Friday, September 5, 2008

Interview with Jennifer Ashley

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Jennifer Ashley. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called Immortals: The Redeeming. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

This book continues the Immortals series that we started last year. The Immortals is a “continuity” series written by three authors, me (Jennifer Ashley), Joy Nash, and Robin Popp. The first four books introduce four Immortal brothers and their quest to find the fifth brother, Tain, who has been captured and tortured by a mega-demon.

The Redeeming is Tain’s story. After 700 years of torture, can he ever truly heal? And can he find happiness with a half-demon woman? He needs Samantha’s help, because bad things are going on in the city of Los Angeles, and Samantha, a detective in LAPD’s paranormal division, is the only one he can turn to.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I didn’t grow up reading romance; I grew up reading fantasy: Andre Norton, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkein, and then in college Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Barbara Hambly, and other terrific fantasy authors. My first attempts at novels were fantasy, and my first ever sale was to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine.

I made the jump to romance because I wanted more romance in my fantasy. At the time I started writing no editor wanted to see paranormal romance, so I started off in historical romance (being a history buff as well). Once editors started wanting more and more paranormals, I went back to the paranormals I’d always longed to do.

At first I did historical/paranormals, then I came up with the idea of Immortals and sold that. I plan to continue writing both historicals and paranormals, which satisfies my cravings in both subgenres.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

For the Immortals, I’d had the idea swimming around in my head for quite some time—five warriors called by a spell to people who needed them throughout time. I planned to pair up each Immortal warrior with a person who’d called them. When I pitched the idea as a continuity series, that tightened up to have one adventure that arced through four books. Robin, Joy, and I brainstormed like crazy to build the world. I ended up with something much better than the original idea.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I have no clue. :-) Today while updating my website, I realized I have 32 published works out there and nine more contracted. Decided which character I like best is impossible, even if I look at just one work.

Tain was terrific to write. He was so tortured and angry, and at the same time so compassionate. That pull in him was interesting to explore. I also like Samantha, a no-nonsense cop. She can kick butt, but she’s not annoying about it.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research and/or world affect your character development?

My characters simply grow inside my head. I get the germ of a character then I close my eyes and see what they do. The process can take years. Sometimes I write down scenes I see them in (which may or may not make it into the book.) I’ll make notes on the character when they get a little more developed (weaknesses, strengths, what kind of person they are).

If I’m having trouble visualizing my character I will write an autobiography, in the pov of the character, telling about his/her life and the events that shaped him/her.

A weird thing I do is put the character in the car next to me and have him (usually it’s a hero) react to what he sees. I live in a sprawling city and do a lot of driving. It’s fun to listen to what they have to say.

How do you go about building your world if you use one? Do you use maps, charts or drawings?

When I world build I brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. I make notes in a regular Word file about who lives where and why. I develop the world as I write as well, because things suggest themselves when I’m deep in the story. I do like maps—if I’m writing in the “real” world, I use maps of the city and surrounding area I’m in (plus I go to the city in question and look around). If it’s a made-up place, I draw a map so I can remember where everything is.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Many authors have inspired me. It was Mary Jo Putney who made me truly want to write historical romance. I thought I did, but when I read her Fallen Angels series, it inspired me to make up heroes you can fall in love with. Barbara Hambly inspired me on the fantasy side—she wrote strong female heroines (warriors and very smart women) at a time when most fantasy was male dominated. I also like her worlds and characters. Another inspiration was Agatha Christie, who could write a tight plot and keep you guessing. Plus she was another writer who had strong young women as leads as far back as the 1920s (The Man in the Brown Suit; The Secret Adversary; The Secret of Chimneys).

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Promotion: It’s always difficult to know what brought someone to a book and what everyone ignored. I honestly believe nothing an author can do can top the placement in bookstores that publishers and the booksellers can give you. Most novels are bought on impulse by people browsing bookstores or standing in the check-out lines. Or readers already like an author and buy whatever the author has out.

An effective promo is a newsletter, because you can remind your autobuy readers that you have something new out. I like to do print ads in magazines targeted to readers, just because they’re pretty, and if you have a great cover, you might as well flash it around. I have had readers email me and say they saw my ad and remembered the cover when they went to the bookstore.

But like everything else in the publishing world, marketing is subjective. Every so often someone comes up with “the” perfect promo/marketing solution and everyone tries it. Like diets. :-)

What do we have to look forward next?

September 2008: Immortals: The Redeeming, by Jennifer Ashley
November 2008: The Dragon Master, by Allyson James (Berkley)
January 2009: Mortal Temptations, a paranormal erotic romance, by Allyson James (Berkley)
March 2009: Immortals: The Reckoning, anthology by Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash, and Robin Popp
April 2009: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, by Jennifer Ashley (historical romance)
That’s it!

Wow. Impressive list. Thanks, Jennifer

To celebrate her book release, Jennifer is offering a free book from her backlist to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Bio. Jennifer Ashley is a USA Today bestselling, and RITA award-winning author of paranormal and historical romance. She also writes paranormal and erotic romance as Allyson James and historical mystery as Ashley Garnder.


CrystalGB said...

Hi Jennifer. Great interview. Immortals: The Redeeming sounds good.

Pat Cochran said...

Hello, Jennifer,

Enjoyed the interview! Thanks for the information on this paranormal
series. I am familiar with the name
Immortal Series, from going to visit
Joy Nash's website. I don't usually
read paranormals, but I keep telling
myself that I need to be open to all

Pat Cochran

Alexis Walker said...

Hi Jennifer,

I can't wait to read the THE REDEEMING! I can see why Tain would be a great hero to work with. You talked about using maps when writing. In your Historical HIGHLAND EVER AFTER di dyou only use real places or did you make some names up and decided where they existed based on real maps. I'm very visual, can you tell? :-)


Donna Hatch said...

I loved the Immortal series and I can't wait to read this next one. It was fun to see how you deal with ideas and how you came up with the first Immortal series. I'm a fantasy buff, too. In addition to the authors you named, I also loved Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey.
Keep 'em coming.

Shelley Mosley said...

Hi Jennifer!

You are truly a Renaissance author!

As much as I enjoy your paranormals, I'm addicted to your historical romances! I'm glad to see you have another one coming out...even if it is next April!


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

Thanks you all! And thanks Kim for having me here. Apologies for not looking in yesterday, but I was out of town. In San Diego. On the beach. With my laptop. But I got a lot of good work done! :-) And a sunburn.

Tina LaVon said...

Hi, Jennifer!
Thanks for stopping by MCTT. You are one of my favorite authors.

kimmyl said...

Hi Jennifer, I absolutely love your books.
What I would like to know is:
Do you have favorite characters from the books you've written?

Do you have a favorite locale or setting for your novels?

Rebekah E. said...

Great interview. Sounds like a great book.

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

kimmyl asks:
"Do you have favorite characters from the books you've written?"

Oh wow. I like them all! Tain and Samantha from The Redeeming really clicked with me. But now I'm working on a new historical romance, which will be out in April 2009. Ian Mackenzie and Beth (The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie). I don't want to stop working on the book!! When I turn it in, I have to let them go. :-(

"Do you have a favorite locale or setting for your novels?"

Again, a hard question. I enjoyed writing my Dragon books (by Allyson James) in San Francisco. I love SF, and what better excuse to go there to research my novels? LOL

Other locales I've enjoyed: London, Scotland, Las Vegas