Meet “soon-to-be-bestselling” author Ann Gabhart

L. McMaken
11-5-11
Cincinnati, OH

 

I had the good fortune to stop at author Ann Gabhart’s table during Books by the Banks. It isn’t often I meet such a genuinely sweet, warm person. The conversation drifted easily from books, to kids to where we grew up. Her books reflect the same kind of warmth, depth and inspiration. I’d like to introduce you to author Ann Gabhart.

First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from? Past jobs, awards, the usual bio stuff.
I’m a country girl, born and raised in Kentucky. Growing up, I helped my dad on the farm and then I married a farm boy. So, of course, the first thing we did when we could afford it was buy a farm. We still live on that farm but our farming these days is limited to a few beef cows. I’ve known I wanted to write since I first discovered storybooks, so that’s always been my focus along with raising my family and being a farmer’s wife. Always, always I was writing that next story. I have worked some temporary secretarial jobs along the way, but only until the need to write overpowered the need for the extra income. Our three children are all grown and married now. They’ve blessed us with nine beautiful grandchildren.

I’ve published twenty-two books with five more contracted to come out in the next few years. My first Shaker book, The Outsider, was a finalist in the fiction category for ECPA Book of the Year.  The Scent of Lilacs was selected as one of Booklists Top Ten Inspirational novels for 2006. The Believer and Summer of Joy were ACFW Carol Book Award finalists. And I just found out that Angel Sister was one of RT Book Reviews Magazine’s Best Inspirational Novels for 2011. I’m excited!

What do you write?

I’ve written a lot of different kinds of books. My first published books back in 1978 and 1980 were historical romances for the general market. Then I published eleven books for young people. These were mostly coming of age stories with maybe something a little spooky or mysterious and a dollop of romance. Now I’m writing for the inspirational market, but I’m still writing different types of books. I’ve written family dramas, like Angel Sister, and historical stories set in a Shaker village – most recently The Blessed – and novels with other historical backgrounds. My next book, Words Spoken True, releasing in February 2012, is a historical romance with some suspenseful elements. So you can see I like to keep my writing options open. My goal is to claim the genre of a good story, but I do enjoy writing for the inspirational market where I can explore my characters’ faith journeys no matter which type story I’m writing. What we believe or do not believe is such an important motivator in how we live.

Who has been the most difficult character for you to write?

I don’t know that I’ve had one particular character who was difficult, but when I first began writing Angel Sister that has a background I borrowed from the stories my mother told about growing up during the Great Depression, I had to find a way to separate my fictional characters from the real people in her stories. While I did base much of the background and setting on Mom’s memories and did give one of my main characters Mom’s can-do attitude, my characters and their actions had to rise up out of my imagination. I left just the whisper of the actual people in my characters as they lived out their completely fictional story.

What characters are lying on your “office floor”? Why didn’t they come to life on the page and do you think they ever will? Or why not?

I’m sure I have had characters who didn’t come to life for me, but if so, they’ve not hung around in my memory. I think I’m more likely to have story ideas that fail to come to life on the page and a few that are still lurking in my computer saying maybe someday. Most of the time, I’m so stubborn that if I think up an idea, I stick with it and work through the times when I seem to be in the writing doldrums. Eventually the wind of storytelling will start up again and the characters will get on with their stories.

How much time does it usually take you to write a book?

My best schedule would be a year. That’s a good rhythm for me. I like having plenty of time for research and pre-writing to allow my characters to come to life and also time at the end of writing to polish and pare to make my story the best I can make it before anybody reads it. However, I have written books in six months when I had deadlines pushing me.

Any funny “researching your book stories” to share with readers?

Coming up completely blank on this one. I must be a boring researcher. Mostly I pore over history books and feel as though I’ve discovered a treasure trove when I find a book of letters or a journal of the time period that’s caught my interest. As for anything dangerous that my characters attempt, I figure that’s why I have an imagination!!

What do you find is the hardest part of writing?

The hardest part is getting the story out of my head down on paper or into my word processor. Especially when I hit those doldrums I talked about earlier. That nearly always happens at some point in every story. But then the hardest part is also the best part – spilling out the story and having my characters come to life in my mind.

Wait, on second thought, maybe the hardest part is answering hard questions in interviews like this. {smile}

If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be? Why?

Definitely Kate Merritt in Angel Sister. That would be like going back in time and walking in my mother’s shoes for a while. Kate’s not Mom, but she lived in Mom’s world.

Who is your favorite hero that you’ve written? Why?

 

That is such a difficult question to answer. I get close to each of my heroes while I’m telling his story, so it’s sort of like this one now and that one then. I did like Victor in Angel Sister because he loved Nadine so much and yet he stumbled in trying to be the husband he thought she needed. I suppose I identified with his desire to be better than he was able to be. And I really like Blake Garrett in Words Spoken True. He is such a strong character he practically leaps off the page. He’s a man who has a lot of confidence in who he is and what he’s doing and yet he’s a little unsure of himself when it comes to love. He’s also very handsome. That never hurts when you’re thinking about favorite heroes. Then there’s Ethan in The Believer. I open that story with Ethan as a little boy and he was so young and innocent. Love turned his world upside down.

Who is your favorite fiction hero written by someone else? Why?

Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Series. He was so real, so human with such a big heart and he never took himself too seriously. He made me smile while I was reading.

What do you think makes a good hero?

I suppose when I’m reading about that hero, I want one who makes me smile. And that’s not a bad thing when I’m writing about a hero too. But I also want my heroes to be strong characters who are willing to fight for what they believe. At the same time, I want them vulnerable in some way and to need to love and be loved.

If you could have dinner with any writer living or dead, who would it be and why?

C.S. Lewis. It would have to be enlightening to talk one on one with such a talented and imaginative writer who was able to share so many spiritual insights with his readers. Also he was close friends with J. R.R. Tolkien who was the other writer I was considering for my dinner date. Maybe I’d just let them have dinner together and I’d eavesdrop from the corner and hope some of their creativity would spill over on me.

Name your five favorite authors. Yes, only five!

I might have an easier time with five favorite books, but I’ll give it a try. Chaim Potok, Barbara Kingsolver, Max Lucado, Leon Uris, Mary Stewart.

What authors are in your TBR pile?

Craig Nelson, Laura Frantz, Sarah Sundin, Laurie Alice Eakes, Patrick O’Brian, Kristin Hannah, Ted Kerasote – to name only a few.

What authors do you always read?

 

I read a wide range of authors now, but here are some of the authors I used to search out when picking books to read. Jan Karon, Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, James Michener, Leon Uris, Robert Ludlum, Mary Stewart.

Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?

A secret talent? I don’t think so. Not unless you count country cooking. I make yummy sourdough bread and can make a pretty mean pie, but baking doesn’t stay a secret. Those wonderful odors coming from the kitchen give you away every time. So if I have a secret talent, it’s so secret even I don’t know about it.

What is the one question you never get asked at interviews, but wish you did?

Can you tell me about those grandchildren? Just kidding. I’d have to write a book to tell you about all nine of them.

How does it feel to have your book on the New York Times bestseller list? Oops, I guess that might be a nice dream, but not a question I could answer – yet. (She added with a big smile and a large measure of hope.)

How about those Cats? I’m a huge University of Kentucky basketball fan, but I know not everybody is. (Sigh)

Think writing related questions, Ann! Okay, this is the question I’m picking. Seriously.

What are the two most important things a person can do to continue to improve as a writer?

Oh, I suppose you want me to answer it too? All right. The two most important things a writer can do are keep writing and keep reading.

Thanks so much for inviting me over to chat about writing. And I do hope some of you will check out my books. Angel Sister and The Blessed are both new in 2011. Then watch for Words Spoken True coming in February 2012. It is definitely the most romantic book I’ve written for the inspirational market, perhaps for any market.

In closing, I do enjoy hearing from readers and I do my best to respond to each person who contacts me. You can e-mail me from my website, www.annhgabhart.com, follow me on Twitter (AnnHGabhart), or comment on my Facebook author’s page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-H-Gabhart/132862247566 or my blog, One Writer’s Journal, www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com.

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