Tomorrow I will post my review of the book of Words Spoken True, which is excellent, enter the raffle for a chance to win a free copy to be signed by the author!
Ann H. Gabhart Interview
Why don’t you tell us first when and why you started writing?
I picked up pen and notebook when I was ten years old and began writing a mystery something like the Hardy Boy mysteries that I loved to read at that time, but this one starred me and my sister and cousin. I’ve been writing ever since. I think I must have been born already infected with the writing bug.
I love telling stories, but when I was younger, I would have been much too shy to tell any of those stories out loud. Besides, I love the written word. There is just something about the magic of words in a book that can change into images inside our heads that let us live the story as we read.
You have written books from a lot of different points in history, where do you find the ideas for these books come from? Do you have any favorites of all the books you have written?
Ideas are all around us every day in what we see, in what we read, in the news, in every aspect of our lives and thoughts. Why one idea pops up brighter than the others is something of a mystery. Perhaps, it’s not something we need to understand. Just something we can embrace and appreciate. I have written a lot of different kinds of books from historical romances to family stories and small town stories. I’ve written contemporary books for young people too. Each idea, each book has its own needs. Will this one focus more on romance or history? Will that one stay with one main character or follow several viewpoint characters? Each story has its own answers.
Sometimes the germ on my idea is a historical event. Sometimes it’s a character who comes to life in my imagination. Sometimes it’s something I have personally experienced or stories I’ve been told by friends and family. Words Spoken True came from me stumbling across the historical account of the election riots of 1855 in Louisville. That got me curious about an event in history I knew nothing about and so I did more research and decided on my newspaper background. The germ of the idea for Angel Sister was my mother’s background and all the stories she and her sisters told about growing up during the Great Depression.
It’s as hard to pick a favorite book as it is a favorite child. Each of my books is a favorite in some way. The Shaker books have been so well received by readers. Words Spoken True has all that great romance. And of course, Angel Sister is a book of my heart since it has so much of my mother’s heart echoing through it because of how I based the background on her memories. And I love my characters in the Hollyhill series.
How much do you research for your books, do you travel or mainly read or both?
I mainly read history books and journals to research. But traveling sounds fun. Maybe I should write a book about Hawaii. I have visited the Shaker village near me to try to make the setting of my fictional Shaker village realistic. However, I did most of my research for those novels in history books too. The library is my biggest resource and sometimes now I go on-line to try to find books that might help open up new insights into whatever era I’m researching.
Each book requires different amounts of research. Even contemporary books can require research into a lot of different areas. I do a lot of research, but sometimes when I have a big subject the way I did with The Seeker and its Civil War background, I have to say “Stop!” I couldn’t possibly read everything written about the War Between the States. So I try to focus in on what I need to know the most and research those areas. Then I have to write my story.
Can you share what you are currently writing?
I’m currently working on a sequel to my novel, Angel Sister. At this time is has a working title of Far from Rosey Corner, but I expect that to change. I’m following up the characters as WW II looms on the horizon and love begins to find the Merritt sisters.
What do you find that people know least about you?
I’m pretty much an open book. Not much secret about me. I like to talk to people whether in person or on-line. So most people who are interested can check out my website or Facebook page or blog to find out I’m just a country girl who loves to write. I attend a little church that is 200 years old but struggles to get 50 people to show up on Sunday. I enjoy the small church, but we could easily be a church twice our attendance and stay well within the small church range.
Let’s see. I grew up on a farm and still live on a farm now. I have three adult children and three in-law children. We have nine grandkids who are, of course, beautiful and very smart. Just ask their grandmother!! I got the dog hunger when I was a kid and I have never been without a dog of my own since. I now have two dogs, one a lab mix and another a “who knows” mix. Four neighbor dogs come over and go for walks with me so that I sometimes feel like the Pied Piper of dogs. I haven’t bought a loaf of bread for years because I make sourdough bread every week. I love wildflowers and strawberries fresh from the vine. Now you probably know more than you ever wanted to know about me.
What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
The biggest challenge for me is often finding the necessary time for getting the story out of my head down on paper or computer screen. The story seems to need to grow inside my head and trickle out bit by bit. Sometimes I think of it as a spring-fed well where the water seeps in slowly and I dip out each idea and word to tell my story. Then I have to let the well fill again. So the hardest part is simply telling the story I want to tell. But then the hardest part is also the best part – spilling out the story and having my characters leap to life in my mind.
Where do you come up with themes and characters for your books?
Most of my books start with a character and a “what if” idea. The theme seems to develop as I write. I rarely set out to write a book about forgiveness or new beginnings or whatever. I want to write about people and life. The themes are a natural part of a person’s or character’s journey.
Some characters are formed as though I’m shaping them with imaginary modeling clay. A bit of this, some blue for eyes, red for temper, each part added as I think about who the person is. Other characters are a gift. They just pop up in my imagination ready to tell their stories or to add to the story I’m trying to tell. Over the years, I have come up with a lot of different characters. It’s my goal to make each of them unique even as each person is unique.
Is there an overarching message you want readers to get from your books?
Encouragement. I think we all need to be encouraged and lifted up. When readers read my books and see how my characters overcome problems with the help of the Lord, then I can hope they will be encouraged to trust the Lord to help them in their daily problems too.
How do you develop the setting for your story?
Settings vary from book to book. Most of my books have a Kentucky setting because that’s what I know. I know about the weather in Kentucky. I know about the landscape. I’m familiar with the people here. I’ve read Kentucky history. So once I decide on my story idea, then I begin to think about what things look like. In the Hollyhill books, I went back into my own memories of what my small town looked like in the 1960s. In Angel Sister, I did the same only using my mother’s memories of her little community in the 1930s. For the Shaker books, I used the physical setting of the nearby Shaker village of Pleasant Hill. For Words Spoken True, I researched newspapers of the time of my story and pulled in other settings from my imagination. For me, the story and the characters come first. The setting slides in after that.
When the reader closes the last page of one of your novels, what do you hope they walk away with?
I want my readers to be glad they read my story and came to know my characters. I want them to have been entertained while perhaps learning something new. I hope my stories can be an encouragement in some way to every reader. Perhaps by vicariously sharing the challenges my characters faced, my readers can face their own challenges with more hope.
Thanks for inviting me over, Lisa. I’ve enjoyed the visit. Now if your readers would like to come visit me, they can find me at www.annhgabhart.com. I post a couple of times a week about writing and life out here on the farm on One Writer’s Journal, www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com. I have an author’s page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-H-Gabhart/132862247566 or Twitter (AnnHGabhart). I love hearing from readers.