Last month I read and reviewed Ann Gabhart’s newest release The Refuge, which hit bookshelves on April 30 (click here to view my review). I thoroughly enjoyed the read and was curious to see if the author was willing to share some of her thoughts and research that went into the creation of it. Not only was she graciously willing to do so, but she also offered to give away a copy of The Refuge to one lucky reader! (See below for details).
About the Book:
When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It’s meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique–and lonely–position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?
Ann H. Gabhart returns to the enigmatic world of the Shakers in this emotional exploration of the power of love and the bond of family.
About the Author:
Ann H. Gabhart grew up on a farm in Kentucky. By the time she was ten she knew she wanted to be a writer. She’s published over twenty novels. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren. She still lives on a farm not far from where she grew up. She loves playing with her grandkids, walking with her dog, reading and, of course, writing. Her Shaker books, set in her fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill in the 1800’s, are popular with readers. The Outsider was a Christian Fiction Book Award Finalist in 2009. Her Heart of Hollyhill books are Small Town, America books set in the 1960’s. Angel Sister, a Rosey Corner book set during the Great Depression, will be followed by Small Town Girl. Visit Ann’s website http://annhgabhart.com
Hi Ann, thanks so much for being willing to chat with me on my blog today about your latest release The Refuge! I’d like to start out with a few fun questions to break the ice if you don’t mind 🙂
Where is your dream vacation destination?
I like hiking on beaches at sunrise and sunset and I like hiking in the mountains. Is there a place where you can do both on the same vacation? If so, I’ll have a dream destination. It’s also fun to go on a family vacation anywhere.
Do you prefer the colder or warmer weather?
I like warm weather. Not too hot and steamy though. Let’s say 75 degrees with the sun shining. That sounds about perfect.
Are you a morning person or a night-owl?
Both. I get up early and go to bed late. Makes for a sleepy day sometimes.
If you were an ice cream flavor what would you be?
Hmm, maybe I should go to the store and examine the different ice cream flavors to come up with something. Maybe Rocky Road. Some chocolate to be a favorite, some nuts to add interest and a name like Rocky Road to supply a challenge.
Okay, now for the good stuff!
How was your interest in the Shakers originally sparked?
When I wrote my first historical novel for the general market way back in the 1970’s I set my characters down on a pioneer trail into Kentucky. Since then all my historical novels have had Kentucky settings. So, while researching for a new idea some years ago, I decided to find out more about the Shaker village near me here in Kentucky. The Pleasant Hill Shaker Village has been restored and is now a tourist destination and a great place to get an idea of how the Shakers lived in the 1800’s. That first dive into Shaker history led to my book, The Outsider. Because the book seemed to draw in readers, my publishers asked me to write more Shaker books. While at first I was somewhat reluctant since I had other ideas going at the time, I did agree to write two more Shaker books, The Believer and The Seeker. I didn’t plan to write others, but then I would have this or that character pop into my imagination and another Shaker book would come to be until now The Refuge is my eighth Shaker novel. They are all stand-alone stories set in my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill that looks a lot like that Shaker village near me, Pleasant Hill.
There was a lot of shocking content in this novel particularly regarding Shaker beliefs and ways of life. Would you be willing to share some of the “fact or fiction” with us?
I’m not exactly sure which of the Shaker beliefs you found shocking, but many people are surprised by the rule of celibacy the Shakers practiced. They did believe all should live as brothers and sisters. They wanted to make their villages heavens on earth. Therefore since Jesus says in the Bible that there are no marriages in heaven, they determined such should also be true in their villages.
Also, the Shakers wanted to live in peace and unity. Their founder, Ann Lee, taught that marriage along with wars caused stress and a loss of peace. She convinced her converts that peace could best be attained by living as brothers and sisters instead of in individual family units. “Our testimony is for peace, now and always. No Christian can use carnal weapons or fight. He never did so. We oppose wars of households, and wars of nations. All wars are the result of lusts for lands and for women. Those who marry will fight.” (Ann Lee)
I do try to make the Shaker history true to the time period I choose for my stories. As the years passed into the 1900’s, the Shakers did relax many of their rules. Not the rule of no marriages, but they did begin to be less insistent on the no frills life that the earlier Shakers abided by. The reason all the Shaker furniture is plain was so that it could more easily be cleaned. That was another of their Mother Ann’s precepts. Everything had to be kept clean since she assured them there would be no dirt in heaven so if their villages were heavens on earth, there could be no dirt there. “Clean your rooms well; for good spirits will not live where there is dirt. There is no dirt in Heaven.” (Ann Lee)
Of course, they did till the earth and appreciate the things they grew in that good dirt. They tried to be as self-sufficient as possible by raising and preserving their own food, spinning the cloth and sewing their own clothes, tanning leather for use in shoes, producing their own building supplies, and more.
Their many rules on how to act, eat, pray, etc. might seem inconsequential, even foolish to us , but they thought if they did everything the same way, wore uniform clothing and other such things, that would increase their unity of spirit. So they had rules about nearly everything, such as which foot to put on the first stair step or which pocket to carry a handkerchief. The men kept their hair cut in the same way. The women kept theirs tucked under caps or bonnets. In their worship, they sang all on the same note with no harmonizing. All property was owned in common and there were lists of things the members could not possess because the items were too worldly or fancy. Everything was to be admired for its usefulness not how it looked.
But they were generous and ready to help those in need which always gives me a good way to bring my characters into the Shaker stories. In The Refuge I did perhaps bend history a bit since I doubt the Shaker leaders would have ever let Darcie stay in the Gathering House, a place for new converts or those considering converting to the Shaker way, with her baby. But it worked in the story.
What do you love most about writing historical fiction?
I enjoy learning about historical happenings that didn’t make the school history books. I like being able to step back in time and try to understand what was happening at whatever time I’m exploring for my stories. I like that I can include the faith thread of my stories in a more natural way due to the acceptance of Christian faith as a part of life in the past. I like the fact that bad language wasn’t accepted in mixed company and people were more reserved about many of the things we in our modern day flaunt. Mostly I like dropping my characters down into a historical era and seeing what happens next.
What do you find the most challenging about writing historical fiction?
Probably the same thing I like about it and that is setting the story in a historical era in an accurate and convincing way but yet one that will draw the reader in. It’s easy to have more modern thinking sneak into our stories. To make a good story, some of that may be necessary since we want courageous heroines and understanding heroes, but I do also try to stay true to the mindset of the people who lived in whatever time period I pick for my stories.
What is one of the most interesting facts you’ve learned while researching for your writing?
I was amazed and somewhat astounded by the history I researched for my book set in Louisville in 1855, Words Spoken True. I had never heard about the election riots of that year and an event named Bloody Monday because of the deaths at the hands of mobs. I didn’t know about the prejudice against immigrants in that era.
But if I want to confine it to the Shaker history, then I think the most impressive and interesting thing I’ve learned is how self-sufficient the Shakers were and how they came up with some many innovative inventions to make their work easier and more efficient. And then there were those trestle tables they set up beside the road and filled with food for the soldiers of the Civil War to grab something to eat as the marched through their village. Coming across that fact in a history of the Shakers led to my book The Seeker.
Can you tease anything about what we can expect next from you?
I’m going back to the Appalachian Mountains to explore more about the Frontier Nursing Service history that I used as the background for my recent release, These Healing Hills. This new book won’t be a sequel, but a new look at the Frontier Nursing Service and the young women who volunteered to spend weeks in the mountains helping the nurse midwives. We just settled on a title. An Appalachian Summer. It won’t release until next summer, but I’m hoping readers will be ready to go back to the mountains for a story then.
Thanks again for taking the time to share with us today!
Ann Gabhart has offered up a PERSONALIZED signed copy of The Refuge to one lucky reader! The giveaway begins today, 6/11/2019 at 12:00 AM (EST) and ends on Tuesday, 6/18/2019 at 12:00 AM (EST). To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below. Good luck!
***Please Note: Open to Continental U.S. mailing addresses only.*** Winner will be notified via email at the end of the giveaway, and will be announced here on this page.