Let’s welcome author Sarah Ashwood to answer 10 Questions about her writing. Besides her fantasy books with historical settings, Sarah’s other claim to fame is she’s a “genuine Okie from Muskogee.”
Linda Covella: So glad you could join us today, Sarah.
When and why did you decide to become a writer?
Sarah Ashwood: I’d written short stories off and on for years as a kid before I finally decided to take the plunge and write a full length novel at age 18. This turned out to be the start of my Sunset Lands Beyond fantasy trilogy. It’s gone through several drafts and multiple revisions since then, but the basic storyline has remained the same.
LC: What is your writing process: where do you write, how often do you write, are you a full-time or part-time writer, do you outline or do you plot as you go, etc.?
SA: I am very much a pantser. I start with a basic outline and basic ideas, which I usually write down, then my plots tend to explode as I write. I usually have a file titled “Notes on Such & Such Project…(whatever the book is called)” where I jot down a jumble of notes that help me sort out my plot when I revise the rough draft. I can’t say I’d recommend this method to anyone, but it seems to work for me.
As to the other questions, I try to write daily when I’m working on a project. However, I’m a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom of three young boys, so I’m basically regulated to writing whenever I can!
LC: I imagine homeschooling three boys keeps you pretty busy!
Where do you find your inspiration for your stories? Do you draw from your own experiences?
SA: Inspiration comes from everywhere. The people around me, life events, music, art, movies, poetry, other books I’ve read…
I don’t necessarily draw on my own experiences often, but sometimes I do. My short story, The Hero of Emoh: A Parent’s Fairytale (in the free Fellowship of Fantasy anthology, Hall of Heroes) was very much drawn from my own experiences as a mother!
LC: Who is one of your favorite characters from your story(ies), one that you enjoyed creating and writing about, and why?
SA: My favorite characters I’ve ever created are the Simathe, a race of non-human immortal warriors who live in the land of Aerisia. They’re featured in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and in my new release, Aerisian Refrain. At first glance, they seem very cold and dispassionate. However, as you get to know them, you see they have a really noble side, and are committed to the safety and preservation of their homeland…even if their methods are considered a little suspect by their fellow Aerisians.
LC: Do you incorporate (or inadvertently find) any of your own personality traits into your characters?
SA: Sometimes. The female MC in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, Hannah Winters, is pretty much me in book form, as far as her sense of humor and her boldness go. She’s a little more emotional than I am, but she has my quick temper. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing for either one of us, but, hey—we’re all human. Nobody’s perfect.
LC: That’s right! And, actually, we want our fictional characters to be somewhat imperfect.
Do you find your stories are more plot driven or character driven? Please explain.
SA: I would say probably character driven. When I think up a story, the characters always appear in my head first. Everything else centers around them.
LC: Did you read much as a child?
SA: Absolutely! I was homeschooled, and my dad taught me to read when I was four years old. My parents heavily stressed reading as an important part of both recreation and education. I have a very broad range of literary interests, a lot of which come together when I write fantasy. I love fantasy because I can incorporate a little bit of everything into my worlds!
LC: How important do you think reading is for writers?
SA: Very, I think. It broadens and sharpens the mind. It can also provide inspiration. Furthermore, well-written books can help teach you the craft of writing.
LC: Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? What draws you to them?
SA: Well, I love portal fantasy, so Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey Series is a favorite. I love fairytales and fairytale fantasy: Juliet Marlillier’s Daughter of the Forest is a standout book in that genre. I love the strong, silent male figure, so the old classic Lorna Doone, by R.D. Blackmore, has long been a favorite novel of mine. I love historical books, and my favorite of these is Empire of Blue Water by Stephen Talty. It’s a fascinating look at piracy and buccaneers in the 17th century. Lastly, I adore historical fiction, and Francine Rivers’ A Voice in the Wind is a favorite in that genre. Those are just a few.
LC: Anything new in the works?
SA: Thank you for asking! Aerisian Refrain, the first book of a brand new fantasy series, debuted July 13, 2018. Although this series is related to my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, you don’t have to have read those books to understand Aerisian Refrain.
Quick description: “On Earth, Annie’s voice brought her fame and fortune. In the land of Aerisia, it brings her magic, but the cost of that power may mean the destruction of Aerisia itself.”
I’m also working on a fun YA Fantasy/Fairytale novel, Knight’s Rebirth, which is set to debut before Christmas 2018. It’s the story of a famous knight, Sir Buckhunter Dornley, who is content to live alone until he meets the charming and outrageous Princess Mercy. When he discovers Mercy lives under a deadly curse, how far will he go to break it?
LC: Bonus question! Do you have anything you’d like to add?
SA: Just a thank you to you for having me here, and to everyone else who takes the time to read this interview. If you check out my books, I hope you enjoy them!
LC: Thanks, again, Sarah. It was a pleasure to have you on my blog.
Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.
Sarah’s works include the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and the fantasy novella Amana.
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