Before you read the guestblog article by Ann Gabhart below, I want to remind you to leave a comment on this post and on yesterday’s post where I did a review of this great book if you want to be entered into the drawing for a chance to win a copy. Drawing to be held next Sunday, Dec. 8th to US mailing addresses only, so make sure to leave an email or other way to contact you if you are the winner.
Seeking the Christmas Story Spirit by Ann H. Gabhart
Even before Halloween ghosts glide out of sight down Trick or Treat Street, Christmas decorations start popping up in the stores. By Thanksgiving, the ads with shopping reminders and gift hints are tattered with age. But the spirit of Christmas is always fresh in the new Christmas novellas that hit the stores this time of year.
There have always been Christmas stories from that very first Christmas story set in a Bethlehem stable, now read millions of times. Perhaps we love Christmas stories so much because of how we want to embrace the true meaning and spirit of Christmas even as we scurry around doing all the busy things we must do at Christmas time.
I had never considered writing a Christmas story. So when, several years ago, my editor suggested I write a Shaker Christmas book, I had no idea if I would be able to do that or not. My agent told me to just make it like a Hallmark movie. Sweet. Gentle. With a touching love story. Right there, I was in trouble since if you know anything about the Shakers, you know they didn’t abide romantic love among their members. Once again, as with my other Shaker stories, I had to find a way to slip my love story in the back way of my Shaker village. I went a little farther with this story and slipped in a heroine who is with child.
My research into how the Shakers celebrated Christmas in the 1860’s opened up more story ideas. Every year shortly before Christmas, the Shakers observed a day of atonement they called Sacrifice Day. On this day, they were to leave behind any grudges, hard feelings and disaffection toward their brothers or sisters. They were to ask forgiveness from those they had wronged and from the Lord. Anything that was settled on Sacrifice Day could never again be brought forward against anyone in their family of believers. They were also to offer forgiveness fully and completely to those they felt had done harm against them. All this fit in with my story’s theme of forgiveness.
Somewhere along the way as I was writing, I must have mislaid my agent’s advice. I doubt readers would classify Christmas at Harmony Hill as sweet or gentle. I’d be pleased if they found the love story touching, and I do hope my heroine looking forward to the birth of her baby and thinking about how Mary might have had similar feelings awaiting the birth of Jesus gives the story an underlying Christmas theme.
Still, Christmas at Harmony Hill is more historical novel than the usual Christmas novella. The story’s set in December 1864 with the Civil War drawing to a close. Gideon is still fighting for the Union Army while Heather returns home to have their baby. When she finds no welcome at her father’s house, she seeks shelter in the Shaker village where her aunt Sophrena, the Shaker journalist in The Gifted, has lived for many years. Sister Sophrena is ready to help Heather even as she is beginning to doubt her own Shaker walk. And so Christmas comes to Harmony Hill.
Do you read Christmas stories? What do you like best about them? Do you only read them at Christmas time or are you willing to read them any time of the year? One reader told me she liked to read them in July, that it kept her cool.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and much joy in the coming year!
ANN H. GABHART, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com or follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/AnnGabhart, Twitter, https://twitter.com/AnnHGabhart , or Pinterest, http://pinterest.com/annhgabhart/.