The man rides along in a buggy, black hat shading his face, horse trotting ahead of him. As author Mindy Starns Clark pens him, he's thinking, maybe praying, enjoying his surroundings as the vehicle rolls through Lancaster County.
And the next time Clark gets in her car, she doesn't flip on the radio. Instead, she lowers the windows. She tries to remember the simplicity and quiet her heroes value.
"I just live more in the moment," said Clark.
That's the influence of the Amish - and over the last few years, the wide and growing appeal of the "plain" life has had much more impact than that.
Bonneted, buggy-riding heroines sparked a publishing boom in the Christian fiction world. More than 200 Amish romance novels hit the shelves between 2009 and 2012, and "bonnet fiction" became so hot that, by one count, a new tale was being released on average every four days.
Many predicted the buzz would fizzle. That hasn't happened.
"We were all ready to move on, and readers were still eating it up," said Kim Moore, a senior editor at Harvest House, which has printed more than 50 Amish novels, including Clark's, and sold more than 1.5 million copies of the genre since 2008.
"Nobody sees it going away," said Valerie Weaver-Zercher, author of Thrill of the Chaste, a 2013 book that examines the appeal of Amish fiction.
Readers and writers gravitate to the books for a myriad of reasons, from religious to cultural. Some are drawn to evangelical nostalgia or captivated by the Amish view of salvation and forgiveness. Others are fatigued with a hypermodern, sexualized, post-9/11, post-recession society that makes the simple lifestyle appealing.
"The stories are deeper and more authentic than those who haven't read it realize," said Cindy Woodsmall, one of the most popular writers in the field. "The Amish fiction has a way of mirroring the human struggle between sacrifice and freedom."
For Clark, 54, who lives in Lower Providence, Montgomery County, the interest has been a boon. She has written eight Amish novels since 2009 and sold more than 386,000 copies. Her ninth, The Amish Clockmaker, is due out in February.
Most Amish romances - usually written by evangelical, not Amish, authors - are infused with Christian beliefs, and they feature a love story and inner conflict for the heroine.
The books, sometimes playfully referred to as "bonnet rippers," do not include the steamy scenes of their Harlequin counterparts. Instead, they have a much simpler, bucolic appeal, where plain protagonists often collide with the confines of the lifestyle.
Clark's plucky heroines usually control their own fates, even within the strict Amish culture. "They are strong women, even if they're not tromping around in leather boots," she said in an interview last month. "They're strong internally."
The first book in her Women of Lancaster County series, which she cowrote with Leslie Gould, follows Lexie Jaeger, whose search for her birth family takes her to Pennsylvania Amish country, where she tries to solve the mystery of her heritage. The book, The Amish Midwife, earned a prestigious Christian writing award in 2012.
Gould, who has gone on to write two more Amish series of her own, praised Clark's skills. "She's a very, very gifted storyteller."
Often, the books are set in Pennsylvania. Many authors have a personal connection to Amish or Mennonite communities, but Clark, a Louisiana native who relocated to New Jersey at 26 to be nearer her now-husband and moved to Pennsylvania in 1998, said she was "totally on the outside looking in" when she began.
So she and her husband checked into a Lancaster County bed-and-breakfast, where she said the host arranged a dinner for them in an Amish family's home.
"If you can meet the first person and make friends with them, then it's like the whole world opens up to you," she said. "They want to introduce you to their cousin and their brother, and soon you're just like part of the family."
Between her first two Amish novels, Clark also wrote the nonfiction A Pocket Guide to Amish Life. Revised and rereleased under a new title in 2013, it offers such tidbits as how the Amish drink their coffee (black) and what a church service is like (three hours long).
Over the last six years, Clark has visited Lancaster County and her dependable sources there more than 20 times, she said.
One of the first lessons she learned was that there weren't any absolutes when it came to Amish life, because each group has slightly different rules. And, Clark said, she realized they are just regular people.
That includes their religious beliefs, which Clark sees as very similar to mainstream Protestantism, making the genre a good fit for Christian writers like her.
There are mixed reports about how the Amish view the books, which run the gamut from "sweet and syrupy" to anti-Amish. Many don't read them, and they dislike negative or inaccurate portrayals.
But many anecdotes exist about plain people reading them loyally, or the novels flying off shelves at Amish bookstores and auctions.
Woodsmall, who has had six novels on the New York Times list of best-selling paperbacks, said she was once staying with an Amish friend when several women brought in dessert after dinner.
Then they sat down to tell Woodsmall about their lives, asking whether she could use any of it in her stories, she said - some tales of abuse, addiction, or infidelity, and others lighter stories, like one from a woman whose husband got lost while deer hunting.
With such a detailed - and highly marketable - representation of a culture that is often viewed by outsiders as intensely mysterious and wildly different, bonnet fiction could risk exploiting the Amish.
"In a way, it is exploitative . . . because we're taking what is special and precious to them and putting it out there for the world to see," said Gayle Roper, a Chester County author, who published an Amish series in the late '90s and returned to the genre this year.
But authors, publishers, editors, and readers alike often share "a real deep Christian faith," said Weaver-Zercher, "in which these books were part of a mission to readers."
Clark said she has donated a portion of her nonfiction royalties to Philhaven, a Mennonite behavioral-health-care institution in Mount Gretna that has an Amish wing.
With the novels, she said, it's just like writing about any other culture. "In fiction, we can go anywhere. That's just the imagination."
Her latest series, written with Susan Meissner, features male protagonists, something different for the genre. The Amish Clockmaker is about a newlywed Amish couple who finds an old clock linked to a suspected murderer.
Clark, who has published 24 books total, including mysteries, isn't contracted for any more Amish books beyond that, aside from a novella project. But, beginning next month, she will release 12 children's e-books about Lancaster County.
She's also at work with Gould on a new series about the French Huguenots. And she has hopes of penning a spy series or survival novels, and a parenting book.
As for bonnet fiction?
"I'm almost done, I think," Clark said.
Then she caught herself. And laughed. "Well, I won't say that. I won't say that. . . . I'm sure I'll always come back to Amish."