Behind The Words With Ann H. Gabhart

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Welcoming bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart to the blog today. She’ll be talking about her latest Christian historical fiction book, The Song of Sourwood Mountain. Welcome Ann, let start with learning a little about the book.

Mira Dean’s dreams of marriage and motherhood seemed lost after the man she loved and planned to marry died of tuberculosis. Five years later, Mira is resigned to her life as a spinster schoolteacher until Gordon Covington shows up in town with an audacious marriage proposal. Following him to the mountains takes courage, but an even bigger challenge is being a proper wife to Gordon. The two take tentative steps toward learning about each other and sharing the mission of helping the people in Sourwood. Mira will see that doors she thought closed forever may be opening after all.

Your novels take place largely in Kentucky. Can you tell us why that setting resonates so much with you as a writer?

I was born in Kentucky and have always lived in Kentucky. I feel as though I know the people here, especially those who live in rural areas and small towns. Most of my stories have that kind of setting. I also have access to historical sites and a wealth of research materials that offer inspiration to my stories.

I understand the love of one’s homeplace and its land, which helps me as I follow my characters on their journeys. I understand how roots can go deep. I have the same kind of roots and feeling for the land here on my country farm. I truly love Kentucky and Kentucky people, both past and present.

The people of Appalachia have often been seen as backward or even immoral. How do you portray them in this novel?

Appalachian people are independent, proud, and strong. They are very family oriented and can be clannish if they feel they or their family have been wronged. Due to their isolation, they lacked the opportunities for formal education, good medical care, and ways to make a living other than subsistence farming or coal mining.

I try to portray my characters in ways that readers can relate to. They may not always be book smart, but they are often very wise about nature and life. I like seeing my characters in The Song of Sourwood Mountain as a community and showing how they relate to one another.

The early twentieth century was such a hopeful time. What makes it the perfect time frame in which to tell this story?

The early twentieth century was called the age of hope. Things were changing for many people as trains and automobiles gave new ways to travel. Commerce boomed as the nation turned from a rural-based economy to an industrial one. But while the rich lived privileged lives, many others remained in poverty. Churches began to sponsor missionaries to go into isolated areas to spread the gospel. At the same time, a number of dedicated teachers established mission schools in the Appalachian Mountains. That made 1910 an ideal time for my preacher to start his mission and recruit a teacher for a mission school. While any year is right for sharing the good news of the Bible, the first decades in the twentieth century seemed a time when Christians became aware of the need to devote time, resources, and energy to improving the lives of mountain people.

Mira Dean and Gordon Covington seem passionate about their professions—a schoolteacher and a preacher, respectively. What gives them such devotion, even when the people they work with are difficult or challenging?

Both preaching and teaching can be callings, and the ability to do either well is a gift. Gordon felt some trepidation when he was called to be a missionary to the mountain people. But he developed a love for them and wanted to share the gospel. A mission- minded preacher needs passion and courage to go wherever the Lord leads them.

Mira has a different kind of calling. She enjoys opening the minds of young people and helping them learn. She has always loved learning and reading, and the thought of children with no way to learn tugged at her heart. She, too, needed courage to surrender to the Lord’s push to go to the mountains to teach.

In many ways, this story is about the plans we make for ourselves and the plans God has for us, which don’t always align perfectly. How do your characters walk that line?

Gordon embraced his call to preach, but he hadn’t realized that his call would lead him to becoming a mission worker in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky. But he has come to love the people and realizes the need for churches and schools. For him, the unexpected call into the mission field was surprising but one he was eager to follow.

Mira had a harder time believing that going to the mountains to teach in a one-room school was the Lord’s plan for her. After the death of her intended husband, she resigned herself to being a spinster schoolteacher. She wasn’t ready to step out in faith to do something so completely different and unexpected. Only after the Lord has closed off all other paths does she take this new path seriously. Once she does, she is ready to embrace it, body and soul.

Have you ever had to step out in faith in the way Mira and Gordon have? Tell us
about it!

I have had times in my writing career where I’ve continued to come up with stories while clinging to what felt like only a slight hope of publication. After publishing thirteen books in the general market, I received a number of rejections over several years. I decided to write one more book and not obsess over what might be popular in the book market or when I would have my story finished.

While I didn’t focus on the inspirational market, I did write a story about a young girl whose father was a bi-vocational preacher. This invited spiritual themes and faith journeys for my characters. That story, Scent of Lilacs, eventually found a home with Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, a Christian publishing company.

When a second Hollyhill book, Orchard of Hope, was published, I made the decision to quit my part-time job and concentrate on writing. Twenty-two books later, I’m glad I took that leap of faith.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading The Song of Sourwood Mountain?

I always want readers to be glad they picked up one of my books and took a journey with my characters. With The Song of Sourwood Mountain, I hope they will invite my characters into their hearts as I did. I hope they will identify with the spiritual challenges Gordon faces and cheer on Mira as she steps out in faith to find a new future. I hope they will love my young character Ada June as much as I did while I shared her story. Last of all, I hope that something in my characters’ faith journeys will resonate with them and make their own faith stronger.

How can readers connect with you?

My favorite place to get to know readers is on Facebook, Facebook.com/AnnGabhart. I also enjoy posting on Instagram, Instagram.com/AnnHGabhart; Twitter, Twitter.com/AnnHGabhart; and Pinterest, Pinterest.com/AnnHGabhart. You can follow me on Goodreads, Goodreads.com/author/show/311723.Ann_H_Gabhart, and BookBub, BookBub.com/authors/ann-h-gabhart.

In addition, I am also active on my website, AnnHGabhart.com, where you can read my blog posts and sign up for my newsletter to get news about my books, things down here on the farm, giveaway chances, and more.

Where can readers purchase a copy of The Song of Sourwood Mountain?

The Song of Sourwood Mountain is available at most online booksellers, including Amazon, Amazon.com/Song-Sourwood-Mountain-Ann-Gabhart/dp/0800741730; Barnes & Noble, BarnesAndNoble.com/w/the-song-of-sourwood-mountain-ann-h-gabhart/1144111592; Christianbook.com; or through your local bookstore. If no copies are on the shelves of your favorite bookstore, most will order one for you.

A great place to buy a copy is Baker Book House, BakerBookHouse.com/products/553564. If you can’t go to their beautiful store in Michigan, you can order the book online with discounts— 40 percent off preorders—along with free shipping.

We are so glad you joined us today, Ann! Thank you. Readers, here’s a quick look at THE SONG OF SOURWOOD MOUNTAIN, which just released:::

While the century began with such promise, it is 1910 when Mira Dean’s hopes of being a wife and mother are dashed to pieces. Her fiancé dead from tuberculosis, Mira resigns herself to being a spinster schoolteacher–until Gordon Covington shows up.

No longer the boy she knew from school, Gordon is now a preacher who is full of surprises. First, he asks Mira to come to Sourwood in eastern Kentucky to teach at his mission school. Second, he asks her to marry him. Just like that. And all at once the doors that had seemed firmly shut begin to open, just a crack.

With much trepidation, Mira steps out in faith into a life she never imagined, in a place filled with its own special challenges, to serve a people who will end up becoming the family she always dreamed of.