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Interview with Ann H. Gabhart

Ann H. Gabhart loves researching and writing historical novels set in different time periods, with her newest release, An Appalachian Summer, set in 1933. Although she enjoys penning books set in the '30s, she most definitely would not have wanted to live during that time period.

"Things were so hard. Many went hungry for lack of work. I have been saddened enough by the long lines of people in need at food pantries during this COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. I would not have wanted to the see the 1930s soup lines or been standing in them."

The author not only wouldn't want to live in the 1930s, but if given the choice, any other period in the past would be absent from her list.

"I'm happy living in the times I have. I wouldn't want to change that. I've had a good life here on my farm and seen many changes. Not as many, perhaps, as my mother did in her nearly 100 years, but computers have changed so much about how we live, work, and play in the last few decades."

Times certainly have changed, and learning about just how much they've changed, was evident during Gabhart's research of the 1930s. This investigation began with another novel of hers, Angel Sister, inspired by the many memories her mother and sisters shared about growing up during the Great Depression.

The author's research of this time period continued with These Healing Hills, a novel that involves the history of the Frontier Nursing Service. Gabhart had read Mary Breckinridge’s autobiography, about establishing the midwifery service in the Eastern Kentucky area. The author also read Unbridled Service by Anne Z. Cockerham that covered the history of the Frontier Nursing Service couriers from 1928 to 2010.

"This book had first-person accounts of their experiences, along with photos of the couriers. It was a great help in getting into the head of my volunteer courier characters."

The reason Gabhart chose to again write about the 1930s for An Appalachian Summer was because she wanted to contrast the difference between a debutante's life and the lives of the people in the Appalachian Mountains, especially during the Depression years. Gabhart also wanted to tell more about the nurse midwives.

"In my new book, I wanted to feature the young women, usually from socially prominent families, who came to the mountains as volunteers to do menial chores and care for the horses. I was interested in how a debutante would handle doing that. Most of them loved it."

Gabhart read a lot of Emily Post to learn about what was expected of a 1930s debutante. She also gained a lot of information scouring the internet, including details about the financial ramifications of Black Tuesday and the Depression.

Other than the historical aspects covered in An Appalachian Summer, there is the romance side of the novel. One of the main points to ponder in this area is the question: "Is true love worth forfeiting a fortune?"

Does Gabhart think a lot of women in the 1930s struggled with this issue? Does she think a lot of females today still struggle with this?

"I always think love trumps most everything. I don’t think women in the 1930s struggled with this at all because I don’t think they had that many chances to have a fortune. However, I believe they would be very reluctant to give up a comfortable life for love if it meant they would live in poverty. That’s just realism.

"I suppose men and women of any age have to consider what’s most important to them and act accordingly. If a person is a Christian and has a family, that person also has to consider God’s calling on his or her life and what his or her choices would mean for any children involved."

This thought is exactly one takeaway that Gabhart wants readers to gain from reading An Appalachian Summer – that the characters do have to find their place in the world and decide what means the most to them. The author also wants readers to recognize that Piper, the main character in the book, gains a deeper faith by being a part of something that mattered while surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.

Would Gabhart be able to give up a fortune in the name of true love?

"What is money without love? But I don’t think I can truthfully answer this question since I’ve never even thought about being in that situation, perhaps because I married at such a young age. We’ve never had a fortune and I was much too young for a great career."

Having been married for 55 years to her husband Darrell, and the two of them having three children and nine grandkids, the author definitely has the personal experience to write about all the highs and lows of love and family life. The fact that she was raised in a small, rural town in Kentucky, and that she lives on a farm not far from where she was born, also gives Gabhart's writing authenticity, as all of her novels, including her popular Shaker series, and her contemporary cozy mystery series, have small-town Kentucky settings.

Yes, the author not only writes historical novels set in different time periods and about different groups of people, but she also writes contemporary cozy mysteries (as A.H. Gabhart). Other genres she writes in are young adult, women's fiction, middle reader fiction, and inspirational non-fiction.

Why does she like to write in so many genres?

"I've been writing since I was a kid. My first novel was published more than forty years ago. During that time, I’ve had some ups and downs in my writing career. I had several years while I was writing but not finding a publisher for anything I wrote. So, I decided to stop worrying about what a publisher might want and simply write the story I wanted to write. That's how I stumbled into the Christion fiction market with a story about the young daughter of a bivocational preacher in the small town of Hollyhill. Since, by then, I was no longer that starry-eyed young writer, I decided to let my story ideas lead me into whatever genre could best tell my stories."

If you guess the author has published quite a number of books since she's written in so many genres, you'd be correct! An Appalachian Summer will mark her 36th published book. Her first novel was published in the general market by Warner Books. It was a historical romance about pioneer Kentucky.

Although the publication of her first novel happened in 1978, her first inspirational novel wasn't published until 2005. At that time, Gabhart had an agent who was more familiar with general market publishers, so that agent looked online to find an editor at a Christian publishing house, and she submitted to Revell.

"That's where the Lord stepped in to help me. I had prayed for that book since it had been a while since I had been able to place anything I’d written. Scent of Lilacs was sort of a make or break book. If it only gathered rejections, then I thought maybe I should retire my keyboard. Since that was not something I wanted to do, I prayed the Lord would find the right place for my story.

"As it turned out, my agent sent the book to Lonnie Hull DuPont, a Revell acquisitions editor, whose favorite flower happened to be lilacs. That perhaps helped her decide to give my book a read. Lonnie liked my story and I worked with her for my next twenty books. She’s retired now, but Lonnie really boosted my writing career."

Gabhart's current agent, Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency, also really helped out the author. After Gabhart had several books published with Revell, she decided she needed an agent more familiar with Christian publishing. A friend recommended Gabhart to her agent, and that's how she ended up with Lawton.

"Wendy's encouragement and help has been one of the reasons An Appalachian Summer is my 21st book with Revell."

Staying involved with the Christian publishing world has also happened by Gabhart being a member of the ACFW for about 15 years, and attending three of their conferences. She has also taught classes at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conferences a couple of years.

"I wrote for many years in the general market, but until I started writing for the Christian market, I never knew any writers well enough to say we were friends. But Christian authors are so open to relationships. I've very much enjoyed the writers I’ve met at the conferences and other book events. The ACFW Conferences also always have programs and classes that open up doors to new ideas, even for an old writer like me."

Being a "seasoned" author, Gabhart has lots of great advice to give to newbies. One area of guidance is … read! She says your brain will absorb those words and how they are put together and help you when you're writing your own stories. She also suggests write, write, write. When Gabhart speaks at schools, she tells kids that everything they write is practice. She lets them know that nobody expects to be a great pianist or basketball player without practice, so why would they expect to become great writers without putting in that practice time?

"The best advice I can give to new writers is to believe in your story enough to finish it and work to make it the best you can. I really don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to cater toward what is popular at the time unless you're a really fast writer. By the time you get your book finished, something else might be popular. It’s best to write the story you want to write, that story of your heart. Then once you write that one, find another story that fires up your creative instincts and start writing it!"


Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

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