ABOUT AUTHOR: Ann H. Gabhart caught the writing bug at the age of ten and has been writing ever since. She's published over twenty-five books for both adults and young adults. Scent of Lilacs, her first inspirational novel, was chosen as a Top Ten Christian Fiction Book by Booklist magazine. Her first Shaker book, The Outsider, was a finalist for ECPA Christian Fiction Book of the Year and was a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine. Ann writes about Kentucky history and small town life.
Ann lives on a farm in Kentucky not far from where she was born. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren. Ann loves hiking on her farm with her grandkids and her dog, Oscar. See more about her books at www.annhgabhart.com
How did you come up with the idea for The Innocent?
That’s a question I’m often asked when I give talks about writing and I know other authors are asked the same. It’s a question I like to hear answered too. The perpetual mystery of where do you get ideas. But sometimes it’s a hard question to answer since seeds for ideas can drift on the winds of life, making it hard to exactly pin down the origin of a story idea. On top of that, some of those idea seeds dig down in your imagination and take a long time to germinate. Other ideas burst up and flower out almost instantaneously.
But as it turns out, I do know how I came up with the initial idea for The Innocent. When I was first published in the general market in the 1970’s and 80’s, I wrote a book about the Shakers that did not find a publisher. Many years later, I rewrote that book, The Outsider, for the Christian market. When The Outsider found enthusiastic readers among those who loved Amish fiction, my publishers asked me to write more Shaker books. Not something I had planned to do, but I’d never had a publisher ask me to write anything. So I agreed to write more Shaker books and ended up writing five, in fact.
Each time a new Shaker book was published, my son-in-law, who has never read any of my Shaker books, kept telling me I should write a Shaker mystery. He claimed he might read that. LOL. And then he would come up with how I might do that. Have one of the characters be a sheriff, he suggested. So when I did decide to write that seventh Shaker book, I thought why not. A sheriff and a Shaker sounded like an interesting combo of characters with enticing possibilities, perhaps with a bit of mystery mixed in. One idea led to another and another until I had written that story of a sheriff and a Shaker. Now readers can judge for themselves if my son-in-law gave me a good idea for The Innocent.
I’ve heard authors say that their characters came alive and took them places they didn’t expect to go? Did this happen in this story? If not, has it happened to you before? Do tell!
I’ve written a lot of books–The Innocent is my twenty-eighth published book–and I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where that creative magic didn’t happen in a story. Often an unexpected character shows up out of nowhere to walk into a scene. Sometimes a character finds a different path to take than whichever one I was trying to push him or her down.
In The Innocent that unexpected character with a bigger role in the story than I might have expected was a dog. I knew Carlyn was going to have a dog when I began planning her character, but I didn’t know Asher was going to be such a remarkable dog and have so much to do with the eventual outcome. But Asher appeared on the first page and displayed his canine courage and loyalty throughout the story. So much so, that when my agent read The Innocent, she actually asked how I would like it if the most memorable character I created in any of my books turned out to be a dog? Needless to say, she liked Asher.
But I’ve had other characters come on the scene and steal the show at times. I think of Wes in my Heart of Hollyhill series with his zany stories of being from Jupiter. He was another character who seemed to drop out of the sky into my story. Literally, to hear him tell it, since he says he fell out of that Jupiter spaceship! And then I did plan for Aunt Hattie in my Rosey Corner books, but I had no idea she would look up toward heaven and say those wonderful prayers throughout the books. So many great characters over the years who have nudged my imagination and fed their stories through my fingers onto the computer screen and finally into a book.
What are you very thankful for in your life that others might view as silly?
At our church, we often mention that we’re thankful for everyday blessings. Not sure about silly, but I do have an abundance of the ordinary life blessings. One that comes to mind are all the dogs that have blessed my life. Some might think it’s silly to be thankful for dogs, but I know many of you pet lovers won’t think that’s silly at all and you’re right. Dogs and other pets enrich our lives.
I got the dog hunger when I was about seven or more likely I was born with that hunger. I wanted a dog. My very own dog. I finally got a shepherd mix pup when I was nine or ten. And I’ve had at least one dog in my life ever since. Sometimes as many as three. I’m down to one dog again now. A very good dog even if he has some odd quirks. I keep saying I’m going to do a blog post about my Odd Dog, Oscar, but it hasn’t happened yet. But I have been very thankful for each of those furry friends over the years. They’ve given me incentive to walk. They have made me smile and laugh and cry when I had to tell them that final goodbye. These days I get to enjoy my children’s dogs too. They are grand dogs and fun to get to know.
Then again, on second thought maybe I do have a silly reason for thankfulness. I am thankful for air conditioning. Not for the reason you might think. But because now I can drink hot tea all summer long since my husband’s cool point on the thermostat is somewhat below my own.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you are working on now? When will it be out?
Of course. Sneak peeks are always fun. Actually, I’m working on a series of books so different from what my readers expect from me that my publishers have tweaked my author name on the books to A.H. Gabhart. When I was a kid dreaming of being a writer and thinking up pen names, I never considered initials. Of course, I never considered my own boring name Ann either. But my editor, agent and I decided the initials would work for my new series, the Hidden Spring Mysteries. I’ve always loved to read mysteries, so why not write one?
These are contemporary, cozy mysteries set in the small town of Hidden Springs with the main character the deputy sheriff, Michael Keane. That’s a little different from most cozy mysteries since this type of book doesn’t generally star a law enforcement officer, but that’s me. Always a little bit off center. But I do hope readers will like visiting Hidden Springs where mystery surprises the townspeople each time it shows up. When a body is found on the courthouse steps, events are set in motion that make Michael face some difficult truths about the little town he loves.
The first novel in the series is Murder at the Courthouse and is scheduled for an October 2015 release. The second in the series that combines cozy with suspense will be out in July 2016. It’s just gotten its official title. Murder Comes by Mail. I am hard at work on the third mystery that is tentatively scheduled for early 2017. Don’t even have a working title for it as yet. All the books will be published by Revell Books.
Can you tell me of two “Wow” moments you’ve had in your writing career? What made it a wow for you?
The first “wow” moment is easy to come up with because it just happened this spring. My Rosey Corner book, Love Comes Home, was a finalist for the Selah Historical Romance Book of 2015. The Selah Awards are given out at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in North Carolina every year. I’ve never been to the conference but I’ve always thought it sounded as if it would a lovely place to go meet with other writers for a while and hone your craft. So when I got the news that I was a finalist, I checked out Ridgecrest where the conference is held. Turned out to be a beautiful place within driving distance and I could just show up for the dinner. The trip became even more inviting due to Ridgecrest being not all that far from my daughter’s house in South Carolina. So I could add a visit to her to the trip.
Anyway, everything seemed to be pointing to this being a great chance for a little R and R with my husband. I did not go expecting to win even my category. I did go planning to applaud whoever did win. Then when Eva Marie Everson announced the Historical Romance winner, lo and behold it was Love Comes Home. I was very pleased. I’ve had books that have been finalists for awards a few times but have never won any of them.
Then, it came time to announce the Selah Book of the Year Award. Eva Marie began talking about the winning book. She said the book had gotten a perfect score from the judges and that they said the book left them changed. About here, I think she’s talking about a book in the Bible Study category. You could have knocked me off my chair with a feather when she announced Love Comes Home as the 2015 Selah Book of the Year. “Wow” was an understatement right then.
The other “wow” moment is a little different. I have been writing for many years. My first book was published in 1978 in the general market. Over my long career, I’ve had two long dry spells where what I was writing wasn’t selling. The last time was in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Nearly a decade passed without any of my work being published. I was still writing, just not writing what the market wanted. So I decided to write one more book without worrying about markets or sales. I’d write about what I knew best. Small towns and country churches. And while I wrote it, I would often imagine singing that old spiritual “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”
That book, my last ditch effort to write a story to find readers, was Scent of Lilacs. It was definitely a “wow” moment when I got the news Revell Books wanted to publish it. More “wow” moments followed with a contract for two additional Hollyhill books and now almost 700 Amazon reviews for Scent of Lilacs, the large majority of them positive. The Lord sometimes gifts us with those “wow” moments when we’re the most discouraged.
How did you first learn about the Shakers? What made you want to write about them?
My first two published books were historical romances published in the general market and they both had a Kentucky background. The first was set in pioneer Kentucky and the second during the Civil War era. So when I was looking around for another Kentucky historical period to use as a background for a story, I came across accounts of the Shakers in Kentucky.
At the same time, the Shaker village near me had recently been bought by a private group of people who worked to preserve the village and showcase the role Shakers played in our state. www.shakervillageky.org So with this wonderful living history museum open to the public at the Pleasant Hill Shaker village not far from where I live, I decided to research and write a book about the Shakers. That book didn’t suit market needs at the time, but as I said above, many years later I rewrote the story and it was published as The Outsider.
Generally, my characters question the Shaker way and in the process they must examine their own beliefs. That makes their faith in the Lord stronger. While I never planned to write but one Shaker book, I have enjoyed making return visits to my fictional Harmony Hill Shaker Village with new characters as I did with Carlyn and Mitchell in The Innocent to see what might happen next.
One of the biggest challenges is completely stepping back in time with atmosphere, language and events. You have to be careful not to use expressions and words that weren’t in use during whatever era you choose for your book. There are so many little things that can sneak into a story that to an author seems to have been around forever, but perhaps not. In one of my Hollyhill books, I mention that one of my characters had read a John MacDonald mystery. I was fortunate to have a sharp-eyed editor who noted that those books hadn’t been published at the time in my book. So I changed it to a different mystery writer. That’s just a small example of how easy it is to go wrong.
But the more important challenge is simply the tone of the book. Each story has its own setting, its own atmosphere. That comes from the characters and the events in the book, but also from the background. One way I try to get “in character” with my people is by reading diaries or journals from the time period of my book. It’s my hope that will help me not be too modern in tone. That’s something that is true with different historical books as well. My Shaker books have a different tone than my Rosey Corner books. Or at least I intend for them to.
What is your favorite type of music? Why is it your favorite?
Since my husband sang in various Southern Gospel Quartets for around forty years, I guess I better say Southern Gospel. I did enjoy going with him and his groups to churches all around this area to hear their concerts. My husband has a great bass voice. But the truth is, I’m not very musically inclined. It’s the words of the songs that reach out and touch me rather than the tune. One of my all-time favorite songs is “The Rose” sung by Bette Midler. That’s because of the image in that song of the rose under the snow waiting to flower again in the spring. I like many of the old hymns for the same reason. The moving images their words make come alive in my mind.
Do you have a favorite board game you liked playing as a kid? If so, what was it?
|Something I'm Thankful for|
Out of all the Superhero movies out is there one you like most? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite Superhero movie. Not much of a moviegoer and don’t watch much television either. If I have free time, I’d rather bury my nose in a book. However, not long ago we took my fifteen-year-old grandson to see The Avengers movie. That was fun because of how much he enjoyed it and how he keeps trying to get me up to date on which Superhero is which. It seems there are a lot of them out there.
Out of all the high tech gadgets out today; Name three that have really impacted your life? How has it impacted you?
The other one is definitely my iPhone. I have the internet in my pocket and the ability to call up people almost anywhere. But one of the things I like most about the phone in my pocket is the ability to take photos of anything and everything to share with my friends on Facebook and on my blog. I’m always taking pictures of things I spot on my daily walks and then posting them. It’s like taking all my friends along with me on those walks. Recently, I spotted a little yellow flower while walking and posted a picture of it. Then every day for thirty days, I discovered a different yellow flower to share before I couldn’t locate that thirty-first flower. That would have been something I could have never done with the old fashioned film cameras. Sharing is simply easier with phones.
What was the best advice your parents or someone special to you gave?
“Just keep hoeing and eventually you’ll get to the end of the row.” You see, I grew up on a farm in Kentucky. Our money crop was tobacco. My father had three daughters, no sons. So those daughters had to help in the fields and one of the worst jobs ever, in my young mind, was hoeing out the rows of tobacco. We had one field where the rows looked five miles long. At least. They were probably actually only a half mile long. LOL. But when you started at one end you weren’t sure you might not expire before you reached the other end. Then, even when that didn’t happen and you were still on your feet at the end of that row, you just had to turn around and start hoeing up another row back toward where the water jug was stashed in the shade under the truck. But my mother told me to keep hoeing, one plant after another. That was good advice that I’ve been able to use in many of the things I’ve done since. Tackle the job one step at a time. It even works when I’m in the middle of a book and the story seems to be lagging. “Just keep putting down one word after another and eventually you’ll get to the end of the story.” You can’t edit and fix what hasn’t been written.
Fondest childhood memory? Funniest childhood memory? (It may not have been captured on film for the America’s Funniest home video’s but you wish it had been)
Hands down, someone dropping a black Cocker Spaniel at our farm while I was in the midst of my extreme case of dog hunger. My father wouldn’t let me keep Inky. Of course, I named him as soon as I saw him. But my aunt who lived about a mile over the hill and was like a grandmother to my sisters and me took the dog in. All that summer, I walked over to her house every day and loved on that dog. I’d sit on the front porch and Inky would jump up on the bench beside me and lay his head in my lap. He was the sweetest dog ever. But not many weeks went by until we found out why such a precious dog had been dropped. My aunt and I came home one day from town to find dead hens everywhere in the yard. Inky was hiding in the woodshed, but it was evident he was the culprit. My aunt tied him to the clothesline and found somebody who didn’t have chickens to take him. I was a farm girl so I understood, but that didn’t keep me from being in mourning. Not long after that a friend of my father’s brought me that pup I mentioned earlier and another fond memory began to ease the sorrow of losing Inky.
I’ve tried to think of a funny memory but I must have been a humorless child. However, you might think our enjoyment of playing the game “My bird’s a pretty bird” might qualify. In that game, my sisters, cousins and I sat in a circle around a bucket of water. The person who was “it” had a thimble and filled it with water. Then he or she chanted the line “My bird’s a pretty bird. What color’s yours?” Each person in the circle guessed a color. If you were right, you got the thimbleful of water in the face and got to be “it” next. What can I say? We were easy to entertain back in those days. LOL.
ANN, ANY FINAL COMMENTS FOR READERS.
I’m so happy to be here once more, visiting the wonderful readers at The Book Club Network. It’s fun reading your comments and trust me, I do very much appreciate you reading my books. You know, it takes two to make a story truly come to life–the writer and the reader. Hope you all have a wonderful summer with plenty of time for relaxation and reading.
Looking forward to it to reading the participation between you and readers! It’s always so much fun! Everyone has to be a member of TBCN in order to participate. It’s Free and easy. Participate as your schedule allows.
SEE YOU THERE!!
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Interview Sponsored by: Revell Publishers
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com
Interview Sponsored by: Revell Publishers