ABOUT AUTHOR:  ANN H. GABHART, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or Jocie’s Heart of Hollyhill blog You can follow Ann on Facebook, , Twitter, , or Pinterest,   


Thrilled that you are here with us again - Take it Away Ann

Hello again!
Hi, everybody. It’s so much fun being back here talking to Nora and friends about my Heart of Hollyhill series. Summer of Joy, the third book in the series has just come back out to bookstores all dressed up in a brand new cover. Don’t you just love that little box record player and those 45 records? That cover takes you right back to the Sixties!
Ann's writing notebooks

A Writing Dream - First, let’s set the stage with a little writing history – my writing history. I’ve been writing since I was a kid and first fell in love with books. I wanted to write down my own stories. That was a big dream for a little country girl who had never met a writer and didn't know the first thing about writing. But I loved words and stories and so I got a notebook and pen and started. I did know that a writer had to write.

Sometimes the Lord watches over us and gives us the desires of our hearts. I sold my first story to a Sunday school leaflet in 1971 and then sold a few more stories to small magazines. Just enough to make me believe it was possible. Then I wrote my first novel and I forgot about writing short pieces. I was going to write books! Of course, the next step was writing a book that somebody besides my mother wanted to read.

Small town Main Street
Enter Jocie and Hollyhill  - At last, we come to Hollyhill. I decided I’d write one more novel. I wouldn't worry about editors or publishers or even readers. I’d write this book for myself and follow that basic writing advice to write what you know. Enter small towns and country churches.

I grew up out on a farm, but when we went to town it was to a one Main Street town lined with parking meters.

Churches sat on each end of town and in between were a couple of banks, two ten-cent stores, a hardware store, a grocery where the storekeeper let you trade farm eggs for groceries, three dress shops, a men’s clothing store, and a strip of poolrooms down on that end of the street where it was better for a little girl not to go. There was a barbershop, a newspaper office, two drugstores–one with a soda fountain, two grills, and towering above everything else the courthouse. But the most important building for me was up the side street across from the post office, the public library. Thank you, Andrew Carnegie!

Small Towns and Country Churches - I decided to set my story in my little town just the way I remembered it during the 1960’s. It was the kind of town where when you walked down the street you knew everybody you met. Then, in all small towns, plenty of eccentric characters are hanging around just waiting to be written into a story. I renamed the town Hollyhill and a good thing too. Heart of Lawrenceburg series just doesn’t have the same ring as Heart of Hollyhill series. I took the flavor of the little town I remembered and came up with characters that belonged on my Main Street. Even Wes from Jupiter fits right in the Hollyhill stories.

1962 Goshen Church 150 Celebration
My first character was a young girl named Jocie whose father, another main character, is a preacher. So it was time to go to church. My church. The church my husband and I got married in. The church we still attend. A little country church that is over two hundred years old. I know that church. I remember how it was in the Sixties when there was no air-conditioning or padded pews and church mice sometimes ran out of the piano in the middle of services.

The members were like family. Many of them were actually kin to one another, and sometimes there was a squabble in spite of the way they all loved each other and the Lord. That’s the kind of church I let David pastor. He’s a bi-vocational preacher as most of the men who led the small churches in my county were in the Sixties. So I gave him the added job of newspaper editor.
Goshen Church today
Hometown News - I grew up reading our little hometown newspaper. It came out once a week and had all the community news of who visited whom. If you tripped over your roller skates and ended up with a broken leg, you’d make the paper. On the inside pages, you could find every elementary school’s 4-H Club Meeting minutes and see photos of hometown girls and boys on the honor roll at college. A fender bender on Main Street was major news. And when you read a wedding or baby announcement, you knew the whole family back to both sets of grandparents. You were glad the headline story was who had been chosen Miss Dairy Princess because that meant nothing bad had happened in your town that week.

That’s the kind of paper theHollyhill Banner is except a few storms come along to push the Dairy Princess off the front page in my Hollyhill stories. There’s a feature in our local paper called “The Way We Were.” That’s how I tried to make Hollyhill–the way it might have been in the Sixties.
Courthouse in my hometown

My Small Town in 2014 - Things have changed in my little town. When Walmart opened out on the bypass, downtown started dying. The mom and pop stores couldn't compete. Now the only business still open from when I was a kid is a dress shop whose long-time owners keep decorating their shop windows with fashionable outfits, but it’s surrounded by empty storefronts. There’s no place to sell your eggs or fill your prescriptions on Main. The last drugstore sold out to one of the big chains last year. Where else, but out on the bypass. Even the hometown newspaper moved its offices out on the bypass.

The courthouse is still there and so are the churches. The library built a new modern building, but they stayed on Main down the street from where the post office used to be. Right, the post office built a big new building out close to the bypass.

New Library
Nobody has to come up with a nickel to park downtown anymore. The parking meters are gone. Saturday afternoons see empty streets now instead of neighbors talking to neighbors. The eccentric characters have passed into legend. The only time the streets are crowded these days is during the annual Burgoo Festival. But the little hometown I remember from the Sixties lives on in my Heart of Hollyhill books.

Heart of Hollyhill Series - Summer of Joy is the third Hollyhill books. The first, Scent of Lilacs, got the story going in the humid summer of 1964, as Jocie digs into her family’s past and stirs up a whirlwind of discoveries. Orchard of Hope ushered in a whole new story as the town suffers through a drought and wakes up to the need for Civil Rights when a new family moves to Holly County and challenges the status quo. Finally, Summer of Joy has the past coming to call with two people making their way to Hollyhill to change everything. From a river baptism to a wedding delayed by a man intent on making trouble, things are anything but uneventful in my little Hollyhill.

Old Library Bldg
It’s sometimes hard to keep writing new books about the same characters, but I got to know my Hollyhill people so well that I was able to keep going with their stories. And of course, I knew where they lived and worshiped. In Summer of Joy I wanted to wrap up some of the loose ends from the previous stories. While I was planning the story, I kept imagining people showing up unexpectedly to knock on Jocie’s door, bringing the past with them.

Each of the books can be read as stand-alone stories, but the story is much richer if the reader visits Hollyhill all three times to get to know Jocie and her family along with those odd small town characters.

Everything Changes - There’s a saying that everything changes. That’s certainly true about my hometown and about our little country church. We've remodeled the church and built a beautiful fellowship hall beside it. The pews are padded, the floors carpeted, and we've encouraged the mice to find a new place to live. But the church still has that family feel where everybody knows everybody.

Home to Hollyhill - That’s the kind of feeling I tried to create in my Heart of Hollyhill books for readers who come visit my Small Town, America. I like to think about them walking down my Main Street and seeing Jocie taking pictures. Maybe they’ll smile at Wes speeding by on his motorcycle or try to get Zella talking about the latest Hollyhill gossip. I want them to feel like they’ve gone to church with neighbors who aren’t perfect but are doing the best they can. I hope my Hollyhill stories will make them smile and maybe wipe away a tear now and again. And when they read the last page, I want them to be happy they came “home” to Hollyhill.

Thanks for letting me visit and tell you about my hometown.


THANKS Ann - I always love hearing from you. Thanks for telling us about how Hollyhill came about. It always fascinates me to hear how the author got their idea for a book. I've talked to you at Finding Hope Book Club meetings and was also amazed that you've lived in your home town most of your life. Thanks for sharing about that too. I'm THRILLED about the giveaway opportunity Revell Publishers at The Book Club Network going on right now.

Nora :o)


You are more than welcome to encourage Ann here on this blog post but to Enter the Drawing you must join TBCN It's free and Easy. Then CLICK on the LINK on the top of her Book Cover.


Nora :o)
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  1. You made your little town come to life with your words and pictures..I have seen some of those when I visit my sister there. Thanks for sharing all your memories with us. I look forward to reading this book...Hope things are going well with your MOM at the new nursing home.
    Paula O

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Paula. Glad you enjoyed the tour and that you recognized my little KY hometown. Mom is settling in. Things aren't great, but she doesn't seem as agitated there. So that's good.

  2. Hello my friend. I really enjoyed hearing this about developing Hollyhill. I grew up to12 in our little hometown of Kosse, TX. I loved it there. Most of that time we lived out in the country. it was a real treat when we got to go to town. I had lots of kinfolks living there. We only had one bank, one grocery store, one cafe, a post office, a great drugstore, where you could get a double dip ice cream cone for a nickel, and several other small stores. Not sure about a courthouse. Was a big place if we did. Think I would have remembered if there was. One country school, but then we moved to town and had a larger had all 12 grades in that building. As you said, everyone knew each other. I liked that. I thought that little town would dry up and blow away through the years, but it is still there. I still have relatives living there.Some years the school closed and the kids were bused to another town about 20 miles away.When we were in town kids could roam around everywhere. Such fun. No worries like now.Loved our small town out in the country too. We usually had a roaming preacher most times. Like every other Sunday, but we always had someone who could preach. I remember having dinner on the grounds as they used to say. Had tables outdoors and were covered with all kinds of good food. Also remember church outdoors in the summer because it was cooler. Night church we had lanterns hanging here and there. Loved it. When I was almost thirteen, daddy had to go to the Panhandle of Okla. and Texas., for work. I sure hated to leave my hometown, but at least we moved to another small town. Sorry, didn't mean to talk so long. I love your blog and stories. I plan to have these books someday. Just wish it was sooner than later. Glad your mother seems to be doing better in her new place. Thank GOD for that. And bless her sweet heart. bet she was a lovely lady, to raise a sweet lady like you. Love you Ann. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

    1. Thanks for stopping by Maxie and sharing your heart. Thanks for what you said Paula. Ann this series looks really good. After reading what you have said about small towns and your books. I'm looking forward to reading this series. YOU ARE A BLESSING!

    2. Maxie, I always enjoy reading about your life and growing up years. Such fun to stroll through your childhood hometown with you. I wouldn't mind having one of those nickel ice cream cones. You might get a spoonful for a nickel these days. :) Thank you so much for come over, reading about my town and sharing about yours. You're a sweetheart and maybe you'll be lucky in The Book Club Network giveaway today.