Q: When did you first begin writing stories?
I was around ten when, inspired by the Hardy Boy mysteries I read, I decided to write a mystery starring me, my sister, and my cousin as the detectives to solve the crime. The book, still and forever unfinished, is on a shelf around here somewhere. I’ve been writing ever since. My first book, a historical novel about the settling of Kentucky, was published by Warner Books in 1978.
Q: What was the name of your first book?
I’m sure I had a great title for that mystery way back when, but if so, I don’t recall what it was. I titled my first book published by Warner A Kentucky Dream. That was one of the spellings of Kentucky back in the frontier days. The publishers wanted something more romantic, so
changed the name to A Forbidden Yearning. My first inspirational novel for Revell Books was titled Scent of Lilacs. I love titles and I’m always happy when my publishers and I pick the perfect one to fit one of my stories. When the Meadow Blooms, the title of my new release is one of those perfect fits.
Q: How did you get into the Christian/historical fiction genre?
When I was writing for the general market, my agent at the time suggested I try the historical genre. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant since I hadn’t particularly enjoyed history in school, but I found things were much different when I could learn about the historical events that caught my interest. Years later after the publication of my 1960s era Heart of Hollyhill books that includes that first Revell book, Scent of Lilacs, that’s setting was based on my own years of growing up in a small rural community, I was pondering new ideas. I recalled the many stories my mother told me about growing up during the Great Depression era. I decided to walk back in time to create the little community of Rosey Corner so I could share stories based on her background. Then I stepped even farther back in historical times to the first half of the 1800s for my Shaker books. I’ve bounced around in the 1800’s and first half of the 1900’s ever since. I enjoy finding a way to bring the past to life by dropping my characters into a historical era and seeing what happens next.
Q: Who was your favorite author when you were younger?
I always struggle to answer this question. I love stories. So instead of having one favorite author, I had many and still do. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read Gone with the Wind in one story-soaked long weekend when I was fourteen. The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas was another favorite. I enjoyed historical stories written by James Michener and those by Leon Uris. Later when I read Chaim Potok’s books, The Promise and The Chosen, his characters came so vividly to life when I read his words that I was inspired to try to create characters like that who would spring to life in a reader’s imagination. These and many more authors fed my love for historical fiction when I was younger.
Q: How would you describe your writing style in three words?
Character driven narrative.
Q: How many books have you published so far?
When the Meadow Blooms is my thirty-seventh published book. Twelve are young adult and
middle reader books. Two published years ago were general market historical novels. One is
non-fiction. Three are cozy mysteries and nineteen are inspirational historical fiction.
Q: What inspired you to write your latest release, When the Meadow Blooms?
I often find it hard to trace back to that first spark of inspiration that leads to a new story. An idea
will wriggle awake in my head and then explode into a dozen possibilities. I did know I wanted to
write a story about healing set in a rural area where I could share my love of nature and my belief that experiencing the beauty of nature can be healing. Then two young girls started walking through my imagination. These two sisters were in an orphanage in the early 1900’s. Thinking about why they were there and how they needed healing led down more trails to other characters and places.
Q: What future projects are you currently working on that you can share with us, readers?
I’m writing a story with a working title of Shadows on the River. It’s set on a showboat in 1897 when showboats were floating palaces that spent the spring, summer, and fall going up and down navigable rivers to bring entertainment to small communities and country people who were excited when they heard the calliope playing that announced a showboat on the way to a landing near them. The players on the showboats generally put on a dramatic play and then followed that with vaudeville skits, songs, acrobatics, magic acts and more. One of my characters finds out that much she has believed about her life isn’t true. Finding out that truth may put her life in danger.
Q: Do you outline your stories, or do you just dive into writing them?
I have never outlined my stories, but sometimes think I might have an easier time writing them if
I did. For some of my novels, I have actual historical events that can make an outline of sorts for
what happens with my characters. When the Meadow Blooms is a little different since the story
focuses on what has happened to my characters in their personal lives and how the time period
affects that. But whether I have those actual historical events or merely a historical time period, I
do just dive in once I begin to hear my characters start talking to each other in my head.
Q: What is your go to beverage when working on a new book? I have a mug of black tea on a cup warmer on my desk while I’m writing. I’m not a fan of flavored teas. I like English breakfast or Irish breakfast black tea although I have been making my last cup each day be green tea.
Q: What is the writing and publishing process like for you?
I like coming up with new ideas and researching historical times for my books. That doesn’t mean the actual getting the words down on the pages is easy. Often the words come hard when I’m trying to get a story out of my head. But once they are written, I like going back over those words to make my story the best I can. I have a great publishing team. So, I’m always ready to hear what my editors suggest to make my stories better. I don’t mind the rounds of edits because I know my editors have the same desire for my story as I do–to make it one people will want to read. Finally, holding my story wrapped in a beautiful cover is always a highlight. Then I look forward to seeing or hearing those first reviews and comments from readers. Of course, by then, I’m already working on coming up with the words for the next story.
Q: For aspiring writers in your genre, what advice would you give to them?
My best advice for any aspiring writer is to believe in your stories and persevere. While some authors succeed with their first efforts, most writers have a time of learning and growing in their writing skills before they see the publishing success they dream of having. Everything a person writes is practice and who of us can’t use practice to hone our skills? Then, just as important, is the advice to read. Reading not only plants words in your head, it helps you absorb the ways to put them together to make a story come to life in a reader’s imagination. If the aspiring writer wants to concentrate on historical fiction, she or he should like delving into history and imagining going back in time to different historical eras. A writer also needs to always keep in mind that eventful historical backgrounds and fabulous settings are great, but the characters a writer drops down into that historical setting are what make a story truly to come to life for a reader.
Q: Tell us about your main characters in When the Meadow Blooms.
My two young sisters are Calla and Sienna Meadows. Their father died in the 1918 flu epidemic and their mother, Rose, is being treated for tuberculosis at a sanatorium. When there is no one to care for them, they end up in an orphanage where they’ve been for almost two years. Calla, fourteen, wants to protect Sienna, nine, from some of the hard times she has at the Home for Girls. Sienna has always had a special affinity for the natural world and loves any creature she comes across from snakes and spiders to birds and butterflies. She can get distracted by the smallest things and that continually gets her in trouble at the orphanage. Calla wants to find a way to rescue Sienna so she contacts her uncle whom she has never met. Dirk Meadows was badly scarred in a fire when he was a young man. Even worse he is emotionally scarred by the loss of the love of his life, Anneliese, who disappeared shortly before they were to marry. Dirk thinks others are repulsed by the scars on his face and head. So, he has lived a reclusive life on his farm, Meadowland. When he receives a letter from Calla asking him to “rescue” them from the orphanage, he knows what he must do. He opens his house to his nieces and sister-in-law, but he has no intention of opening his heart to them.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?
Readers can drop by my website, www.annhgabhart.com to find out more about me and my books. My blog posts are available there too as well as links to social media sites. My books are available at most internet booksellers and in brick-and-mortar bookstores where if you don’t find the books you want on the shelves, most bookstores are more than happy to order them for you. My website book pages have some suggested buy links for the readers’ convenience. I love connecting with readers on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/anngabhart and on Instagram and Twitter. You can follow me on Bookbub to be notified of special book sales and new releases. On my website, readers can also sign up for my newsletter to get news from down here on the farm and about my books mixed with some smiles and giveaway chances.