You were a
schoolteacher before you became a published novelist. What was it that drew
you to become a teacher?
not sure if a person can be a born teacher, but my mother said I was
conducting “school” with my dollies, all lined up in a row, long before I
was ever in kindergarten. I always knew I would be a schoolteacher when I
grew up. That, and write stories which I hid in the bottom drawer of my
dresser for decades.
Do you now feel
that your fiction is a venue to teach, or do you not focus so much on the
take-away message while you’re writing?
BL: Giving my
readers a peek into a little-known, little-understood people group is a
process of educating, yes, but the piety of the Amish is a real draw, I
think, for me and for my legion of readers, as well. As I continue to
research this cloistered sect and discover more about the People, I’m
compelled to share in story their tradition, triumphs, and trials.
Interwoven—always, always—is the fingerprint of God on the Anabaptist faith,
of which I am a recipient, having come from Old Order Mennonites on my
mother’s side of the family, as many of my reader-friends know.
maternal grandmother Ada Buchwalter was the inspiration for your novel
and probably other scenarios in your novels as well. Did you know this great
woman, or had she moved on to heaven before you were born?
parents and I actually lived on the top floor of the old brick house where
Grandma Ada was living when she went to be with the Lord. I was just 5 ½ at
that time. But, oh, do I remember my devout grandmother and the things she
shared with me, especially when she was ill and dying. She said the most
important thing I could ever do was to give my entire heart—and my whole
life—to the Lord Jesus. And, always attempt to do the right thing, even when
no one was looking.
What is your
favorite memory (or story you heard about her) of all time?
Ada received her very first kiss by her husband when she was only one year
old, and she was never kissed again until her wedding day, nearly twenty
years later. My grandfather, Omar Buchwalter, was so taken with little Ada
(he was slightly older)—people said it was Ada’s big, brown eyes that “did
something” to Omar.
I also love how cheerful Grandma Ada was—she was known to whistle hymns
in the barn while doing her chores as a young girl. Her mother, my
great-grandmother Ranck, said that a whistling woman certainly was not a
righteous one. But Ada whistled anyway, to the chagrin of her older
siblings…and to the glory of God.
Many of the
characters you’ve created struggle with their faith, as many of us have,
which makes them so much more real. Have you ever personally struggled with
your faith? If so, could you share with us a little about that time and how
the Lord helped you through it?
BL: Life’s greatest
disappointments often rattle our faith. I wouldn’t say my own faith was
actually at risk, though, but I did spend years questioning God (aren’t we
all good at that?!) Hearing the diagnosis that I would most likely never
give birth to my flesh-and-blood children, made me whine and weep and wonder
why my heavenly Father would allow this to happen. Why me? Like
many women with a strong maternal instinct and a desire for a family, I
grappled with the concept: Why did God put this intense desire within me,
yet I could not have a baby?
Then, years later, when we began to consider adoption, there was even
more struggling. Could we make the leap to accepting someone else’s
child as our own? Fervent and unselfish prayers commenced, and we had to
learn to trust God for what was HIS plan for our lives, which ultimately
produced tendered hearts in my husband and me. Wanting only the Lord’s will,
we soon became eager and willing to open our home and hearts to three
beautiful babies (two girls and a boy, including precious twins with special
But, oh the joy of relinquishing our collective will and walking in the
center of His. And, no, it wasn’t easy trudging through those dark days and
heartbreaking years. But having had role models of great faith in my parents
and grandparents—and having their prayers surround us, as well as our church
family’s—taught us about submitting to a different plan. A higher plan…at
least for us.
You’ve noted this
before, but why do you think that of the few young people who eventually
leave the Amish way of life, it’s usually a spunky girl who does so rather
than a boy?
BL: I may
have pointed that out some years ago, but more recently both young men and
women are leaving behind their Plain upbringing for our modern world, due,
in part, to the diminishing size of the family farm, or the lack thereof,
which pushes Amish young people into the English world for their livelihood.
Only about 30% of Lancaster County Amish are farming today—an amazing shift
from even ten to fifteen years ago. Yet, remarkably, the retention rate for
that same area of Amish is still at about 90%--another profound fact. Those
who don’t join the Amish church often do so in other more liberal Anabaptist
groups, such as Mennonites or Brethren, although some gravitate to
Pentecostal and evangelical churches. And some never join any fellowship of
In your new
a young Englisher schoolteacher is invited to substitute teach in an Amish
school. What a great premise! How likely is that to happen in Amish culture?
BL: In doing my
research (which I adore!), I discovered that a number of Englishers in
various states have either been substitute teachers in an Amish or
Amish/Mennonite school, or have been appointed by an Amish school board as a
permanent teacher for several years, with close scrutiny, of course. I even
met a non-Amish woman during my recent book tour to Minnesota who shared her
experience of doing this very thing. I’ve yearned to write this storyline
for years, delightful and intriguing as it is to my own teacher-heart.
written to the market but have always written your heart. How would you say
has touched your heart as the author and what was it that compelled you to
tell this tale?
Ironically, the first seeds of this gripping story came from a news article
I read in the South, while on a book tour. A small Amish boy had gone
missing, having fallen out the back of his family’s buggy one night. Then,
after I began talking with some of my Amish friends, I was told that this
was not all that uncommon, though rather worrisome, especially if the child
was too small to catch up with the horse and carriage—to alert the parents!
I can tell you that I connected so completely with adorable little Sarah
Esh (four years old), her anguished mother, Maryanna, and the young
schoolteacher (and marathon runner) rescuer, Jodi Winfield. I honestly lost
my heart to these three fascinating story people…and all the others in
As the author, do
you ever feel let down when you’ve completed a series?
will be at least five books in this series, “Home to Hickory Hollow”!
I’m so thrilled, but I DO experience an overwhelming sadness when writing
the final sentence of a book which brings to a culmination a series. Similar
to post-partum blues, I’m told. But being a writer, I’m unable to stay very
far from my computer desk and soon find myself, while mourning the last
book, starting the outline for a new story.
What is your goal
with all your fiction?
first: to honor our heavenly Father; secondly to offer a wholesome
alternative to hundreds of thousands of my readers, giving them an inspiring
and unique glimpse into an Amish community.
Have you ever
personally considered converting to the Amish way of life?
Why or why not?
When I was eight I was ready to join our Old Order Amish friends’ family—the
striking Stoltzfuses with thirteen children in tow. I thought it would be
way more fun to have so many siblings, since I only had one younger sister.
What do you love
most about living in Colorado that you can’t enjoy in Pennsylvania?
BL: Dave and
I love to hike and ski in the high country. We take our kids and
granddaughter with us. Biking, too. We embrace the grandeur and breathtaking
vistas of the Rocky Mountains—especially the Continental Divide. What’s not
before that music is in your DNA, and I know you taught (and played) music
for many years. If you could play only one instrument for the rest of your
life, what would you choose and why?
piano, hands down! The instrument has strings and percussion all wrapped up
in one grand package. Pardon the puns. I love playing our grand
piano—and sometimes Dave and I play four-hands duets together. So fun.
What can readers
expect next from you on the novel writing front?
BL: I just completed The Secret Keeper which released in
September, the fourth “stand-alone” book in my “Home to Hickory Hollow”
series. This summer I’ll write the fifth book, yet untitled. Well, it IS but
that’s top secret.
Beverly, what are
two things people might be surprised to know about you?
BL: 1) I
write my novels standing up. Yes, it’s true. Dave had a custom-made keyboard
stand built for me so I can move around—even dance if I want to!—all while
creating my stories.
2) I’m blessed to be married to my partner in fiction. Dave and I
live and breathe fiction; we brainstorm all of my plots and storylines at
breakfast. In short, we LOVE fiction and its many techniques, including the
classic twists and turns. Our kids, when they were growing up, rolled their
eyes quite a lot, believe me. And they often warned each other, “Watch what
you say, you might end up in one of Mom’s books!”
In other exciting
news, the movie adaptation of
aired on Hallmark in May! Going back to when you first wrote
The Shunning . . . did you
always have in mind that you were writing a trilogy, or did that come about
after the success of the first book?
That first book, The Shunning, was really just one of my little
experiments to see if I could write adult fiction (having written nearly 60
books for younger readers by that time.) I also wanted to write my
grandmother’s story (loosely based) for our family, but inside of me, I
seemed to know that the story was to be told in three parts. Bethany House
wanted the trilogy once they read the first few chapters (and that
first-person Prologue which is now one of my familiar trademarks)!
When you were
writing The Shunning
really sensed it was something special. Would you say the same thing about
absolutely! There is nothing quite like this continuing story, and the book
and the recent Hallmark movie—as well as the very popular musical play,
“The Confession”—all seem to point to that fact.
Who is your
favorite character in the trilogy and why?
Katie Lapp, because she reminds me of my very courageous grandmother, Ada
Ranck Buchwalter, who followed her heart and the Lord she loved, despite the
BL: May I say
“thank you” to each reader-friend who has read my books and taken this
journey via story, along with me, for the past twenty years? I love writing
compelling books for you, visualizing you all curled up with a cup of hot
tea in winter, and lounging out on your sunny decks in summer. Your
interaction with me, via social media, warms my heart day after day. It is
my delight to connect with you, pray for you, and blend my heart with yours
as we walk through this earthly life together. You have read my heart on the
pages of my books, and because of it, you know me well. Think of the pure
joy we will experience on the other side of the “veil,” when Jesus calls us
home. I can’t think of a happier reunion party, can you?
with Beverly Lewis
Writers are some of
the most gifted people on the planet. They are creative, smart and the great
ones have a way with words that can change people. Then there are those who
write best selling work over and over again! I mean, I’m happy when I write
a good blog post .
Yet, as often is the case, it’s their story that inspires me even
more. “Meeting” New York Times Bestseller Beverly Lewis was a joy
I’m blessed with (it may have something to do with my heart for adoption).
This small look into her story not only gave me an idea of the inspiration
to so many of her stories, but made me an even bigger fan.
Thanks so much for sharing Beverly! Not only your fiction, but some of
your own story as well!
Beverly Lewis, raised in
Pennsylvania Amish country, is a former schoolteacher, an accomplished
musician, and an award-winning author of nearly ninety books for adults and
children, many of which have appeared on bestseller lists, including USA
Today and The New York Times. Her novel The Brethren won a 2007 Christy
Award for excellence in Christian fiction. Writing memorable stories set in
Amish farmland brings Beverly continual joy and inspiration. Her own family
heritage is Old Order Mennonite, but she has many dear friends among Amish
communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Beverly and her husband,
David, live in Colorado.
1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined
5 years ago?
Having my novels come to life on film (“The Shunning” and “The
Confession” for the Hallmark Movie Channel) and on the stage (“The
2. What is
one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
I would be less perfectionistic as a very young writer (from age 8 onward
till publication when my children were in middle school)…less hung up on
accomplishing a zillion goals. And I would be far less secretive about my
writings from that time onward, as well. In short, more confident back then.
But living is a learning process.
3. What is
one of the happiest moments of your life?
When our first precious baby girl was born and available to be adopted–I
received the call on Valentine’s Day. Talk about a LOVEly surprise!
4. What is
one thing you want the next generation to know?
That life is far too short not to laugh a lot, love unconditionally, and
make as big a difference in this world as possible.
Tell us about the
children you support in Thailand.
Dave and I chose our first sponsored child from Compassion International
which is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We drove over to their
headquarters and asked for the neediest little girl in Thailand. We wanted
to save a life, so to speak, because of the despicable things that happen to
so many young Thai girls. We picked five-year-old Nuchie (her nickname),
trusting that through prayer and our correspondence with her, as well as the
financial support, she might be guided toward the light of the Lord Jesus.
She was 5 years old then and now she’s 16 and just married. We also support
Laura in Bolivia, enrolled in Compassion’s Leadership Training Program, as
well as four-year-old Ton of Thailand. We’re thrilled to have a small part
in ministering to these precious young people.
What is your
favorite Bible verse?
There are too many to recite. But Matthew 5:16 (NIV) is so much a
part of my life: …”let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
What is your
goal or mission as a writer of inspiration fiction?
Imparting the unconditional love of Jesus Christ and allowing His light
of grace and mercy shine from the pages of my book, is my hope and prayer…on
whatever level the reader may bring to it, whether they are churchgoers or
if they have no clue who Christ is. I trust that each reader will glean
something of goodness and eternal hope, whether a life-changing direction or
a spiritual truth. I want my books to be a wholesome option to the line-up
of books on any bookstore shelf. And, from what my readers are saying, I
believe my books tend to be instructional, due to the intense intrigue into
the Anabaptist culture, my own heritage. The inner-woven aspects of grace
are also important to me, the gentle weaving of this into the storyline.
some of the challenges you face as an author?
I find the process of first- draft writing to be quite difficult…each
book seems harder to write than the one before. If I have a good day and
things flow beautifully, well, that’s not really the norm. I think of myself
as a re-writer…constantly reworking, polishing, tweaking.
This question also ties in with the earlier one with regard to our
sponsoring overseas children, coupled with the fact that two of our children
are young adults, but they are developmentally disabled. One of my big
priorities in life is to be a perpetual mom, to meet the special needs of
our household on a day to day basis—to be continually patient, to “be Jesus”
to our children.
There are times when it is difficult to keep on top of my writing
schedule, because my first calling is to our “kids.” Other challenges are
the whole process of juggling what I need to do in the house, like laundry,
cooking (which I love) etc…and getting the hours in that it requires to pull
off the book deadlines. Another challenge I want to fulfill is answering my
email from readers. Dave and I still view this to be a big part of my
ministry. It’s an essential part of the whole.
born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country in Lancaster, is The New
York Times bestselling author of more than ninety books. Her stories
have been published in eleven languages worldwide. A keen interest in her
mother's Plain heritage has inspired Beverly to write many Amish-related
novels, beginning with The Shunning, which has sold more than one
million copies and was recently made into an Original Hallmark Channel
movie. Beverly lives with her husband, David, in Colorado.
tender age of nine, she began writing short stories and poetry. Prior to
that, she made up lyrics to the "little fingers" piano pieces she learned,
at the age of five.
mother saved everything I wrote, even the stories I dreamed up during my
grade school years," Beverly says.
One such tale is semi-autobiographical, about a young girl whose parents
can no longer afford to give her piano lessons. The manuscript was 77 pages
long and titled "She Shall Have Music," penned under the shade of a
lone willow tree.
"Reading, writing, and playing piano have been top three on my list of
favorite things," she says.
her own children were well into middle school did Beverly seek to publish
her work, first in magazines such as Highlights for Children,
Dolphin Log, and Guideposts for Kids. Her first book followed in
1993—Mountain Bikes and Garbanzo Beans—presently retitled Big Bad
Beans (book #22 in the popular Cul-de-Sac Kids series of chapter
first venture into adult fiction is the best-selling trilogy, The
Heritage of Lancaster County, including The Shunning, a
suspenseful saga of Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman drawn to the modern
world by secrets from her past. The book is loosely based on the author's
maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter, who left her Old Order Mennonite
upbringing to marry a Bible College student. One Amish-country newspaper
claimed Beverly's work to be "a primer on Lancaster County folklore" and
offers "an insider's view of Amish life."
she is surprised by the popularity of her work, Lewis says, "The sales
response for my work is astonishing, but even more heartwarming are
thousands of letters a year pouring in from readers."
Fans describe how her books have "touched a nerve, creating a curiosity
about the Old Ways of the Amish... a yearning for a simpler life and return
to traditional values in the mainstream society, where an impersonal,
high-tech lifestyle reigns paramount," she explains. Beverly still takes
time out of her busy schedule to answer her readers' letters.
Booksellers across the country, and around the world, have spread the word
of Beverly's tender tales of Plain country life. A clerk in a Virginia
bookstore wrote, "Beverly's books have a compelling freshness and spark. You
just don't run across writing like that every day. I hope she'll keep
writing stories about the Plain people for a long, long time."
of the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a Distinguished
Alumnus of Evangel University, Lewis has written over 80 books for children,
youth, and adults, many of them award-winning. She and her husband, David,
make their home in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, and spending
time with their family. They are also avid musicians and fiction "book
Were you raised
grew up an Assembly of God minister's daughter in Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania—literally, on the second pew! However, my keen interest in
Plain culture comes from a close family connection to Old Order Mennonites.
My maternal grandmother—Ada Ranck Buchwalter—left the Mennonite community
when she married. Many of Ada's family members were Mennonites, so I had
Plain relatives on Mother's side.
I am interested
in knowing more about your Plain heritage. How much experience do you have
with that lifestyle?
have lived with Old Order Amish on two separate occasions, while doing
continued research on The Heritage of Lancaster County trilogy (The
Shunning and subsequent sequels). My connection to the Plain community
comes from my mother's Old Order Mennonite heritage. Growing up, I was
surrounded by Mother's family at reunions and church gatherings. I remember
going to water baptisms and all of us singing without any musical
instruments—the rich four-part harmony of voices—happily watching relatives
and friends being completely immersed in the Susquehanna River, just as I
was baptized later at the age of 12.
What, if any,
has the reaction been from the Amish community to your books?
have received a lot of mail from Amish people. (Some who have been shunned.)
Many ask, "How do you know so much about our tradition and culture?" Others
from the New Order Amish have requested that I portray their communities, as
well, such as Ohio, Indiana, and other states.
What is the
recommended order for reading your books?
Heritage of Lancaster County (series)
#2 The Confession
#3 The Reckoning
(sequel to The Postcard)
Redemption of Sarah Cain *
The Sunroom *
Abram's Daughters (series)
#2 The Betrayal
#3 The Sacrifice
#4 The Prodigal
#5 The Revelation
Annie's People (series)
#2 The Englisher
#3 The Brethren
Courtship of Nellie Fisher (series)
#2 The Forbidden
#3 The Longing
Seasons of Grace (series)
#2 The Missing–NEW!
#3 The Telling–Coming
Denotes "stand-alone" books, not involved in any particular series.
Sanctuary and The Sunroom are non-sequential novels exploring
different aspects of Amish life. The Redemption of Sarah Cain, the
Heritage of Lancaster County series, and The Postcard and The
Crossroad 2-book set should all be read prior to the book October
Song, which updates the reader on various characters from those books.
I'd like to have
an Amish pen-pal like Annie Zook in The Preacher's Daughter. Can you link me
up with someone?
is an interesting issue to consider, there are few Amish bishops who would
actually allow their young people to correspond with the outside world, no
matter how well-intentioned that person may be. As for my involvement, I'm
sure you will understand that I am busy writing my next novel and don't have
the time to provide a service for linking up non-Amish pen pals with the
Is Katie Lapp a
story of Katie Lapp was born out of my memories of growing up near Amish
farmland. Katie is completely fictitious, yet her character is loosely based
on my grandmother's background and circumstance. The subconscious seeds for
Katie's predicament in The Shunning were planted early on, when, as a
child, I heard the story of my courageous grandmother. The impetus behind
the story came thirty years later, after I'd written the first five books of
the Summerhill Secrets, also set in Lancaster's Amish country.
Abram's Daughters series, your previous books were all set in the present.
What prompted you to write about a different historical time period?
been captivated by the wooded, rural area of Gobbler's Knob which is an
actual location in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, just east of Grasshopper
Level, also a quaint-sounding, real place. My father would often go to
Gobblers Knob to buy the Thanksgiving turkey for our family, and I remember
us driving in that area when I was a little girl. Because I knew Gobbler's
Knob had changed drastically in the past decades, I wanted to write about it
as it was in the late 40s into the mid 60s, which is where the series will
pretty much end.
When did you
first start writing?
loved books (thought of them as my friends). I suppose I became a writer
through years of keeping diaries, and writing letters and short stories—by
the mere act of writing. At age four, I dictated my first poem to my mother.
While in sixth grade, I penned my first "long" story (77 pages on a
yellow-lined tablet). Eager for avenues of expression, I was either writing
or playing the piano.
How do you
create a story?
I begin thinking through a new book, the protagonist (main character) always
emerges first. The dilemma or plot line and subplots usually will follow
soon after, but it's always the character that grabs my attention. I've
never been one to outline meticulously, so part of the delight of
writing—the true enjoyment—is discovering what will happen next.
Do you outline your books before
writing or "wing it" as you go?
I do both.
I outline so that I know the beginning, the middle, and the end and then the
fun begins as I find my way to all those points along the way. Getting up in
the morning to find out what is going to happen to my characters is a lot of
fun for me...and for my family, as well, who are very supportive of my
writing journeys. I come to each chapter fresh—something like a reader does,
eager to know what will take place.
What is your
favorite and least favorite aspect of writing books?
life into characters and painting word pictures with settings are some of my
favorites. Juggling story lines and keeping a time line are more tedious,
but I can't say there is any one aspect that I find dreadful. Deadlines (my
own writing schedule, as well as my editor's) can be difficult, especially
because I have family responsibilities. And I have other interests besides
writing books, which include literary organizations I am involved with,
making family scrapbooks, playing the piano, and hiking in the woods or the
foothills. I also have a few close friends, so I always want to have time
experienced novelist, what advice would you give to a beginning writer who
hopes to become published someday?
and always—read! And I suggest reading the very best of literature...the old
classics to start. Read the kind of story you'd like to write. As for the
actual writing, don't worry about perfection at first. Take your time, get
the story down, then rewrite and fine-tune later. And, yes, spelling and
grammar do count! There are many wonderful reference books for new writers.
Ask the reference librarian at your local public library for help in
locating books to point you in the direction of publishers who may be
interested in your work.
What kinds of
struggles do women who read your books have?
are not only women, but men, too. Many readers have shared with me that they
struggle with life losses—financial ruin and hardship, loss of loved ones
through death, divorce, separation, also the death of a young child, as well
as soul-searching aspects such as absolute truth, how to know if God truly
exists, where is God when life splinters apart to nothing...important issues
to be sure.
How does reading
your books help readers understand such life-struggles, or, at least, how to
cope with these trials?
that my books are a help on various levels. For one thing, due to the
character-driven nature of my novels, my "story people," in many ways, are
searching for universal truths, just as readers are. My hope and prayer is
that the books I write will offer a faith-based solution to the problems of
the human condition. Each of us must deal with the problem of pain and
suffering, trials and tests on some level through the span of our lives. My
stories offer the hope of the Gospel, that there IS a compassionate,
personal God who sees our dilemma, and He cares and understands—and no evil
force can separate us from that kind of God-love. It is a true gift,
unconditional and available to anyone whose heart is open to divine truth.
What would you
write if there were no barriers to prevent it?
what I believe God is nudging me to...in short, the type of books I'm
currently writing. I'm quite passionate about what I do—creating characters
who "live and breathe" in my readers' hearts and minds, and in mine, as
well. I write out of a tender heart toward the Lord, and as long as He gives
me something to say, I will answer the call.
surprised at your readers' response to your books?
my...yes! One of my greatest joys is hearing from readers who say my stories
have touched them significantly—even changed the direction of their lives.
So many have written to me: teens in West Africa, men and women of all ages
in America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Central America...people
whom the Lord is meeting on a personal level, where they are spiritually,
emotionally, physically. Most of all, I hope readers might come to know the
Lord Jesus in a more intimate way through having discovered God's
unconditional love in my books—to experience just a taste of the height and
width and breadth of His love for each of us.