From the White House to the Amish is the new book from Katrina Hoover Lee telling the story of Thomas E. Kirkman, who lived a remarkable life which took him from the highest corridors of power to becoming a convert to the Amish.
The book is a real page-turner. Katrina wrote Kirkman’s story as a biographical fiction, which she explains in the Q-and-A below.
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Katrina Hoover Lee on From the White House to the Amish
Amish America: Who was Thomas E. Kirkman?
Katrina Hoover Lee: Born in southern Indiana during the Great Depression, Tom grew up during World War II and the 1950’s. Though he was raised by Christian parents, he turned against God after the loss of the most important person in his life. Although gifted as an artist, spy, and inventor, Tom’s life spiraled into depression and bitterness toward God. Through an unexpected voice and an unpretentious Amish man, Tom Kirkman was forever changed.
Amish America: What is remarkable or unique about this story?
Katrina Hoover Lee: As a young man, Tom worked in the White House under both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations and spent time in the CIA. Later, he joined the Amish church.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I consider myself a lifetime writer although my first book came out in 2010. I’ve written a total of eight books through Anabaptist publishing houses. Raised in central Wisconsin, I now live in Elkhart, Indiana, with my husband Marnell. We are expecting our first child, a girl, in May.
What’s one thing you learned in your research that surprised or moved you?
Although Tom passed away before I was able to speak to him, his son Brad was full of helpful stories he remembered from his father. Some of Tom’s stories were so out of the ordinary, I felt like I should doubt them until I found good evidence, even though this book is a biographical fiction. Several discoveries in my research reassured me that Tom’s word was trustworthy. These revelations thrilled me!
When writing a story inspired by real people and historical events – how does that work? How much do you rely on the real-life facts and what parts do you need to “fill in” or create yourself?
I always have to decide first whether I’m writing a biography/memoir, or whether I’m writing a biographical fiction. Since Tom was no longer living when I took on the project, it seemed fitting to make the book a fiction book based on truth, or a biographical fiction. I did my best to stay true to what I did know about Tom Kirkman. But in many cases, the details went with Tom to his grave. In order to offer the reader a readable narrative, I added details that seemed to fit Tom’s character and the the information I did have.
What other books have you written, and what was different about this one?
Of my other eight books, Blue Christmas and Captain Garrison are the most loved by readers. With the exception of my very first book, all the books can be seen at my website. From the White House to the Amish is the first book I’ve written set in the mid-1900’s. It was fascinating to research President Eisenhower in particular!
What will readers take away or learn from From the White House to the Amish?
I hope the book inspires people to think about what is most important in life. I also think people who remember the Eisenhower and Kennedy years will enjoy the book even more.
What do the Amish think of this book?
I was concerned about this myself. Even though I’m a conservative Mennonite myself, I’m not a part of the Amish culture and I was hoping the book would not be offensive, particularly since Tom did not remain with the Amish church until his death. However, I was pleased to hear that the book was recommended as a great book to read on the Midwest Amish Chat Line. This is a telephone conference that many Amish listen to for news. Hearing this made me much more easy in spirit! I have also heard positive comments from a number of other Amish people.
Where can readers find From the White House to the Amish?
I encourage readers to buy directly from my website if they are able, since that supports my own author journey best. I send autographed paperbacks directly from my house in Elkhart, IN. The paperback, ebook, and audiobook can all be purchased directly from me here.
However, the ebooks are available on Apple, Nook, Amazon, and more; you can see a list of the retailers here. The paperback is available from Amazon, but it will be more expensive than if you buy it directly from me. We recently released the audio version with narration by Conrad Bear. This can be accessed from our website as a digital download or a CD set. Also available from Apple, Audible, Nook, Kobo/Walmart, and various others.
Are you giving a coupon to readers of Amish America?
Why, yes! If you purchase from my website, don’t forget to use coupon code Amish15 for 15% off any form of From the White House to the Amish (paperback, ebook, audiobook).