Vampires and deadly survival games do not thrill the former Glen resident, who is finding success in the growing subgenre of Amish romance.
“Romance is the one place you can get a happy ending,” Lillard said by phone from her home in Tulsa, Okla., where she is currently working to churn out 3,000 words a day on deadline for a novel that will see release next year.
Lillard grew up in Glen, attending school at Alcorn Central until departing for Oklahoma midway through her senior year. Now she writes full-time, churning out inspirational romances with titles like “Saving Gideon” and “Katie’s Choice.” She has also written several contemporary romance novels under the name Amie Louellen.
Lillard traces her interest in the genre back to seventh grade when she and a friend read the same paperback love stories.
“Her mom would read the white-cover Harlequins, the real sweet ones set in England,” she said. “She would bring them to me by the grocery sackful. I would go home and do my homework and then read a Harlequin, the whole book, and then get up the next day and do it all again.”
The interest in writing goes back to school days, as well.
“I think anybody can learn how to write, but the stories have to be there, and they always were,” she said.
Lillard’s first efforts were historical and contemporary romances. Then her agent nudged her in another direction.
“I’m going to tell you what you need to write, and you’re going to laugh,” the agent told her.
Lillard assured her that she wasn’t going to laugh.
“You tell me what you can sell for me, and I will write it,” Lillard responded.
The agent said, “Amish romance.”
“And I laughed,” said Lillard.
Intrigued by the notion, she visited the Christian bookstore to check it out. The Amish romance section was busy.
“I had women very politely push me out of the way to get to the books,” said Lillard. “And I thought: What in the world is this about?”
She read a few of them and began to find out. One book, “The Choice” by Suzanne Woods Fisher, made a particular impression.
“I went, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this,’” recalled Lillard. “I can take what I know about contemporary romance and make these Amish characters. So that’s what I did. I followed a trend at the suggestion of my agent, but it was really a gift, I guess, that I could figure out how to still make it mine.”
With that idea, her Clover Ridge series began, along with a love for the self-reliant Amish culture.
She finds that fans of the Amish romance books faithfully read every one they can find.
“I think it’s a matter of hope,” said Lillard. “They give us hope that the world doesn’t have to be the way it is. It’s an escape to someplace we can visit and we know is really there, so it’s not like a paranormal escape of a ghost story or a vampire story or sci-fi or Harry Potter.”
She plans to continue the Amish titles as well as contemporary romance stories. Now working with Kensington Publishing, Lillard has experienced everything from the traditional publisher to self-publishing.
“I am glad that I got in traditionally, because that is one thing that I really wanted,” she said. “I wanted somebody in New York to believe in me, and I did it.”