I have the privilege of having author Ashley Barron back to discuss her journey since we talked last year. Ashley is one of those people you will never forget; she puts 1000% into whatever she does and the result indubitably shows her passion.
MR: Thought you had enough, we are just getting started. Today I am talking to Ashley Barron. As always a smile on your face Ashley, tell me some good news about your books I know you have hidden away.
AB: Thank you for having me here today, Micheal! If it’s okay with you, I’d like to point out that we started this process some ways back, but life seems to have sent me on a detour. (You can see the results at IndieBookWeek.com, which just launched last week.) It was a journey filled with lots of twists and turns and has made for some interesting blog posts.
I would have to say that the best part of writing and publishing my first novel is the change it has brought about the way I interact with the people in my life. When tough moments or difficult conversations arise, which they sometimes do, I take a step back and focus on the bigger picture. I put energy into seeing what led us to that moment and try to identify the cause or concern underlying the words presented.
And when the happy moments arise – and there are many more of those! – I find I am recognizing and mentally recording more than just the emotion I feel. I’m seeing the way the sunshine comes in through the windows, and I’m feeling the way the air is somehow warm yet soft and cooling, and I’m hugging as much with my mind as with my body.
I feel more alive, more connected to life on every level since I wrote Ava. It is lovely.
MR: Who is the Ashley Barron the readers do not know hidden behind the pages of your books? (A little history about yourself and how you got to this point)
AB: Small parts of my life or personality are in each character I write, both good and bad. Up until the August afternoon I set my fingers on my keyboard and typed the opening chapter of Ava, I had no plans to become a novelist any time soon. Pursuing that path was always in the “someday” category.
Ava went through four full rewrites before I was ready to publish the novel. The main character, Ava Arden, does share certain similarities with me, but most of them are structural. For example, we both have brothers, we’re both tall with long hair, and we both have run small businesses. We do live in the same town, but I think that may be a common choice made by first-time authors.
Learning to construct scenes, to develop timelines and action sequences – especially in a romantic thriller – is helped when the novel’s geography reflects the very place in which we live. Other books I’m working on are not set in D.C., and I’m finding it is definitely a different, and arguably harder, experience to construct scenes that take place in other cities and countries.
In my family, I’ve been identified as “the writer” since I was a young girl. Reading is one of my top passions, and I discovered the joy of books early on thanks to parents who passed on to us a love of reading and learning. I’m enjoying many aspects of the business-side of publishing, and of the risk-taking inherent in pursuing a dream.
For the most part, but not without exception, I worry far less about failing than I do about missing out on the opportunity to gain new knowledge. This willingness to “get things wrong” shows up in some form in each main character in Priya series. These days, so many people seem to be embracing a risk-averse mindset, and this limits the ability of one’s creativity and experience to grow at the remarkably fast pace we are capable of as humans.
Perhaps, that is one of the most interesting aspects of being a fiction writer, the ability to first create a complex problem and then solve it, chapter by chapter. First and foremost, this is the reason I will always enjoy reading new books. I find it very exciting to read a well-presented plot line, to connect deeply with characters (no matter if they bear any resemblance to me, or to my life), and to wonder how the author will possibly bring about resolution and a satisfying ending.
MR: What is the passion in your life?
AB: This is a hard question for me to answer as I come from a long line of seriously passionate people! There is no single passion for me; I could never choose one aspect of life and learning to focus on, to commit to exclusively.
There is definitely something in our family’s DNA that gives rise to a need to feel every experience fully and to explore that which attracts our spirit most. Music, art, writing, film, theatre – we are passionate about all of them, and each one of us excels in a different area.
If I had to single out a few things I’m passionate about beside the obvious category – books – I would begin a very long list with the word “romance.” By that I mean a love story, a dance two souls do as they come together as one. I am passionate about flowers, but not bees, so that one is a little tricky. Sunrise, that precise moment when darkness turns to light, is my favorite part of the day.
I’m also passionate about meeting new people. I’m the type who talks to every person around me no matter if I’m at a party, in a waiting room, in an elevator, or at a college football tailgate. I enjoy learning about a person’s life, about his or her experiences and choices, hopes and regrets, mistakes and triumphs.
MR: Everyone has a particular taste in movies. What are your favorites and who are your favorite actors?
AB: I enjoy period dramas, international mysteries, D.C.-centric thrillers, musicals, slap-stick comedies, and pretty much every romantic comedy or drama ever filmed. It is as difficult a task to pick a favorite movie as it is to pick a favorite actor.
I would say that Field of Dreams is at the top of the list, and there are easily 100 movies tied for second place. As for favorite actors, I think Marion Cotillard’s performance in La vie en rose was the finest acting I’ve ever seen. Johnny Depp, too, has an extraordinary ability to completely immerse himself in a role, and I never tire of watching his films.
For the past few years I’ve devoted practically every spare minute to writing and business development, so the number of new releases I’ve seen has greatly decreased. It’s an occupational hazard, I suppose. And, although this is not on the topic of movies, I did go bowling with my three-year-old niece recently and she scored higher than I did.
I need to get out more.
MR: You created Ava as a series for your readers. Who would you choose to direct a film about Ava?
AB: Ang Lee! No question. I feel he has a rare gift for adding a layer of hope, ever-present, to his movies – whether through the camera angles, or the delivery of key dialogue, or the cinematography. He accomplishes this feat no matter how impossible or distant a sweet ending seems while the viewer is in the early stages of the film.
Hope is the undercurrent of everything I write.
MR: Currently I have switched from a large office to something the size of a coffin for a Sumo wrestler. What is special about the place you write your books? Is there anything that stands out in your mind giving you a magic moment?
AB: I was up in the mountains, writing a scene in Ava. From my workspace, I could see out windows on three sides of the house. After finishing a particularly emotional scene, I looked up and there were butterflies in every window. It was magical. I’ll always remember it.
I have written different stories in different places. For example, I wrote The Angel while I was spending a week with one of my brothers. There is something about his house, something loving and peaceful, that translated into a story about life, death, and angels. It is one of my favorites, and I don’t think it would have been written if I hadn’t been in that place, at the particular time.
So much of what I write is triggered by my surroundings, my interactions and daily experiences. A sentence or image will enter my thoughts and I won’t be able to move past it until I’ve explored its meaning on paper. It is both the blessing and the curse of being a writer.
The deeper I move into my writing world, the more I am finding that no moment, no meeting, no conversation is a standalone event. Each one is connected to something else, usually something I haven’t experienced or written yet. When it does find a place in my words on the page it has been transformed, I am the only one who knows that the event and the story are related. Perhaps, a good comparison would be caterpillars and butterflies. Same origins, but you would not necessarily know it to look at them.
MR: You have an emotional attachment to your characters; do you find yourself walking in their shoes as you write the stories?
AB: I think I am my characters when writing their stories. They are very much alive to me. In fact, I talk about my characters to my family and friends to the point that everyone speaks of them as she/her or he/him. Bonner is coming out at the end of May and the people closest to me will ask questions like these: “What day does her book come out?” or “How is her story coming along?”
It thrills me. I admit it.
MR: What author, past or present would you like to spend time with? What would you ask him or her? How would you spend that time?
AB: What a question to try and answer! It would have to be the authors of the Declaration of Independence. I know that is not necessarily what you expected as an answer, but it is what immediately came to mind when I read your question. If I replied any other way, I would be inventing the response.
I don’t know that I would have any questions to ask. I think I would prefer to sit quietly and observe every layer of conversation, debate, and conflict the authors engaged in while writing a document that would establish a nation. A nation! I find the concept extraordinary.
MR: Ashley Barron thank you very much for being with me today. I look forward to talking with you again in the future. For those of you who have not read Ashley’s books. They are available at Amazon.com as well as other outlets. Trust me; you won’t want to put them down when you start to read them. Politics and murder set the backdrop for a second chance at love in Ashley’s debut novel Ava.