Please help me welcome Jennifer Ashley to the blog today! I'm super excited that she was willing to make time for me.
I’ve lived all over the world but have now settled in the Southwest US. I write romances as Jennifer Ashley; paranormal, erotic romance, and urban fantasy as Allyson James; and historical mysteries as Ashley Gardner. I’ve won RWA’s RITA award and been nominated for several other RITAs, have won several RT Reviewer’s choice awards (including one for Best Historical Mystery), and Prism awards for my paranormal romances. I’ve written about 45 books and more than a dozen novellas at last count.
Did you always want to be an author? What made you choose to write romance?
I’ve been writing all my life, and I always saw myself becoming an author “someday.” Finally I said “I need to do this, or I’ll never do it,” and I started seriously writing and submitting.
I originally wanted to write fantasy. My first paid publication ever was a short story to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. But at the time I was trying to break in, romance in fantasy was a no-go (at least not the way I wanted to write it).
I wanted to write about couples getting together and being stronger together. I turned to romances to see if I could write those instead. I have to say that romances were not what I thought they’d be! It seemed like they were about the couple not being together, and I didn’t like that. :-)
But then I read newer romances where the couple was together on every page, and while they fought their attraction to each other for various reasons, they did it together.
I loved history, so writing historical romances seemed the way to go. I started writing them, fell in love with them, and so it went.
When paranormal romances suddenly became the hottest trend, I found a way to marry my love of fantasy with my newfound love of romance.
What is your favorite part of being a writer/author?
Making my own hours. When I worked in corporate America, I found having to work the exact same hours every single day, (taking lunch at the exact same time) stifling. I love being able to work at the crack of dawn, the middle of the night, or the middle of the afternoon, as I choose. Making up stories isn’t bad either!
Tell us a little about your book. What inspired you to write it?
The whole series was inspired when I needed to write a paranormal romance (my contract simply said “new paranormal romance”)
I pondered several ideas, then one day I drove by some guys working construction on the side of the road.
I thought “What if they were all shapeshifters?” Then “What if they were shapeshifters related to each other—father, two sons (brothers), and a nephew of a deceased brother? All bachelors, all living in the same house?”
The Morrissey family (Liam, Sean, Dylan, Connor) flowed into my head. I thought—why are they all living together, and what do their neighbors think about them being shapeshifters? The whole Shiftertown concept was born and grew from that.
Happily, though Dorchester ceased to exist, my editor at Berkley picked up the series, and it’s been doing well there.
For this book (Mate Claimed), I was interested in exploring what would happen if a Shifter tried to pretend to be a normal human—in this world, an illegal thing to do. What obstacles would she face, and what happens when a Shifter discovers her secret?
Thus, Iona was born, and Eric spies her across a crowded bar. They meet first in Wild Cat, which includes a very sensual scene between them (and chocolate).
Excerpt from Mate Claimed
Iona didn’t see Eric between church and restaurant, nor did she when she returned home to finish prepping for Nicole’s party. Nicole and her friends arrived soon after, and the party started to swing.
Well toward midnight, the doorbell rang. Iona pretended to be busy in the kitchen, and Nicole’s friends goaded Nicole to answer it.
Nicole screamed with laughter when a fireman sauntered into the house, complete with hose, and started shedding his gear in the living room. The women surrounded him while he danced to a thumping beat, and Iona watched from the doorway with a smile.
The music wound louder. The music, combined with the women’s excitement, embraced Iona and made her want to dance too. The living room was dim except for the middle where the stripper gyrated—someone had turned on one of Iona’s ceiling spots and killed the rest of the lights. The girls danced with him, Nicole laughing as the man wrapped his hose around her.
Nicole spotted Iona in the doorway. “Come on, Iona,” she yelled. “You know you love to dance!”
Iona shouldn’t. Too dangerous. But the music called to her, the rhythm synching with some rhythm inside her body. The thrum, thrum, thrum was fierce and primal.
The ladies whooped as Iona kicked her shoes off and danced in. The stripper grinned, a good sport, and wrapped the end of his fire hose around her waist.
Iona raised her arms in the dance, her blood getting hot, but not because the guy was attractive. He smelled too much of human sweat and cologne, not a good combination to a Shifter. Eric always smelled clean, like wind and the night.
But Iona was loving the dance, her hips swaying, the beat of the music like the rhythm of sex. The stripper was a good dancer, smoothly pulling Iona into synch with him. He had Iona straddling his knee, locking her in close as they rocked together. The other ladies whooped and screamed.
The noise and heat grew suddenly too intense. The panther inside Iona wanted to tear away from the man who held her, swat him aside, and then run around the room, ripping down decorations like an unruly kitten. Then she’d devour the entire hors d’oeuvre tray, especially all the shrimp cocktail. Yum.
Control, Eric had told her. You can control it.
Maybe if she’d grown up Shifter with years of training and discipline, she could have.
The fireman leaned in and tried to kiss her. Iona forced a laugh, though she wanted to bite his face off. She whirled so hard she untangled from the hose and was halfway across the room before he could stop her.
She nearly ran away from him, but two of the other girls instantly took her place, and the fireman turned to them, not minding. Breathing hard, Iona slipped out of the room into the back hall, seeking peace in the relative coolness and darkness.
Two strong arms folded around her from behind. Iona found herself trapped back against a hard male chest, while a grating voice said in her ear, “No, Iona. You belong to me.”
“Eric, what the hell are you doing here?” Iona asked in a loud whisper.
For answer, Eric turned her around and pressed her into the wall.
His kiss stole her breath, his lips forcing her mouth open, teeth scraping. The thump of the music in the other room pulsed through her, and she curled her fingers on Eric’s chest. Fingers became claws, tearing Eric’s shirt.
Eric shed the shirt and turned them together so that now his back was against the wall. “If you want to feast on someone, you feast on me.”
Do you plot and outline or do you just write? Plotter or Pantser?
I’m a cross between plotter and pantser. I do have an idea for scenes for the book—usually very specific scenes, which I might not know where to use yet. I usually have an idea for the opening scene.
I sit down and start writing. I have discovered that I get the best ideas about the book while I’m writing the book, so I’ve learned to let that happen. That said, when I’m coming to the end of my writing day, I will make notes about what I see happening next, so I don’t forget. The next day, I go back and read through the previous scene to get back into the flow (revising a little as I go).
Can you tell us about the process of getting your first book published?
I got published back when self-publishing and e-first publishers weren’t the best options. If you wanted a career selling lots of books, you needed to go with a New York publisher.
But it’s tough to get there! (And tough to stay.) My strategy was simple: Write books, submit them; write more books. I figured the more I had to sell, the better chance I had to break in. If one idea didn’t work, I had many others.
I did send my books to RWA writing contests, because if you final in those, you have a good chance of being read by an editor or agent, and they can ask to see the whole book. However, while I did final and win in these contests, no one ever asked for my whole manuscript (imagine my pain).
I finally wrote a book (Perils of the Heart), that didn’t follow the “rules.” I just wrote what was in my heart and let myself have fun. I did submit it to a contest, but never made the finals. But an editor did see it and asked for the full, then said she’d buy it.
So, I got published because of dogged determination. Plus writing constantly and learning the craft from the ground up.
What advice would you give new authors? What have you learned about the business?
New authors now have more options than when I started. You can submit to New York, which will give you much better access to the print reading audience. No one can reach bookstore outlets like the NY publishers.
But there are now e-first publishers who are excelling at e-sales, their authors making New York Times. The audience is online, and there isn’t much of a print market, but now an e-first author can make as much or more as someone publishing in New York.
Self e-publishing is now a viable option. Quite a few self-pubs have hit the Times lists—it’s not an isolated phenomenon anymore. Again, you won’t hit the print market, but NY pubs are watching the e-market and making offers to those who do well in it. Self-pubbing has now become another way “in.” (That said, your book might do nothing at all. In that case, you have to suck it up and write something else until something catches on. I have self-pub books that do astonishingly well, and some that sit there and do very little.)
So, pick which path you want to tread, and then dedicate yourself to it. You have to have drive, focus, and persistence. Writing a great book is only one part of it—unless you persist in getting that great book in front of people, you won’t go anywhere.
Do you have another book in the works?
LOL. I have five or six in the works. :-) I have a new book coming out December 31 (The Seduction of Elliot McBride, Book 5 of the Mackenzies series); then I’m working on three books and a short book to come out next year, then a short book to self-pub, hopefully later this year. No time to rest!
What do you like to do in your free time, besides read and write of course?
I build dollhouse miniatures. I keep an ongoing blog (http://www.jennsminis.wordpress.com ) about my projects. I collect pieces, and I build my own from scratch or kits. I build and decorate whole houses or one-room scenes. I create beautiful spaces, in miniature.
What a neat hobby!
Where do you dream of going on vacation?
Hawaii. Have been before, but I need more Hawaii
Boxers or Briefs?
Depends on who’s wearing them. Some guys look better in briefs, some in boxers.
Cookies or cake?
Pizza or hamburger?
Pizza! (love the pizza)
Beer, Wine, or mixed drink?
Beer—good beer. I lived in Germany, where the beer is real.
(Hero/Heroine Character Questions)
What were your first impressions of each other?
Eric: Fair game. An un-Collared female Shifter, hiding in plain sight. I had to know her, to take care of her.
Iona: Pushy. I was afraid he’d blow my cover. But I couldn’t help falling under the spell of his warmth.
What’s your favorite characteristic of each other?
Eric: I love Iona’s eyes—light blue like a lake in full sun.
Iona: His protectiveness. His caring for everyone under his protection. His hard, tattooed body isn’t bad either.
What are your plans for the near future?
Eric: To integrate the other Shifters into Shiftertown, with Iona by my side.
Iona: To help the other women and cubs who are new to settle in, then to have cubs of our own.
Jennifer has generously offered an autographed copy of MATE CLAIMED or any backlist book from any of her series! Leave a comment and email to win.... no email = no entry!
Be sure to visit Jennifer@