Angel SisterAngel Sister
Ann H. Gabhart
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It is 1936 and Kate Merritt, the middle child of Victor and Nadine, works hard to keep her family together. Her father slowly slips into alcoholism and his business suffers during the Great Depression. As her mother tries to come to grips with their situation and her sisters seem to remain blissfully oblivious to it, it is Kate who must shoulder the emotional load. Who could imagine that a dirty, abandoned little girl named Lorena Birdsong would be just what the Merritts need?
     

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Ann Gabhart

Living just thirty miles from a restored Shaker village in Kentucky, Ann H. Gabhart has walked the same paths that her characters might have walked in generations past. Her thorough research provides a convincing and colorful backdrop for her books.

Favorite Verse: John 21:25 - Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have enough room for the books that were written.

Visit Ann Gabhart in our Writers' Corner


 

 Our Interview with Ann Gabhart


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up on a farm in Kentucky and still live on a farm today. I love the country and can’t imagine living anywhere else. When I was about ten, I started writing just because I loved putting words together to tell a story. I’ve put lots of those words together now and have been blessed to have twenty of my books published, some in the secular market and the last seven in the inspirational market. I’m married to a bass singer who loves singing gospel music the way I love writing. We have three children and nine grandchildren I enjoy spoiling as only a grandma can. I attend a small country church where everybody is like family. I enjoy walking in the woods with my three dogs and meeting and talking to people who love books. Well, I like talking to most everybody, but I especially like talking books with friends.
  
What is your favorite Bible verse?

It’s hard to pick only one. I often say John 21:25 just because it awakens my imagination to the untold stories of the Lord’s love and power. But then there is Mark 9:23. Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJ) That has to be a favorite.

How did you get started writing Christian fiction?

Warner Books published my first novel, a historical romance, in 1978. Another historical romance followed that one, but the next books I wrote didn’t fit into the genre’s market trends at that time. I turned to young adult fiction and had eleven books published by various companies for young readers. Then about ten years ago I hit a rejection wall and wrote several books that never found a loving editor. In the midst of discouragement I decided to write a hopeful story about a preacher and his family set in the mid ‘60s in small town America – the very sort of town where I grew up. That story became The Scent of Lilacs and found a loving editor, Lonnie Hull DuPont at Revell Books. I’ve been writing for the Christian fiction market ever since, and I’m so glad the Lord pushed me through that door even if it did take several years of rejected writing for me to pay attention. I love writing inspirational fiction.

What inspired your interest in writing Angel Sister?

Angel Sister is a story of my heart. The setting and concept are loosely based on my mom’s growing up years. She and her three sisters always had so much fun talking about their childhood and the collection of odd neighbors who lived in their little community that I wanted to go back in time with them and bring some of that to life in my story.
 
How did you come up with the concept for Angel Sister?

That’s not an easy question for me to answer. Generally I have this tiny seed of an idea and then I say, “What if?”  In this book, I had my mom’s stories from her childhood as the seed of the idea. Then I took that seed and planted it in my imagination and said, “What if I had a young girl who felt as if she had to be the one to hold her family together? What if her father had a drinking problem that was threatening to tear apart her family? What if a little girl is deserted on the church steps?” These were some of my beginning what if questions and from there the story seed grew and was watered with the theme of forgiveness that runs through the book.

 

How much of Angel Sister is factual?

My mother was one of four sisters. My grandfather was a blacksmith and served in World War I and my grandmother did love to read. There was an odd lady in their neighborhood who did chop down cedar trees to make cedar palaces. So their stories and experiences were the germ of the idea that eventually grew into my fictional story.

How closely is Angel Sister based on your life experiences? 

The book isn’t based on my life experiences, but rather my mother’s.  I do have two sisters, so I know how sisters can sometimes get at odds even while they love one another. I can also identify with the rural feel of the story since I grew up in the country and had some of the same sort of experiences that Kate has in the story – picking wild raspberries and canning beans, walking in the woods, that sort of thing.

How long did Angel Sister take you to complete?
 
It took me about a year to write Angel Sister from initial idea to ready to send off to my editor. That’s usually how long it takes me to write a book, but I have written two books in a year a few times.

Do you have a favorite character in Angel Sister? Why?

Definitely Kate.  She’s fourteen and the middle sister, the one who has to make sure the family survives. She is so full of love and so strong and yet at the same time so vulnerable when life starts throwing her curves.  If that’s not enough reason, she’s the character based on what I thought my mother might have been like when she was that age.  But I also got very close to Kate’s father, Victor, while I was writing as he struggled with his demons. And you have to love five-year-old Lorena as she tries to hold on to her identity by standing up and shouting, “My name is Lorena Birdsong.”

How much research did Angel Sister take?

Some of the research for the background setting had been going on for years as I listened to my mother and aunts talk about growing up in the 1930’s.  But when I decided to include the World War I romance of the parents in the book, I had to do a lot of research to get the right historical background for that part of the story. I also did research on blacksmithing and the poetry and stories Nadine was so entranced with in the early 1900’s.
 
What was the most interesting tidbit that you learned while writing Angel Sister?

I learned so much about the first World War. Perhaps the most interesting thing was that the men who volunteered to cross the ocean and fight in that war thought it would be the war that would end all wars.  How sad that did not turn out to be true.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

My biggest challenge is enough time to do everything. I want to write. I have to write. Still, it’s easy to do everything but write at times. I’ve got grandbabies to enjoy, a mother in poor health who needs my help, church activities and volunteer duties, book events, friends and family to keep up with on Facebook, great books to read, and a house that has to be swept out occasionally. You know what I mean. We all want to dip out too much on our plates. So I have to make sure I set goals and put my fingers on that keyboard on a regular basis.

 

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I like coming up with new characters who come to life in my imagination and begin telling me their stories. And then I get to write it all down. Actually I like most aspects of writing. I don’t even mind editing – most of the time. Of course one of the best things about being a published writer is being able to share my stories with readers.

What is your writing style?   (Do you outline?  Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   Or somewhere in-between?)

I’m probably somewhere in between. I don’t outline, but I do research the historical background and events. I do pre-writing about my characters to get to know them really well before I type the first word of Chapter 1.  But then I let the story carry me along and sometimes events or even new characters pop into the story that I had no idea were going to show up.  That’s always exciting.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Definitely. They talk and breathe and get very stubborn if I try to make them do something they would never do.

What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
 
My fourth Shaker book, The Blessed, will be released next summer. It’s written and going through the process of edits and cover design, etc.

I also have a book tentatively titled, Words of Fire, about Louisville in the 1850’s that is surprisingly relevant to some of the issues of today. At that time many Irish and German immigrants were coming to America and political parties were being formed to keep immigrants from being elected to office. Election riots broke out in many cities including Louisville. That’s the historical background for the very personal story and romance of my characters, both newspaper reporters. It has a tentative release date in 2012.

Also Revell plans to repackage my Hollyhill books and release them as a set sometime in the future. My actual work in progress is my fifth Shaker novel and that will be followed by a Shaker Christmas novella.
 
What message would you like your readers to take from Angel Sister?

That hope can come from forgiveness. And that if a family has love they have what they need especially if each person in that family looks to the Lord for help when troubles come. 

What is your greatest achievement?

Always first and foremost, my three beautiful children. 

But if we’re talking about writing achievements, I would say switching genres three times and ending up writing stories I love that have a Christian background or element. Also, my book, The Outsider, was a finalist for the 2009 ECPA Gold Medallion Book of the Year in the fiction category. That was definitely a professional high.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

I want to entertain my readers with stories about characters they can invite into their hearts and get to know like family. It’s such a bonus to hear from a reader who has been inspired by one of my stories to begin a closer walk with the Lord.
 
What do you do to get away from it all?

What else?  Read. Or take a walk with my dogs. Or play with the grandkids.
 
Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am ever grateful to the readers who pick up my books and give my stories a chance. I enjoy making reading friends and I hope to write many more stories. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do – make up stories and write them down. I think the Lord planted that desire in me and then blessed me with the gift of words. Thanks to you readers, I’m living my dream.

 


 

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