Author Talk: September 2012
Beverly Lewis' new novel, THE BRIDESMAID, is the sequel to her April 2012 release, THE FIDDLER. In this interview, Lewis explains why she decided to revisit the setting of Hickory Hollow, comments on the reaction of readers to the stand-alone aspect of her latest series, and talks about some of the characters in her novel, including her heroine, Joanna Kurtz, whose secret writing life is very similar to her own.
Question: You have been writing books about the Amish for years. What has been your inspiration?
Beverly Lewis: When I was a young girl, I enjoyed sitting at the long trestle tables of my parents’ Amish friends who called themselves “seekers.” My father, who was a pastor and Greek scholar of the New Testament, was often sought out by these Amish families. I adored witnessing firsthand their domestic arts, as well as how they observed their tradition of faith in such a unique way --- by truly separating themselves from the “world.” My own family heritage has its generational roots in the “Plain” culture --- my maternal grandparents grew up in the Old Order Mennonite community in Paradise, PA. My grandmother was excommunicated and eventually shunned for her choice to marry a ministerial student instead of a farmer, and my first adult novel, THE SHUNNING, was loosely based on her heart-breaking experience.
Q: Speaking of THE SHUNNING, your fans are very excited about your return to Hickory Hollow --- the setting that started it all. What made you come back “home” to Hickory Hollow?
BL: I’ve happily considered revisiting this setting for several years now. I take pleasure in the fact that I can drive straight into this fictional setting, smack dab in Lancaster County Amish country --- just southeast of Bird-in-Hand. It’s as real to me as it is to my readers.
Q: I’m sure it’s especially real with the musical The Confession currently being staged in Lancaster County! What an amazing legacy. Have you ever considered revisiting characters of a previous book, as you’re currently revisiting this beloved setting?
BL: Yes, I admit to having thought of it, because I sometimes really miss my former characters --- I get curious about what they’re up to. I just know they’re moving forward with their lives….
Q: Have you gotten a positive response about the stand-alone aspect of the Home to Hickory Hollow novels, which is a bit of a departure from tradition?
BL: Oh, yes! So many readers are telling me how much they love the aspect of an independent read this time around. The three books in this series can be read in any order, which means no more waiting through cliffhanger endings for the continuing family saga!
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the characters in THE BRIDESMAID, particularly the heroine, Joanna?
BL: Joanna Kurtz’s secret writing life is very similar to my own, at least early on. In fact, she is the most like me of all my story characters to date! The difference is that Joanna is Amish and still very single, having been a bridesmaid more times than tradition allows. She hopes to be published someday, too --- unheard of in Hickory Hollow. So, what’s a born writer to do? I also loved reprising Hickory Hollow’s Wise Woman’s role with Ella Mae Zook, who offers some startling advice to Joanna, setting in motion more than a few twists and turns…and a bit of calamity, too! After all, when two people are this much in love and believe God has a plan for their lives --- together --- sometimes they just have to move heaven and earth!
Q: Joanna and Eben’s relationship is long-distance, which must be a much more significant barrier for Amish couples than it is for their Englisher counterparts. How do they manage to communicate with each other without the modern conveniences of texting, Facebook, or email?
BL: Old-fashioned letter-writing is still very common. Some couples have to sneak away to use the community phone shanty in the middle of a neighboring cornfield, as is the case in THE BRIDESMAID, because a few bishops still frown on using the telephone for personal use. And, surprisingly enough, lots of Amish young people text, email, and use Facebook to keep in touch with each other prior to joining the church. Once they are baptized, however, all of that is supposed to cease.
Q: On the subject of modern communication methods, you have a huge Facebook following, as well as an active website. Do you find that odd --- using modern technology to connect with others to discuss the Amish?
BL: Not at all. What does strike me as odd are the Amish (some pre-baptism and others simply ignoring church rules) who post on my Facebook fan page occasionally, and who show up like clockwork when I do live chats.
Q: THE SHUNNING was made into a Hallmark Original Movie, and I understand that THE CONFESSION is in the works. When is it scheduled to premiere?
BL: The final version is ready to go, set to air on the Hallmark Movie Channel mid-May, 2013.
Q: What can we expect from you next?
BL: The third book in the Home to Hickory Hollow series, The Guardian, will be available on April 2, 2013.