When, in the early 1900s, the grandmother of New York Times best-selling author Beverly Lewis chose to wear a wedding band, remove her religious head covering, and marry a preacher instead of the farmer her father chose, she knew the ramifications of such decisions.
Ada Ranck Buchwalter knew that for defying the rules of her old order Mennonite church, a close branch of Amish, she would be shunned from her church. She was permanently separated from her family as though she had never existed.
Eight decades later Beverly Lewis is living with her family in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. She had grown up around her grandmother and knew the story of her grandmother’s shunning (a custom that is still practiced today).
Lewis had written 60 books for children and teens. A plot based on her grandmother’s story began forming in her mind. “The story of my grandma’s decision to choose her own husband and lifestyle burned inside of me, wanting to get out,” she recalled during a phone interview. The Shunning became part of a series of books called the Heritage of Lancaster County.
Lewis assumed the series, which included The Confession and The Reckoning, would be the only books she would write for adults.
The series was so well received by readers that Lewis continued writing.
Today, Lewis has written dozens of books for adults set in an Amish setting.
Creating plots sans technology, and with simple lifestyles is not an obstacle for Lewis. “I’m never out of ideas,” she says. “Things are always changing in Amish communities.”
As an example, she says bishops in some areas of the country experiment with cell phones for Amish women working outside the home. “If women work, the bishops okay them to use their cell phones for business purposes only,” says Lewis. “But I’ve overheard women with a cell chattering in Pennsylvania Dutch. It doesn’t sound like they’re talking business.”
Lewis says her research of Amish culture has revealed an amazing amount of information, which she has used in other books. In The Postcard she explores the practice of powwowing, a term that centered on white witchcraft which caused a split among the Amish.
Lewis currently lives in Colorado with her husband, David. She returns to Pennsylvania once a year where she maintains close contact with people in the Amish community. Many of them confess to reading her books.
“There are two camps of Amish readers among the letters I’ve received,” she says. “Either the writer loves my books and has read them all. Or the reader says her bishop forbids her to read my books because he says they are heretical.”
“He might say that because my Amish characters read scripture,” added Lewis. “When they do, their spiritual eyes are opened. As a result, they crave higher education, want more freedom and want to minister outside of their community. Some eventually move into the community.”
An award-winning author who often works 60 hours a week to meet a deadline, Lewis has sold millions of books, positioning her at the top of the Christian fiction lists.
The accolades, awards, and numbers of books sold are humbling to Lewis who taught music in a public school and English to fifth graders before she began writing novels.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think other people would read my heart,” she says. “It’s touching to know people feel they know me when we meet. They have read all of my books and share my life too.”
For more information about Beverly Lewis go to http://www.beverlylewis.com/
Reprinted with permission www.news-sentinel.com
Note: Here is Ms. Lewis’ response to this article, emailed to me on 1/10/11:
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