Thanks so much to Kristen Ashley for spending the month with us as our Featured Author. Be sure to check out all the reviews for her fantastic works that we’ve posted this month and be sure to follow her on social media. Thanks again, Kristen!
LS: Hi Kristen and welcome to LitStack! We’re honored to have you with us today. To start, can you tell us about your early literary influences? What books from your childhood informed your writing?
KA: Thank you for asking me to chat with LitStack!
Okay, I was a definite reader when I was a kid. Pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Though I started with my mom’s Harlequin Presents novels pretty early and that was it. I was a romance junkie. She was in the Harlequin club where she got a number of books every month and I read every one of them. No matter what. Eventually, that wasn’t enough. I’d read them too fast, they definitely didn’t last the whole month. So I became a regular at the local library. An early favorite was Penny Jordan (and I would be honored to meet her years later when I discovered she was my in-laws’ next door neighbor in England!).
But when I read Judith McNaught, I was a goner. I loved her books and read them over and over. Even though my books are very much different from hers, I would say she’s the author who most informed my writing. The emotion in her books, the fully-developed secondary characters, the wit and humor, the very alpha hero who might stumble along the way but in the end would do anything for the heroine, the very intelligent, loyal heroine who would do anything for anybody. I’ve read a lot of books and of those books a lot of romance. She’s still my favorite.
LS: You’ve been successful in so many different genres. What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to follow your lead and branch out into several different genres?
KA: I would say with genres or with anything, write the story that comes to you. Don’t worry about trends or what you think readers want to read. If a story won’t let you go, write it. If you believe in it, but more, if it’s demanding to be told, the passion you have for it will come through in your writing.
On another note with this, it’s important to keep your voice and your stories fresh and to challenge yourself. This will serve to keep your creative juices flowing. But also, you’ll have a break from the genre you currently write so that will feel fresh when you get back to it as well. And bonus: your readers will experience all of that with you.
LS: So many of your male characters are beautifully realized alpha males. Who influences these characters? Do they come from people you’ve met or people you wish you could meet?
KA: My bestest bestie from England came to Arizona for a visit a while ago and we were sitting outside, gabbing, as you do. She told me she’d never met/seen an alpha in her life until she got to this modern day Wild West and met the men in my family, not to mention with every guy driving a huge white truck or on the back of a Harley.
I told her I’d never not known an alpha my whole life. Grandfather. Father. Uncles. Brothers. Friends. The quiet types. The brash types. The tortured types. This is one of the reasons I strive to show in my books that you can have a very strong, very stereotypically “masculine” character with a very strong woman. A woman does not have to be weak to attract a strong man. A man does not have to be weak to be with a strong woman. I know this because the men I grew up with and continue to have in my life are alphas, and the women in my life have been and still are strong and fierce. Of course, both have their vulnerabilities, and there are sometimes some butting of heads, but in the end what truly defines an alpha is the fact he wouldn’t wish for his woman to be weak. He will definitely be there for her if she’s dealing with issues (and vice versa) and he will go all out to protect her (and vice versa). But they complement each other in all ways, with vulnerabilities and strengths.
LS: What’s your writing process? Are you a pantser or plotter? Do you outline?
KA: I’m a pantser. I don’t outline. I take copious notes as I write so when I go back to the series, I can have a handy reference or as I’m writing, I can make sure to carry certain themes through or close all the loops I have open. Outside of that, I just roll with it.
That said, I’m very visual. My books play like movies in my head and I write down what I see and hear. Thus there is often a good deal of description about where people are, what they wear, etc. I feel this informs the characters and when I’m reading, I like to have a visual of those same things. I recently visited the offices of the clothing company Eloquii, and they had vision boards for their upcoming collections that were super cool! With each book, I collect a number of what I call “inspirational images.” Hairstyles. Clothing. Interior decorating. As I’m writing, I go back to these files all the time to get a feel for a character or where action is taking place. After I publish the book, I put all of this on my Pinterest page. And I just bought an easel and will be creating vision boards for my books so I can stand it right by my desk and have it right there for inspiration. My easel is taking forever to get here. I can’t wait to get it!
LS: When you’re not writing, how to you spend your time and what’s queued up on your Kindle at the moment?
KA: I like to shop (too much). I like to cook. I love movies, both hanging at home watching them or going out to see them. I have been known, often, to binge a great TV series. Dinner with the girls when I can tear myself away from work. I have a lot of family that lives close and we get together often for dinner, Saturday brunch, movies, game nights. I try to get on my treadmill on a regular basis, but I will admit, when I’m writing, I get all involved and that piece of equipment gets dusty.
And I have way too many books waiting for me to read them. I don’t read nearly as much as I used to and I’m trying to get back into it. But I’m most looking forward to hitting up Jill Shalvis’s Lost and Found Sisters and Kylie Scott’s Trust. Both Jill and Kylie are friends of mine. That said, their books are also favorites of mine!
LS: Thanks so much, Kristen for stopping by to chat with us!
KA: Thank you right back! It’s been fun!