Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is excited to shine our Friday Spotlight on historical mystery and romance author Jennifer Ashley. She also writes mysteries as Ashley Gardner, and more romance and contemporary fantasy as Allyson James. She’s written, to date, more than 100 novels and novellas. She’s won awards, hit the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists and has earned starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist. She writes a lot, because she enjoys making up stories.
Thanks so much for joining us, Jennifer! My first question is, Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)
My work is available everywhere. I have several series published by Berkley (Below Stairs Mysteries, Mackenzies historical romance series, Shifters Unbound paranormal series) that are in bookstores as well as online. I also self-publish quite a number of mysteries and romances—those are all available online at all the vendors (Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Google). My self-pubs are available in print as well as e-book, and also in audio.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I have a website I update frequently: https://www.jenniferashley.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (jennallyson), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JenniferAshleyAllysonJamesAshleyGardner), and BookBub (https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jennifer-ashley)
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your books??
I write many things! I have several series I’m currently working on, from historical mystery (the Below Stairs Mysteries and the Captain Lacey Regency mysteries) to romance—historical Scottish, contemporary cowboy, and paranormal—to contemporary fantasy (Stormwalker).
From all my books, readers can expect humor and emotion, characters with lots of personality, action adventure (in most), and in the romances, fiery passion. The mysteries have no love scenes, but developing romance threads through them. I hope readers can find something they like in one of my many different series.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
My favorite part of being a writer is setting my own hours. I hate to work to someone else’s clock! If I feel like working at 3 am and napping at 2 pm, I do it. That said, I do make a schedule for myself so I can finish books and get them published—either turning them into my traditional publisher or scheduling my self-pubbed books.
I think my greatest lesson learned is to set my own deadlines and meet them as best I can. Also to forgive myself if I can’t. Life happens. I do my best to finish things on time, and so even if a dental emergency takes me out for a few days or my husband breaks his knee, or whatever, I am not that far behind. But I cut myself some slack if I have to delay publication of a book.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Don’t give up. Being a writer has to be one of the most discouraging professions ever. Just when you think you’ve written the best thing of your life, you get a snarling review, or your editor doesn’t like it, or someone does something similar but more popular and gets lauded while you are ignored. It happens to everyone. Or your sales don’t grow as you think they should, or you can’t think what to do next or how to sustain momentum.
It can be very discouraging. The only way to fight that is to love what you write—why make it harder by writing what you dislike because someone said it would sell? Often what catches a reader’s attention is something different, unique, and not the same old, same old.
Don’t let the setbacks stop you. It’s easy to quit. But if you truly want to be a writer, professionally, you have to take the setbacks in stride, and keep going.
It’s not a bad thing to take a break when things get too stressful, but if this is your calling, then don’t let anything stop you, including yourself.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I have a number of non-writing things that interest me. I build dollhouses and dollhouse miniatures, which is great therapy and a good way to wind down from stress. The mini world is a wonderful one. I take classes, I go to shows, I meet other miniaturists. I overheard a miniaturist at a show say “It’s nice to be with people where you don’t have to explain what a miniature is.” She was so right!
My other passion is music. I play guitar and piano, and while I’m not proficient, I like to challenge myself to play harder pieces and learn new songs, and grow as a musician. I doubt I’ll be performing soon, but I love to play, and also go to concerts and listen to other great musicians. Many of my friends are musicians (and far better than I am, trust me), and it’s great to hang out with them and play and listen. I learn so much from them.
I also have a growing interest in astronomy—love to go outside at night and stargaze (what I can see from the middle of a city) and identify the stars, planets, and constellations. I haven’t invested in a telescope yet, but I use binoculars through which you can see a surprising amount.
Who knows what I’ll take an interest in next?
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
I love music when I’m writing. It gets me into the story like nothing else. But—it has to be music without words. I listen to a lot of guitarists, jazz musicians, instrumentalists. Have found so many new-to-me musicians looking for this kind of music. Many aren’t well known commercially, but they are so, so talented!
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions, Jennifer! Maybe some day we can get you to come to our little store here in Central Massachusetts!