Fridays with Friends guestblog by Ann Gabhart

Today I am pleased to welcome a good friend and fellow Kentucky writer, Ann Gabhart. I read her new book Angel Sister and blogged about it last month. Check out the blog for February 7th to read my review and see a copy of the cover. Ann has graciously consented to tell “the rest of the story” about how this book came to be. Read and enjoy and hurry on out to buy your copy of this book and any of Ann’s great stories. Plus Ann has offered to mail a copy of Angel Sister to one reader who leaves a comment on this post sometime this month.
And I want to share a special honor Ann just received from Romantic Times magazine. Angel Sister was awarded a February Inspirational Fiction Top Picks by this widely-read magazine for all fiction lovers. Kudos to Ann for this well-deserved award.
Angel Sister – An Echo of My Mother’s Story
by Ann H. Gabhart

A few years ago I had a dry spell as an author. I was writing, but what I was writing wasn’t finding any appreciative editors. So I decided I should take that time honored writing advice – write what you know. What I knew was farm life, small town living and little country churches. I combined all that into a setting for my book, The Scent of Lilacs, and the Lord blessed me with a loving editor at an inspirational publisher and gave me a new direction for my writing. I wrote a couple more books about my little fictional town, Hollyhill, and enjoyed delving into my memories to make the background of the book as authentic as possible. So when I began to cast around for a new idea, I remembered the fun of using a familiar hometown setting for those books and thought maybe I could move back a little farther in time to my mom’s childhood days for a new story background. My Harmony Hill setting in my Shaker books comes from history books as I do my best to reconstruct a 19th century Shaker Village. Rosey Corner in Angel Sister comes from history too – family history.

Mom was born in 1920 and grew up during the years of the Great Depression. She was one of four sisters – no brothers. Her father was the community’s blacksmith at a time when automobiles were taking over the roads and there was less and less need for a blacksmith’s skills. Times were hard but you would have never guessed that from the way my mother and her sisters talked about their childhood years. They loved sharing stories about when they were kids and often ended up laughing until tears ran down their cheeks as they recalled some of the odd characters from their old neighborhood. I enjoyed their stories, but as I got older, I realized I was only getting the shine on top of the story. So I began to probe at my mother’s stories. I asked about the odd folks. I asked about my grandparents. I asked what they liked, what they did, how they lived. And I wrote it all down.

At that time I wasn’t thinking about a background for a story. I just wanted to keep a record of hers and my aunts’ memories. To know how they felt as kids. To somehow share their life journeys. They never tired of telling the stories about Phoebe cutting cedars for her cedar palaces or Brigham showing them his dead mother’s hats. They’d frown, still a little angry, when they told about the man who took pleasure in scaring their mother by letting little snakes peek up out of his shirt pocket when he stopped by to pass the time of day. But they always laughed as if it didn’t bother them a bit when they told how their primer teacher meted out extra punishments to them because their father married their mother instead of her. So many memories.

Deborah Moggach once said “You keep your past by having sisters. As you get older, they’re the only ones who don’t get bored if you talk about your memories.” I didn’t get bored either. I listened and then when I was trolling around for a new idea I decided to try writing my mom’s story. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Writing never is. The first thing I had to do was forget Mom and her sisters. I had to turn the sisters in the book into my own characters with their own fictional story.

I did take my mother’s can-do and deal-with-it spirit and poured that into my character, Kate. Then I dropped in an abandoned little girl named Lorena Birdsong who needed an “angel sister.” That child became a sister of the heart to Kate and a catalyst of change for the Merritt family and the whole community.

“A sister is a gift of the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.” (Isadora James)

Angel Sister is a story not just from my heart but from my mother’s heart. And that of her sisters. Their memories were the seed of my idea. While I did completely make up the story – after all, I do write fiction – there is the occasional echo of their memories throughout the story. I think they would have enjoyed hearing that echo. And I’m hoping readers will hear it too and love my characters as much as I did.

To read an excerpt of Angel Sister or to find discussion questions, visit my website, I enjoy hearing from reading friends. Thanks so much, Rose, for inviting me over for a chat on your Fridays with Friends.

Rose here again: Thank you for visiting and sharing with us such a special story, Ann.

Bio: Ann H. Gabhart has published over twenty novels for adults and children including her bestselling Shaker novels. Her first Shaker novel, The Outsider, was a finalist for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Fiction Book of 2009. Ann lives on a farm in Central Kentucky with her husband, Darrell who sings bass in a Southern Gospel group, the Patriot Quartet. They have three children and nine grandchildren. Ann’s a member of ACFW and her books, Summer of Joy and The Believer were finalists for a Carol Award.
You can keep up with Ann on her website,; her blog, One Writer’s Journal,; Facebook author page, or follow Ann on Twitter.

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17 Responses to

  1. Thanks, Ann and Rose, for the peek at the background for Sister Angel. Whether with life, your friendship, your faith, or your books, both of you are inspiring!

  2. I enjoyed reading The Making of “Angel Sister” and can only imagine the novel itself will be that much more enjoyable.

  3. Vicki says:

    I always enjoy hearing “the story behind the story.” Congrats on the RT Top Pick. That’s awesome! ANGEL SISTER is in my TBR pile and it’s calling to me :)

  4. Dear Ann,
    You don’t know me but I am sure we are angel sisters! You have touched my heart and I someday hope to meet you, if not here, then in the clouds! God’s joy on your day!!

    Lisa Gish

  5. Cynthia, what a sweet thing to say about Rose and me. There’s no doubt that you have been a friend and inspiration to many writers through your work with ACFW. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Thanks so much for commenting, Folake and Vicki. I do hope you’ll both enjoy the story when you get a chance to read it. I know about those TBR piles, Vicki. I think mine’s about to hit critical mass. :)

    You have such an interesting name, Folake. I love striking names. I’m sitting here wondering how you pronounce your name and guessing with 3 syllables, emphasis on the second. ??

    So glad both of you read my “story behind the story” as Vicki says.

  7. Hi, Lisa. I doubt a person could have too many “angel” sisters, so I like your way of thinking. I’m so glad my story gave you joy. Thank you for your comment.

  8. I just recently purchased a book by Ann, The Outsider, which is in my TBR pile while I continue my research for my WIP. I have read a bit of it to see whether I’d like it and I know that it will be a great read. I’m sure Angel Sister will be a great story, too. I especially enjoyed learning that Ann’s mother was born in 1920, making her a survivor of the Depression. My mother was born in 1914 and also endured those difficult years, living to the ripe old age of 93. Thanks, Ann, for coming to visit us through Rose’s blog.
    Donna Winters
    bigwaterpub at gmail dot com

  9. Thanks so much, Donna, for deciding to read The Outsider when you get the chance. I hope you’ll enjoy the story. I know about having to scramble for reading time, especially when you’re researching for your own story. The Depression years were hard but those years turned out some strong and resourceful women. And men.

  10. Mary Ellis says:

    Thanks, Ann, for sharing the background for Angel Sister. This book truly sounds like my cup-of-tea. My bestest friend in the whole world lives on a farm in Somerset, Ky, and I know would love reading this too. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Thanks Rose, for inviting Ann (who I personally know is a sweetheart!) to your blog!

  11. Aww, Mary, you’re a sweetheart too. Gladyou enjoyed the story behind the story. Maybe you and your best friend can have a twosome book club and read the book at the same time so you can talk about it. I love talking books with my sisters and friends.

  12. I so enjoyed hearing you speak about Sister Angel recently, Ann! Your story is such an inspiration, Ann! Thanks Rose for posting Ann’s story.

  13. Hi, Heather. So nice of you to come over to Rose’s to read about Angel Sister. It was fun having you and the other Bluegrass writers at Ginny’s and my book launches. Made us feel extra special for sure. And thanks for the shout out to the other writers on our Bluegrass loop.

  14. Jackie says:

    This makes me think of Munfordville, KY where my grandparents lived. They had stories that made us laugh and cry. What a different life without all of our electronic gadgets. I loved hearing your story, and I think your book sounds great!

  15. Thanks, Jackie, for coming by to read my story behind the story. I guess little towns or communities in KY or anywhere in rural America have plenty of similarities. Hope you like my small town KY story if you get a chance to read Angel Sister.

  16. Hi Ann! It is 3 syllables: Foh-lah-keh but with the emphasis on the first I believe. Not good with phonetics. Lol. It’s a Nigerian name by the way. Back again. I really gotta win this book now. :D

  17. karenk says:

    i just had the opportunity to read this fabulous post today…looking forward to reading ann’s latest masterpiece :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

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