I’m thrilled to have my friend Ashley March here today as the first post in my Hearts and Minds giveaway, where you can win books that appeal to both your heart and mind. Giveaway details are below, but first, some words of wisdom from the lovely Ms Ashley, author of historical romance set in the Victorian era.
1. What prompted you to think, “Y’know what? I’m gonna sit down and write a novel”?
To be honest? I’ve always been motivated by the fact that I couldn’t see myself sitting at a regular day job from 9-5 for the rest of my life.
I started writing my first manuscript when I was tired of driving an hour back and forth every day to my university. I finished the book, but it was terrible and I thought maybe I just wasn’t cut out for writing. Fortunately I found a day job right out of college that I loved, but even then the writing bug bit me again in early 2008. I had just finished reading a book that made me feel all warm and gooey inside—and a little giddy (I believe it was a Julia Quinn novel; her books always have that effect on me)—and I rushed to my computer and just started writing. I had no idea what I was writing; I was just putting words on the screen and having a heck of a lot of fun.
It was then, once I realized how much FUN I had writing, that I decided that this was it. No more screwing around. If I was going to write, then I would write for publication and take myself seriously. Even though I enjoyed my job, it wasn’t enough. I wanted something more.
2. How long was there between you starting your first book and holding a publishing contract in your hands?
Ah, there’s a lot of explanation to this answer. 🙂 From starting the very first manuscript and holding a publishing contract in my hands was approximately four years and one month—from February 2006 to March 2010.
However, I quit writing in May 2006 once I finished that first manuscript because it was so terrible. Then I started writing again in February 2008, finished the second manuscript (after editing) in June 2008, started the third manuscript in July 2008 (this one is my debut), found out I was pregnant in September 2008, proceeded to write sparingly off and on for the remainder of my pregnancy and after the baby was born in June 2009. Queried agents for the third manuscript in August 2009, finished the book in a major hurry and signed with my first agent in September 2009, received and accepted an offer for a 3-book deal from NAL Penguin in December 2009, and actually held the contract in my hands in March 2010.
Is your head spinning with dates yet? 🙂
3. Were there any habits you formed as an unpublished writer—like writing daily or working with critique partners—that helped you once you became published?
I would like to say that I developed a habit of writing daily, but I didn’t. Instead, I’m working on that now so I can stay published. 😉 However, I give my two critique partners Kat Brauer and Anna Randol 100% credit for helping me to get published.
Finding critique partners was one of the first steps I made in taking my writing seriously, and I still depend on them for honest and thorough critiques. They’re so wonderful, in fact, that if they ever stopped writing or critiquing I’d probably follow them around the world (Kat lives in Japan as an ESL teacher), begging and pleading until they began again.
4. Are there other habits you didn’t pick up that you wish you had?
Writing daily. 😉 Seriously, I’d heard it a hundred times from successful authors that the most important thing in building a successful writing career is getting your butt in the chair daily and getting the words out. I’m just now figuring that out for myself.
During the past year I let promotion kind of take over my life because I was so concerned about my debut doing well (and it did, thank goodness!), but I wish I’d split my time and energy so that I was more productive in writing in addition to promoting my debut.
5. You’re a working mother, a published novelist, and a wife. Oh yeah, and you run a blog full of fantastic resources for writers. Oh yeah again, you agree to answer a bunch of questions for my blog. How on God’s green earth do you find balance? Forget balance—how do you find time to wee??
Lol. I love that you live in England and used “wee”. 🙂 (And thank you for the wonderful compliment on my blog—I’m so glad it’s helpful!) I’ve had several people ask this question recently, and the truth is that I don’t sleep very much.
I know—this is not a good thing. But right now my motivations for staying up till 12 or 1 every morning (if not later) are very important to me. I want to be able to have a successful writing career (both in terms of more books and more money), and I want to be able to stay home with my children.
I will say, however, that I had to learn my limits the hard way recently. At the beginning of July I became very sick—and the doctors still aren’t sure exactly why. My guess is that my body finally fell apart from all the stress. (Again, I know, not a good thing.)
Fortunately I’m feeling a little better now, although still not fully recovered, and I have to say that this illness forced me to look at everything I’d put on my plate and I was required to push some stuff off. I didn’t feel good about it, but I felt it was a necessity.
And in the coming year, I plan to let go of more and more things so that I can treat myself better and have more time and energy to focus on actual writing than all the other writing business stuff I’ve enthusiastically allowed myself to get sucked into. (And, um, hopefully this means I’ll more time to play on Twitter…)
6. What’s the most pleasant surprise you’ve had since being published?
Oh, wow. This is a tough one. The past year has been so great! Can I list more than one? (Yup, I’m a rule-breaker.)
Ashley’s List of Pleasant Surprises since Becoming Published on October 5, 2010
1. People bought my book. Yay!
2. People liked my book. Yay!
3. People bought my book, liked my book, and actually emailed me, tweeted me, or put a note on Facebook to tell me. Double yay!
4. The romance community (readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, industry professionals) is comprised of some of the nicest and most generous people I’ve ever known. And even better—I now feel like I belong here.
5. People listen to my ideas and sometimes like them. 🙂
6. My publisher sent me a TON of bookmarks and has been extremely supportive of helping me follow through on my promotional ideas.
7. More of a pleasant realization than a surprise—I’ve finally accepted the fact that I’m living my dream. And it’s amazing. 🙂
7. What’s been the most difficult lesson to learn?
You have to put in the work to see your goals achieved. I’m very good at making spreadsheets and creating goals. I have tons of ideas and it’s easy sometimes to get enthusiastic about every one of them.
But the most important thing, and the most difficult lesson for me that I had to learn in the past year, is that writing comes first, and the only way I can achieve my goals is by putting in the work to write. Period.
Lol. This answer might give you a clue as to why I’m currently the coordinator of the Romance Biggest Winner competition…We celebrated the release of SEDUCING THE DUCHESS by going out to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant here in Colorado. 😉
I haven’t really thought about how I plan to celebrate the release of ROMANCING THE COUNTESS. I can tell you what I’d like to do. I’d like to go on a vacation to the Caribbean. 🙂 But I’ll probably celebrate by writing more instead. And maybe taking another trip to Hacienda Colorado.
9. What’s the biggest compliment a reader could give you?
Hands down, emailing me to tell me what they thought of my book. They don’t even have to like it (although that’s a bonus!)—knowing that they took the time and that they cared enough to write to me makes my day and gives me all these warm fuzzy tinglings inside. I treasure those emails, and I keep every single one.
Hmm. I wrote that response and then I thought that maybe you meant what they could actually say…
Probably “I couldn’t put your book down.” That also gives me warm fuzzy tinglings. 🙂
10. Tell us about your novella—I’m itching to read it and can’t wait any longer!
🙂 Yes, ma’am! First, here’s the official copy:
“A brand-new Victorian romance novella from the author of Seducing the Duchess!
Follow acclaimed author Ashley March, praised by Booklist for her “elegant writing [and] sizzling sexual chemistry,” into the world of Victorian romance, where Lady Cecily Bishop—promised by her parents to a stranger—must fend off the seductive games and heady caresses of Baron Sedgwick….a task that becomes more difficult with each soul-searing kiss…”
ROMANCING LADY CECILY is the title of the novella (actually it should be called a short story, as it’s about 15,000 words), and it’s a stand-alone tie-in to my September 6th release, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS. Please note that it is a digital novella, and should be available on August 2nd at the typical places where e-books are sold.
This was my first experience in writing something shorter than a full-length novel, and I have to admit it took more plotting that I usually do because I had to know exactly what was going to happen—I didn’t have 300+ pages to figure that out. I’m excited about it and really looking forward to what readers think (so tell me!), but just a fair warning—it is a bit spicier than my usual writing. 😉
Bonus: Is there anything else you think those of us still working toward publication should know? You can tell us—published writers have a secret clubhouse and handshake, don’t they?
Absolutely! And the password to get in is “write”. 😉
Seriously. I know you’ve heard it before and maybe you have good intentions like I did. But good intentions don’t cut it. Write write write, and then write some more.
You’ll become faster as you write, and you’ll learn how to be a better writer as you write. (Make sure to get critique partners who are able and willing to give you helpful, honest feedback, too!)
Then, once you’re published, keep writing. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from both successful authors who are traditionally published and successful authors who are now self-publishing, it’s that those who write well and produce frequently win. And that’s what I plan to do. (Now, off you go. Start writing! :))
Ashley’s giving away a copy of one of her novels. The winner can choose from her debut, Seducing the Duchess, or her September release Romancing the Countess (if you choose Countess, she’ll mail it to you when she gets her copies).
And since this party is to celebrate my husband finishing (and passing!) his PhD in American literature, I’ll give the same winner one of the books my husband wrote about: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (one of my all-time favorite books).
Leave a comment below, and I’ll choose the winner on Monday, August 8, when my next guest – Kaki Warner – will be joining me!