Ann Howard Creel - Writing About A Female Ambulance Driver in War-Torn France

Ann Howard Creel - Writing About A Female Ambulance Driver in War-Torn France

Ann Howard Creel was born to write. By the age of ten she was writing daily in a diary, and by the age of twelve she had written an entire novel on a typewriter her father was getting ready to throw away. She worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, but the urge to write never left her. So after work and tending to children's needs, she began to write again. During that time, she could have been found helping with math homework, making spaghetti, and writing a very drafty chapter all in the same night. After first writing for children, she turned her attention to Historical Fiction. Her first novel for adults, THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS. Her recent titles have been Kindle bestsellers and include WHILE YOU WERE MINE, THE WHISKEY SEA, THE UNCERTAIN SEASON, THE RIVER WIDOW, and her latest, MERCY ROAD.  As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about MERCY ROAD.

Please give us a short introduction to what MERCY ROAD is about.

In 1917, after Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground, taking her father with it, she must find a way to support her mother and younger brother. If she doesn’t succeed, they will all be impoverished. Job opportunities are scarce, but then a daring possibility arises: the American Women’s Hospital needs ambulance drivers to join a trailblazing, all-female team of doctors and nurses bound for war-torn France. 

How were you inspired to write MERCY ROAD?

I was researching World War I history, and when I read about the American Women’s Hospital organization, I knew their story needed to be told. I’d never heard of them, and so far, I haven’t talked to any other historical fiction fans who’ve heard of them either. Soon an image formed in my mind—a woman from Kentucky, a horsewoman who becomes an ambulance driver. I’d been wanting to write about WWI, and now I had a story.

MERCY ROAD is about a young woman who goes to France with the American Women’s Hospital, an all-female team of doctors, nurses, aides, and ambulance drivers to help the citizens and soldiers of France during World War I. Many people may not know that women, even doctors, were not allowed to join the US military, so several non-profit groups formed and went on their own. These unsung heroes inspired me to write this book.

Can you give us insight into your writing process? 

I’m not one of those authors who say they can simply sit down at the computer with only a vague idea in mind, and then the story flows from them onto the page without any pre-planning or outlining. How I wish I could, but I tried it once, and my results were not good. To me, ideas are the easy part. I have to be able to “see” the idea/premise of the book in at least a rough way all the way to the end, or I don’t start writing. I can begin with just a broad outline and a couple of characters, but I have to start with something that I think I can make into a fully realized novel.

What was your favorite scene to write? 

I enjoyed writing the scene during which my main character, Arlene Favier, runs into her old childhood friend in France near the front lines. She immediately feels a connection, but she’s not supposed to fraternize with soldiers, especially enlisted men, and she’s not sure he feels the immediate pull that she does.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

The scenes during which Arlene feels helpless and trapped. Thankfully, they don’t last for long.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, and it’s still my favorite novel of all time.

What is the last novel you read?

I just finished A Transcontinental Affair by Jodi Daynard.

What are three things people may not know about you?

once lived and worked on the Navajo reservation, I never ever drink coffee, and I’m a hopeless romantic.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre? 

I love reading historical fiction, because I learn something about a time and place while also being entertained. I love to write it for the pleasure of writing, but also for the things I learn while researching it too.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

Probably World War II. I’m also drawn to the 1920s.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I love old houses, new yoga routines, red wine, and all things cat.