I hope you will help me welcome Ashley Townsend, to My Book Chatter today :)
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself that we won’t find in your bio?
The thing in my bio about clowns is 100% true: They’re terrifying, and I don’t understand the point of their huge feet and freakish noses. *shivers* Anyway, I’m very sarcastic, creative, and am always on the lookout for my next obsession in book form. I am also a tad OCD, so writing for me is like a sweet release; it’s an area of my life that is consistently creative chaos and pure enjoyment. If I had the chance to travel back in time, like Sarah does in “Chasing Shadows,” I would in a heartbeat! I love all things old-fashioned and have a collection of feather quill pens that I actually use to write letters—along with my wax seal—and my favorite accessory is my pocket watch. And I have every intent of moving to Ireland someday and living in a cottage set on a huge piece of land with my Bernese Mountain Dog (still deciding between Sherlock and Shadow for names), where I’ll write for the remainder of my days. Dreamy, right?
What do you do in your spare time or when you are not writing?
Music is a huge part of my life, though I wish I were far more adept at playing. My sisters and I have gone to seven concerts in the past few months, and each one is a new experience, music and otherwise (people watching is hilarious at music fests!). I also love Movie and Game Night, reading everything I can get my hands on, being creative, drinking coffee by the gallon, baking, and whatever that takes me outdoors.
When did you first start writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but it was when I turned eight that I decided it was the only thing I wanted to do with my life—next to being a time-traveling ninja, of course. I started sharing my stories with my family when my little sister was diagnosed with leukemia. The fantasy tales I wrote for her became my way of showing her that regular people always triumph over their circumstances, even when the odds seem stacked against them. Being a writer was always something that I wanted to do, but when I realized how it could impact others, I knew it was something I had to do. I write to entertain readers with fantasy tales about life, love, loss, and overcoming. If a story doesn’t resonate with the reader or teach them something, then it’s no good!
Where do you get your ideas?
*sighs* Such an innocent question. ;-) I really get inspired from anything! Sometimes I'll go to the beach or somewhere outdoors, and my mind will wander and started thinking up ways to describe the scenery. Other instances, I can't help but wonder how my characters might react to a situation, and then I just start mentally doodling a scene from there. I get ideas from movies and books and life and my own interests; if there's something I haven't done or an adventure I wish I could experience, then I write about it! And there are some days where the writing takes on a mind of its own, and I just sit back, sip a lemonade, and enjoy the ride.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Who, me? ~_^ I think every author suffers at one point or another when the hideous creative-impediment that is writer’s block rears its ugly head. If you check out my blog, there are more than my fair share of writer’s block rants, copious Pinterest procrastination days, and some days where I became so antsy that I had to put a little time into other stories to take a break. No matter what anyone says, it’s not easy-peezy to get over “the block.” It takes time and perseverance, and there is no foolproof plan to beating it—you have to know what works best for you! Usually my worst blocks come from either taking too much time off from writing or pushing myself too hard. When I get stuck, I can work backwards from the end to that scene to see if it actually fits, or I’ll take a break and go somewhere quiet to clear my head. Generally, the story follows me there with a new perspective in tow. It isn’t worth hating your work, which will happen if you force it. And always have snacks and coffee at the ready!
Can you tell us about your challenges (if any) in getting your first book published?
Being an unknown in a creative universe where everybody thinks they have a best seller is, in essence, rough. Publishers would rather deal with seasoned authors because they have a following and experience in promoting. I wrote "Rising Shadows" from 16-18, and being a teen seeking out a publisher was a little discouraging. Everywhere I looked, NO ONE was accepting unsolicited work, and I couldn't afford an agent. I almost gave up when I couldn't find a single one who let me get a foot in the door. But my mom, who encouraged me the whole way and was the first to read "Rising Shadows" in its infancy, got me the Literary Marketplace from the library (it is enormous, so it was slow-going) and they had a website listed where you upload a portion of your manuscript, and then agents and publishers contact YOU. Getting so many responses in the first week meant the world to me, and that was how I published my first novel in ebook format with Kirkdale Press. But I knew I had to hold my book someday, and so for "Chasing Shadows" I sought out physical publishers accepting unsolicited work, and you wouldn't believe how many are out there. I submitted to many, many publishers and got a ton of feedback, but Ink Smith was the right choice for me. I've never felt so at home!
Is anything in your book based on a real life experience or is it purely all imagination?
I WISH I could say I'm a time-traveler who has met Robin Hood in hot blacksmith form, but alas. *sighs* Sarah definitely gets her sarcasm, clumsiness, loyalty, and taste for adventure from me (and also her taste in men), but the rest of the story is mostly from my imagination. I've always been drawn to the legend of Robin Hood and was obsessed with the stories and movies as a kid, and then I got into BBC's Robin Hood series with Jonas Armstrong as I was working on my first novel, which definitely influenced it. But as far as real life experience, my stories are more what I would want my life to be, if I lived in a fantasy world—time traveling, avenging, traipsing through the forest, going to masked balls in the medieval era. It's purely magical!
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
... That's a bit like asking a parent which child is their favorite. I'll only talk about a couple, though, for your sanity. ^_~ The first time Sarah and Damien Lisandro meet was so fun to write, partly because the scene is so intriguing and intense, but also because Damien is cheeky and adorable and kind and incredibly vulnerable. I just want to love on him!
Next is any scene between Will and Sarah. . . No, really, any scene. But especially when he's pouring his heart out to her and letting his walls down. Specifically, there's this moment when they're on the run after witnessing a corpse burning in the forest, and Sarah falls through a frozen lake. When Will fishes her out, there is this perfect, unabashed moment between them where every wall that he put up comes down, and it's so beautiful. I was crying through the entire scene as I wrote it!
Lastly is one of the final scenes where the two men duke it out. I've always wanted to write a swashbuckling scene in the snow, and when I got the chance, I was literally shaking in excitement and nervousness as I penned it. Everything came together so perfectly, and this scene specifically is such a test of their character. And it doesn't hurt that there are knives and arrows flying in the heat of a chase!
What project are you working on now?
I have about 14 stories plotted out and ready to go, but there are two that I’m dying to finish. I’m really into the fairytale remakes right now, and I have a story set up that I want to do with Peter Pan in mind—think Neverland meets Pirates of the Caribbean. And the other is about a Roman centurion and a Germanic woman set in ancient times, where she gets sent off to war against the Romans and ends up being taken captive, though she’s really the one who captivates the centurion in the end.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Always stay true to who you are as a writer and do NOT give up! I can't stress this enough. It's been a four-year-long (and I mean long) process from getting picked up to releasing my first two books, and that's not even including the thousands of hours spent typing away and creating. I'm going to embarrass myself by admitting that I queried over a hundred agents and publishers, and only a handful were seriously interested in the end. When I got discouraged, I would just keep writing and came up with little sayings to keep myself going: "When in doubt, don't pout!" If a scene is killing you and you're wondering if you're writing anything worthwhile, take a break to relax, repair, and reassess. I had an incredibly rough week after "Rising Shadows" came out, feeling like I would never make a difference, and then I received the sweetest email from a fan. Sarah told me that reading something from an author not much older than herself encouraged her to believe in her dreams and to keep pushing on with her goals. We've been in touch ever since. Even when you feel worthless and like your writing won't mean anything to anyone else, just remember that you may never know whom you're impacting.
The other mantra for myself was: "Don't lose hope, promote!" Sounds silly, but you won't get your book out there by sitting on your rump writing. That's the first step, and then it's talking about your work, meeting people, online promotions, blog interviews (*wink wink*), and any sort of creative thing you can think of to get it out there.
If you're looking to submit, check out My Perfect Pitch. It's amazing!
And also www.christianmanuscriptsubmissions.com
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I’m super spazzy and quirky, so brace yourselves! But if you’re brave enough, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (check out my inspiration board for the series!), my website, become a fan on Goodreads, and also check out my author page on www.Ink-Smith.com And don’t be afraid to shoot me an email. I love hearing from you guys and sharing my story! Thanks so much for reading, and keep being inspired to do what you love. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks so much for being here Ashley, it has been a blast getting to know you :)
Cover yet to be finalized
Expected publication: September 2014 by Ink Smith Publishing
Would you choose to entwine your fate with a hero of the past, even if it meant altering the future?
The murder of an ancient king spurs Sarah Matthews to travel back in time, putting her life in jeopardy as she races against the clock to solve a thousand-year-old mystery and pick up the pieces of her star-crossed romance. Her return to Serimone reveals that the kingdom is in upheaval under the new regime, and unable to right the empire alone, Sarah seeks out the help of Will, the town’s blacksmith and secret vigilante. But her hopes of rekindling their fairytale romance are dashed when a discovery about his past severs their fragile relationship. Confused and alone, Sarah throws herself into her mission at the castle, though the fearsome solitude of the stonework prison causes her to seek out an unlikely ally.
Damien Lisandro is a dashing Spaniard who brightens her dull world with his kindness and disarming charm. But as Sarah draws closer to him and to the faceless killer in their midst, she realizes that the severed threads of time and the mystery surrounding Serimone Castle are unraveling rapidly, weaving new tapestries of devastation. When a counterfeit Shadow tragically claims the life of someone Sarah cares for, and with Damien running from a dark past and secrets of his own, she wonders whom she can trust. Knowing the murders are connected, Sarah scrambles to uncover the identity of the imposter on her own. But as more lives are lost in her personal crusade, she questions how far she is willing to go to bring the guilty party to justice. Sarah is forced into harm’s way countless times as she races to solve the puzzle before it is too late and Serimone becomes nothing more than a faded memory of the past. . . And before Sarah herself becomes a permanent fixture in history.
Ashley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and she hopes that others will join in her fantastical escapades! She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Her first book “Rising Shadows” is available on ebook formats.
Follow her quirkiness on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and ashley-townsend.com.
Or email her at email@example.com