AUTHOR BIO: ANN H. GABHART’S first published works were personal experience pieces, youth stories, and poems in church periodicals, but then she wrote a novel and her course was set. That first novel turned out to be only practice and was never published, but over twenty of her books for both adults and young adults have been published since that time. In 2005, her first inspirational novel, The Scent of Lilacs, was released, and she set out on a new path of writing historical fiction where she could not only share her characters’ stories, but also weave in their faith journeys along their story trail. Ann has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. The Gifted is the fifth book set in her Shaker village of Harmony Hill.
Ann lives on a farm in Kentucky with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit her website, www.annhgabhart.com.
In your research for The Gifted, what surprised you? If nothing surprised you, what did you learn that you had to put in this book, series.
Shaker village I use as a model
for my Harmony Hill Shaker village
When I was beginning my journey down the Shaker book pathway and researching their history, a great many things surprised me about the Shakers. One of their most often quoted sayings is “Hands to work and hearts to God.” With a focus on that, they were kind, peaceful, and orderly people who believed they worshiped through their work and so wanted any task they did to be done with perfection. Their aim of gathering in villages and shutting away the world was to establish a heaven on earth.
At the same time their worship beliefs were very odd to me. One of the surprising things in my research was the accounts of visions. In their worship, the Believers often pantomimed pretend games such as picking exotic fruit from heaven and eating it. They thought historical figures such as George Washington appeared in spirit form at their meetings after having been won to the Shaker beliefs after death. Shaker history is full of accounts of odd visions or gifts such as one Shaker elders feeling that the spirit was compelling him to somersault from place to place instead of merely walking. I always wondered how so many could be carried away by that kind of hysteria.
In The Gifted, I liked showing the contrast of the Shaker village where they were attempting to shut out every superfluous thing from their daily lives to the Springs Hotel where the richer members of society gathered to revel in fancy dress and leisurely living. At the spa hotel, dances were held several times a week with the object being romance while only a few miles away the Shakers worshiped the Lord by dancing and singing songs such as “Tis a Gift to Be Simple.”
Jessamine Brady has a writing gift in your new book. Is there any part of you and how you feel about writing in this character?
Yes, indeed. While I never wanted to write fairytale stories of the type that Jessamine sometimes imagines, I did evermore want to write down stories. I do feel I have a gift for words and I’m thankful for that and for the blessing of readers who enjoy my stories.
Can you share some of your testimony with us?
I’ve always felt the presence of the Lord as long as I can remember, but I was too shy as a young person to make any spoken decisions for the Lord. I did often feel the tugs on my heart strings when preachers extended invitations to accept Christ, but I totally lacked the courage to step out into a church aisle to go forward in front of so many people. Three might have been too many at that time.
My family wasn’t an every Sunday in church kind of family. My father never went at all except to a homecoming type service at the church his family once attended. I do remember going to Sunday school as a young child, and then when I got my driver’s license I drove myself to church. I read through the Bible as a young teenager, but I lacked understanding of much of the gospel. Fast forward a few years to when I married a man whose family was at their church any time the doors were open. I liked that and was glad to make church attendance a big part of the life of my new family.
After my son was born, I determined that I would find the courage to stand up and declare my belief in the Lord. The Lord blessed me with that courage and helped me to find a place of service in his church. Now he’s led me into writing inspirational stories that I hope will be a blessing and an encouragement to any who read them. And I want to continue to grow as a Christian and let my light shine with as much brightness as the Lord gives me.
Which scene in The Gifted did you have the most fun writing? Why?
Shaker village I use as a model f
or my Harmony Hill Shaker village
The easy answer would be every scene, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? I did especially enjoy Jessamine’s innocence when she first stumbles across the wounded Tristan in the woods. I liked having her wonder about the feel of his face and whiskers. Then I really liked writing the journal as Sister Sophrena. I love journal writing.
Have you had anything surprise you through a book club meeting or book event? If so can you share it? If not, is there something you've wanted to experience at a book club meeting but haven’t yet? If so, please share what your hopes are.
I love talking to book clubs and it’s even better when the club is close enough for me to visit in person. I think what surprises me most when I’m sitting back listening to the book club members discuss my book is how they talk about my characters as though they are people they know. I was at a club once as they discussed my Shaker book, The Believer, and they kept talking about what Ethan was going to do after the story ended. I loved that my characters were that alive for them. It also surprises me when a reader sees motivation that I haven’t even considered for a character. Sometimes it’s almost as if they know my people better than me, or at least, are looking at them with a less prejudiced eye.
Occasionally a reader will suggest that this or that is going to happen with one of my characters that I know could never happen. An example is Wes, a grandfather type figure to my character, Jocie, in my Hollyhill books. There’s also Zella, a spinster secretary who is very set in her ways and contrary besides. It’s amazing how many people think those two should get together romantically. It could never happen!!
What was your most memorable reading group experience? What made it so special?
|Book Club gathering I attended|
|More fun at Book Club|
I've enjoyed several memorable experiences with reading groups. One group of about seventy readers amazed me with their enthusiasm for books. Another time, I talked to a Georgia group by phone while I was a guest author at the South Carolina Book Festival. I found a quiet nook by a big window to be sure I got good cell phone reception and where I could laugh and enjoy the time without drawing too many curious eyes. That group had such great questions about my characters that I wanted to take notes. Then there was the church book club where the hostess served all Shaker food from the bread to a Shaker lemon pie. She labeled all the dishes and we had a great time eating like the Shakers ate. Delicious.
|Love book Clubs|
Can you give us a peek into what you are working on right now and when it will be out?
A couple of weeks ago I finished a sequel to Angel Sister, my book that’s about a family during the Great Depression. Small Town Girl moves ahead a few years to let my sisters begin to find love while the storms of World War II are threatening on America’s horizon. Now I’m feeling around for ideas for a Shaker Christmas novel. Small Town Girl is tentatively scheduled for next summer and the Christmas novel around September 2013–if I find the story in time. Before that, my first Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs, will be repackaged and released in March 2013 with a great new cover.
Why write Christian Fiction? What’s the draw for you?
FUN QUESTIONS I JUST HAD TO ASK
You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?
I’m a Martha type, so I know I’d be out scrounging for food or gathering palm leaves to make softer beds. I’d be watching the children to be sure they didn’t wade out too far into the ocean. Things would need doing and I would think I had to be doing them. While I might wish I was the Mary type sitting quietly and praying for a boat to appear on the horizon, I know I’d be the busy Martha.
You've been given 48 hours to hang out with any two (alive or dead). Who would you pick and what would you do? (Besides Jesus)
That’s such a hard question. So many people from which to choose that it boggles the imagination. But I think I’ll choose from my personal life and pick my dad and his sister, a very beloved aunt. Now that I’m older and looking back at their lives, I can think of so many things I wish I had asked them. My dad and my aunt traveled across country from Kentucky to Oregon and then to Chicago to the World’s Fair in the 1930’s and while I didn’t know the questions to ask while they were still living, I do have questions now.
What three things would you rather not live without? (Besides friends and family)
Books – I love books and how they hold so much knowledge or adventure and emotion inside their covers.
Dogs – I got my first dog when I was about nine and I haven’t been without a dog since. I don’t plan to be either. Dogs are love on four feet.
Cars – I like to walk, but there are plenty of places I might not get to see without wheels and highways. My world would shrink and I know I wouldn’t get to see my two children, who live in other states, nearly as often as I do now. It would a lot harder to visit book clubs too if I didn’t have my old Chevy to get in and go.
A friend of yours has a time machine and they are going to let you use it. Where would you go and what would you do?
I think I’ll go back in time to when the first explorers were going west. I want to be with the first eastern explorer who happened to cross into what became Yellowstone Park so I can be surprised by one of those geysers exploding out of a hole in the ground. I’ll hope I’m standing back out of the way. Then I’m going to explore south to walk through the most amazing forests of giant sequoia trees. Maybe along the way I’ll pass through the Petrified Forest and look incredulously at trees that have turned to rock. Then I’ll float down the Colorado River right through the middle of the Grand Canyon. I can still see all those things today, but think of what wonder must have arisen inside a person who saw each of those places for the first time with no prior knowledge of what his or her eyes were going to behold.
When you were young is there a movie that really affected your life? If so what was it? If you didn’t watch movies what book stood out to you when you were young?
I only remember going to two movies when I was a kid. One, Gone with the Wind, I don’t really remember, but I do remember reading the book in one marathon reading weekend. The other movie was some kind of horror movie that my aunt ill-advisedly took her sons and us nieces to see. All I got out of that was a few nightmares. So I suppose I’d have to say the Hardy Boy mysteries most affected my life. At around the age of ten, I decided it would be fun to solve a mystery the way they did. Since mysterious adventures were unlikely in my rural area, I had to make one up. I’ve been making up stories ever since.
ANN, ANY FINAL COMMENTS YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH READERS?
|Yummy Book Club Treats|
I do appreciate every person who picks up one of my books and gives my stories a chance. I consider writing a partnership between the writer and the reader. It takes my imagination to get the story between the covers of a book, but it takes your imagination for that story to spring to life in your head as you read. Books have always been magic to me and so what could be more fun than belonging to a book club? Thank you so much for reading.
Thanks Ann for stopping by and giving us a peek into your new book. As always it’s fun to read your reader interaction at The Book Club Network. Thanks to Revell our sponsor for giving away 10 copies of your book starting July 19th – 21st. Ann will be talking to readers at that time @TBCN www.bookfun.org Mark your Calendars and be there for lots of book fun and author interaction.
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