Karen: Thank you for joining us, Ann. It’s a pleasure to have you. Congratulations on the release of Angel Sister!
Ann: Thank you, Karen. So glad to join you here on Write Now.
Karen: When did the idea for Angel Sister hit you?
I’ve been writing for a long time – since I was about ten years old. I got serious about submitting for publication when I was twenty. My first novel was published by Warner Books when I was thirty-one. So you can see this has been a long road and one that’s had some detours and potholes. My first thirteen books were published in the general market – two historical romances by Warner Books and eleven young adult and middle reader books by various publishers.
But then I hit a dry spell and began to wonder if I’d ever see another of my books in print. So I decided to go back to that basic writing advice and write what I knew. What I knew was small towns and country churches and farm life. So I came up with a preacher and his daughter in the little rural town of Hollyhill, Kentucky. That book, The Scent of Lilacs found a home with Revell Books and opened up a whole new publishing world to me in the inspirational market.
So after I had written three books about my characters in the little town of Hollyhill, I began to cast around for a new idea. Since I’d had some success using the background of my growing up years for a book, I decided to see if I could use my mother’s background. She and her three sisters always had such a good time sharing stories about their childhood years. They grew up during the Great Depression, but their memories were mostly happy ones of how their family made it through those hard times with love and perseverance. So that was the spark for the idea that became the story in Angel Sister.
Karen: How true to life are your characters for Angel Sister? The setting?
Ann: I made the setting as true to life as I could by remembering my mother’s stories of how things were when she was a kid. I wanted to capture the feeling of the thirties and how the Depression impacted the people. I also used bits of my mother’s family’s personal background. My mother’s father was a blacksmith. The father in the story is a blacksmith. My grandfather served in WW I in France. The father in my story went to France to fight in WW I, but my grandfather was a cook and never had to go “over the top” and into battle the way Victor did in Angel Sister. My grandfather did have a drinking problem and he did overcome it in order to keep his family intact, but I know none of the real details of that. Victor’s struggle and the story of his WW I romance with Nadine are completely from my imagination.
As for Kate, she too is completely from my imagination, although I did try to give her my mother’s can-do attitude. I think that’s the way to come up with good characters. Take a bit of the real and then make up the rest.
Karen: What advice do you have for writers who wish to write historical fiction?
Ann: First, if you want to write, write what you like to read. If you like historical fiction the way I do, then find some event or era that really speaks to you. Next try to figure out why it has captured your imagination. When you know that, you’ll know whether you have a story for the characters you’re ready to drop into that time.
I do a lot of research. One of my favorite ways to really get a feel for whatever era I’m writing about is to read a diary or journal of someone who lived in that time. The history in a journal might be muddled a bit by the person’s point of view and political leanings, but you can get a nice feel for how the average person felt during that era. For Angel Sister, I was fortunate enough to come across a little book of letters that a man had written home during WW I.
Karen: Great advice! What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Ann: I like to write. I really do, but I’m like most writers in that sometimes it’s hard to put my fingers on the keys and actually start writing. I do like coming up with characters and I’m always happy when my characters begin talking to one another. I enjoy writing dialogue. I have more trouble setting the scene or describing what things look like. I want to get on with whatever is happening. Of course I do have to admit that if I’m reading a book with a lot of descriptive passages, I tend to start skimming. So I guess I like writing what I like reading.
Karen: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Ann: I don’t plot in detail. I do a “what if” bit of pre-writing. And I don’t do as much of that as I used to. Sometimes I don’t think I do enough plotting before I want the story to start spilling out. For my first inspirational novel, The Scent of Lilacs, I said what if I have a young girl whose father is a preacher who is also the editor of the local paper in a small town. What if that girl’s mother deserted the family when my young character was five? What if during the 1960s that kept her father from getting a preaching position? Everything else sort of grew out of those what if questions. So if I guess I’m sort of a combination, but lean more toward the pantster.
It was a little different for Angel Sister since I had such a wealth of information about how I wanted my family to be. My biggest problem there was ignoring much of what I knew about my mom and her sisters so that I could come up with my fictional characters.
Karen: I like that "What if?" idea! What advice do you have for fledgling fiction writers?
Ann: The best advice I can give anybody who wants to write is this. Write. And read. Both are essential to a writer learning his or her craft and developing his or her abilities. The next best advice is to persevere and keep writing even when things aren’t going well. Nobody is going to break down your door and demand to see what you’ve written. You’re going to have to be brave enough to put it out there for people to see. You’re going to have to risk rejection. Trust me on this – rejection is not fatal. Unpleasant but not fatal. It’s part of a writer’s world.
Karen: "Rejection is not fatal." Wise words Ann, thanks so much. :) How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Ann: I enjoy hearing from readers and friends. You can connect with me from my website, www.annhgabhart.com. It’s easy to find information about my books and excerpts there too along with a schedule of my events. If you want to sign up for my occasional newsletter, that’s a great way to find out about my new releases and to be the first to know about new giveaways. You can also keep up with what’s going on with my writing and down here on the farm by following my blog, One Writer’s Journal. www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com. Then there’s my author’s page on Facebook and I do tweet a little on Twitter. My user name for both is Ann H Gabhart.
Karen: So glad you decided to join us. Thanks you!
Ann: Thank you, Karen. I enjoyed coming over for a visit. So glad to meet you and your reading friends.
My Thoughts About Angel Sister
Is Kate Merritt the glue that holds her family together? At first glance, one might think so, but fourteen year old Kate struggles with issues below the surface. Victor, her father, is tormented by drink, wrestling demons from his service in WW I. Her mother Nadine depends on her, for Kate's older sister, sixteen year old Evangeline, lacks Kate's ability to keep a level head. Younger sister Victoria is not old enough to grasp all that happens in the Merritt household.
Grandfather Merritt and Grandfather Reece are forces to be reckoned with, and contribute much conflict to this heartwarming story. Journey with Kate, her family, and the unusual cast of characters in Rosey Corner, KY as they meet Lorena Birdsong. The young waif is convinced that Jesus sent Kate to rescue her. Forgiveness, truth, and trust in God play key roles as the Merritt family looks to find solutions to their challenges.
Ann's gift for telling a fine story is evident; I was hooked early on. Angel Sister will stir your heart and imagination. Thanks, Ann, for the opportunity to read it!
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Do you write fiction? Non-fiction? Some of both? Do you draw your ideas from family, like Ann did for Angel Sister?