Hello lovelies! I am back. I apologize for my sporadic posts lately, but I promise you I have a good reason. Actually a couple of them, but I will get into that in a post on Wednesday. For now, please welcome fantasy author Sarah Ashwood!
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, I’m fantasy author Sarah Ashwood, author of the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, the novella Amana, and the forthcoming Beyond the Sunset Lands series. I grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma, and I hold a B.A. in English from American Military University. In my imagination, I soar effortlessly through my favorite fantasy and historical worlds. In real life, I live (mostly) quietly at home with my husband and three sons. (Yes, I’m a boymom of three!) I also try to sneak in a daily run or workout to save my sanity and keep my mind fresh for my next story.
Like most folks these days, I’m all over social media. To keep up to date with my work and new releases, sign up for my newsletter.
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Lastly, if I could be any mythological being, it would be Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Raising three boys, I could use lots of wisdom.
- What got you interested in writing?
I would definitely say reading got me interested in writing. Growing up, I read constantly. I visited the library every week. Sometimes twice a week. I read a pretty broad range of historical books, historical fiction, westerns, fairytales, fantasy, mythology, detective stories, humor, and more. Eventually, reading all these great stories made me want to write my own.
- When did you become SERIOUS about writing?
I’d written several short stories as a kid, but when I was 18 I sat out to write my first real book. Took me over a year, and I hand wrote the darn thing in notebooks. Little did I know, setting out, that it was going to be an epic fantasy novel that would fill eight entire notebooks. It was very rough, but I knew I had something. Over the course of the years, that handwritten book has been split into three books, has gone through multiple drafts and revisions, and is now my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy.
- What inspired your book series?
Mainly, the genres I read. I loved fairytale and fantasy, like I mentioned above. I loved historical books and historical fiction: ancient Rome and the Golden Age of Piracy were some favorite eras. I loved portal books, like Max and Me and the Time Machine by Gery Greer, where two boys buy a time machine and travel to medieval England. (Still a favorite book, actually.) Of course, Lord of the Rings was a must, and Narnia. I also enjoyed Robert Jordan and Juliet Marillier, among other authors.
When I turned to writing fantasy, a little bit of all of that influenced my first trilogy. In the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, and my new book, Aerisian Refrain, you’ll find colorful pirates, an army based off the military of the Roman empire, fairies, giants, and unicorns alongside immortal warriors, and main characters travelling between Earth and Aerisia.
- What is your most recent book about?
Aerisian Refrain is the story of a young Native American woman, Annie Richards, whose voice and musical talents have skyrocketed her from a cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma into worldwide fame. However, haunting visions have begun accosting her, making her question her sanity. She’s returning to her childhood home to convalesce when creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane. She awakens in a parallel world, Aerisia, where she must not only stay alive, but figure out why she is there and how her musical abilities play into the mystery. In the end, she must choose her own destiny, or risk becoming the reason Aerisia itself is torn apart.
- What are the characters like?
Well, first off there’s Annie. While she can turn it on onstage and knows hold to be poised off stage, due to dealing with the press and having cameras constantly in her face, at her core Annie is quiet and a bit of an introvert. Annie is also part Cherokee, so I really enjoyed waving aspects of Cherokee folklore into this book as a celebration of her heritage.
Then there’s Cole, who Annie meets in Aerisia. He’s a Simathe—a race of non-human, immortal warriors. At first glance, the Simathe appear very cold and dispassionate and emotionless, but if you dig deeper you see they have a strong sense of honor and are committed to the preservation of their homeland, even if their methods are sometimes considered suspect by outsiders. Annie figures out early on that Cole is actually quite a good guy, in spite of his more inhuman characteristics. He’s definitely a contrast to the jerks she’s been around in the entertainment industry, and she likes that.
- Who should pick up your books and why?
Those who like portal fantasy, first off. Of course, Narnia is probably the most famous portal fantasy out there, but there are some other great series too. Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series a good one. Fans of those books would (hopefully) enjoy mine.
Also, those who enjoy epic fantasy or fairytale fantasy, because those themes are certainly represented in all of my Aerisia books. And, even though I do not classify myself as a romance author, there is always a secondary romantic subplot, just because…well, I like books with romance! I rarely, if ever, read romance novels, but I love a book with a strong romantic theme, and that’s what I write.
- Favorite quote from your own work?
It’s really a scene snippet, but this is when Annie first crosses to the land of Aerisia and is really, really missing her morning coffee. This section is literally me first thing in the morning until I get my coffee.
I was bitter and cranky and sleepy. My head felt stuffed with cotton, and my eyes were bleary no matter how much I rubbed them. I couldn’t come out of it, couldn’t muster the willpower to do anything except sit in a chair, staring at the wall. Even Pelle bringing me breakfast was aggravating. She bustled cheerily about the room, talking too loudly, chattering about this and that. I hated morning people. If I’d had any energy, I could’ve happily strangled her. Instead, I restrained my rage to a heavy-lidded glare, which she finally caught when she walked past me to make the bed.
“My, don’t you look sour. Mornings aren’t your best time, I take it?”
“Mornings aren’t your best time, I take it?” I mumbled under my breath.
Poor Annie. I feel ya, girl.
- Traditional or Self-publishing? Why?
I’m a hybrid. My Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy was published by a small publishing company, but I’m publishing my Beyond the Sunset Lands series (a planned four book series) myself. I loved having a publisher for handling a lot of the leg work (and expense!) of getting my first books off the ground, but as an Indie I love the control I have over every aspect of the process.
Currently, I also have three books with an agent. Being traditionally published by a major publisher has always been a dream of mine. I long for the day when I can walk into a bookstore and pull my book off the shelf! However, even if that happens, I will likely still remain a hybrid, and go Indie on certain series.
- If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Definitely fantasy, because I can weave in nearly everything I’m interested in.
- Name one book that affected the way you write.
That’s a hard question! I’m gonna go with Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest. I really, really liked her two main characters in that book, and they probably influenced some of my main characters.
- Three authors you recommend and why?
- Greenwood, for wholesome, exciting fantasy stories. Shakespeare, because he was so foundational to the English language as we know it today. And Angie Grigaliunas, for the depth of detail in her world and the multi-layered characters she writes.
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Probably too simplistic to say “world peace,” but wouldn’t that be incredible? On a more individual level, I would like to see people taking the time to just be kind to one another. We don’t have to agree with each other to be kind.
- What do you believe is your main purpose/motivation as a writer?
To tell the stories inside my head, and give external life to the characters that live there.
- What’s your favorite writing-related memory?
When readers connect with me to tell me that my books made them cry or made them laugh. When they talk to me about my characters like they’re as real to them as they are to me. Also, for the first time I’ve got a reader doing fan art of one of my characters. All of that makes me feel like I’m doing something right as an author!
- What’s a favorite moment you’ve had with a fan/someone who’s read your work?
One of them was when two people told me the last book in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy made them ugly cry. That told me I was doing a good job weaving real, honest emotion into the story.
- One fun fact most people don’t know about you?
Ooooh…well, I’m a total redneck. If you need someone to milk a goat, slop the hogs, clean out a pig pen, carry bales of hay, help dig a pickup out of mud…I’ve done it all.
- One piece of advice you would give to new writers?
Write, and then edit, edit, edit. After you’ve gotten your draft in pretty good shape, edit some more. After that, get fresh eyes on your manuscript. A beta reader will catch many things you overlooked, in spite of all your editing. Most of all, have fun!
Thank you for the great interview Sarah! Be sure to check out the press kit below which features her latest book, and connect with her on Amazon, her website, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Following the prophesied Artan’s victory over the Dark Powers, the land of Aerisia is finally at rest, until ancient beings, long imprisoned, begin to stir…
Eight years after Annie Richards’ stellar voice and musical talents skyrocketed her from rural Oklahoma to international fame, haunting visions have begun threatening her sanity. While she’s returning to her childhood home to convalesce, creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane. Annie wakens in a parallel world, Aerisia. Here, she discovers her musical gifts translate into magical powers—the legacy of a banished race who have been invading her dreams.
Mistrusted by Aerisia’s most powerful factions because of her heritage, Annie finds allies are hard to come by. Supporting her are one Simathe warrior, Cole, who refuses to label her as evil, and one woman willing to stand against anything and anyone to help a friend: the Artan herself. Seizing control of her destiny will mean defying both her ancestors and the Aerisian leaders. Mastering her magic may mean making the greatest sacrifice of all…or risk becoming the reason Aerisia itself is torn apart.
Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.