Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mina's Author Interview: USA Today's Bestselling Author, Jennifer Ashley

Hey, mystic mind fans. I haven’t been this excited about a blog post since… I don’t know when. It’s “All Things Jennifer Ashley” week and the hits just keep on coming. Today, I’m here at my mystic minds blog interviewing one of my favorite authors: USA Today’s bestselling author, Jennifer Ashley.

For those of you that don’t know, Jennifer Ashley is a celebrated, bestselling author who writes under two other pen names: Allyson James and Ashley Gardner. For more information about Jennifer and all her many riveting romance novels, visit her website at http://www.jennifersromances.com/ .

As an added perk, I’m running a“Free Book Giveaway Contest "for Stormwalker, a killer mystical series written by Jennifer Ashley’s alter ego, Allyson James. Click here to enter.

Now, let’s get to our questions.

Mina: Your “Immortals” series is on my list to read. But I have had the opportunity to read your Nvengaria series, which I find are like historical paranormal romance – do you agree with this genre label? And can you tell the readers about the next book planned in this series?

Jennifer Ashley: The Nvengarian series is indeed paranormal historical romance. When I first came up with the concept (each book based loosely on a fairy tale), I wasn’t certain I’d make it paranormal, but then it seemed like too much fun to pass up! Thus was born the magic, the prophecies, the logosh, and all the rest.

I don’t at present have another book planned in this series (the last story, so far, was the novella about Valentin and Mary in A Christmas Ball). But there are other characters out there (I’m thinking in particular of Adam Ross, Egan’s neighbor in Highlander Ever After) so who knows?

The fairy tales I used are: Cinderella (Penelope and Prince Charming); Beauty and the Beast (The Mad Bad Duke); Snow White and the Seven…Highlanders (Highlander Ever After); and Little Red Riding Hood (“The Longest Night” in A Christmas Ball; except in this case, the big, bad wolf is the hero!).

Mina: I noticed you’ve begun a new series, Stormwalker. Did living in Phoenix inspire this? Can you tell us some insightful information about the Janet Begay’s character – something that hasn’t been revealed?

Jennifer Ashley: The beauty of Arizona, New Mexico, and the Navajo Nation is, yes, very inspiring! I’d always had the vague idea of setting a book/series in northern AZ, and then one day when I was up there, I looked around at the craggy mountains and incredible vistas, and something in me said write it! Write it, now! The storms out there are amazing, and so Janet and her ability to use storms to work magic was born.

Something about Janet—Hmm. I reveal more and more about her as the series goes on, so I’ll just say that she’s more powerful than anyone guesses. She also loves her family (grandmother, aunts, father) very much, but it’s difficult for her come to terms with it.

Mina: I understand you’ve won a staggering amount of awards – which all speak to your unbelievable talent as a captivating writer. Can you tell us what award, accolade or accomplishment you haven’t won yet that would be the ultimate feather in your cap?

Jennifer Ashley: Thank you! Awards are a nice pat on the back from my peers, and I treasure them. I’ve won a RITA for best novel with romantic elements, and I’m up for one in novella this year, but I’d LOVE to win the RITA for either historical romance or paranormal romance. That would be fantastic.

FYI: RITA is an annual contest held by the Romance Writers of America.

Mina: I read you love to cook. What’s your favorite recipe?

Jennifer Ashley: I do like to cook and bake all kinds of things. There’s a chocolate/vanilla marble cake with nutmeg in it that is good to eat plain (without frosting), although sour cream chocolate frosting is good on it too! My husband (and my friends) also love my chocolate chip cookies, and try to coerce me into making them a lot. I make my own pizza (crust and all), because I can customize it for what I’m in the mood for: goat cheese, pepperoni, white sauce or oil and herb sauce, or whatever.

Probably my favorite dish (to make or eat out) is mole (pronounced moh-leh). Mole is a savory stew of meat (chicken, beef, or pork), with a smooth chile sauce with a bite of unsweetened chocolate. Different recipes use different veggies or no veggies at all, some add hazelnuts and other things. It’s divine! I have Janet eat some in Firewalker. “:-)

Mina:  Anything with chocolate, I'm a fan of.  I gotta try mole. Yum!  How do you stay motivated?

Jennifer Ashley: I do all kinds of things to stay motivated, because writing is a difficult job—it drains your emotions and your stamina. I do let myself write, write, and write when I’m in a frenzy, but I also let myself step back when I’m burned out (even if I’m on deadline).

To step back, I “play” a lot (build dollhouses and do musical things with my friends), spend time with my family, and do what I call “brain-cleansing” activities—such as take a short vacation/retreat, learn something completely new, do things that are about other people. I have stories in my head constantly, and I love nothing more than to pour them out, but I find that if I’m stuck, and I step aside for a day or two, I come back fresh and raring to go.

For me, reading books (that I didn’t write), especially ones I love, motivates me. Other people’s creativity, period, motivates me. I guess it’s a matter of “That looks like fun; I wanna do it too!”

Mina: I do a monthly segment on my blog called Creepy Classics where I review a classic mystic or paranormal novel. Last month I reviewed Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. This month’s Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. What is your favorite Creepy Classic & why?

Jennifer Ashley: Picture of Dorian Gray is pretty creepy! That’s one of my favorites. Another is Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. It’s a weird and perplexing story (is she crazy, or are there really ghosts?). It’s one of Henry James’s shorter works (well, it’s short for him!), and I think one of his very best.

Mina:  Cool.  I've just added Turn of the Screw to my Creepy Classics in Queue.

Mina: In your Mackenzie series, your characters are so explosive, it’s amazing. With respect to Lord Ian, what was it with the gaze? What inspired you to write such a unique, intriguing, sensual character/hero?

Jennifer Ashley: Lord Ian has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is considered a form a high-functioning autism. In the Victorian age, autism hadn’t yet been diagnosed—so Ian would have been considered eccentric at best, crazy at worst.

Many autistic and AS people have trouble looking into someone else’s eyes (and, actually, I do too, unless I know the person very well). In my research I also learned that one reason to avoid a locking gaze is that the AS person loses track of the conversation while focusing on the other person’s eyes. I have to say that it was difficult to write a man not being able to look directly at another person! I couldn’t say: “Their gazes met.” No, they didn’t! I had to be very careful—no lazy writing!

The inspiration for Ian came from me pondering what it must have been like to have something we recognize now—autism, ADD, Asperger’s—in a time when such things weren’t recognized. What would a person do? Ian’s character was not easy to write, but worth the effort!

Mina: With my last question, please tell our readers about your upcoming release, the 2nd book in the Mackenzie series, Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage? (PS, fans can read the first chapter on your site and about fell out of my chair with the visual of Mac painting with his chest bare, wearing nothing more than a kilt with a bandana on his head. Holy cow…oh to be Lady Isabella!)

Jennifer Ashley: Mac is hot! He’s passionate, charming, a little wild, and did I mention hot? Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage begins a week after Madness of Lord Ian ends, with Isabella returning to London, and Mac following her. Three years previously, Isabella had left Mac, her turbulent marriage with him having nearly destroyed her. Mac, though heartbroken, let her go, sobered up, and reformed—and now he’s back. This time, he’s not going to let Isabella go again. Mac will do anything to get Isabella back into his life, and most importantly into his bed.

I ended up really loving Mac, and I hope readers to do. As a bonus, there’s a sneak peek at Cameron’s story in the back of Mac’s book!

FYI: Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage releases July 6th. Don’t miss out on a wickedly, delicious series. Order your copy today!

Mina: Thank you Jennifer for everything.

Jennifer Ashley: Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Hey, that wraps up my killer interview with Jennifer Ashley
but we still have the Free Book Giveaway Contest" for Stormwalker.
Be sure and click on this link and comment
on its blog post to enter to win. Contest ends eod – July 1st.

Until next time...need something to read?  Read something by Jennifer Ashley.

Mina B.

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