Sunday, 18 November 2018

I Interviews

Interview: Ann H. Gabhart

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What was the inspiration for your new book, River to Redemption?

My novels usually have a Kentucky setting, since that is my home state and I enjoy writing about the state’s people and its history. So when I’m ready to begin a new book, I think about where the story is going to take place and in what era. Sometimes an interesting bit of history will pop up as I’m searching for an idea. That’s what happened with River to Redemption. I came across the story of the slave, Louis Sansbury, in a collection of stories about little-known heroes in Kentucky history, and I started thinking “what if.”

 

River to Redemption Book CoverHow did you become interested in the time period and events involving the 1833 cholera epidemic?

I had often read accounts about the cholera epidemics in Kentucky while researching some of my historical novels set in the 1800s, but I had never centered a story idea on that information. I did have characters whose lives had been impacted by the cholera, such as Beck in Words Spoken True, set in 1855. Years before my story, he had lost his wife in the cholera epidemic.

When you read about that dreaded disease and how quickly it could go through a town, striking down victims, young and old, you realize how fortunate we are now to have better medical knowledge and treatments. So while I had researched that time period for other novels, I hadn’t included an epidemic in any of my novels until I read about Louis.

           

What type of research was required for writing your book?

I visited the small town of Springfield, which is not far from where I live. I have relatives who live in that area, but I had never visited the town with the fresh eyes needed to see it as the background for one of my stories. So I contacted the Chamber of Commerce where a volunteer worker helped me locate an old street map of the town. That helped me get an idea of the size of the town for the time period I was researching. I saw the old courthouse that dated from the time period of my story. I visited the town cemetery where Louis heroically dug the fifty-plus graves for the victims of the 1833 epidemic. When cholera struck the town again in 1849, Louis once more dug the graves for the victims. Years later, the town erected a small monument in the cemetery to honor him for his selfless work during those epidemics.

A historian at the county library helped me research some of the events of the time. Here at home I researched online and found a few references to Louis and the town of Springfield. Then with the era in mind and how people lived and thought in the early and mid 1800s, I was ready to imagine what might have happened.

River to Redemption is based partly on a true story. Can you please tell us how you were able to intertwine AnnGabharttrue life with fiction?

Many of my books have a background of actual historical events where I simply drop my characters down into the time period and let them play a part in whatever is happening, be it a war or the Great Depression or whatever might be happening during the particular historical time frame of my story. That was true with River to Redemption too, but with the difference that the background history involved the specific actions of one actual man. Louis wasn’t someone I made up and thus could give whatever characteristics best suited my story. With Louis, I had to consider what kind of man would do what he did. Those thoughts shaped how I wrote his character as I combined the few facts I knew about him with how I imagined a man in his position might be at that time period. Then I surrounded him with fictional characters and wrote a story I hope brings him to life as he interacts with my fictional people and imagined events.

Your new novel is a story filled with courage, betrayal, and honor. What is one of the main points you hope readers learn from your book?

Throughout the story I have Louis telling my character, Adria, to pray believing. Sometimes that takes courage. So I hope my readers will see how my characters had the courage to pray and follow the Lord’s leading even when what they needed to do was difficult.

What are you working on next?

For my next historical novel, I’m heading back to my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill. My character, Darcie, has also been impacted by the cholera epidemic of 1833, and when she and her husband hear of a new epidemic in 1849, they join with the Shakers since the village never seems to lose people to cholera. But disaster visits her anyway as she starts the story by saying you can’t cheat death. The story will follow her in the Shaker village through some difficult times to a new beginning.

How can readers connect with you?

Readers can always connect with me from my website, www.annhgabhart.com. There they can also find out about my books, read my blogs, sign up for my newsletter, and much more. On my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/anngabhart, I enjoy interacting with readers while sharing some regular posts, such as Shaker Wednesday, Friday smiles, and the ever popular Sunday morning coming down. I share news on Twitter (annhgabhart) and pictures, research, and blog posts on Pinterest. For a quick connection, click on the social media links in the upper right corner of any page on my website.  

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