Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spotlight Author with Jennifer Ashley

March 1st! Besides starting the third month into the year, it holds a special day for me. It’s my hubby’s Birthday!!! So Happy Birthday to him. So today I am celebrating by sharing my guest, New York Times Best Seller, Jennifer Ashley with all of you.

Looking through your backlist, you write several different genres of books. How do you keep everything straight? Characters? Stories? Ideas?

That's a good question! I write several genres and subgenres and I have I think five series going at once.

How do I keep track? A couple of ways. I'm very bad with notebooks and storyboards and that kind of thing. I might start a notebook, but then I'll misplace it or bury it on my desk and forget about it.

I'm much better at using my computer to organize. Every series has a folder. Within the folder, each book has a folder. I keep every version of the book I write (calling it BookTitle1, BookTitle2, etc). That way if I revise something and then need info I cut, I haven't lost it.

I also make a file called "SeriesTitle Characters" or "BookTitle Notes" (I don't always name the files the same things, but I know what I mean). In those files I make notes on each character (such as dates/ how old they were for significant events in their lives). If I do character "autobiographies," which help me get into the character, or backstory notes, they all go in here. For world building I keep notes on the "rules" for that particular world, and how they evolve. I change these files as things change while I write.

When I go back to writing the series, I review the notes on the characters and the world as I go.

Some of my world notes end up on the web pages for each series, such as my character notes on the Stormwalker series ( or the "Humans Guide to Shifters" on my Shifters website ( I also have a family tree for the Mackenzies

When you hear Jennifer Ashley, New York Times Bestseller how do you feel?
Great! When I first got published, I fully believed my first book would hit New York Times right out of the gate. LOL! No.

I didn't realize that hitting a list is a lot about timing, how much the publisher backs your book, how enthusiastic readers are about *that* thing *right* now, how quickly the stores reorder the books, how many books are printed and how many the stores order in the first place. All that plus a lot of luck!

It's highly unlikely that a lower midlist book (which my first one was) will hit a major list, because it's not earmarked for reorders (it might get reordered, but it's not priority). Such a book *can* hit a list, but the deck is stacked against it. When I did hit New York Times, everything was in place: the cover was great, and the readers were ready for that book, the orders were there. Plus I'd built up a loyal reader base. All of this factored into the book's success.

And yes, it was very, very exciting!!

Tell us about your latest release, Primal Bonds, that will be hitting shelves this month.

Primal Bonds is a Shifters paranormal romance. Sean Morrissey is the Guardian of his Shiftertown, which means it’s his job to send the souls dying Shifters into the afterlife. An important job, but a lonely one.

When half-Fae, half-Shifter Andrea Gray flees an abusive would-be mate, the only way she is allowed to relocate to the Austin Shiftertown is if a Shifter there claims her as mate.

He volunteers to claim her, sight unseen, but doesn't realize that one look at the gray-eyed, dark-haired Andrea will stir the mating frenzy in him. Even though the mate-claim isn't finalized, official, or yet blessed, Sean will do anything to get Andrea into his life and keep her there, forever.

That's the blurb, now a little more about Shifters:

Shifters: Shape shifters of all species, mostly predatory: Most commonly Feline, Lupine, and Bear. The Fae bred Shifters millennia ago from the best of each species to be hunters and fighters for the Fae. Shifters rebelled during the human Middle Ages, fought the Shifter/Fae war, and thereafter lived independently of the Fae.

Collars: Developed by a half-Fae, Collars are both magical and technological. Tied to the adrenal system, they send shocks and pain through the Shifter's body if he starts to get violent.

Mates: Pairings recognized by the pride or clan leader in two rituals, one under full sun, one under the full moon. Shifters are not allowed to be legally married under human law, but the sun and moon rituals are recognized by Shifter law as a marriage.

Pride: Mates and cubs plus closely tied family members living with them (e.g., parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, first cousins). (Lupines=Packs; Bears=clans)

Clan: A collection of prides or packs that are related, though the relationships may be very distant (e.g., cousins to the 12th degree). The clan leader supersedes the pride or pack leader, although no clan leader can interfere with issues between mates or between parents and cubs. Females and cubs are protected from the clan or pride leader by the male mate. (Note: Bears only have clans, but they distinguish between immediate family and extended family.)

Shiftertowns: Enclaves in inner-cities or remote rural areas cordoned off by humans where Shifters must live. Shifters are not allowed to live outside Shiftertowns.

Shiftertown Leader: A new position created for Shifters by humans. The Shiftertown Leader is chosen from the clan leaders in that Shiftertown, and has final authority over the entire Shiftertown--over all species. He can supersede clan- and pride leader decisions when necessary. The Shiftertown leader usually has a second (and often a third), to take care of detailed Shiftertown business.

Sword of the Guardian: A mystical sword made of magically hardened silver and bronze forged by a Shifter and spelled by a Fae. The sword turns a dead Shifter's body to dust and releases the soul (see "Shifter Made" in The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance, Running Press, Feb., 2010).

The Guardian: The member of the clan chosen to use the Sword of the Guardian to dispatch a dead Shifter's soul into the afterlife (the Summerland). Before the Collar, each clan had its own Guardian (and own sword); at present, each Shiftertown has a Guardian that is responsible for everyone in that Shiftertown (across all clans and prides).

What are you working on now?

Many, many things. As Jennifer Ashley, I have another Shifters book in the works (Wild Cat), and it looks like there will be more. I’m working on the Mackenzie series (the next one The Many Sins of Lord Cameron will be out in August). Hart is next, and there will be more to come of the Mackenzies after that.

In my Allyson James life, the third book in my Stormwalker series will be out in June (Shadow Walker), plus a novella in the Hexed anthology.

I’ve also started up on my Ellora’s Cave series again (so happy about that!). Tales of the Shareem: Braden, will be out soon, and the next Shareem is in the works. Plus I have ideas for more series over there.

As my Ashley Gardner persona, I’m republishing my mystery series that went out of print as e-books (Beginning with The Hanover Square Affair in Feb., followed by A Regimental Murder in March). I came across a never-published novella in my files, so that will come out sometime this year, plus I am working on new Captain Lacy books.

Plus I will be writing some short stories for anthologies and a novella or two along the way!

What makes your writing unique?

Good question! I have no idea. I write the weird ideas that come into my head the way I want to write them—sometimes people like them, and sometimes they don’t. I *can* say that I believe in everything I write. I love the characters and enjoy their stories every step of the way. I couldn’t write anything I disliked or was bored with. So every word is from the heart.

Out of the different genres that you write, what is your favorite? Or do you love them all equally?

I'm not sure which one is my favorite. I like working on more than one genre because when I'm tired of, say, paranormal, I can switch to historical and bask in the world of beautiful clothes and horses and mansions for a while. After that I'm ready for the fast-paced action and biting dialog of urban fantasy, then the heat of erotic romance. Then I'm ready again for the magic and fun of paranormal. So I love them all! I'm also very ready to start writing contemporary, and I hope to do that soon (probably as Allyson James, probably erotic romance).

What is your writing process and how long would you say it takes you when a new idea is sparked from sketching out the details to getting to THE END?

Hmm, from the first spark to the end can take years. I first thought of the Mackenzie series in about 2004, but wasn't able to pitch it and sell it until 2007, and then I didn't write it until 2008 (the first book came out in 2009). So that's, what, four years from spark to ms. turn-in?

Most of the books or series take maybe a year between my first excited idea and the end of the book. In between, I'm writing other books, writing proposals to sell more books, promoting releases, and looking over copyedits and proof pages for books in the works. I don't take long to actually write the book once I sit down and start typing (2-3 months), but each book gestates in my head for a good long time. I think about my stories day and night, whether I get to work on them or not.

Give us a glimpse into your writer’s life.

I get up early every morning and go to a coffee house to write. I write there for a couple of hours and am amazingly productive. I return home, go over my emails and answer any immediate concerns. Then it’s back to writing. I write anywhere from four to six hours a day, depending on what’s due soonest and my energy level for the day. I knock off at six or so to have dinner and spend time with my family. I work every day though, weekends, weekdays, holidays. It’s a 7-day-a-week job.

If you had to pick a favorite character that you have created or one that you wish you had created who would it be and why?

That question is tough to answer! I have created many characters over the years, and every one is special to me. I truly enjoy writing Janet and Mick, my characters from the urban fantasy series, Stormwalker (by Allyson James). I love the Shifters too, plus I love the Mackenzies, my historical dysfunctional family. A very favorite character is Captain Gabriel Lacey, the hero of my Regency mysteries (written as Ashley Gardner) that I’m now republishing in digital form, with new books in the series to follow. I’m very excited about that.

Do you have any advice on writing, getting published, or finding an agent?

I have plenty.  I have a blog, which I haven’t posted on lately, but I have two-years’ worth of good info on it:
I talk about getting published, agents, how much money writers really make, and other good stuff.

The big secret to getting published is to write books and submit them until someone likes your ideas and your writing. Getting published is nothing more than meshing with the right agent and right editor at the right time. You can’t force that spark, but you can write the very best you can and not give up, so that when the opportunity steps up, you’re ready.

You can help your luck along by researching what editors / agents represent what kind of works (where your agent sells most of her / his clients is important too—pay attention to that!). Target who you send what to, and know why you’ve picked them!

Make your submissions “unrejectable.” Finish them and polish them, send them to agents / editors you’ve targeted who represent (and successfully sell) that kind of book. Make your submission so good that if the editor rushed it to print, it would be ready to go and wouldn’t embarrass you (after all, you’re name will be on that book for the whole world to see).

Decide what kind of author you want to be as well. All publishers are not the same—you don’t submit just anything to any publisher and expect it to sell. If you want to be a star of hardback Young Adult books, you wouldn’t submit your manuscript to an e-book only erotic romance publisher. That seems like “duh” advice, but I’m constantly amazed that people send entirely the wrong thing to entirely the wrong publisher and are upset when they’re rejected!

So avoid rejection by doing your homework, targeting carefully, and honing your skills so that everyone wants you.

Then write letters, submit, meet agents and editors at conferences, enter contests with agent / editor judges.

And don’t give up!

Thank you, Jennifer for stopping in and giving us such great insight into your world as well as advice. Jennifer had kindly offered to giveaway a title from her backlist to one lucky commenter. So don’t be left out. Make sure you comment!!!! Thank you all for stopping in, Make sure to come back next Tuesday when I have author, Barbara Baig visiting.




meggerfly said...

I'm such a big fan of Jennifer's. Her books are the greatest. The first books of hers that i read were The Immortal Series. I think my favorite is Pride Mates because it addresses prejudice and discrimination. A weird reason to like a book one might say but I feel that it is amazing something like that takes such a prominent position in a PNR. The fact that it is means that readers who might turn a blind eye to such things in the real world are now forced to pay more attention to the hatred that surrounds them. So much of what happens to the Shifters has happened in our own governmental history. A prime example is what we deed to the Japanese American citizens in WWII.

Anonymous said...

just read the new shifer book and loved! and i can't wait in the stromwalker book! i love

Carol L. said...

I have had many hours of reading pleasure reading Jennifer's books.No matter what name she writes under the books are extremely entertaining. My favorite is of course Ian Mackenzie. I think you did such an incredible job of Ian's character. My first thought was "how difficult it must have been dealing with his complexities". But then you read it and think, this is Jennifer's baby and how well she developed Ian. I've already reread Ian's story and tell everyone about it. :) But now I'm very interested in reading about Captain Gabriel Lacey.This was the first I had heard of him. Again Jennifer, thank you for many hours of reading enjoyment.
Carol L

Johanna R Jochum said...

I loved lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage and now have Jennifer's other books on my wish list. Thanks for such a great interview with one of my new favorite authors. Thanks for sharing with us today!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for your behind the scenes peek into how one hits a bestseller list. Very interesting!

You are an inspiration with your work ethic. Now I must stop commenting on blogs and getting some writing done :)


Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Thank you for inviting me Micole! I'm glad I could be on your blog today and hopefully help out fellow writers. I usually have a work ethic. Then there are days... :-)

Hello everyone!

Debra Vodden said...

LOve all of your books!!! Can't wait for the new shifter book.

Marie said...

Thanks for a great interview!

When it comes to Jennifer's books, I've only read Stormwalker. (Loved it!) I've been meaning to get Firewalker, but haven't gotten around to it. I have to get on that soon, it seems, since Shadow Walker is going to be released soon!! :D


~D said...

I'm so excited for Primal Bonds. I loved the first, and I love this books written as Allyson James. So many hot guys!!

Raonaid Luckwell said...

Awesome! So great to see you. I've enjoyed your books for some time; especially the Immortal books and the Dragon books.

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Jennifer's historical-the very first ones-captured my attention and they've kept me thoroughly enthralled, including each genre she gets involved with. I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Miranda Grissom said...

Great Interview!! I loved Storm Walker!!!

alice priday said...

i am a huge fan. i cant wait to read these books.

Micole Black said...

Hello to all and thank you for stopping by the blog. Jennifer has given a great interview I am so glad that you all have enjoyed it. I am so glad she was able to be a guest today.



Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Thank you for asking me!

JoAnna said...

I love Jennifer's books. I have read her Shareem, Shifter and Stormwalker series. Can't wait to read Primal Bond. My bookstores shipment hadn't arrived during my lunch. :( I'm so excited to hear that a new Shareem is in the works. I love those men!

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner said...

Thanks JoAnna. The Shareem are my sweet babies, LOL.

Farscapegirl said...

Great interview! I've only read your MacKenzie and Shifter series...I plan to check out your Stormwalker series right after I read your newest "Primal Bonds" (As soon as Borders ships it to me!!) TY for chance to win!

Chelsea B. said...

Hi, Jennifer! I love your books and can't wait to get my hands on Primal Bonds! :-)


Michele said...

I just loved your book, The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. It's one of my favorites. The opening scene with the ming vase is brilliant. How terrific that it made AAR's top 100 list! I voted for it! Eagerly awaiting the rest of the books in that series!

marcela said...

After reading many romance novels and new authors, Jennifer Ashley has have one of the most powerful,and creative voices in the Historical genre. "the Highland Pleasure" series are among my favorite because of the originality and depth of the issues portrayed in the books. "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" has such a special place in my heart because of Ian and the way he viewed the world,the way autism was dealt in the late 1800`s.. it was just a gripping story. The second installment"Lady Isabella`s scandalous marriage" Ashley ventures to explore another touchy subject for a Hero to go through;alcoholism. I admire her way adventuring with controversial topics from a historical pt of view. I cant wait for the next book in this series.

Julie T said...

LOVE her books! Can't wait for Cameron's book!

Sheree said...

Wow, what a lot of great information!

Aurian said...

What a great interview, really liked reading all this info on Jennifer and her books. The main reason I like them, is the humor, and the sparky heroines. No matter which series.