Beverly Lewis (’72): Bestselling Christian fiction author
April 19, 2011
Her Amish fiction novels top the New York Times best-seller lists, fans flock to see her at book signings across the country, and now two of her books have been turned into made-for-TV movies.
There’s no doubt that author Beverly Lewis – a 1972 Evangel graduate – is at the pinnacle of her career.
But when Lewis talks about her life, it is her humble beginnings as an Assemblies of God pastor’s daughter in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, playing the piano, teaching music and raising her three children that give her the most pride. Her writing career has been a bonus that she never expected.
Although Lewis began writing for personal pleasure at a young age, she did not seek to publish her work until her husband encouraged her after their children reached school age. Her first published magazine article was in April 1989. She did freelance magazine work for the next few years until her daughter, then 12, said one day, “Why don’t you write a story for me?”
The result was Holly’s First Love, a young-adult novel published by Zondervan in 1993. It became the first of 14 books in the Holly’s Heart series, which is still being published today. Holly’s Heart was followed by her first adult novel, The Shunning.
The Shunning, based loosely on her grandmother’s life, tells the story of a young woman from the Amish community who marries a young Pentecostal preacher and leaves the Plain community. The Shunning was recently been turned into a made-for-TV movie, directed by Michael Landon Jr. It first aired on the Hallmark Channel on April 16, 2011, with outstanding ratings. The Shunning was the highest-rated cable movie for the day and the second-highest cable movie of the week with 2.9 million viewers.
The Shunning is the second movie based on one of her books. The first was Saving Sarah Cain.
Lewis’ prolific writing career has produced more than 60 books, many of which have become best sellers and garnered awards. Her books are often based on the Amish community. 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.”
Lewis sees her writing as a missionary effort and credits her education at Evangel with giving her the spiritual grounding necessary to recognize the Lord’s leading in her career. “Evangel allowed me to continue the spiritual heritage I had been raised with,” she says. “I learned how to be sensitive to the Spirit’s voice and maintain a tender heart to the world and how I make decisions about my life.”
Lewis initially chose Evangel for the same reason that most students choose Evangel today: the stellar academic reputation and the spiritual values for which the college is known. She majored in Music Education with a minor in English. “The Music Department was top-notch and it was accredited” she says. “The spiritual values were preeminent.” Her greatest memories as a student involved Chapel. “I remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and not wanting to leave those services,” she says.
Even though it’s been almost 40 years, Lewis identifies with students who may be reluctant to attend a private college like Evangel because of the cost. It seemed it would a financial impossibility for her as well. “We were dirt poor, pioneers for Christ. My parents gave up everything, and I remember often living off of donated groceries. But I applied to Evangel and applied for a lot of scholarships. I got grants and did work-study jobs.”
Lewis found when God called her to Evangel, He made a way. Just like He does for students today.