most of the concepts of Austen travel well to any group, regardless of religious, ethnic or racial outlook.

April 1, 2015 2:08 PM

Sarah, What a delightful post. Thank you for sharing your background. It is lovely to get to know you.

April 1, 2015 1:38 PM

Welcome, Sarah. I love reading about Amish culture too. I grew up in Virginia, so I’ve been through Amish country a few times. Your books sound fun.

Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 1:44 PM
Reply to  rebeccajamison

I’m going to be quite curious to get some reactions from our readers!!!! I really enjoy these new books that I’m writing. It’s intellectually stimulating for me (a plus!) as a writer to tell the stories in a way that retains Jane Austen’s storyline while maintaining the accuracy and character of the Amish. I’m really happy that so many have enjoyed these books so far and I’m thrilled that I was just contracted to write four more by the publisher! 😀 Now…I’ll be waiting to hear from you, Rebecca. Let me know what you think when you do get a chance to read it. xxxooo

Sharon Lathan
April 1, 2015 12:58 PM

Sarah, We are SO happy to have you with us on Austen Authors! Diversity in styles is a key element of our mission statement. Jane Austen so amazingly adjusts to every genre and decade, as our fans know. Your wonderful novels and insights will add another brilliant dimension to what is, IMHO, already a brilliant group of authors.

Thanks for joining us!

Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 1:54 PM
Reply to  Sharon Lathan

I’m so happy to be with so many talented authors…you really have no idea how exciting this is for me! And my Kindle weighs a few pounds more…since I’ve downloaded so many new books that are begging me to read them!!!! I cannot wait to read the many different approaches to retelling Jane Austen’s stories from my new friends on the Austen Authors team! xxxooo

April 1, 2015 11:50 AM

Hi Sarah. I have your ‘First Impressions’ waiting for me on my kindle. I haven’t read any Amish fiction so far, but I’m interested in finding out about a completely different culture and since it has a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ flavour then I’m hopeful I’ll enjoy the storyline too 🙂

Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 1:52 PM
Reply to  Ceri

Isn’t it amazing? The Kindle? I read from a Paperwhite now (I had a tragedy with my Kindle Fire when I accidentally “left a man behind” at the LAX airport…I still can’t talk about it without crying–I think I wept the entire flight back to NYC!). I ALWAYS carry my Paperwhite with me and there are so many books on it. I remember the days when I would carry two or three books with me because I couldn’t decide which one I might want to read if I found myself stuck in a traffic jam or waiting at an appointment. And forget traveling! My suitcase would be filled with books…more so than clothing!

Anyway, back on point…I will be anxious to hear what you think, Ceri. It’s fun to create a new challenge for both my regular readers and me as a writer. Even better, I’m waiting to hear what new readers, the Janeites, think about this fun angle to our dear Jane Austen’s books. Please do let me know and I, too, hope you enjoy the storyline!!! xxxooo

April 1, 2015 3:57 PM
Reply to  Sarah Price

Yes, kindles are certainly wonderful devices! It’s completely revolutionised my reading, and opened up my reading horizons. I love being able to carry a library with me at all times!

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
April 1, 2015 11:45 AM

So glad that you are a part of Austen Authors! Your perspective will bring a new light to the traditional Jane Austen stories and I look forward to seeing it from a Mennonite/Amish point of view. Thanks for sharing where you get your inspiration.

Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 1:57 PM
Reply to  Brenda Webb

Thank you Brenda for welcoming me! I can’t wait to share more about my journey to (and through) Jane Austen’s books. What fun awaits me as a writer! I’ve enjoyed writing them and I am thrilled to be contracted to write more. I look forward to getting to know the authors and the readers involved with xxxooo

Rose Fairbanks
Rose Fairbanks
April 1, 2015 9:41 AM

Welcome to Austen Authors, what a great first post! After reading your author bio when it was announced you were joining I was excited to get to know you better and looked forward to this first post. You did not disappoint! I haven’t read Amish/Mennonite fic in a few years but this is a perfect segue for me. I grew up in an area wiht many Mennonite and Amish and went to a Mennonite college. Thanks for writing quality and culture-sensitive stories about the Amish and now with an Austen twist!

Sarah Price
April 1, 2015 1:41 PM
Reply to  Rose Fairbanks

Thank you, Rose! It’s fun to be here with other amazing authors and readers who appreciate our dear Jane Austen! <3

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