May 4, 2022

What Sparks a Story?

Ann H. Gabhart

Inspiration for story ideas can come in many ways. When the Meadow Blooms is my thirty-seventh published book. That is a garden full of ideas and a river flowing full of words. Sometimes I find it hard to go back to the initial idea that sets me off down a story road. It might be a historical event I’ve stumbled across or a special setting or a memory. But whatever that first story spark is, characters are what stir the creative fires.

That is certainly true for When the Meadow Blooms. After I finish one book, then I start thinking about what I might want to write next. I look for that special something to beckon me down a new writing trail. That was when two young girls began walking around in my imagination and sharing the troubles that had caused them to end up in an orphanage in the early 1900’s. I loved these two sisters even before I knew their names. I did know they were not happy at the orphanage. From my research, I discovered that many orphanages at that time were very structured and quick to punish those children who struggled to learn and abide by the rules.

Calla, at fourteen, does all right, but nine-year-old Sienna is different. Sienna loves anything in the natural world and has a way of forgetting to listen to those in charge while she admires some gift of nature. That might be something as common as a spider weaving a web, a bug crawling up a wall, or the sound of a bird singing outside a window. Nature is food and drink for her. Her inattention and daydreaming cause her to be in continual trouble. The first line in the chapter that introduces Calla and Sienna to readers is “Sienna was in trouble again.”

Of course, if my sisters are in an orphanage, something has gone wrong in their lives to make that so. That’s when I began to explore their family background. Their father died in the 1918 flu epidemic and their mother, Rose, is being treated for tuberculosis at a sanatorium. Tuberculosis is a disease that has been around forever, but in the 19th century tuberculosis went on a rampage, a tide of death known at the time as The White Plague. Many children did lose their parents to tuberculosis and other diseases and were taken to orphanages.

Now I had my sisters at the orphanage and the mother at the sanatorium. They needed someone to rescue them. So, another character came to life for this story. Dirk Meadows, the brother of the girls’ father, turns out to be their only hope of escaping the orphanage. Dirk has his own problems, both physical scars from almost dying in a barn fire and emotional scars from losing the love of his life. Much is unknown about the disappearance of that young woman, Anneliese, but her memory still haunts Dirk, especially in the spring since they had made promises to one another for when the meadows bloomed.

Due to the dreadful scars on Dirk’s face and his bitterness about life in general, he lives a reclusive life and rarely goes away from his farm called Meadowland, both for the name of its owner and for the beautiful meadows. He is the last man anyone would expect to invite three females into his life. Since he and his brother were estranged due to a disagreement over the farm, he has never met Calla and Sienna. He does know his brother died, but assumes his widow would have remarried.

Other characters step in and out of the story pages, but Rose, Calla, Sienna and Dirk are the four the story is built around.

Once I had my characters alive in my imagination, I began to think about the lovely Meadowland Farm setting as being a place where they all might find healing. I grew up on a farm and love country life. That made it a pleasure to imagine Meadowland with its river bottom fields and the sweet little river that borders it on one side. That river turned out to be a focal place for many of the scenes in the story.

I also love flowers and butterflies and like Sienna, making discoveries in the beautiful world around us. I had a great time stepping into Sienna’s character to see what we both could discover. While Sienna is ready to pet any animal from mice to snakes to crows, in real life I am more like Calla and happy chasing after butterflies and leaving those spiders and snakes alone.

But even in the most beautiful places, troubles can come along to derail dreams and hopes. My young characters do so want a forever home, but secrets from the past threaten to spoil the promise of their future. Will all my characters learn to trust the Lord to turn their burdens into something beautiful?

Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of more than thirty-five novels, writes stories using Kentucky history and locations. She writes about family life, love, and mystery (as A.H. Gabhart) in small towns like the little Kentucky town where she grew up. Her popular Shaker novels are set in her fictional Harmony Hill Shaker village and recently she has shared stories set in the Appalachian region of Kentucky such as her recent Selah Award finalist, Along a Storied Trail. Her new release, When the Meadow Blooms, is set on a farm along the Salt River. Ann and her husband enjoy country life in rural Kentucky where 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 about Ann and her books at

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to see how you develop your story !