Monday, November 13, 2017

Ann Gabhart Visits

Ann Gabhart is an excellent storyteller, and I'm excited to host her this week. She's sharing about her latest book, These Healing Hills. I haven't read it yet, but if it's anything like her previous books, it's sure to be a winner. 

I had the privilege of meeting Ann some years ago at a local writer's conference. Among my favorite authors, she's as sweet, friendly, and down to earth as she sounds in this interview. Ann's offered to give away a paperback copy of These Healing Hills to one of my followers, so don't forget to check out the details below.

Welcome, Ann. Congratulations on your latest book, These Healing Hills! What sparked the idea for this story?  

Thank you, Karen. I’ve been writing a long time. These Healing Hills is my 33rd published book, but I’m still excited each time a new book is out there for readers. Many of my books have been historical novels set in Kentucky with Kentucky history as background of the stories. So while searching for a new idea, I came across information about the Frontier Nursing Service. I was immediately fascinated by the history and wanted to know more about it and its founder, Mary Breckinridge. With a vision of better healthcare for impoverished mothers and children, Breckinridge established the Frontier Nursing Service in the Appalachian Mountains. As I delved deeper into her life, I knew I’d found my idea. I wanted to write a story about a woman who became one of her nurse midwives.  

Wow, 33 books, that's exciting and impressive. The story idea is intriguing. Can you give us a quick overview?

These Healing Hills is a stand-alone book set in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains at the end of World War II. The heroine, Francine, has her life planned out until the soldier she expected to marry after the war sends her a “Dear Joan” letter. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Meanwhile Ben Locke, deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. With his future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he has to find the right path for what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds...and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

That is the back cover copy and a little more. The fascinating history of the Frontier Nursing Service and the beautiful mountain setting were great additions to my characters’ story in These Healing Hills. I did really like my characters and I enjoyed letting Granny Em, who was a healer who helped families with their medical needs prior to the Frontier nurses showing up, step into some of the scenes with her mountain wisdom. I had fun salting in some mountain lingo too, such as the edge of dark for night falling or getting a soon start for leaving early in the morning.  
Sounds like a winning combination. I love a good story laced with genuine historical details. Looking forward to reading this one. Who are your main characters?  

Francine Howard is my main female character. She’s the one jilted by her high school sweetheart. She can’t stand the thought of staying in her Cincinnati neighborhood where everybody will feel sorry for her. So, already a nurse, she remembers a recruiter for the Frontier Nursing Service talking about training to be a midwife in the Appalachian Mountains. She packs up and starts a new life. 

Ben Locke has been across the ocean fighting in World War II for several years. Home has whispered through his head through every battle, along every march. If only he can get home to see his beloved mountains again. But then once the war ends and Ben makes it home, he is unsettled and not sure what's next. He wants to take care of his widowed mother and his younger siblings, but he knows he needs more. And then he gives Francine a dog and adds new complications to his life. 

Complications help make the best stories, don't they? Was there any special knowledge or research required to write this book? 

I did need to find out as much about the Frontier Nursing Service and its origins as I could. Mary Breckinridge started the Service in 1926 after seeing the need for professionally trained midwives to help the people in the Appalachian Mountains who had little access to medical care. Breckinridge had a heart for children and wanted to give them a better start in life by helping their mothers have healthy pregnancies and births. She established the Frontier Nurse Service in Leslie County, Kentucky with midwives from overseas since there were no midwifery schools in the States. When war broke out in England, years before America was drawn into the conflict, several of the English midwives felt compelled to return to England to help with the war effort. So Breckinridge established the Frontier Midwifery School in Hyden, Kentucky to train midwives to keep her Frontier Nursing Service going. One of the recruitment posters I came across in my research promised the nurses their own dog, their own horse and plenty of adventure as they saved children’s lives. That seemed the perfect start for my character.  

I read several first person accounts of midwives to help me get a better idea of what my character might face as she helped mothers deliver their babies in the mountains. I worried I might not know enough about the nuts and bolts of midwifery, but so far the story has received good response. 

If it's anything like your other books, I'm sure you did a wonderful job with every aspect. What's next on the horizon? Any new books or other adventures?  

Next up after These Healing Hills is another historical novel, River to Redemption. My initial idea for the story was a true event that occurred in the small Kentucky town of Springfield after the 1833 cholera epidemic. At that time, people thought cholera might be caused by bad air, perhaps from the discarded fruit and vegetable peels and other discarded garbage. So when they heard about a case of cholera, all those who had the means to do so, immediately left town. Sometimes this simply carried the disease with them to other places, but sometimes it did help them escape the disease which was actually due to contaminated water or exposure to others who were ill. So when Springfield was hit with a cholera epidemic in 1833, as was most of the United States, everybody who could left town. That included the owner of a local hotel, George Sansbury. He gave his slave Louis the keys to the hotel and told him to keep things going. Louis was one of those fortunate people unaffected by cholera. So he, along with another slave, a cook, Matilda Sims, tended those who were ill and Louis singlehandedly dug the graves and buried the fifty-five victims of the disease. 

Twelve years later George Sansbury died and his property, which included his slaves, was up for sale or auction. The citizens of the town collected money to buy Louis’s freedom in gratitude for his service to the town during the cholera epidemic and they also set him up in a blacksmith shop. A plaque to Louis Sansbury is in the Springfield, Kentucky graveyard. My book, which is completely fictional except for that true historical fact about Louis, is how I imagine that might have come about. River to Redemption is scheduled to release in the summer of 2018. The book is going through edits at the publishers. Now I’m working on coming up with a new story set in my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill. Every time I write a Shaker novel, I say it’s going to be my last, but I’m pretty sure I mean it this time. Pretty sure. 

That sounds like an excellent idea for a story. Will look forward to reading River to Redemption as well. :) You'll have to come back and see us when it releases. Thanks so much for stopping by, Ann. Wishing you all the best with your books and writing!  

Thank you for letting me come visit, Karen. Always fun to visit with you here. And I look forward to hearing what you and your reading friends have to say. 

How about I turn the tables on all of you a bit here and ask you a few questions? Do you know the history of the Frontier Nursing Service? If so, how do you know about it? If not, does a background history of nurse midwives helping mothers and children in the mountains sound interesting?  

More About Ann   

Ann is the bestselling author of over thirty novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. In addition to her popular Harmony Hill Shaker novels, Ann writes about family life in novels like Angel Sister and Love Come Home as well as cozy mysteries (as A.H. Gabhart) set in small towns like the Kentucky town where she grew up. These Healing Hills is her first historical novel set in the Appalachian Mountains. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and enjoy country life in Kentucky. 

Find Ann  

Giveaway Info

1) Please leave your email address with your comment. I'd also appreciate it if you were a Google Friend Connect Follower (see sidebar). Thanks so much.
2) Open to US residents only.
3) Deadline to enter is midnight Eastern time, Thursday, 11/16/17. Upon notification, winner will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

Do you have any answers to Ann's questions above? Do you have any questions for Ann? What are you reading this week?

Happy reading and writing,


  1. Wow! 33 books. I'm so impressed. I love that Ann's book is historical and is about midwives at the end of WWII. Sounds super interesting. Good luck with it.

    1. Thanks, Natalie. I am blessed to have had 33 books out there for readers. I do like this 33rd one with the Appalachian setting. My first time to go to the mountains in a story.

  2. The setting and time period are perfect for me. I look forward to reading her story. Thanks for featuring the book here.

  3. River to Redemption sounds like a really good story.
    Who'd want to stay in Cincinnati when they could go to the Appalachian Mountains anyway?
    Good to meet you, Ann!

  4. Natalie,
    It does sound interesting, doesn't it? Looking forward to reading it. :)

    Yes, I agree about the setting and time period. Such great potential for a wonderful story! :)

    LOL - yeah, I'd choose the mountains too! :) Looking forward to reading both stories.

    Happy writing,

  5. Lee, so glad you think my story is one you might like. Hope that will be true when you get a chance to read it.

    Alex, I can agree with you there. Country beats city anytime for me. I've never lived in the mountains, so can't say for sure about that. But I do like country living out here on the farm in Kentucky.

  6. I've read several of Ann's books and have really enjoyed them. I didn't know about the Frontier Nursing Service, but I have had several missionary friends who went to a midwifery school in Kentucky - I wonder if it's related! My email is mack at cruzio dot com

    1. So glad you've enjoyed some of my stories, Margaret. I'm pretty sure if your friends went to a midwifery school in Kentucky it is the one I have my character going to in These Healing Hills.

  7. I've wanted to read These Healing Hills since I first read about it. Love Ann Gabhart's books.

    The background history of nurse midwives helping mothers and children in the mountains aand this particular time period is very interesting to me. We not live in the Ozark Mountains and built our home on a historical piece of property around two existing 1853 large stone fireplaces. I can imagine how time was back in that time frame.

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Fun to read that you want to read my new book, Kay. Also nice that you think the background of the story will be interesting. I think it's really neat that you built your house around those old stone fireplaces. What a great way to preserve a little of the history of the place.

  8. Margaret,
    She's a good writer, isn't she? Appreciate you stopping by to see us. Nice to meet another "Ann" fan. :)

    It's great to meet you! Thanks for coming by. Sounds like you have a bit of history at your place too. :)

    Happy reading and writing,

  9. Hi Ann & Karen - This sounds like a wonderful book! Please enter me in the giveaway. susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Hope when you get a chance to read These Healing Hills if will live up to expectations.

  10. Oh, this sounds like a fascinating story, a bit like "Christie," which I dearly loved. Historical novels are favorites of mine, as I always learn something in addition to being entertained.

    Thanks for sharing, Ann, and thanks, Karen, for hosting her!


    1. Christie was a great book. I enjoyed it when I read it years ago. I also like historical novels. That's good because it's best is you like the kind of novels you want to right. So glad you think my story sounds good, Jeanette. Thank you.

  11. Hello Karen...Thanks for the interview with Ann. Oh my goodness! She's written 33 books. That is impressive. Thank you so much for putting my name into the hat for her book. ( So sorry, I don't do Google Friend Connect. Susan p.s. Thanks for your visits, Karen.

  12. Actually, Susan, I can't really say how many books I've written. Some have never made it into print, but I am happy that 33 of my books have been available for readers. Good luck in the drawing.

  13. Susan R.,
    I think you would like this one.:) Appreciate you stopping by!

    I think you may be right! :) You'll probably like this one too.

    Susan W.,
    You are welcome. Yes, Ann is a prolific writer, that's for sure. :)

    Happy writing,

  14. These Healing Hills provides the reader with memorable characters. The story Ann weaves into the history of the Frontier Nursing Service is both engaging and fascinating.

    Ann, I wish I could attend the Kentucky Book Fair!

  15. This book sounds perfect! I am a nurse and had considered becoming a nurse midwife. I enjoy historical fiction. Looking forward to reading this!

  16. Thirty-three books! Ann, I am so happy for your success and I believe that your success as an author is largely due to the wonderful person that you are. I am looking forward to These Healing Hills and River to Redemption.
    Thanks for your giveaway.

  17. Becky,
    Sounds like you are a big Ann fan! :) Appreciate you coming by.

    We're all thinking this is going to be a great read, aren't we? Thanks for stopping to see us! :)

    Ann is one sweet writer, isn't she? :) Glad to have you visit for the interview.

    Happy reading,

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  19. I didn't know anything about the Frontier Nursing Service before reading These Healing Hills. I absolutely loved the book; so much so that I'd like to have my own copy. I checked out the book from my library. I'd read other books by Ann so I was pretty sure I'd enjoy it. I was right. Thanks for the chance to win These Healing Hills.


  20. Hi Ann and Karen! Well, I'm late to the party, but I did enjoy reading about the new book. As a nurse myself, I'd be really interested in learning about the Frontier Nurses. I'm sure it's fascinating.
    33 books? Yikes. Good for you Ann! I imagine your capacity for wonder and curiosity is huge.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

  21. Wonderful to hear from Ann. What a great cover! 33 books- wow! Wishing her all the best. :)


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!