We are excited to kick-off our new monthly feature with Ann H. Gabhart. The first time I heard of Ann was when our Women’s Book Club read Scent of Lilacs (Heart of Hollyhill #1) back in January 2007. We all fell in love with the book and her style of writing. We finished reading the entire series, Orchard of Hope #2, and Summer of Joy #3. You can visit detailed information on these books and even read the first chapter free by clicking on this link to Ann’s website.
In May of 2011 we read Angel Sister and one of our Book Club members and Media Center staff, Maylin, emailed Ann to see if she would be willing to do a conference call with us the morning we met to discuss her book. She agreed! We were all so excited and that was a fantastic meeting, some of us were too shy to talk to her, but she was so friendly, down-to-earth, funny and we were all very relaxed by the time we ended the call.
So naturally, Ann was the first author I thought of when we decided to start this monthly “Featured Author & Book Giveaway”. She remembered us and has graciously donated an autographed copy of her newly re-released book, Scent of Lilacs, for our giveaway.
Now, a little background about Ann:
Ann H. Gabhart has published over twenty novels for adults and children including her bestselling Shaker novels. A native Kentuckian, Ann lives on a farm in Central Kentucky. She’s married with three children and nine grandchildren. Scent of Lilacs, the first book in the Heart of Hollyhill series, was a Booklist Top Ten Book in Christian Fiction. The Outsider was a finalist for Christian Fiction Book of 2009. Angel Sister was a RT Book Reviews Magazine finalist for Inspirational Book of the Year. Visit Ann’s website, www.annhgabhart.com or share her writing adventures down on the farm on “One Writer’s Journal,” www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com. And now Jocie Brooke, the lovable character from Ann’s Hollyhill books has her own blog. www.hollyhillbookofthestrange.blogspot.com. You can also keep up with Ann on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AnnGabhart, or follow her on Twitter, user name AnnHGabhart.
Ann’s latest book, Small Town Girl, is Book 2 in the Rosey Corner series and will be released on July 1, 2013. Book 1 is Angel Sister. I just re-read the book to refresh my mind and get ready to read the sequel. I do believe the book got better sitting on the shelf these past two years! I just love it and now can’t wait to read Small Town Girl. You can read more about these books and read the first chapter by clicking on this link to Ann’s website.
Let’s talk with Ann about Angel Sister and the sequel and get to know her better in this interview:
1. When did you start writing? And how many books have you written so far?
I started writing when I was about 10 years old and started reading Hardy Boy mysteries. I so wanted to be like them and solve a mystery. Not much mysterious ever happened out on the farm where I grew up, so I decided to make up my own mystery starring my sister, my cousin, and me. Of course, the character I pretended to be was the one who figured everything out. She also was very cute and not a bit shy. That’s the great thing about writing. When you make things up, you can change things around however you like. That was how I got to be the girl I wished I was instead of the one I actually was – a painfully shy farm girl.
As to how many books I’ve written – this is a question I get asked all the time. I never have an answer. I don’t know how many books I’ve written. Some of my stories never made it out to the store shelves and are still stuck on my “not published yet” shelf. I have published twenty-four books. Two were historical romances in the general market back in 1978 and 1980. Then I published eleven young adult and middle reader books in the general market. Now I’ve published ten inspirational fiction books and one nonfiction inspirational title.You can see the complete list of titles on my website on this link, http://annhgabhart.com/books.html. Two more books are scheduled for release this year. Small Town Girl will be out in July, and Christmas at Harmony Hill will be available in September. I love writing for the Christian market and feel blessed the Lord has let me share so many of my stories with readers who like a good story and want to know about the characters’ faith journeys as they travel down the story road.
2. What inspired you to write Angel Sister?
A few years ago, I was having a hard time getting my books published. In the midst of this discouragement, I decided to not worry about markets and write the story I wanted to write. So I went back to what I knew best, small towns and country churches. That story, the first book in my Heart of Hollyhill series, Scent of Lilacs, has just been re-released. Orchard of Hope and Summer of Joy will follow in the next few months. After I had finished that series, I was casting about for new ideas. I’d used my growing up years as background and setting for my Hollyhill books. So I decided to look to my mother’s growing up years as the background for a story. Mom and her sisters were always telling stories and laughing about when they were kids during the Great Depression years in the the 1930s. While my characters and events in Angel Sister are completely fictional, I mined their stories not only for ideas, but also for inspiration. They were so happy in spite of the hard times and some family hard times too. I borrowed their background and let their stories echo throughout the book. Their dad was a blacksmith and served in WW I. My dad in the book is a blacksmith and served in WW I. There were four sisters in their family. There are four sisters – sort of – in my fictional Merritt family. Mom’s parents loved reading and books. My characters in the book do too. Mom and her sisters were always talking about the odd characters in their community. I picked two of them, created reasons for their oddities and dropped them into my story. Mostly I tried to carry over the underlying feeling of family love and perseverance through hard times that I heard in my mom’s stories to my fictional family’s story in Angel Sister.
Because, in many ways, I walked back through Mom’s childhood in order to write the book, Angel Sister became a book of my heart. I felt very close to Mom while I was turning her background into fiction. At the same time she was beginning down the dementia road and so in ways, it was a bittersweet thing to see “her” book come out after she no longer was really able to enjoy the story.
3. Who was your favorite character(s)? It would be hard for me to pick just one.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite character in any of my books too because I have to get under all their skins. Of course there are definitely some characters I wouldn’t pick to move in next door to me, but it’s good for a writer to try to turn a sympathetic eye toward even her unsavory characters while she’s putting them into a story. I’d have to say that in Angel Sister, Kate has to be one of my favorites since she’s the one with my mom’s spunky fix things attitude. She’s innocent and tough at the same time. Then Lorena captured my heart from her first appearance on the church house steps where she’s trying to cover up her dirty bare toes with her skirt tail. Last I fell in love with Victor, Kate’s father, as he struggled with his demons and yet wanted so much to be worthy of Nadine’s love.
4. What is the message in your book that you want your readers to grasp?
This is a question that I’m sometimes asked by the publishers before I’ve even finished writing the story. What is the “theme” of your story? Or describe the story in one or two sentences. That has to be one of the most difficult things I’m asked to do. The truth is I write the stories and let my characters guide me to whatever “theme” or “message” that shows up. In many of my stories, there’s an underlying need for forgiveness – either to give or to receive. I also like to stir in the truth that love matters and the love of God matters the most. That love can help families get through troubles turned out to be an important theme in Angel Sister.
What I hope is always a constant in my stories is 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.
5. When you wrote Angel Sister, it seemed like a stand-along book. Did you have plans to write a sequel then or did you come up with the idea for Small Town Girl later?
When I first approached the publishers with my book, Angel Sister, I had the idea of writing three books set in Rosey Corner. At the time, the publishers turned down book idea two and three, and contracted for Angel Sister as a stand-alone story. It is that. Even when I set my books in the same place and carry over characters from one book to the next, I intend for readers to be able to read each story without having to read the others to know what’s going on if that’s what the reader chooses. Naturally, as the author, I’m hoping the readers will want to follow up the characters and go on to the other stories.
At any rate, when Angel Sister came out it proved to be more popular with readers than the publishers had perhaps anticipated, and they asked if I would like to write a sequel. So I dusted off those old proposals and sent them in again. Once more they chose to only go with one more Rosey Corner story at that time. That book, Small Town Girl, will be released in July. Later, they did agree to contract for the third Rosey Corner story. I am currently in the process of writing that story now with a working title of Home to Rosey Corner. That title will probably be changed before publication.
6. What are you working on now and when will it be released?
Oops, I think I just answered that question with the question before this. But I am working on the third Rosey Corner books. I love my characters and community there. That book is tentatively scheduled for release in July 2014. If I get it written!
But before then I have several projects that will be out for readers. First up is Small Town Girl, my Rosey Corner follow-up book to Angel Sister. Five years have passed and my sisters are walking down romance pathways as World War II looms on the horizon. My Shaker Christmas novella, Christmas at Harmony Hill, is scheduled for release September 15 – on my birthday. What a great gift for me! In October, my second Heart of Hollyhill book, Orchard of Hope, will be re-released. I have been so excited to have the Hollyhill books back in print. They were such fun to write. Great characters who have readers smiling one minute and maybe wiping away a tear the next. To celebrate the Heart of Hollyhill books back on the market, Jocie, the young main character in the stories, is posting on a blog, the Hollyhill Book of the Strange, www.hollyhillbookofthestrange.blogspot.com, once a week. You can also come on down to the farm to see what’s going on in my life a couple of times a week on One Writer’s Journal www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com.
7. What author(s) do you enjoy reading?
I read all sorts of books by a wide range of authors. I’ve enjoyed Jan Karon’s Mitford Series and have been greatly complimented when a few reviewers have compared my Hollyhill books with them. Laura Frantz, an author friend, has written some great historical Christian novels. I just endorsed a novel, Burning Sky, by new Christian author, Lori Benton that is due to be released in August. A compelling first novel. I could go on and on. There are so many great authors writing now that it’s difficult to narrow down to just a few favorites, plus all the great classics. I love a good story with history or mystery and a dollop of romance.
8. What are you reading now?
I just finished True Colors by Kristin Hannah, a book my daughter gave me for Christmas. I admired how Hannah made her characters so real, but I do warn that it is a general market book and might have some scenes that would be upsetting to readers who prefer the gentler Christian market. Now, on top of my to read pile is Skip Rock Shallows a new book by another Christian author friend, Jan Watson. She writes wonderful Appalachian setting stories. Right below it is The Heart’s Frontier, a book co-written by Virginia Smith and Lori Copeland. I have so many books I want to read. If only I didn’t need to sleep!!
Thanks so much for letting me come visit you here to talk books. That is one of my very favorite things to do. May you all have many great stories in your future.
Ann, thank you so much for your kindness and willingness to join us in starting this new adventure. We love your books and will always be on the lookout for more books by you and we’ll keep you in our prayers…that God will continue to bless you with words to write!
Now…for the giveaway!
The contest starts today, June 1, 2013 and ends on June 20, 2013.
- You must be 18 years or older and be a U.S. resident.
- Leave a comment in the comment section at the end of THIS post. One entry per person.
- We will randomly compile a list of everyone who made a comment and will draw a name. We will then notify you by email giving you further instructions to collect your free book. DO NOT include your personal mailing address in your comment for security reasons.
- If we do not hear back from you in 10 days, we will draw another winner.
- We promise that this will be a fair drawing, and if this monthly book giveaway becomes a very popular post, then we will have to look into some of the different programs available to generate our winners. But until then we will do it the old fashioned way and since our pastor and/or youth pastor will be the one drawing the winner, you can be sure it will be fair!
- If you win the book it would be really great if you could come back to this post after you have read it and tell us what you thought about the book.
Next Month – July 2013 – our Featured Author will be Colleen Coble and we will give away one of her books.