Congratulations to the winner of last week’s Author Spotlight giveaway of Vendetta by Lisa Harris, ANDREA WILLIAMS. Please email info {at} suzannewoodsfisher {dot} com to claim your prize.

Welcome A.H. Gabhart, author of Murder at the Courthouse, to Author Spotlight! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a copy.

Gabhart_AnnIntroduce us to you as an author: When did you get bit with the writing bug? How would you describe your writing style?

I was bitten by the writing bug when I was around ten and started reading Hardy Boy mysteries. I thought it would be fun to be like them and solve a mystery. Not much chance I was ever going to stumble upon a mystery out on the Kentucky farm where I grew up. So, I wrote my own mystery starring me, of course. A cuter, less shy and very smart me. I’ve been writing ever since then and that was quite a few years ago. I do come up with better characters now. LOL.

I think my writing style is easy to read and conversational. I like getting my characters talking. I like for the story to be front and center. Somebody once said I was a storyteller. You know, that’s not a bad thing to be when all you ever wanted to do was write down stories.

Tell us about your new release:

Murder at the Courthouse is my first cozy mystery. I’ve always loved reading mysteries and I’ve put a few mystery threads in some of my novels, but this is the first one to be classified a mystery. Michael Keane is a deputy sheriff in his small hometown that has managed to keep out the big box stores and hold on to its unique personality. Michael’s happy with the peaceful air of the town, but that peace is disturbed when a body is discovered on the courthouse steps. The victim is a stranger and the townspeople are soon sharing all sorts of theories about the victim and why he ended up dead on their courthouse steps. Some of the ideas are a bit wacky, to say the least, but then when the sheriff insists Michael follow up on one of those ideas, he makes a discovery that threatens to change everything he’s always believed about his little town.

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

I married at the way-too-young age of seventeen, but that didn’t slow down my desire to write. When I was nineteen I took a writing course and began to submit short pieces to magazines a year or so after that. My first story was published in a Sunday school magazine for young people not long after I started mailing out my stories. That was way before internet days. Everything happened by mail then. My first novel was published six or seven years after that first small article sale.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?

Murder at the CourthoseYou can keep the coffee. I want my hot tea. I’m not sure I have found any magic food that helps keep my brain cylinders firing. I do sometimes chew gum when the sleepies catch up to me and I want to nod off at the computer.

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

I think the biggest help in my journey to publication was simply my own determination to keep on writing whatever the result. Perseverance is a good thing for a writer to have in her tool chest and while I’ve had my down times, I never gave up. Early on, I did read every issue of The Writer magazine from cover to cover. That helped me learn about the writing world. I had been writing and publishing for years before I even knew they had writing conferences or groups. My mom read a couple of my books in manuscript when it seemed they were not going to be published in a timely manner, but not to critique the stories. I’m my one and only first-draft reader.

Do you prefer reading physical books or e-readers?

I would rather read a physical book. There’s just something about having that paper book in my hands and turning the pages. I like the heft of the book and seeing my progress when I stick a bookmarker in it to mark my place. I know those e-books mark your place and show the percentage of the book left to read, but it’s not the same. However, I do have an e-reader and do read books on it. The e-reader is great for when I’ve had to wait in a doctor’s office.

Why do you write?

I love to tell stories. I’m compelled to tell stories. I’m not completely happy when I’m not working on a story. I do feel writing and storytelling is a God-given talent, and I believe the Lord wants us to use our talents. I’ve enjoyed being able to tell faith-based stories while writing for the Christian market.

Right this moment, what does your office look like?

My office desk, well, my whole office is pretty much a disaster. I have decided that paper breeds and multiplies overnight. But actually what happens is that I have a way of dumping everything on my desk to get to later after I do some more writing. Later has a way of getting delayed. And then there are all the books stuffed in my bookcases waiting for me to have time to read them. But two walls of my office have double windows to let me look toward the east and south and see the green world of our farm, watch the birds at my birdfeeder and enjoy the flowers in pots on the outside window ledges. So who cares about those piled up papers and books on my desk? I do plan a major cleaning and rearrangement of my office just as soon as I finish this book. Trouble is, I think I said that was happening after I finished the last book, too. Someday.

Ever had a bad review? How did you handle it?

Oh yeah, I’ve had bad reviews. In this day of instant reviewing on every venue, you’re almost guaranteed to have a few people who take issue with something or other you’ve written. Some of those who’ve read my stories haven’t liked the Shaker history. Others think this or that could be better about how I tell the stories. I’m sure they are right. This or that could be better. Something could always be better.

Some of the bad reviews poke you while others just make you laugh. I had one once that said “free was too much to pay for this book.” Really?! I sometimes remember the remarks, but I rarely remember which book the reviewer thought could be better. It’s not that important. The book, whichever one it was, has been written. Not much chance to change it after I read the review whether the criticism is valid or not. I have been blessed to have only a few of the extremely negative reviews and many more of the positive encouraging reviews. So I simply ignore bad reviews and smile when a reader does like my stories.

[Tweet “Perseverance is a good thing for a writer to have in her tool chest @AnnHGabhart #amwriting”]

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

I least like how slow I write. I always want to get the story out of my head and in the first draft faster. But I seem to need time for my creative well to fill so I can dip out of it. What I like most is when the story does come together. I like writing the end and then reading my draft over and finding that I’ve told the story I hoped to tell.

What advice would you give to new writers?

I would tell new writers that writing can be a tough job. You have to ignore rejections and keep writing. You have to realize the writing road can have a lot of highs and many lows and some rocky bumps along the way to publication. I’d tell those new writers to be sure to stuff their perseverance and determination in their writer pack before they set off down the writing road. Oh, and to not only write, but to read.

If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save?

My dog, Oscar. Years ago, I used to imagine how I would save my computer in the event of a fire–after all the kids were safe, of course. I imagined breaking my office window to grab my computer full of stories. But now my files are backed up out on the net. So I guess after Oscar, I’d go for those old photo albums.

Best surprise:

Last year my publishers encouraged me to submit my recent Rosey Corner book, Love Comes Home, to the Selah Awards. When I found out I finaled in the historical romance category, I was happy. It’s always good to have an encouraging pat on the back. They give out the awards at a dinner at the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference. I didn’t go to the conference but I knew it was held at Lifeway’s lovely Ridgecrest Conference Center cradled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. The place is only a few hours drive from me and just sounded so inviting with its peaceful area and breathtaking views that I decided to use going to the awards banquet as the excuse and go for a few days of R & R there with my husband.

I didn’t expect to win anything. My books have finaled in other writing competitions but without a win. Still, it was fun to go to the dinner and sit with some writer and agent friends. When it came time to announce the winner of the historical romance category, I was surprised when they said the name of my book. I thought nice, I’m glad I came! Then after they gave out the rest of the category awards, Eva Marie Everson began reading the judges’ comments about the Selah Book of the Year. One said the story had left her changed. I’m at a table directly in front of the podium, listening but not with great intensity, thinking the winner is going to be a devotional book or a Bible study perhaps. I could hardly believe my ears when Eva got to the title of the winning book and it was Love Comes Home. So that was definitely a “best” surprise and a fun one too.

Describe yourself in one word:


How can readers connect with you online?

My website, annhgabhart.com, has just been redesigned and is very visitor friendly. Here you can also access both of my blogs. One Writer’s Journal is a hodgepodge of posts about my writing life, farm life, and whatever is on my mind when I sit down to write a post. I also have occasional fun contests there such as my mystery photos and often have book giveaways. The Heart of Hollyhill blog is posted by Jocie, my character in the Heart of Hollyhill books. She reports from the 1960s Hollyhill most weeks.

I’m very active on my Facebook page, with some regular weekly posts like “Shaker Wednesdays,” “Friday Smiles” and the popular “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” I also post random “Spotted on my Walk” photos of things I see out here on the farm. My dog, Oscar, manages to ocassionally sneak into the posts. I tweet on Twitter and enjoy adding pictures to Pinterest.

Anything new for you on the book horizon?

The Hidden Springs mysteries are very new things for me. Readers will be introduced to people of Hidden Springs in this first book, Murder at the Courthouse, and then taken on a suspense-filled ride with my deputy sheriff character, Michael Keane, in Murder Comes by Mail, scheduled for release July 2016. I’m busily working on the third Hidden Spring mystery right now. An old Victorian house with a tower room is going to be one of the “characters” in the story, and a calico cat named Miss Marble makes an appearance.

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A. H. Gabhart is Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, several popular Shaker novels such as The Outsider, The Believer, and The Innocent, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. Ann grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky much like Hidden Springs, but Ann is happy to report nobody was ever murdered on her hometown’s courthouse steps. Ann and her husband still live on a farm near that same little town in Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.

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