Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Author Interview: Claire Ashgrove

Please welcome my guest author today, Claire Ashgrove. She has several upcoming romances and one just released for your reading enjoyment.

Please ask questions and leave comments so she'll feel welcome.


1) First, please tell us what you do when you're not writing.

I have two small sons who occupy a great deal of my free time. I work as a web designer and I own a small horse farm. I raise and train horses for jumping and dressage, primarily Oldenburg Warmbloods and Arabians. I’m also very active in my RWA chapters -- Heartland Romance Authors, Mid-America Romance Authors and Midwest Romance Writers.

2) Have you always been a writer? If not, how has writing changed your life?

I’ve written for as long as I can remember. As a very young girl I wrote poems, as an early teen I wrote story after story after story about life in a rock band and girls who fell in love with prominent rock heroes of the 80s. I wrote my first true romance novel at 17, revised it several times until I was 22, and then put it aside where it’s still sitting under the bed. As an adult, I found writing did change my life. It helped me grow up in many ways.

3) Please share with other writers at least two of your best promoting tips.

As a new author, I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t work in promotion. I think the number one way to sell yourself is through word-of-mouth, which means getting out and networking. On the same vein, I think Twitter is pretty beneficial. You may not make the kind of friends that last a lifetime, but your exposure is there and you can pick up a lot of little, important things from a very vast pool of informative sources.

4) Please share with other writers at least two of your best writing tips.

The first – write every day. A paragraph, a page, a chapter a sentence – whatever it is, write for fifteen minutes. It’s a very small amount of time but it is continual progress.

The second – get your ideas down. Don’t get bogged down in the revisions as you go along. Learn how to turn off your editor and just get the ideas down. You can always go back and revise.

5) Please share with your readers why it is so important you share your stories with them.

I am by no means preaching to my audience or readers. However, within my contemporaries there’s always a hidden lesson or message. There’s something I want to teach, something I want people to learn that I’ve woven into the story somewhere. I like to make people think. I want my readers to take knowledge away from my books not just leave with a happily ever after ending. For instance, in Seduction’s Stakes there are some breeding principles that are addressed that conflict with the common thought of how things are approached. They break the perceived status-quo. It’s very veiled, but anyone who’s bred horses seriously would appreciate the remarks and the characters’ handling of the issues at hand. People who’ve never been exposed to that lifestyle will learn a best-practice approach. At least, I hope!

6) Besides being a writer, what other dreams do you have that are not fulfilled yet?

I want to spend some extensive time in Ireland. At least a year or two. I’d also like to do some traveling in Europe when my children are old enough to appreciate the history that the continent provides.

7) What fictional character would you most like to be if you could and why?

Off the top of my head – I’d like to be a female Autobot so I can justify my crush on Optimus Prime. On a serious note, however, it would have to be one of the following three: Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, or Melanie Hamilton. Why? Well Jo challenged the principles of her day. She was a strong woman who still managed to be true to her roots and respectable in the process of standing up for her beliefs. She was never afraid to go after what she wanted, and she overcame a lot of hardship to obtain them. Scarlett, on the other hand, is such a well of strength. I’d love to have that backbone over everything. She made her mistakes, paid for them, and yes she was headstrong. But she rose above everything. Melanie on the other hand, had quiet strength. She always found the good in people and her heart was larger than life. I don’t think I could overlook some of the things she went through, and I wish I had that sort of ability.

8) What is your favorite genre to read? To write? Why?

My favorite genre to read is non-fiction. I don’t have a lot of time to do a lot of reading, so when I do have time I feel that I need to learn something. I absolutely love to learn and I am a sucker for history, especially ancient civilizations. My favorite genre to write is actually paranormal. While I am published in contemporary and do love to write contemporaries, paranormal allows me to stretch some perceptions and create worlds. As my career develops, I hope to be able to maintain both genres.

9) What time period would you most like to live? If now, what would be your second choice? Why? (We all enjoy indoor plumbing and AC. :) so that is why I ask for your second choice as well).

Put me in the middle ages and I would absolutely be at home. While it was by no means an easy period, I admire the hardships people faced and overcame. There was no place for couch-potatoes. No place for people who weren’t willing to work for the things they wanted, or simply had to do. There’s a certain amount of allure for me, with the physical work required of the era. And frankly, when not at war, despite all the physical labors, no matter where one fell in the feudal tiers, there was a sense of community. As within every society and every culture, there were extremes on either end. Overall, however, I’d rather have a drafty old stone house and a pot over a hearth than air-conditioning and automobiles.

10) What most surprised you about writing or the romance writing community? Why?

There is a sense of community amongst romance writers. I expected some sort of divide between published authors and pre-published authors when I originally joined RWA and the chapters I’m with. It was a delightful surprise to learn that is uncommon, and that even the “biggest” names are more than willing to provide information and guidance when their schedules allow. This is vastly different than any other profession I’ve been exposed too, and an entire world different than the corporate attitudes post-college exposed me to.

11) Do you interact much with other writers and readers? Why or why not? If yes, how?

All the time. I’m active with two official critique groups and critique on an individual basis with many other authors across the nation and overseas. I’ve already mentioned my involvement with three RWA chapters locally and I’m more than willing to speak to authors’ groups as well. I also actively judge contests. Almost every author is a reader, and at least once a day, (more often usually) I’m doing interacting with authors and readers. Brainstorming, support after a round of rejections, gushing over accomplishments, cheerleading my critique partners, chatting about a book we’ve read… This is a profession to me. It’s one I love taking home from the office. I love to talk writing and I love to write.

12) Where do you most like to hang out on the web? Why?

Chuckle. I hang out in my email. I also almost always have my Twitter open.

13) If you have a pet peeve(s) about books or writing or the writing community, what would it (they) be? Why?

A generalization would be accuracy. One thing that bothers me in books I read is if an author doesn’t do his or her research appropriately and (especially in historicals) the facts presented aren’t accurate. I run into this when people put horses in their stories. There’s so much myth, so much Hollywood that the facts get skewed, or what’s possible gets skewed beyond proportion. That’s very small, very specific, but it makes me cringe when I am reviewing work or reading a novel.

14) What is your greatest strength as a writer? Your greatest weakness?

My greatest strength is that I constantly want to improve. I want to be challenged with my work, and harsh critiques don’t get under my skin. I don’t believe that any author reaches a point where they can’t get better, so I’m constantly striving to achieve that. My greatest weakness… rushing. On every book, I always have to address this in revisions.

15) What is your best childhood memory? (If you don't mind sharing. If you mind, please skip this.)

I was very, very young. I had a stuffed animal, a donkey, named Donk. And Donk had some grievous injury, perhaps a leg that was falling off or a tail. I remember sitting by my grandmother at the foot of her recliner/rocker watching her sew Donk back together. I still have Donk. He’s missing a leg again. Fixing him just isn’t quite the same as it was back then.

16) What animal (fictional or real) is most like you? Why?

Have you ever watched a cat stalk a mouse in hiding? I’d have to say cat. When there’s something I want, I throw myself into it 110%. There’s nothing I do, that I enjoy doing, that I don’t do with all of me. Like the cat who’s content to wait until it’s absolutely necessary to leave the hidey-hole, I don’t give up. Sometimes this intimidates people and that can be frustrating, depending on the environment or setting. Also, cats are very independent creatures. I am as well. Cats are smarter than people give them credit for, and they don’t put up with the stupid human antics like dogs do. If you’ve offended a cat, they are going to let you know and scold you in some fashion. In the end, they forgive. Though they never really forget. They just choose whether the offense is important enough to retain or not.

17) What do you and your husband like to do for a date? Is it the same things your heroes and heroines like to do? (I’m getting divorced and currently not dating.)

18) Please tell us about your current book(s) including a blurb, excerpt, cover, release date, and link where we can purchase them.

My first book, Seduction’s Stakes became available on October 2, 2009.

I have two others coming out in the next few months as well: All I Want For Christmas… Is Big Blue Eyes on December 4, 2009 and Timeless Valentine on January 6, 2010.

(Feel free to steal anything you want off my website on these.)

19) Do you have any appearances coming up soon where we can meet you online or in person? If so, where? Also, where can we find you on the web?

In the month of October I will be doing a booksigning at Hastings in Warrensburg, Missouri and Borders Books in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The dates are not yet confirmed as of the time of this interview.

On the web, I’m at www.claireashgrove.com I’m also on Twitter as ClaireAshgrove, and maintain a blog on Blogspot – which is linked through my website.

20) Who is your publisher(s).

I am published with The Wild Rose Press in the Champagne line.

21) Is there anything else you'd like to share with your readers and/or fellow writers?

Absolutely do not give up. Publishing, in any fashion, is a difficult and frustrating road. You can’t become published if you quit. Be open to hearing criticism on your story. Know when it’s absolutely necessary to not bend and be true to your writing, and when it is more advantageous to your career goals to modify your work. There’s a true difference between compromising your ethics, and improving your manuscript. We all fall in love with our stories. But in the end, they are just words on the page – from an author’s perspective. Don’t love them to your detriment, as you would not (in a healthy situation) a human being. You can always find a new place for words you have to remove from one story. If you want to succeed you must be flexible, and while rejection stings, you have to be able to move beyond it. Be that with the same project or with a brand new one.

Thank you so much Claire for being my guest. I've so enjoyed having you with us today and hope you visit again often.

Recent posts you might like to read:

Ghost Hunting at a Haunted Hotel

Welcome to the Spookiest Month of the Year (+ don't burn your Ouija Board!)

People Don't Fall Out of Trees - Without Reason 

I'm Part of a Tribe 

Big Brother Is Watching You - This Means You BLOGGERS!

Are You Writing Me Into Your Book?

Dont Give Up Too Early

Must Write Must Write Must Write!!!

You'll also want to see what Amarinda Jones, Anika Hamilton, Anny Cook,
Barbara Huffert, Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Dakota Rebel, Kelly Kirch,
Molly Daniels, Sandra Cox, Regina Carlysle, and Cindy Spencer Pape
are up to, so make sure to visit them also. :)


Robyn Campbell said...

Ashley, another great interview. You ARE the champ of interviews. And I like what Claire(love that name, it is one of my MC's in my MG novel) said about not rushing through revisions.

And the inner editor. I'm on a first draft right now and I can't seem to get past chapter 7, because I'm going back and revising. I need to remember what she said.

Thanks Ashley and Claire. Great stuff.:)

Robyn Campbell said...

Oh and Claire! I have a small horse farm too. And my family comes from Ireland so that is also one of my things on my to-do list. :)

Linda Kage said...

Great interview! Congrats, Claire, on your recent release.

And I wonder why we all want to be like Scarlett? Maybe it's because she's one of the most flawed heroines I ever read--making her human--yet she's still so totally awesome in her strength and determination. Who knows!

Tess said...

I, too, have Irish roots. My mom went there last year and really sparked my interest in making the trip someday .. she said it was breath taking.

And, I like your advice about learning to turn off that internal editor and just allow our muse to take over. A good reminder for me, thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks again Claire for joining us today.

I love Scarlett because she's so strong and so full of emotion. She's exciting and beautiful, yet flawed.

Kris said...

Ah! We are indeed on the same page, as I'm wearing a bit of my Cuir de Russie parfum as I type this, and looking forward to obtaining more Sycomore. Such a delicious, nutty, wool sweater of a vetiver.

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