Prairie Wife of the Week: Trisha Ashley #giveaway
Posted August 22, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 14 comments
Summer is at an end and the Cowkids return to school in a few days…AND (trumpets sounding) it time for the return of our Prairie Wife of the Week feature! I couldn’t think of a better woman to start us off than Trisha Ashley
! Our regular readers are familiar with both the name and the woman, as I have been singing the praises of her books
since the beginning of PrairieWifeInHeels.com almost three years ago. One of the saddest moments of my blogging career was when I switched to our current format and lost the comment she had posted on my review of her book A Winter’s Tale.
Luckily, I had connected with her on Social media and was able to quietly follow her amazing career and even tweet back and forth with her a bit. When I finally gathered up enough courage to ask her for an interview (two years later) I was thrilled to the bone when she accepted. I can honestly say I spent more time writing her questions than any other past Prairie Wife! I think you’ll agree that just as her books are full of charm and wit, so is this interview. Ms. Ashely is just as gracious and kind in real life as one would assume from reading her books…and her advice for writers is well worth reading!
Make sure you take a moment to stop by the end of the interview and enter to WIN a copy of her soon to be released (Sept 27) book A Leap Of Faith. Ms. Ashley has kindly agreed to have both a US and UK winner so best of luck to you all!
Prairie Wife (PW): First tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Trisha Ashley (TA):
I was born in the front bedroom over my mother’s shoe shop, in the glass-making town of St Helens, in Lancashire. To this day, the smell of leather takes me back there and I have happy memories of going on the train with my mother to visit the shoe warehouses in Manchester during the school holidays. (And that came in very useful while writing Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues
!) My paternal grandparents had the draper’s and haberdashery shop next door-but-one. (And yes, that inspired the one in Wish Upon a Star
I love that whole area of Lancashire – you have miles of flat, sandy beaches around Southport to the west and then the lush farmland slowly gives way to the Beacon hills in the east. I invented a new borough called Middlemoss, which stretches right across from the sea to the hills, just above the ancient (real) market town of Ormskirk, and it features in several of my novels.
I studied architectural glass at college and since then I’ve moved around the country quite a bit, from Bedford in the south, to rural west Yorkshire, then up to Durham in the north east, but I’ve been settled here in north Wales for about sixteen years now – I’m a quarter Welsh, so it feels like home.
PW: Most of our readers here know you as my favorite author, can you talk a little bit about your personal journey from writer to published author?
TA: Well, it’s very kind of you to say so!
I expect many authors start to write as children the way I did, trying my hand at stories, poetry and plays – until that game-changing moment when I read a novel and thought, ‘I could do better than that!’ So I did…or thought I did, because persuading a publisher to agree with me took rather a long time.
After several years, during which time I developed my individual writing voice and discovered what it was that I actually wanted to say, I was shortlisted for a major prize for an unpublished novel. Soon after that, my big breakthrough came when I was signed up by my wonderful agent, Judith Murdoch. She showed me how simply weaving a new thread into the sort of books I loved writing (which I’d describe as domestic satire) would enable them to fit into the romantic comedy genre. It was a lightbulb moment.
Now, all these years and books later, I’ve twice been shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan award for romantic comedy, Every Woman for Herself
was voted one of the three best romantic novels of the last fifty years and I’ve just written the first of four new novels (The Little Teashop of Lost and Found) for my publishers, Transworld. I feel very blessed! (And of course I’m still with the same agent, Judith Murdoch.)
PW: Your books have often been described as “chick lit” how do you feel about this label?
TA: In the UK, there is often a kind of literary snobbery directed at so-called ‘chick lit’, under which pseudo-category you can find a wide variety of novels deemed ‘romantic’ or ‘women’s fiction’. I can’t understand why this should be so, since most of the great literary novels also have a strong relationship element: love in all its various forms is the mainspring of our world. This snobbery doesn’t apply to other genres, for example crime. Is it simply because ‘chicklit’ is perceived by critics as only for women, and therefore of less value for that reason? The division between literary and genre novels is a bit arbitrary, too: for instance, I frequently read critically lauded literary historical novels that are in essence no different to a friend’s novels that are categorized as Saga –women’s fiction…except my friend’s books are both better written and researched. I find it all very odd indeed.
I would say I write edgy romantic comedy, with the romantic element running through the book like the letters in a stick of rock, rather than being the single central theme. My humour arises from the characters – and I’ve never set out to write a funny novel in my life, I just write. And the wonderful thing I’ve discovered is that so many people all over the world share the same sense of humour – while we can laugh together, there is hope. Of course, there are darker strands in the weave of my stories, and adversity of one kind or another to be overcome: otherwise I’d just be writing shallow, mindless froth and it would be entirely pointless. I write because I have something to say, to explore, to share.
Call my novels what you will – what does it matter as long as readers can find them? – and I’ve just had a thought: perhaps the critics assume that because we make our writing so accessible and easy to read, then they are just as easy to write? But any real author will tell you that the opposite is so. As Dolly Parton once memorably said, ‘It takes a lot of money to make me look this cheap’.
Interesting, isn’t it?
PW: A theme that runs throughout all of your novels is that of a woman finding her strength. When is a time in your life where you found your own strength?
TA: I’ve had to give in and compromise on all kinds of things in the past, but never stopped writing and painting – they are my core, my inflexible core. I’ve made great sacrifices to get where I am today and worked a series of low paid part-time jobs over the years. Things were particularly hard after my divorce and at one point I was working six day weeks for basic pay, trying to keep a roof over our heads, then writing late into the night until I slumped onto the keyboard. Then I’d get up early next morning and start all over again. If you need to write, then you find the time somewhere.
PW: When you write your books do you find yourself basing characters on yourself or other people you know?
No, I don’t base characters on myself or people I know, it’s much more fun to invent new ones. People often say that I sound exactly the way I write, though… And of course, I will take something I have experienced in my life and use it as a jumping-off point to go somewhere else. I’ll place my heroine in that moment of crisis and see what she does – the outcome usually comes as a complete surprise to me. In fact, when I get the occasional review that says ‘I knew where this novel was going from the start’ I think: ‘Well, smartypants, that’s more than I did, because I didn’t know where I was going till I got there!’
PW: Many of your books involve food and gardening, and you include personal recipes in your novels. What role does baking and gardening play in your life?
I like good plain cooking and finding interesting new variations on old recipes. I don’t share the current sugar mania that has people piling on inches of ‘frosting’ and even putting sugar in their shortcrust pastry: why? If it has a sweet filling, then it doesn’t need it in the pastry. And all you can taste is the sugar.
And those TV programmes where the competitors faff around torturing their ingredients into weird combinations and shapes…well, they leave me cold. I seem to be in a minority on this one…Mind you, having spent four years in art college, I do enjoy torturing fondant icing into weird and wonderful special occasion cakes, much like the heroine of Wedding Tiers, so I suppose I can’t really talk!
As to gardening, I love pottering round out there and I adore roses. But you can keep lawn cutting – that’s just outdoor housework.
PW: One of my favorite things about your books is the reoccurring characters, it feels like catching up with an old friend when I come across them as I read! Is this something you set out to do or does it happen organically?
TA: I never set out to write a series of any kind, so yes, it was a sort of organic progression that took me by surprise.. Now I often wonder how the characters in my books are getting on, and what they are up to, and then put glimpses of them into later novels.
I invented a magazine called Skint Old Northern Woman in my novel Every Woman for Herself and, since then, most of my heroines subscribe to it. They can get it online now, too.
PW: What advice do you have for our readers that may be trying to currently write a novel?
TA: Read a lot of current novels of the kind you’re aiming at. Then, if the U-bend of your creativity needs unblocking before you can start, read Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. Once you’ve established the daily writing habit and the torrent of words is turned on, you can then direct it into a novel. At this point, you might also like to read Stephen King’s excellent book, On Writing, because he has much good advice to share. For example, he suggests just going with the flow in the first draft and writing it for yourself. Then in the second draft, rewrite it for the readers.That should do it, but if you’re still drowning instead of waving, you can cling to the Creative Writing Student’s Handbook by Margaret James and Cathie Hartigan.
PW: Social media has become an amazing way for authors to connect with their fans, how has being active on social media helped you as an author?
I think it must be obvious by now that I like to chat with people, especially about books and all aspects of writing! I’ve been on Facebook
for years now and I love the fact that I can talk directly to my readers. I’ve always just dashed into both a few times a day and said whatever is drifting through my mind at that moment, however random: I don’t spell-check it, or read it back – its just a peek inside the Trishaworld in my head. That’s about eighty per cent of my posts. The rest is any interesting book news, offers, re-tweets about other people’s books that sound interesting and any causes dear to my heart, like animal rights.
I have a fan page on Facebook
too, where I do much the same, only at more length. So many new authors seem to use social media to do the hard sell – it’s all ‘buy my book, buy my book, buy my book’ and that’s boring. It should be a two way interaction: if you don’t find people interesting, you’re not likely to be a good writer.
PW: Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
TA: I’d like to see myself cruising across to New York in a swish suite on an upper deck, and typing away at the first book of a new contract as the sun sets behind my glass of champagne. A girl can dream.
PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
TA: If you really want to write a book, or do anything else, then get on with it right now, because as Rose Tremain once said: life is not a dress rehearsal.
Don’t forget to enter to win a signed copy of Trisha Ashley’s newest book A Leap of Faith. All you HAVE to do is tell us in the comments what you love about her books. You can earn more points by following us on social media. REMEMBER there will be two winners, one in the US and one in the UK 🙂
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Categories: #GiveAways, Prairie Wife of the Week
Tags: , A Leap of Faith, authors, England, Giveaway, interview, praririe wife of the week, published authors, sunday times best seller, trisha ashley, wales, writers, writing advice