Over a year ago, when Covid19 hit and officials shut down all non-essential activities to try to slow the spread, most of us were thinking things coming to a halt for a couple of weeks wouldn’t be so bad. But then it wasn’t only a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. Normal activities came to a screeching halt. Grandparents were afraid to let their grandchildren visit. Birthdays and graduations were celebrated with drive-by waves. We shared air hugs from a distance and smiles were hidden behind masks. Toilet paper became the most sought after item at the store and grocery clerks looked exhausted from ringing up all the panic buying.
For many people the pandemic did majorly change the routine of their lives over this last year. People worked from home. Children went to virtual school. People in nursing homes and hospitals had to go it alone. We waited in cars for our turns to see doctors or while our family members were having medical procedures done. We couldn’t be with our loved ones even in emergencies. Instead of family members, nurses were the ones to hold the hands of those breathing their last. That had to be the saddest part of this pandemic year.
With all that said, my writing life didn’t see much of a change. To write a story I have to sit at my desk, shut out the world around me, put my fingers on the keyboard and let my characters take me off into a world I’m imagining. I don’t see that changing for the stories I’ll be writing post pandemic, especially since I generally write historical novels. In fact, my novel, River to Redemption, was set during a cholera pandemic in 1833. I was very glad I didn’t actually have to live through that dreadful time when deadly cholera swept through our country.
While my daily writing routine didn’t change, other things I enjoyed as a writer did. In person book events were canceled. I didn’t get to meet readers and talk books. I do hope those kinds of events will start happening again as we go forward. I also hope the new or perhaps I should say renewed appreciation for books as a great source of entertainment doesn’t change. I have always loved books and reading has been a favorite way to enjoy some leisure time ever since I first learned to read as a kid.
As we take steps to defeat this pandemic and have things return to something nearer the normal we once took for granted, I hope to keep coming up with stories. At the same time, I don’t think I will ever again take family visits and in person church attendance for granted. I hope to take full advantage of good times with family and friends in the days ahead even though things do have to be juggled a bit when I face a writing deadline. However, somehow I always find time for my kids and grandkids no matter what the deadline calendar says. Mothers and grandmothers do have to have priorities, after all.
I’ve been writing many years. My first book was published way back in 1978 when I still had young children at home. So I’ve had plenty of practice squeezing everything in as I’ve written and published over thirty-five books since then.
The actual writing I did during the last year was the same as I have done with all my books. I came up with my idea, spent time researching and considering some “what if” questions to develop the idea, and then worked to bring my characters to life through letting them talk to one another and by their actions in Along a Storied Trail.
I liked getting to know my mountain characters and going along with my packhorse librarian, Tansy Calhoun, as she rode her horse up the mountain trails to the people along her book routes. I am relieved I only had to imagine the cold snowy weather and the shock of that icy water when Tansy had to ford those mountain streams that caused her boots to freeze to her stirrups.
I’m sure if I had lived during that time in those hills, I would have been one of those eager readers running out to meet Tansy, the book woman, to see what book she might have brought me.
Tansy was an appealing mountain character in Along a Storied Trail, but I had a whole book full of people I liked bringing to life. I especially had a great time getting into the skin of Perdita Sweet who had a contrary side to her personality. I’m not sure what enjoying giving voice to a contrary old woman says about me, but perhaps some things shouldn’t be examined too closely!
Along a Storied Trail is a book about stories, where storytelling is front and center. So it’s perfect for me since I love storytelling. I had fun in this book making up a Jack story. Mountain people sometimes told Jack stories around their fireplaces or out on their porches to add a little entertainment to their lives. When books are rare, people do still find a way to have stories. So I decided to make up a Jack story for Aunt Perdie to tell.
I liked returning to the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains for a new story after the two I’d written about the Frontier Nurse midwives, These Healing Hills, and An Appalachian Summer. I especially hope readers will be glad to head out along my story trail to meet my characters and enjoy some mountain storytelling in Along a Storied Trail.
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels—The Refuge, The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted—as well as other historical novels, including Angel Sister, These Healing Hills, River to Redemption, and An Appalachian Summer. She and her husband live on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Ann enjoys discovering the everyday wonders of nature while hiking in her farm’s fields and woods with her grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley.
Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.