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 Erik Wesner is Krisin Jager ! My assistant Amy will be in touch for your mailing address.

This week’s Spotlight Author is Ann Gabhart. Leave a comment here to win a copy of Ann’s book, The Seeker.   

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I married when I was very young and all these years later we’re still together. Our three children are grown and married and have blessed us with nine grandchildren so our house can be a little crazy on holidays when we get together. For the last four years I’ve been writing full time, but before that I held a number of part time and temporary jobs that helped pay the bills but made it hard to write as much as I wanted.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest… 

I like writing historical fiction, but I have also written for young adults and middle readers. My Hollyhill books were considered contemporary novels even though they were set in the sixties. That seems like historical times to a lot of people. My last three novels have been set in my Shaker village of Harmony Hill in the 1800’s. It’s been interesting researching the Shakers to bring the history of this unique and fascinating group of people to life in my books.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?

I’ve been writing since I was ten years old. At first I wrote for the sheer joy of putting words together but even then I looked to the future and knew someday I wanted to have my words out there for other people to read. That was not only my dream, but my goal.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

I started out submitting short pieces to magazines. It was maybe a year before I made my first sale – a story for a teen church magazine. That was followed by a couple of poems and personal experience pieces in other church magazines. The third novel I wrote was published by Warner Books in 1978. My first inspirational novel was published in 2005 by Revell so I’ve taken a long and often winding writing road full of potholes and detours to where I am today.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing? 

I take tea, not coffee, but I do like it strong. I have my own office now, but for many years I had a desk in my kitchen. I love my four windows where I can look out on the farm, but then often my eyes are turned inward to my story characters and what’s going on in their world. I try to work at least an eight hour day, but often longer if a deadline looms.  Not all those hours are spent creating new stories. A writer has to think up those stories and do research. She has to edit stuff and try to reach out to readers through this or that publicity channel.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

My biggest help in my journey to publication was my sheer desire to write and my determination to write books that a publishing company believed readers might enjoy. After publishing 20 books, I attended my first writers’ conference last year. I’ve been to three meetings of a writing group – all in the last couple of years. And my mom never read my first drafts. Perseverance and the refusal to give up in the face of rejection and discouragement – that’s how I did it.

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? 

Not exactly. When my first novel was published years ago, I was very naïve about the world of writing. I thought my book would be in every bookstore and would stay in print forever. I also hoped rejections would be a thing of the past. We learn some hard lessons as we grow older. But now I am older and I see that the “writer’s life” can be different for different folks. The “writer’s life” I want is the one where I can keep writing and keep finding readers.  

What are your biggest distractions? 

Family obligations. Grandkids – I love those distractions. Keeping up with e-mails and social media.

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

One of the best moments in my career was when I got the news that Revell was going to publish The Scent of Lilacs. That was an answer to prayer because it had been five years since I’d published a book. Also I love the characters in that story and I was thrilled that I was going to be able to share their story with readers. One of the worst was when my agent at that time rejected the second novel I wrote without giving me any encouragement that I could rewrite it to make it better. That’s been over thirty years ago and I can still remember my disappointment. But then, that agent found a publisher for my next novel.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

I like most writing stories and meeting readers.  I like least having to rush writing to meet a deadline.

What is the role and importance of an agent? 

An agent should be a savvy guide in the business of writing while encouraging your creative spirit.

What advice would you give to new writers?

If you truly want to write, believe in yourself and never give up. Everything you write is practice and can help make you a better writer.  Very few writers don’t have a few rejections in their past and many have spent years learning their craft before they got that wonderful “it’s going to be published” news. Also read. Words are your tools, but they are also a gift.

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. 

That book you’re holding – The Seeker – is the story of how two people walk some strange paths through a Shaker village to find faith and love in the desperate times of the Civil War. Plus Suzanne Woods Fisher says it’s “a definite can’t-put-it-down book.”

What’s on the book horizon for you?

Angel Sister, a book set in the 1930s, will be released in February 2011. This is a bit of a departure from my Shaker books, but it is a story of my heart. I based the setting on the stories my mother and her sisters told me about growing up during the Depression years, but what happens to the characters is all from my imagination. It’s a family story of forgiveness and love with a WW I romance woven throughout. Then in July 2011, my next Shaker book, The Blessed, will be released. I think my readers will enjoy my characters in this one, especially Lacey who is down to earth and oh so vulnerable at the same time.

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

Readers can catch up with what’s going on in my writing life and down here on the farm on my website, www.annhgabhart.com, my blog, www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com or on my Facebook Author’s Page.  I also just signed up with Twitter.

My Shaker books, The Outsider, The Believer, and The Seeker are available at many bookstores, retail locations, and online booksellers. They are also available on Kindle, in large print and audio and as selections in Crossings Book Club. Revell plans to repackage my Hollyhill books and re-release them in the next couple of years.  Meanwhile watch for Angel Sister and The Blessed coming out next year.

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

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet your bleaders.

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