Author Spotlight: Ann Gabhart

Suzanne Author Spotlight

Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Patti Lacy is Kristie! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)

This week is Ann Gabhart is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Ann’s latest book, Angel Sister, leave a comment on this post!

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids?

I’m a country girl. I was born in an old farmhouse that was built around a log cabin about a mile from where I live now. To say my roots go deep in this land might be an understatement. My father’s family have farmed this land for several generations. I married a man with a farming background and we still live on a farm. We have three children, all happily married, and nine beautiful grandkids. 

I like being country. And I like being a writer. While I know where the country part comes from, I have no idea how I got the writing bug. I can only think the Lord must have had some extra writing seeds on hand when I was born and decided to drop them in me. 

Share a bit about your writing – what you write. Why you write.

I started writing down stories when I was about ten years old and have been writing ever since. I’ve written lots of different types of stories. That first story long ago was a mystery fashioned along the lines of the Hardy Boy mysteries I enjoyed reading. Never finished that story. I guess I outgrew it. As a teen I wrote typical teenage angst stories nobody in their right mind would ever want to read. I broke into publication with personal experience pieces for Christian magazines. And then I began writing my second novel – you know, the one after that one where I was a Hardy boy mystery solver. I haven’t looked back since. I love coming up with characters who I can get to know and live with for months, even years as I write down their stories. I’ve had over twenty novels published in several different genres. I wrote for the general market for years before Revell Books published my first inspirational novel, The Scent of Lilacs, in 2005. I love writing for the inspirational market where I can tell the whole story – the one about whatever’s happening in my characters’ lives along with their faith journeys. Readers have enjoyed my Shaker books, but I don’t consider myself a “Shaker” writer. If I had to pick a label for my writing right now, it would be a “historical” writer. I enjoy discovering an interesting historical event or era and plopping my characters down in that time and seeing what happens. 

Why do I write? I write because I love to tell stories. I write because I love spilling out words on paper or the computer screen. I write because the Lord blessed me with the gift of words.

Tell us about your current release.

Angel Sister is a story about a family during the Great Depression years. Kate Merritt is fourteen and the middle sister in her family. The responsible sister. When the pressures of the economic times cause her father to turn to the bottle for relief and her mother begins to shut him away, Kate works to hold her family together. And then a little girl is abandoned on the church steps, and the Merritt family will never be the same. The story’s romance is between the parents. A flashback WW I story of how they fell in love is woven throughout the book as they try to hold onto that love in the face of the problems besetting them.

Where did you get the idea for this story?

My characters and events are completely fictional, but the seed of the idea came from the stories my mom and her sisters used to tell me about growing up during the Depression years. They were so happy in spite of the hard times and some family hard times too. I borrowed their background. 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 family. They had a number of odd characters in their community. I picked two of them, imagined 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. 

Was it hard taking the stories your mother told you and turning them into a fictional story?

It was harder than I thought it would be. When I wrote my first inspirational novel, The Scent of Lilacs, I used a lot of my memories from growing up in the Sixties for the background. That worked pretty well for me since it helped me find a loving editor for my book and I had so much fun writing about Jocie and her friends in my fictional Hollyhill, Kentucky. The setting, Main Street and the little country church, came straight from what I remembered things were like in my hometown in the Sixties. So I thought it would be a good idea to borrow another background that although I hadn’t experienced that era or place firsthand, I did know it through my mother’s stories of growing up during the 1930s. I also wanted to in some way tell my mother’s story, to show her wonderful spunky spirit.  So I came up with the idea for the story. I had the background, the skeleton of the story with my characters in place. But then the words didn’t want to come. I had to realize I wasn’t writing a memoir. I was writing fiction. While some of the story carries a few germs of truth from my mother’s stories, I had to make the characters mine and separate them from my memories of mom and her sisters. The story I told didn’t really happen. I just gathered my people and said what if we pretend it did. And then the Merritt family came to life and told me their story.

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite character in any of my books because I have to get under all their skins. Of course there are definitely some characters I wouldn’t pick as my best friends, but it’s good for a writer to try to turn a sympathetic eye even on her unsavory characters while she’s putting them into a story.  Of course in Angel Sister, Kate has to be a favorite 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 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 hang onto Nadine’s love.

What did you like the most about writing this book?

I definitely liked best getting to go back down memory lane with my mother. Her stories of growing up echoed in my head even while I was making up my own song to sing to her memory tune. I liked getting to know these characters and sharing their challenges and experiencing their victories.

What did you like the least?

There’s always a spot in every book where I wonder if my story is going to work. Angel Sister was no different.  I wondered if I was dragging my feet – or should that be fingers – on the plot. Would anybody like my people? Was Fern and her cedar palaces something anybody would believe? That middle sea of doubts shows up in every book and I have to do my best to sail through those doubts and finish the story. It’s only after I write “The End” that I can really decide if the story is the one I hoped to tell.

What do you wish you had known when you started writing that you know now?

I wish I had known that as much as I want to write, it’s not always going to be easy to find the right words. I wish I could have really believed that rejections were just signposts on the way to acceptances and not been so discouraged by them. I wish I had written a dozen more books.

Tell us how you’ve dealt with discouragement during your writing career?

Sometimes people ask me what’s the most important attribute for a writer and I always say perseverance or sometimes I just country it down and say plain old stubbornness. My stories have been rejected at times and I’ve been discouraged, but though I told myself over and over in my journal that I should give up, I never did. I always saw hope in the next story. So I never quit writing. The times I was most discouraged I used my journal as a place to vent and weep and somehow each time I got to the end of those journal entries, I was feeling a bit of hope rise out of the disappointments of the day. Tomorrow. Next year. Next book.

I love that Emily Dickinson poem/quote. “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.” Hope – that’s how I dealt with discouragement. Hopes that mirrored my prayers.

Tell us the most encouraging thing that has happened to you while writing a story.

I love it when characters show up out of nowhere. Suddenly they just appear on the stage of your story and make the plot thicken. The first time I remember that happening years ago I was writing a chapter book for young readers called Discovery at Coyote Point. The story seemed to be lagging, and then my character, a boy of twelve, got off the bus at his grandparents’ house and a girl climbed down off the bus behind him. Just what the story needed.  So now I am always encouraged when my subconscious pushes that unexpected character or idea out to the forefront of my brain so my story will be better.

Do you have a pet? If so, tell us about it.

I’m a dog lover. When I was about eight, I got the dog hunger and started begging for a dog. It took a while, but finally a family friend showed up with a Collie/Spitz mix pup that I named Ollie after the friend. He wasn’t as honored as I thought he would be. Ollie was my first dog and I’ve never been without a dog by my side since then. Right now I have three dogs. Coffee W. Crutcher is a registered Chocolate Lab given up by his owners because he was too rambunctious. We call him Dub for short. Oscar is a mostly black Lab who was dropped and given to us by the people who first took him in. He’s one of those very good dogs. Last I have a Heinz 57 dog called Lucy who definitely has some Beagle in her because she loves to hunt, but her legs are so short she can never catch anything.

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book. 

This is a story of my heart about a family who I hope will capture your heart. They love. They cry. They persevere.

What’s on the book horizon for you? 

The Blessed, my fourth Shaker novel, will be released this summer in July. Lacey Bishop is a character I came up with while planning my most recent Shaker book, The Seeker, but she so captured my imagination I didn’t want to waste her as a minor character in that book. So I let her tell her whole story in this new book.  There’s also a historical novel set in 1850s Louisville with a working title of Words of Fire that may be released early in 2012. And Revell plans to repackage and reissue my Hollyhill books. Right now I’m working on another Shaker novel.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

You can visit me at my website www.annhgabhart.com  to find out more about my books and sign up from my newsletter. You can keep up with what’s going on in my writing life and down here on the farm by reading my blog, One Writer’s Journal, at www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com.

You can also join the conversation on my Facebook author page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-H-Gabhart/132862247566. I’m even trying out Twitter now so you can look me up there if you “tweet.”

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

 Thank you so much, Suzanne, for inviting me over to talk about my new book, Angel Sister. I love meeting new reading friends.