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Interview with Ann Gabhart

Writing Has Rewards

Author Ann Gabhart was “just hoping for a nice weekend” when she and her husband traveled last year to attend the Selah Awards dinner at Blue Ridge Writers Conference. Her book, Love Comes Home, was a finalist in the historical fiction category. She was pleased, but didn’t expect to win. With a career that spanned 30 published books, she had been a finalist for both the Carol Awards and the EPCA Awards in the past. To her surprise, not only did she receive the award for the historical category that night, but the Selah Book of the Year award, also.

“I wasn’t really listening to the announcement all that well,” Ann said. “The moderator, Eva Marie Everson, started saying all sorts of nice things about how the judges said reading the book left them changed. I was sure she would announce a devotional book. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she announced Love Comes Home as the winner. Wow! I couldn’t believe I won and that I was actually there to receive the honor.”

Writing Has Scope

Ann has written several other historical novels, including Angel Sister from her Rosey Corner series, a book based on her mother’s childhood. She often reads journals written at the time of her stories.

Ann Gabhart and a grandchild and dog

“Although Angel Sister is fiction, I borrowed the background from of my mother’s memories in the 1930s during the Great Depression Era. It’s about her can-do spirit. That book has echoes of people I knew.”

Despite her success with historical novels, Ann doesn’t limit herself to one genre. And regardless of what she writes, she likes to include those “echoes” of people and places she has known. That is delightfully illustrated in the quirky characters and setting of her Hidden Springs Mysteries. The second book in the series, the recently released Murder Comes by Mail, opens with a group of church ladies sitting on a broken down bus—at precisely the right spot where the local deputy sheriff is trying to stop a suicide.

“I’ve always enjoyed reading mysteries,” Ann said, “so I decided to try my hand at writing some. My mysteries are in the cozy mystery genre because of the setting. I like writing about people in small towns.”

Ann often has to research her stories, but said that the mysteries were a bit different. “Since I used my little town as the model for my Main Street setting of Hidden Springs, I was able to just pull up my memories.” That is, the memories she had of the town before a bypass was built to lead people to a new, big box store. She determined to keep Hidden Springs small while keeping suburban congestion away.

Writing Has Depth

Besides conveying small town values, Ann’s stories have a deeper, eternal message. “I have so enjoyed being able to include the faith journeys of my characters in my stories. I feel blessed when a Bible verse or story comes to mind that fits into my story. In my first Hidden Springs mystery, Murder at the Courthouse, I have one of my characters pondering Lamentations 3:22-23 where it talks about the faithfulness of God and how morning by morning new blessings we see.”

“I do have a spiritual thread in my stories,” Ann said. “In my Shaker book, The Innocent, where ‘pray anyway’ no matter what happened was the main spiritual thought for my character, Carlyn. Angel Sister and my other Rosey Corner books all had underlying threads of the need to both forgive and receive forgiveness. I suppose with Murder Comes by Mail, other than just the pleasure of reading a story and liking the characters, I hope readers will see that good can defeat evil with the help of the Lord.”

Writing Has Process

Ann often develops character sketches and “what if” plotting to come up with her original ideas. Sometime, however, she just lets the process flow organically.

“I sit down with my fingers on the keyboard and hope the story comes. Sometimes I feel like a sailing ship in the doldrums with no creative winds blowing, but if I keep trimming my sails (I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds good), then eventually the story will start flowing again. Once I finally get to the end, then I go back and take out all the unnecessary words and try to make the story the best it can be.”

Writing Is a Journey

Many of Ann Gabhart's books on a bookshelf

Ann took a correspondence writing course when she was 19, and it “opened the world of writing” to her. She grew up in the country and married young. She didn’t have the opportunity to go to college and had no idea how to go about becoming a writer. There was no Internet with information on how to become published.

“The course introduced me to writing and how to submit my stories in a professional manner while improving my writing skills,” Ann said. “Then, many years later, after I’d published 13 novels for adults and young people in the general market, I had several challenging years of nothing but rejections.

“That’s when I decided to write about a preacher and his family. That book, Scent of Lilacs, brought me into the inspirational market. I felt as though I’d come home to a place where I could write the kind of stories I loved.”

Writing Is Reading

Ann’s advice to new writers: “Don’t stop reading—that’s the way you learn to use words. Keep writing. Don’t write one story and put all your hope in it. Write the next one. Why do we think we can get better without practice? Several stories I wrote in the ‘rejection years’ were published later, including the mysteries. Write on!”


Teresa Haugh, a graduate of the University of Montevallo, is a public affairs specialist for the federal government. She writes feature articles on the dedicated men and women who work for the U.S. Forest Service.

She and her husband, a wildlife biologist, live in Southeast Alaska and love exploring the Last Frontier. She plays the piano at her church, and enjoys photography. She is currently working on her first novel. Teresa can be reached at

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