Questions Most Often Asked Ann
Here are some general questions that people often ask me when I do a question and answer session plus some thrown in just for fun. If you have a question about writing or my books or whatever, e-mail it to me. I won't promise to have the right answer, but I can usually come up with some kind of answer. Plus if it's a question of general interest, I might include it on this page in the future.
How did you get started as a writer?
I've been writing most of my life. When I was a kid I read Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, and of course, when you're a child your imagination gets a little carried away. I would think “Boy, that would be fun to be like them and be able to solve a mystery.” So I made up my own mystery about my cousin, my sister and me as the detectives. I just sort of played around with it when I was 10 or 11 years old and wrote a chapter here and there. I never did actually finish that story, but that’s how I got started on the writing path. Then when I was a teenager, I wrote short stories with lots of typical teen drama. I’ve been writing ever since.
How many books have you written?
I've never counted them up. More than I've published, unfortunately. But I tell myself each of them was a learning experience. Practice, practice, practice. Now ask an easier question.
How many books do you have published?
While I was writing for the general market, I had two historical romances for adults published - both with a Kentucky history background. Then I published eleven books for young readers. Most of those were for young teens with a couple of what the kids call chapter books for ages 8 to 12. My first inspirational fiction books were my three Hollyhill books about Jocie and her friends. I've published three Shaker books, The Outsider, The Believer, and The Seeker with another, The Blessed scheduled for release in the summer of 2011. Then there's my book set during the Great Depression, Angel Sister. I've also published the one non-fiction inspirational book, Angels at the Crossroads. So how many does that make? Twenty-one and counting.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Finding that publisher to publish all those books not yet published. Writing stories people want to read. Knowing what people are going to want to read two years down the road. Thats sometimes how long it takes for a book to make it to the store shelf from the time a writer asks herself what if and starts plotting those first words. Sometimes it takes even longer. The Outsider due out in August 2008 has been in the making for years. I wrote the first draft over twenty years ago. But in the actual writing part, Id say digging the story out of my head is always a challenge. Each new book means a whole set of new characters. Thats both exciting and daunting. Its fun to create new characters, but its also hard work to bring them to life in words. Thats why writing my Hollyhill Series about Jocie and her family was so much fun. Once I had the first book, Scent of Lilacs, down on paper, I knew the characters pretty well. They were all living and breathing inside my head and fighting to get to the front to tell their story. So I didnt have to do as much pre-writing to get my story going in the second two books. At the same time I had to try to keep the story fresh and new while staying true to the characters. I seem to find the writing easier when I can get my characters talking to one another. I have a harder time with descriptive passages. Thats why I set Jocies story in the 1960s in Small Town, America. That way I could use what I remembered growing up in my own small town as I tried to paint a picture with my words that other people could see. And finally I suppose I share the challenge every one has finding time to do all the things you want to do. I had to struggle to carve out enough time to get the words down on paper while raising a family, being a farm wife, and working part time. It always takes longer to finish a book than I think it will, and Id like to be able to write faster so I could tell more stories.
How long does it take you to write a book?
That, of course, varies with the book and with what else is going on in my life. At times I have had to take on some part time jobs to help pay the bills and thus was unable to work fulltime on my writing. And then there are always chores. Especially on a farm. So some of my books have taken longer than others. A few of my young adult books took three or four months, but most of my adult books take around a year from coming up with an idea and doing research and plot development to writing The End. Writing Scent of Lilacs probably took longer than some of my others, because I had a bear of a part time job at the time. I worked from home, but it gobbled up a lot of my time. Also, when I started Lilacs, I was sort of discouraged because Id written several books that had not found a publisher. So I decided to try something different -- go in a new direction. I had been considering writing for the inspirational market, but I didnt really have that in mind when I started Scent of Lilacs. I was just trying to write a good story about interesting characters without really aiming it toward any particular market. I worked on it a long time while trying to make it the best story I could.
Where do you come up with your characters? Are they based on people you know?
My characters are usually the beginning of my idea. Ill say what if this or that happened. For instance with Scent of Lilacs, I said what if I had a young girl growing up in the mid-1960s whose father was a preacher. Then I just kept spinning ideas until I came up with Jocie. So she was the beginning character for Lilacs. The other characters grew out of her. Everybody has families. Characters are the same. They have friends and people they like and dislike. And to make your character real, you have to know who a lot of those people are. I dont base my characters on people I know. At least not intentionally. Except for the minor character here and there. Still everybody you meet in real life, in books, in movies becomes part of your conscious and subconscious process of developing characters. So in a way, I suppose, all my characters are based on people I know or people I would like to know. Whether you do it consciously or not as you create a character, you take a smile from one, a frown from another, a stupid habit maybe from yourself, a sense of fun from your best friend and on and on until youve created a whole new person. One nobody would ever recognize, mostly because few of us see ourselves as others see us.
What’s your favorite color?
I know. You probably could care less, but my brain needed a break. So I thought I’d answer an easy question, but then maybe it’s not so easy. I like to wear red, but I love that beautiful teal green color. Then there’s nothing prettier than a winter blue sky against the snow. And how about all those great fall colors. Maybe I don’t have a one favorite color. How about you?
What do you enjoy doing for fun?
I love to play with my grandkids. I like to go hear my husband sing bass with The Patriot Quartet. I like meeting people. I like going for walks with my dog. I love dogs and have had some great furry pals over the years. I like to talk to people about my books and writing. I love to read, but don’t read nearly as many books as I’d like to. I enjoy church and all the “eating meetings” our little church has. I like to write in my journal.
Do you like sports?
I’m crazy about sports. I always read the sports page first. I’m an avid University of Kentucky basketball fan, but sometimes that’s not all that much fun if they’re not winning. But I still stay tuned in to hear every made or missed basket. I’ve been listening to UK since I was twelve. Maybe younger. I grew up hearing Caywood Ledford call the games. Nobody else in my family listened. Just me, sitting with my ear close to my little transistor radio.
Which of your books is your favorite?
Kids are always asking me this. They think I should have a favorite, but I don’t. Who can choose one child over another? Still some of my books have been more fun from the reader response perspective. Discovery at Coyote Point was one of those books. I got letters from school kids all over after their teachers had read the book aloud to them. That was fun. Also Coyote Point was written about a favorite place of mine on the farm. Another young adult book, The Gifting, was written while my father was sick before he died. Thinking about those characters helped me through a hard time.
Scent of Lilacs has to be a favorite because it brought me a whole bunch of new readers who loved my Hollyhill characters as much as I did. Those books were also fun because I used so many things about when I grew up to set the scenes. Of course, Angel Sister has a special place in my heart because of how I walked with Mom through her memories of growing up during the Great Depression to get the background and setting for my story about the Merritt family. And I love the Shaker books too. I'm thinking all my books are my favorites with new favorites scheduled for release. What makes me happiest is when you tell me one of my books is your favorite!
What do you want readers to take away from your books?
I want you, the reader, to feel good after reading my books and to wish the story hadn't ended. Everything that happens in my books isn't happy but I do my best to make the stories encouraging and uplifting. I want you to be glad you read the book. It's always my hope that my characters will crawl up into your heart and find a loving home.
What is your goal or mission as a Christian writer?
I want to inspire people to step into the sunshine of the Lord’s love and to realize the Lord is always there for us, the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be tomorrow. I want people to read my stories and feel the joy of Christian living.
Are you still writing?
This has to be my most asked question. People see me out at the grocery or wherever and that’s always what they ask. And the answer is always yes. Maybe not successfully all the time, but always writing something. It's sort of like breathing. I just can't help it.
Meet Ann and Photo Gallery | The Heart of Hollyhill Series | Angels at the Crossroads
Christmas at Harmony Hill
Scent Of Lilacs
Orchard Of Hope
Summer Of Joy
Small Town Girl
Love Comes Home