A&F NewsletterSpring 2004
Author Lewis, '69 Alumnus
Eight years ago, Beverly Lewis quit her full-time job to give writing her undivided attention. Now, the 1969 Cowley graduate is so immersed in her work, it’s difficult for her to do much else.
Lewis, who lives in Colorado Springs, has had a whirlwind eight years. From chapter books for children to writing novels for the Christian market, Lewis’ career has gained enormous momentum. Her stories about the Plain culture of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania have become popular with all age groups.
Lewis’ third book in the Abram’s Daughters series titled “The Sacrifice” will be available in May. Spanning three generations, the Abram’s Daughters series paints a fascinating portrait of four Amish sisters growing up in Gobbler’s Knob, an actual setting in Lancaster County. “As the author, I began formulating the five-book series some four-and-a-half years ago, while writing a different novel,” Lewis said. “This often happens to me. An idea or a compelling character will begin to intrude my thoughts while I’m supposed to be working on another story. It’s quite distracting, really. But this is the way things go with me. So, I simply jot down ideas and impressions on index cards and file them, hoping to quiet the new protagonist-to-be until a more appropriate moment.”
The success of the Abram’s Daughters series has surprised even Lewis. “I’m amazed at the continual bestseller status for this new series,” she said. “It’s quite an exciting ride, and I don’t wish to take all the credit for this success. I am grateful to work with an incredible team of editors, a terrific publicist, and a wonderfully supportive husband who goes without hot meals on occasion so I can make important deadlines.
I am also thankful to God for good health and inspiration, as well as the loving encouragement of my many readers who steadily share their joy at the release of each new book.” Check out Lewis' web site at www.beverlylewis.com. Book one in the series, “The Covenant,” was released in fall 2002 with sales topping the 200,000 mark. Book two, “The Betrayal,” was released in August 2003, and sales topped 190,000 by late fall. That includes all editions: hard cover, large print, and audiobooks. Book four, “The Prodigal,” is expected to be released this summer, while book five, yet untitled, was due out in September 2005.
Lewis burst on to the Evangelical Christian Bestseller list with “The Shunning,” the first book of an adult fiction series Lewis wrote titled The Heritage of Lancaster County. The sequel, “The Confession,” was released in fall 1997, while the final book of the trilogy, “The Reckoning,” was released a year later. As with many of Lewis’ books, “The Shunning” was inspired by her own childhood experiences growing up in Lancaster, Pa. “It came out of stories I heard through my childhood and teenage years,” Lewis said. “My maternal grandmother married a non-Mennonite Biblical studies major. She was ex-communicated from her Amish church. It was fascinating to hear some of the things she encountered. Coupled with my love and obsession with the Amish, I decided to write this series. “When I first heard the story of Grandma Buchwalter, my mother’s mother, who left her Mennonite community to marry a prospective minister (not an acceptable thing for a Plain woman in those days), the subconscious seeds for Katie Lapp’s dilemma in Hickory Hollow were planted.” The impetus behind “The Shunning” came 30 years later, after Lewis had married, had children, and written the first five books of her Summerhill Secrets series.
She said she has thought about taking a different direction with her writing. “I’ve seriously toyed with writing a suspense novel at some point, possibly set outside the Plain community,” Lewis said. “I’ve also thought of doing a first-person viewpoint story about a modern woman in peril, also set in the non-Amish culture that you and I know so well.” Several of her book series for children and teenagers are set in Vail-like ski towns in the high country of Colorado, proving that Lewis isn’t completely hung up on “all things Amish.” “I have to admit, though, that the simple and tranquil lifestyle of the Old Order Amish people has a real attraction,” she said. “Don’t we live in such a frenetic society, where recklessness reigns? Who wants to wait for anything anymore? Instant or near instant is so in. “In contrast, think of choosing to accept a slow-paced life, where a horse-drawn buggy goes approximately 10 miles in a single hour. Goodness, a person could actually stop and smell some roses along the way...”
Toward the end of 2003, Lewis kept a daunting schedule. She completed “The Sacrifice,” began work on “The Prodigal,” and wrote two new picture books for families. Still, Lewis finds time to answer mail from her readers. She has received favorable reviews from Amish people. “The Amish in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, as well as many other states and even Canada, have written such delightful letters to me,” Lewis said. “They offer all sorts of ideas, many of them even wanting to share their own experiences within the confines of their particular community. Naturally, I welcome such correspondence. And, I suppose, the best kind of letter from an Amish person is the one that says I’m right on with my description and understanding of their tradition and culture. That, to me, is most gratifying, as I love the meticulous research that goes into writing such books.”
Lewis goes on book tours to meet her readers about twice a year between books, something she loves to do. It also allows her to take a break from the computer. “Writing is a lonely situation, to be sure,” she said. “It takes great willpower to sit still long enough to crank out a 90,000-word novel twice each year. Writing books seems to get harder as I go, which is difficult to explain, unless I have such high expectations for myself and really just want to outdo my last endeavor. Yes, maybe that’s it.