Today, Behind The Words welcomes Ann H. Gabhart. Ann crafts stories with heart, and passion. We are very excited to have you on Reader’s Entertainment. Tell our readers a bit about yourself. Where you’re from, where you live? Is writing your full-time job?
I’m from Central Kentucky on the outer edge of bluegrass horse country. I still live just over the hill from where I grew up on a farm. We had cows, not horses. I’m still a country girl living on a farm. Many people my age are retired and living the good life, but I’m still doing my best to come up with new stories. Since 2008, writing has been my only job although I carved out plenty of grandmom time while my grandchildren were young. In my earlier writing years I did some part time secretarial work and of course, farm work too, along with writing.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was ten when I decided it would be fun to write a Hardy Boys type mystery starring a cuter, much less shy me. That was for fun, but by the time I was twenty, I was doing my best to get my stories in front of readers. My first historical romance was published in the general market by Warner Books in 1978. Since then, I’ve had books for young adults and middle readers published and now I love writing stories with a Christian worldview. I like being able to include a character’s faith journey as he or she faces the general problems of life.
Briefly describe your writing day. Tell us about your latest release.
I usually get up early and after taking my two dogs, Frankie and Marley, out for a short walk, I spend some time checking messages and doing some of my social media regular features such as Shaker Wednesday where I share Shaker history and Sunday Morning Coming Down where I take my reading friends along with me on a recap of whatever I’ve seen and heard when I walk the dogs on Sunday mornings. I spend most of the day working on writing or editing, especially when I’m faced with a deadline. My office has windows on two sides and so I rest my eyes and brain by looking out at the hayfield or watching the birds at my birdfeeder.
I’m excited about my new book, Along a Storied Trail. The story is set in the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains in 1937 while the country is continuing to struggle through the Great Depression. In his New Deal, President Roosevelt authorized many projects to get people back to work. When Tansy Calhoun hears about one of those, the packhorse librarians, she knows that’s a perfect job for her.
I pull in Tansy’s family and neighbors to people my story. While I do follow Tansy along her packhorse librarian routes where she meets a variety of mountain readers, I also share the story of her family and Tansy’s hopes to eventually find the kind of romance for herself that she reads about in the books she loves. A contrary mountain woman, Perdita Sweet, showed up to add some extra interest, especially after she surprises everyone who knows her, by opening up her home and heart to a young woman in need. Besides a chance for Tansy to find love, I stir in a couple more romances to keep things interesting.
I hope readers will enjoy going to the mountains in Along a Storied Trail for a story of family love and love of home.
What inspired this book?
A couple of years ago, after I wrote These Healing Hills, which has Frontier Nursing Service history and is set in the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains, two readers sent me information about the packhorse librarians, suggesting that might be history I could explore for a new book. I delved deeper into the history of the packhorse librarians and loved the idea of writing about a character that loved books and was tough enough to ride through all sorts of weather up and down the hills of Eastern Kentucky to share her love of reading with her neighbors. My publishers agreed a story with that background history might attract readers. I had a couple of other books to work on first, and was surprised when several other writers put out books about the book women before I got my story written. But interesting background history, appealing settings and engaging characters can give rise to many stories.
What has been your hardest scene to write? Any of your books.
I can’t think of one particular scene that was hard to write, but often in the midst of writing my stories, I’ll come to a point where I’m not sure what my characters are going to do next. Sometimes that’s when I need a walk or time away from the computer for a while to let the story seeds put out new sprouts. I remember hitting this what next problem in River to Redemption. Then the story started rolling on when a black woman knocks on Adria’s kitchen door to challenge Adria’s abolitionist beliefs by asking Adria’s help to get her daughter to freedom. In An Appalachian Summer Piper has to pluck a chicken to cook for supper. Maybe not exactly hard scenes to write, but times when knowing what was next on my story road took some extra thought.
Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? Why?
I can’t come up with one particular character I’ve found difficult to write, but I have struggled a bit with my horseback heroines in my Appalachian Mountain stories or at least their horse riding scenes. First I had Francine, the horseback nurse midwife in These Healing Hills. Then the young volunteer courier, Piper, in An Appalachian Summer, and now, Tansy as a packhorse librarian in Along a Storied Trail. I’m not a horse person, so I continually worried I might write something completely off about the horses or the riders. I did try to avoid this by going online to research saddles and how to mount or dismount a horse. I definitely felt like a greenhorn, but, with the help of my research and my horse riding friends, I think I managed to create some good horses for my characters to ride up into the hills of Eastern Kentucky.
If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be? Why?
It might be neat to be a character from one of my Shaker books. Maybe I’ll pick Carlyn from The Innocent. After all, she had a dog buddy that helped her out in the story. But whichever character I might choose, it would be interesting to walk along the Shaker paths in my fictional Shaker village and observe the true Shaker believers to try to understand why they embraced some of their odd beliefs. If I took part in one of their dancing worship services on that day, I might discover a new type of spiritual excitement. It’s one thing to read about it. It would surely be more eye opening to experience it. But then, I might enjoy being Tansy and riding up into the hills to deliver books to readers as a packhorse librarian too.
All writers are readers. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I do love to read. When I was in high school, I hunted up old classics in the school library to read. Some that I remember reading were The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronté, and Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Too much time has passed for me to remember much about those books now, but reading those famous works not only planted words in my mind but were also a lesson in how they were used to make a story. I feel that helped me when I tried writing my own words.
Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?
I can’t think of any secret talents, but I have been making sourdough bread for years. However, if you were to visit while that bread is baking, it wouldn’t be much of a secret. Bread baking smells delicious. So, not sure I have any secret talents.
Your favorite go to drink or food when the world goes crazy!
The world doesn’t have to go crazy for me to go to my favorite drink, a hot cup of tea. No sugar. No fancy flavor. English breakfast or Irish breakfast tea are my favorites.
And what is your writing Kryptonite?
That might be my dog, Frankie, when he comes and pushes up into my lap to make sure I know it’s time to take a walk. Since I got him at a humane shelter after he was picked up as a stray, I’m not sure of his breed, but he’s big like a black Labrador and curly haired like an Australian shepherd. I am sure he makes a big lap dog at ninety-two pounds. I just have to push away from the computer and hope a walk gives me time to come up with more plot ideas.
Even stronger Kryptonite is when the grandkids come to visit. The computer goes dark and stays that way until they head home.
What is the one question you never get asked at interviews, but wish you did? Ask and answer it.
The one question I’m asked the most is which of my books is my favorite. I do some hemming and hawing on answering that one. But the question I might like to be asked is “How can we help more readers discover your books?”
My answer would be to talk my books up. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement a book can get. I’d say post reviews online. It’s amazing how much reviews can help a writer get noticed. I’d tell them to request my books at their libraries or bookstores. And then I’d say thank you for reading my books.
Thank you so much from dropping by today, Ann!
Here’s a peek at Ann’s latest release::: Along a Storied Trail
Kentucky packhorse librarian Tansy Calhoun doesn’t mind the rough trails and long hours as she serves her Appalachian Mountain community during the Great Depression. Yet she longs to find love like the heroines in her books. When a charming writer comes to town, she thinks she might have found it—or is the perfect man actually closer than she thinks?
Perdita Sweet has called these mountains home for so long she’s nearly as rocky as the soil around her small cabin. Long ago she thought she could love, but when the object of her affection up and married someone else, she stopped giving too much of herself away to others.
As is so often the case, it’s easier to see what’s best for others than to see what’s best for oneself, and Perdita knows who Tansy should choose. But why would anyone listen to the romantic advice of an old spinster?
Saddle up for a heartfelt story of love—love of family, love for the hills of home, and the love of a lifetime—from bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart.
Purchase links for Along a Storied Trail
You can follow Ann online at:
Facebook Author Page – www.facebook.com/anngabhart
Twitter – https://twitter.com/AnnHGabhart
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/annhgabhart/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/annhgabhart/