Interview: Ann H. Gabhart, Author of THESE HEALING HILLS

BNR These Healing Hills PNG
THESE HEALING HILLS
by
ANN GABHART
  Genre: Historical Romance / Christian
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: September 5, 2017
Number of Pages: 368
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Bestselling Author Transports Readers to the Appalachian Mountains for Adventure and Healing

Packed with history, These Healing Hills by bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart introduces readers to the fascinating and difficult life of frontier nursing.

When the soldier Francine Howard planned to marry after WWII writes to tell her he is in love with a woman in England, Francine is devastated and in need of a change. She seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Services.

It is in these mountains that Francine crosses paths with Ben Locke, a soldier still very much suffering from the horrors of war. With his future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

While Francine and Ben find they are from completely different worlds and possess very different values, they both learn that things don’t always go the way we plan. Ann H. Gabhart invites readers to witness the healing power of love and step forward to tantalizing new possibilities. 
Praise for These Healing Hills:
“Reading These Healing Hills is like wrapping up in a beloved quilt and stepping back in time. Ann H. Gabhart captures a fascinating slice of Appalachian history in this tale of a mountain midwife and a soldier, bringing it to life as only a native Kentuckian can. Poignant and romantic, witty and wise, with enduring spiritual truths, this is my favorite novel of hers to date.”
—Laura Frantz, author of A Moonbow Night

“What a wonderful story! Filled with true-to-life characters (including some four-footed ones) and fascinating historical details, These Healing Hills is a beautifully written, heartwarming story of life in the Appalachian Mountains at the end of the Second World War. Ann Gabhart combines vivid descriptions, meticulous research, and a deep understanding of the human heart to create a story that will linger in readers’ memories long after the last page is turned. This is a book to savor, not just once, but over and over. A true keeper.”
—Amanda Cabot, bestselling author of A Stolen Heart

“Ann H. Gabhart delivers a rich tale set in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains at the close of World War II. Francine buries the painful loss of the man she loves beneath the difficult work of a frontier nurse-midwife. The mountain people touch a place deep in her heart, and she gladly sacrifices the life she always wanted in order to serve them. But can she ever be truly happy among the hills and hollows where modern medicine often gives way to ancient folk cures? These Healing Hills is a fascinating and beautifully crafted story that I highly recommend.”
—Virginia Smith, bestselling author of The Amish Widower

“You are sure to enjoy this endearing story of love lost and found in the enchanting hills of Kentucky.”
—Jan Watson, author of the Troublesome Creek series
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AuthorInterview

Why did you decide to write about the Frontier Nursing Service?

While poking about for a new idea for a story, I happened upon a book about Mary Breckinridge, the founder of the Frontier Nursing Service. She was a woman with a vision. After losing her two children at young ages, she wanted to make a difference in the health of mothers and children. So after much training and research on the best place for her health initiative, she established the Frontier Nursing Service in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains where very little medical care was available in 1925. At first, all the midwives were from England due to no midwife schools in America, but when WW II broke out in Europe, the English midwives felt compelled to return home to help with the war effort. So Breckinridge started her own Frontier Nursing School in the mountain town of Hyden, Kentucky, to train new midwives. She had always actively sought contributions to fund the Frontier Nursing Service, but now she and others also began recruiting applicants to the school. The more I read about the women, who came to the program from easier lifestyles but were enchanted by the mountains, the more I wanted to let my character be one of these women. And then I liked getting to know the mountain people through my research. Great history, mountain settings, and strong characters all made a great jumping off place for me to start writing this story.

How did you so vividly capture the Appalachian area? Did you visit?

I’m a lifelong Kentuckian and while I don’t live in the Appalachian area, I’m very familiar with that part of Kentucky. I have often visited the state parks in the mountains and have read many stories set in Appalachia. I did visit Wendover, Mary Breckinridge’s home in the mountains that was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1991. It’s a bed and breakfast now where people can visit and learn more about the history of the Frontier Nursing Service and the beauty of the mountains. The Frontier Nursing School is still actively training students in nearby Hyden, Kentucky. A book by James Still, The Wolfpen Notebooks, that I bought at a book fair many years ago was very useful in helping me capture a little of the mountain speak. It also helps that I grew up on a farm, and although it wasn’t in the mountains, farm folks everywhere have some similar ways and a like respect and love for the land.

What was the most interesting thing you learned while doing research for this book?

The firsthand experiences of the nurse/midwives as they treated their patients were eye-opening for me. I admired their dedication in fording flooded rivers and riding horses along icy trails and through snowstorms—or whatever obstacles nature threw at them—

in order to reach the homes of their patients. I also liked the family feel of the Nursing Service and how the nurses respected the mountain people in spite of their different ways. Then it was inspiring to think about the difference one determined woman with a vision made in the lives of so many. From the FNS beginnings in 1925 to 1975, the FNS nurse/midwives recorded delivering 17,053 babies with only 11 maternal deaths. That is an amazing statistic in an area that Mrs. Breckinridge chose for her service because of the high childbirth mortality rates.

Do you relate to Francine in any way?

I’m certainly no nurse. I do love a mountain vista, and Francine fell in love with the mountains too. I never think I base my characters on me in any way. My characters come to my stories as separate people with stories to share. That said, I’m sure my personality or feelings do sneak into my characters from time to time. Oh, and with Francine, there is how she loves her dog, Sarge. I’ve loved dogs ever since I begged my parents to let me have a dog when I was eight or nine.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I liked learning more about the Frontier Nursing Service and also about the Appalachian Mountain area and the history of the people who live there. The unique mountain speak was fun to sprinkle into my story. Things like saying someone is punying around which means they don’t feel well or blossom patch for a flower garden.

What lesson(s) do you hope readers will take away from reading your book?  

I don’t set out to write a story full of lessons. I write to share stories with readers. If they are introduced to interesting history or fascinating places or perhaps new ways to think or feel, that’s a bonus. I hope following along the story trail with my characters will encourage them in their own walks through life. Perhaps in this story, These Healing Hills, a reader might understand how the Lord continues to work in our lives even when things aren’t going the way we think they should. As Francine’s grandmother tells her, where one door closes another opens. Or if not a door, a window somewhere. Sometimes blessings await us on the far side of disappointments. And then I want readers to feel that rhythm of nature Granny Em tries to get Francine to notice in the mountains.

In what way would you say your faith is worked into the book?

My faith is an integral part of my life and my worldview. Not that I don’t stumble at times and have questions. Some of my characters are that way too with a sure belief even when they are challenged by life happenings. Other characters are exploring what they believe and either finding faith or strengthening their wavering faith. We are all on

different life paths. I feel blessed when I’m writing and a bit of a Bible verse or a Bible story comes to mind that perfectly fits my character’s situation. I try not to be preachy in my stories, but I do like weaving faith threads through the story in a way that seems a natural part of the characters’ lives.

How long have you been writing?

I started scribbling words in a wire bound notebook doing my best Hardy Boy mystery imitation when I was ten years old. That means I’ve been writing over fifty years. That’s a lot of words under the bridge of time. My first book, a historical romance, was published in 1978. These Healing Hills is my thirty-third published novel. I’ve had a great time walking story paths with so many different characters over the years.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Many of my stories feature characters you might meet on any small town street. I like finding ways to make my people come to life on the pages of my books and then letting them whisper their stories in my writing ear. I’ve been told by readers that they feel as though my characters are part of their families and that’s what I want to hear because those characters are definitely part of my fictional family.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

Naming my characters is a big step in getting to know them, so yes, names are very important to me. While I’m testing out names by writing them down in a notebook and trying out different combinations, I get an early glimmer of my character’s personality. I choose both on how the names sound and what they mean. The sound and how their first and last names fit together trumps the meaning of the name, but it is fun when both the sound and the meaning work for my characters. I have an old baby name book that I’ve had for fifty years. It’s falling apart, but it’s still my go to place for naming new characters.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I just finished another historical novel set in a small town in Kentucky that centers on a true event that happened during the cholera epidemic of 1833. Louis, a slave was unaffected by cholera and he heroically buried the fifty plus victims of the disease after most of the citizens left town to escape the disease. Twelve years later when his owner died and it appeared as though Louis would be sold, the town bought his freedom. My story is how I imagine that might have come about. That story awaits edits as I consider a return to my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill for my next story.

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

A tiger. I’d be so graceful as I climbed around on the rocks and lay around in the sun. And if anybody bothered me I’d snarl and growl until they went away.


Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels—The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted—as well as Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, Love Comes Home, Words Spoken True, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. 
—————————————–
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
Grand Prize:
Copy of These Healing Hills + The Kentucky Snack Basket (11 items including a Derby Pie Tart, Bourbon Pecan Brittle, Bourbon Chocolates, Spiced Pretzels, Modjeskas, Coffee, Snack Mix, Candy Bar, Caramel Corn, and a Horseshoe from Churchill Downs!)
First Runner-Up:
Copy of These Healing Hills + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
Second Runner-Up:
Copy of These Healing Hills + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
September 5 – 14, 2017
(U.S. Only)

CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
5-Sep
Playlist
6-Sep
Review
7-Sep
Character Interview
8-Sep
Review
9-Sep
Guest Post
10-Sep
Review
11-Sep
Scrapbook Page
12-Sep
Excerpt
13-Sep
Review
14-Sep
Author Interview

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