A. H. Gabhart is the author of Murder at the Courthouse. As Ann H. Gabhart, she is the bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, and several popular Shaker novels such as The Outsider, The Believer, and The Innocent. Ann grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky much like Hidden Springs. She and her husband still live on a farm near that same Kentucky town. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.
If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?
I am a woman blessed beyond measure with the place I live, the family I love, and the stories I imagine.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?
I’m not sure it qualifies as a hobby, but I do like to hike and enjoy taking photos of wildflowers and other beauties of nature to share with my Facebook friends. My dog, Oscar, a lab chow mix keeps me company on my walks, and sometimes so do a few of my nine grandchildren. I have a huge to-be-read stack of books and dream of someday taking a long reading vacation.
What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
My favorite book was Black Beauty. I shed many tears over that story. But I also read every Hardy Boy mystery in our local library and credit those books with starting me down the writing trail. The Hardy Boys inspired me to begin writing my own mystery since I fancied the idea of being a detective and solving a mystery the way they did in their stories.
Tell us three things about yourself that might surprise your readers.
I grew up on a farm. I got the first dog that was mine alone when I was eight and have had at least one dog buddy in my life ever since.
The very first “profit” I made from writing was winning 100 baby chicks when I was in the sixth grade and entered a 4-H essay contest.
The question I get asked the most is how many books have I written. I don’t know the answer to that since some of my books haven’t been published. But Murder Comes by Mail is my 30th published book. You’d think I’d know that number straight off, but I had to count up the books. Maybe with a nice even number like 30, I’ll be able to remember now.
What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?
I have re-invented myself as a writer several times. The first book I wrote way back in the 1970s was a gothic romance. That book is still on my reject shelf. My first published book was a general market historical romance. Then when I couldn’t keep up with market trends for that genre in the 1980s, I wrote a number of young adult coming of age novels. When I again hit a slow spot in selling my work, I decided to write a book about a preacher and his family. That story brought me into the Christian inspirational market. I love writing for this market, but even here, I’ve written several different genres. I have some stories set in small towns, my Heart of Hollyhill series and my Rosey Corner series, that I think of as family stories with historical and romance threads. One book, Words Spoken True, is a historical romance set in 1855 Louisville. Then I have my Shaker books with settings in the 1800s. And now, my new releases are contemporary cozy mysteries set in a small town. So yes, I have changed course. The why was sometimes due to lack of interest from editors and sometimes because that was the story I wanted to write at a particular time.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Back when I was a beginning writer and had obtained an agent to represent me, I sent a manuscript to her which she rejected with the comment that my characters were “cardboard characters.” That was tough. But she didn’t give up on me and my next book actually was the one that found a publisher.
The best might have been when my book, Love Comes Home, won the Selah Book of the Year in 2015. One of the judges said my story left her changed. Another time, a reader said she had been able to finally deal with the sorrow of losing a baby thirty years ago after reading that same book, Love Comes Home. It is a good feeling to know readers are touched by your stories.
Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?
Sometimes I think I’ve already tried them all. But actually, back when I was writing for young adults, I did consider and write several chapters of one of those another world fantasy ideas. Plus, I have also tried my hand at writing devotions with the thought of perhaps compiling a book of inspirational ponderings. I have yet to come up with enough inspirational thoughts for an entire book, but maybe someday. I don’t know that I have a why for either of those other than the answer I used to give my kids. Just because.
If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?
I might try to see if I could write for the inspirational fiction market earlier in my career, but I doubt if I could have done that when I started writing. Back then, I don’t think Christian fiction was a separate genre. That specialized market evolved later when readers weren’t able to find the kind of books they wanted to read in the general market.
But everything I’ve done has been a learning experience so perhaps things worked out as they should have. You can’t go back and do things over anyway.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?
Tell the story you want to tell. If you get rejections, and most writers do, don’t let that make you give up or stop believing in yourself. Just keep writing. Few get really good at anything without practice. So keep in mind that everything you write is practice.
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Doing a good deed never felt so bad
Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane doesn’t particularly enjoy being touted as the hero of Hidden Springs after pulling a suicidal man
Photos of a dead girl arrive in the mail, and Michael becomes convinced she was murdered by the man he saved. With a killer one step ahead, things in Hidden Springs begin to unravel. Now Michael must protect the people he loves—because the killer could be targeting one of them next.