This week is the launch of a new series. Each Friday from now on, I will be interviewing a fellow author; either a new author with a finished manuscript or a recently published (self or traditional) author. First up, Ashley McLeo!
Intro: What’s your name, what do you write, where can readers find you on social media? And just for fun, if you could be any mythological being, what or who would you be?
Hi! My name is Ashley McLeo, and I write contemporary YA/NA fantasy. You can find me on Facebook at Ashley McLeo Author, @amcleowrites on twitter, or message me on my website www.ashleymcleo.com. If I were any mythological being I would be a Phoenix because I love the idea of constant rebirth.
- What got you interested in writing?
It started with an unsatisfying day job and a need to scratch a creative itch. I’ve never been super artistic, but I do read a lot, so I figured the creative outlet I should try first was writing. Luckily this was during Nanowrimo, so I joined and fell in love! I had never written anything before besides what I had to write in school and I loved the freedom that doing my own thing brought. It got me out of my mundane world for a bit which I really needed at the time. Three years, many false starts, periods of disenchantment, and edits later the novel I started during that Nano is now published as Prophecy of Three.
- When did you become SERIOUS about writing?
I became serious once I hit the 70% mark in my novel. For some reason until that point finishing didn’t seem real. Once I got there, I thought, “I could really do this.” And I did. I became super super serious when I started editing (around January 2016) because I realized how much work it needed, but I wasn’t willing to give up on it. I edited that novel for a year before I gave it to beta readers and sent it to a professional editor twice. It’s changed so much in the process, as have I.
- What inspired your book?
I was SO bored with my job and had just read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, which I’m a major fan girl of. I fell so in love with the series that I wanted to write something that I felt that way about. So I gave it a go!
- What is the book about?
It’s a “chosen one” novel. The overarching theme of the entire trilogy is witches vs. otherworldly forces to save humanity from enslavement. The first book is much more about getting to know the characters, how they relate to each other, and what they would do for each other when things go badly (because something goes very very badly!). There’s a tie to religion and how human culture has been formed over time. Here’s the blurb:
What if Eve’s betrayal of Adam and the rest of mankind altered the course of your life?
For Lily Whiplark, that’s exactly what happened.
Lily is intrigued when a glamorous stranger appears at her home a day after she returns from college. She’s stunned when the woman claims Lily’s biological family wants to meet her.
Days later, in the hills of Ireland Lily meets her birth family. She also learns magic is real, and that the history of humanity as she knows it is woefully lacking. When Lily discovers she’s one of three women fated to fulfill a prophecy millennia old, will she accept? Will Lily help rectify Eve’s betrayal and save humanity from otherworldly forces intent on chaos?
- What are the characters like?
I have a large cast so the characters are pretty varied. One constant in this particular novel is that the cast is largely female, and there is a strong underlying theme of mothers.
Lily, my protagonist for Prophecy of Three, could be described as athletic, kind, a bit indecisive, and very sheltered (although she doesn’t realize it). Most of the cast are witches and they were a lot of fun to write, especially if they were elemental witches. I liked feeling out how Aoife McKay, a fire witch would act. She’s one of my favorites and of course, a bit of a spitfire. 🙂
- Who should pick up your book and why?
Anyone who loves strong females and witches! If you like Ireland, history, mythology, and an alternate religious twist, even better! I wrote this book with a specific person in mind – myself, though of course, I did hope it would appeal to more people. The ideal reader would probably be a woman (or a man that is not put off by an almost all female cast) ages 16 plus. There’s a YA element as the protagonist is only 21, but there are also a lot of older characters she is close to that off set that. The women in my book come from all sorts of backgrounds (to be explored more in forthcoming novellas), and have their own quirks. The one thing they all have in common is that they know the truth, and will have to save the rest of us. 🙂
- Favorite quote from your own work? Oh yeah, and there’s a burning library 🙂
“The library was burning. Thousands of treasures flying toward the heavens reincarnated as ash and ember. Original works of Sophocles, Homer, and Euripides gone, and yet, Hypatia cared for only one. The one passed down through the centuries from woman to woman, witch to witch. She’d read it hundreds of times, recited every word and enunciated every syllable with care, should a disaster such as this ever occur. The one entrusted to her for safekeeping. The true secret of secrets and future of man.”
- Traditional or Self-publishing? Why?
Self publishing. I like the freedom it gives me. Especially how fast I put things out and that I control when my novel no longer gets marketing, or [if it] gets any marketing at all. Also, with traditional publishers starting self-publishing imprints, I think that indie publishing is where the industry is heading anyhow.
- If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Fantasy because I love it, and as genres go you can really do a lot with it! I could make my own world or use ours and make it quite realistic. I can add historical elements or military elements. I can do anything!
- Name one book that affected the way you write?
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It is by far my favorite series. I love her style and how smart she writes. I feel like my style is similar to hers (softer and a little more flowery/poetic at times) and I’d love to get to her level one day.
- Three authors you recommend and why?
Deborah Harkness – My favorite. Smart writer and her style is so lovely and engaging. Also she’s a history professor so you learn a ton while reading her book and she makes it enjoyable!
David Mitchell – I am always flabbergasted when I read one of David Mitchell’s novels. The detail and forethought that goes into his stories are amazing. I love the idea of stories within stories and he is a master at doing this.
Elizabeth Kostova – Any book she writes I’ll read. She’s not really fantasy (my preferred genre) but the way she tells her stories makes it seem magical.
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Well this is a big one . . . I would like people to value community more. I feel that if we interacted more we’d see that we’re all more alike than different. I have a hunch this would decrease violence and perhaps stop wars.
Oh, and I’d want people to actually value people over money… Sorry, that’s more than one! They’re kind of related though in my mind.
- What do you believe is your main purpose/motivation as a writer?
My purpose is to entertain, to bring a smile to someone’s face, and make his or her day. To make them stare at the world in WONDER again.
- What’s your favorite writing-related memory?
When I finally finished the first draft of Prophecy of Three. I was so emotional. It was the first thing I’d ever made from start to finish and no one could take that from me.
- What’s a favorite moment you’ve had with a fan/someone who’s read your work?
When a beta reader told me she stayed up until 3 a.m. reading. Or when another told me she was so astounded by a twist she literally yelled out loud (in a good way). Hahaha.
- One fun fact most people don’t know about you?
I’m training to become a yoga instructor right now!
- One piece of advice you would give to new writers?
Get to know other writers, especially if you’re indie. Your community can provide such knowledge, encouragement, and friendship. You just gotta put yourself out there!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Ashley! I hope you all a enjoy this interview and don’t forget to say hi to her on Facebook at Ashley McLeo Author, @amcleowrites on twitter , or on her website www.ashleymcleo.com.