Hello, Lovely People!
Today, Best Selling Author Ashley John has stopped by for an interview and to share a snippet from his new book Timing. I've never met Ashley, but he's definitely on the list of "Authors I'd like to meet." Maybe one day, if I ever hop over the pond to attend Euro Pride or the UK Meet or some such con. Flying to Europe will take budgeting and planning, BUT I WANT TO GO!!!!!! There are several fans I'd like to meet over there, as well as several authors. :)
Here's the blurb for the new book:
When it comes to love, is timing everything?
Tom doesn’t have time for a relationship – not now that his fingers are practically touching the promotion he’s spent years chasing. His weekdays are consumed by desperately fighting for his editor’s attention and his weekends are wasted alone with meals for one and his cat for company.
All Cole has ever wanted is to work on the farm he was raised on, but money is tighter than ever and he is forced to get a job in a bar to keep a roof over him and his auntie’s head. Time is running out for the farm but he spends his days dreaming about a future he thinks he’ll never have.
After an unexpected collision at the village train station, their lives suddenly become connected when Cole’s clumsily spilt coffee on Tom’s shirt turns into something greater. Tom is wary of listening to his heart and Cole is distracted by the threat of losing everything. Each possesses something the other desperately needs, but can they ignore bad timing to listen to their hearts?
Wade: Why don’t you start out with telling the readers a little bit about yourself?
Ashley: Of course! My name is Ashley John and I am a 22-year-old British author of Gay Romance novels. I’ve been writing and publishing for 2 years and in that time I have written and published eight full length novels and four novellas. I live with my fiancé, Reece and my two cats, Jeremy and Jinx.
Wade: I love pics of your cats on Facebook. They are really cute :)
Wade: What inspires your writing?
Ashley: I always find this question tricky to answer because I wish I knew! I usually start with a question or a situation and then I build it from there. For Timing, I was sat in a train station and I thought ‘what would happen if two guys crashed into each other at a train station?’ and it unraveled from there. The characters usually form themselves, so I try not to overthink them too much. A lot of the time, these things wander into my mind, as if they’ve always been there.
Wade: I love the "what if" question, and I can relate to characters forming by themselves.
Wade: When did you start writing m/m romance?
Ashley: I started writing gay romance in June 2014, so I’ve been in the game for nearly 2 years now. I was working at McDonalds and to say I hated my life at the time is an understatement. It all got too much for me, so I quit and I decided I was going to write a book, without any experience or knowledge. All I knew was that you could publish through Kindle and do it your own way. I wrote and released my first novella (The Secret) within a month. I didn’t know m/m romance was even a thing when I wrote it so I’m one of the few authors who came to the genre not being a reader first. Being gay, I just wrote a romance that felt natural to me, so I was lucky there were readers ready and waiting. I honestly didn’t think it would work or take me anywhere, but by my second month, I was making double what I had been in McDonalds, and it’s been snowballing ever since. I just ran with it, and I still haven’t stopped running with it.
Wade: I'm SO GLAD it took you away from McDonalds! I worked as a short-order cook for 7 years, so I have nothing against that, but I think your brain doesn't grow in a place like that. Writing will push your mind. So very happy for you!!!
Wade: How early in your life did you begin writing?
Ashley: I’ve always written, in one form or another. When I was about 4/5, I would type up my Disney storybooks word for word. I thought I was being intelligent and I had no idea about plagiarism at the time. When I was a little older, maybe 8 or 9, I wrote a sequel to a book I loved, called Double Act (by Jacqueline Wilson) and I called it Double Act 2 (inventive, right?). It didn’t really have much of a plot but it was a lot of fun to write. I remember being so proud of myself. In my early teens, I wrote a lot of Doctor Who fan fiction because I’ve always been obsessed with the show. When I was 12, I had a short story published in an anthology collection. It was about a young boy who played a virtual reality headset game and he got sucked into the game to fight an alien race and they murdered him. Pretty grim for a 12-year-old, right? In in my mid-teens, I switched to journalism. I ran a Doctor Who fanzine, which had quite a bit of success when I look back at it. I was conducting interviews with some big names in the world of Doctor Who (writers, authors, actors, voiceover artists, producers) when I 13-16. I think it ran for about 26 issues, all written, designed and published by me. By the last issue, it had 2000 solid readers. I think that’s where I learned the business of online publication and online marketing and a lot of that has crossed over to what I do today. In my late teens, I ran a couple of entertainment websites/blogs but they didn’t really take off how I hoped and that’s when I fell into Kindle publishing at the age of 20.
Wade: 20? I knew that, but the question mark comes from the thought that I'm jealous of your age. I truly wish I had found my love of writing back when I was 20. But, ya know, everything happens for a reason and if I'd gotten into writing back then, I probably wouldn't have found gay romance. Timing is important. (LOL... Timing!... hahaha) I'll say it again though, I'm really glad you found your passion for writing so early in your life. I'm proud of you, and that's coming from a person who just admires you from afar. :)
Wade: How many books have you written so far?
Ashley: I’ve written eight full-length novels and four novellas. My first series, which was a novella series called The George & Harvey series, consisted of my first 3 novellas, The Secret, The Truth and The Fight. My Surf Bay series, which is a novel series, consists of my next 5 novels, Lost & Found, Full Circle, Saving Michael, Love’s Medicine and Sink or Swim. Then there are three standalone novels, BOSS, Shelter and Timing, and the last is last year’s Christmas novella, Cabin Nights. Wow. That’s a lot in two years haha! I make that 13? I should know this off the top of my head, shouldn’t I?
Wade: Tell us a little about your novel, Timing
Ashley: is all about meeting somebody at the ‘wrong’ time, and listening to your heart instead of your head. Tom and Cole are both at very different crossroads in their life. Tom is a 26 year old journalist who is fighting for a promotion he knows his boss won’t give him and he’s been single for 3 years and sexless for 1. He’s sweet and shy but he’s always very scared of taking risks. He buries himself in his work so he doesn’t have to face his dead social and love life. Cole is 24 and he lives on a farm with his auntie, but the farm is in financial trouble so he gets a job in a bar. They meet at a train station when Cole throws a coffee over Tom and everything snowballs from there. It’s a cute romance story and it’s one very close to my heart. It’s set in a village about thirty minutes from where I live, so it’s the closest to home that I’ve written so far.
Wade: I'm fond of the name Cole ;)
Wade: How long did it take you to complete it?
Ashley: I think I spent about two full months writing, because it’s just under 100,000 words, and then another month of editing and beta and all that fun stuff. It’s an average length of time for me to write a book these days. I used to be a lot quicker but I’ve found that as I’ve grown as a writer, my stories have lengthened, so every process has slowed down.
Wade: Well, all I can say is, I wish I could be more organized and write 100,000 words in two months more often. I think that's tremendous! :)
Wade: Who is your favorite character in the novel and why?
Ashley: Is it bad that my favourite character might be one of the secondary characters? He’s called Ricky and he’s Tom’s best friend. He’s a foul-mouthed drag queen by night, then by day, he’s a no nonsense owner of a books/bondage shop in Manchester’s gay village. He’s the comic relief in the book but he has a heart of gold and he’s always on hand to offer advice to his friend, if he asks for it or not. I think he’s a character I want to revisit in the future if people shout loud enough for him.
Wade: How much of yourself did you manifest into your favorite character?
Ashley: Some of Ricky’s scenes really made me laugh reading them back, because I realized Ricky is literally me when I’m drunk. Some of his lines are things I’ve actually said. Another of the characters I see myself in is Tom. We’re quite similar and we both love The X Files. I never subconsciously write things to reflect my life but it always ends up happening, without doubt. It wasn’t until I’d finished reading Timing that I realized the farmhouse where Cole lives is directly based off an ex-boyfriend’s grandma’s farm! I love it when things like this happen because it shows how much our minds are recycling and reusing things from the depths of our memories.
Wade: Drunk Ashley? HAHAHAHAHA. I'm gonna have to read the book just to read that ;)
Wade: Can you share four things you’ve learned about the business?
Ashley: I feel like I’ve learned a lot, because I’ve done everything on my own. I write my books, I design my own covers and promo material, I built my own website, I manage all of own social media and I have from day one. It’s a difficult business to get into, but it’s worth it. The first thing I’ve learned is that you can’t expect instant success. I always describe it as a snowball, rolling down a hill and getting bigger and bigger. The snowball has to start somewhere and it’s usually very small. I remember publishing my first book and feeling like I was talking to myself for weeks, but people finally started to respond to the book and it grew organically. People think writing and releasing a book is all they need to do, but that’s only half of it. You need to make sure your books are speaking to enough people to buy them.
My second tip would be to look at this like a business, especially when you’re making decisions about books to write and how to brand them. The aim of the game is to sell books and make money. When I started, I thought I’d sell maybe 100 books, if I was lucky, but I've sold way more than I ever dreamed possible. Always have your business head on, unless you’re just doing this for fun, but who doesn’t want their work to make them money? My third tip would be not to underestimate the importance of social media. Having a very accessible public image that people can see and think ‘that’s Ashley John’ is important. Have a newsletter, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook page and profile and website from the very start! Plug those links to HELL at the front and back of your books. That’s very important! If you want people to invest their time into you, you need to make sure they’re sticking around to see what you’re working on next.
My last tip would be to listen to your instincts and ignore what everybody else is doing. I see a lot of authors reacting to what other authors are doing, thinking that’s how they’re going to sell books. Use your own voice, your own stories and make them unique to you. Be yourself, have fun with it and don’t let people’s opinions of you affect your work.
Wade: I understand the snowball image. I've called it a slow burn - like a small spark on damp leaves that takes time to smolder and transform into a fire. Nothing is instant. Your advice to authors is totally correct! :) Your comment to "make them unique to you"... Yes, You are a lot wiser than people may assume of a 22-year-old.
Wade: What is your suggestion or piece of advice to new and upcoming writers?
Ashley: Before you publish anything, deeply research the genre you’re going into. You want to know who the readers are, what books they’re buying, how those books are portraying themselves (covers, lengths, prices) and as much other information you can gather. Make sure you have a great cover and a good blurb and just try and get your story read by as many people as you can before you publish.
Wade: Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And why?
Ashley: I started out as a strict planner but now I’m a little of both. I think a lot of planning can bore you, especially when you’re halfway through a 100k book. Sometimes it’s nice to surprise yourself as you’re writing. Some of my favorite scenes are nowhere to be scene in the outline. A little planning can go a long way, so If you know your 3 act structure base, you can fill in the blanks as you write.
Wade: Me too. Exactly what you said,
Wade: How do you keep your creative "spark" alive?
Ashley: I write a lot! I finish one book and I start on the next. There hasn’t been a time in the last two years that I haven’t been working on a book at some point. I even write when I’m on vacation. I just can’t help it. I have a mind that is always working overtime and thinking about every little detail of my stories and characters, so the spark is always very much there. Right now, I’m working on some cozy mystery novels, which I’m going to publish under a pseudonym. It’s a genre I adore reading and it’s a new one for me to write but I’m really enjoying it, so the spark is brighter than ever right now.
Wade: Sounds awesome :)
Wade: Where we can find you on the Internet?
Ashley: Everywhere! I have every social media imaginable.
Wade: Could you please share your favorite excerpt from Timing with us?
Timing Snippet. Taken From Chapter 5.
“How’s white wine?” Cole held up the bottle. “I don’t know if it’s any good.”
“Ugh, I love you right now,” Tom sighed, “because that’s just what I need.”
Cole joined Tom on the floor in front of the fire, sitting closer than he had intended to. Their shoulders touched but Tom didn’t react by edging away, so neither did Cole. He cracked the seal on the wine and filled the tall glasses to the rim, not sure what amount was the right amount. The bar didn’t seem to attract the type of people who ordered wine.
“These are champagne flutes. Points for effort, though.”
Listening to the crackling of the fire, they sipped the wine and Cole started to feel more and more nervous. The silence between them wasn’t awkward but he felt like he wanted to say something, if only to talk to Tom, to find out more about him.
“S-s-s-s-so,” he stopped dead.
Tom turned to look at him but he didn’t look shocked or horrified, he just smiled. It was a normal smile without the usual subtext of pity. That eased Cole.
“Sorry, let me try that again.” Cole exhaled, his cheeks burning but not from the heat of the fire. “So, how old are you?”
“Twenty-six, which, according to Ricky, means I have four years until my gay death.”
“Ricky talks a lot of shit.”
“Yep,” Tom laughed, “I’ll drink to that. What about you then? Charming boyfriend in the city? Girlfriend? Both?”
Tom suddenly stopped talking and sipped his wine quietly. He dragged his knees up to his chest and stared dead again at the fire.
“Nope. Single. Waiting for the right guy.”
Tom nodded and said, “Awesome.”
“What about you?”
“Me?” Tom practically choked on his wine. “I’m too busy for all of that.”
“By ‘all of that’ do you mean love and relationships or sex?”
“All of the above? I work my arse off at work to try and get ahead and it doesn’t pay off. Do you want to know what my big Friday night plans were? I was going to go home and watch The X Files with my cat, drink a glass of cheap white wine and fall asleep with a pizza on my knee. How depressing is that?”
“That,” Cole said with a nod, “sounds like my kind of night.”
Stretching out, Cole reached across the sofa cushions, his arm going around the back of Tom’s shoulders. He didn’t realise what he was doing until he was there but he knew it would look even stranger if he quickly retreated. He left it hanging on the cushions, straining his shoulder so that his arm didn’t touch the back of Tom’s neck or the quickly forming thick curls as they dried.
“Are you feeling warm yet?” Cole’s fingers instinctively wrapped around Tom’s shoulder to give it a rub and they both turned to stare at them.
“Cole, I -,”
“I’m sorry.” Cole quickly pulled his hand away. “I don’t know why I k-k-k- - for f-f-fuck’s sake!”
He put his wine on the floor and hid his embarrassment by planting his hands firmly on his face. Under his touch, his flesh burned hot and he felt like a fool.
“This damn stutter,” he mumbled through his fingers, “it only ever comes out when I’m n-n-nervous.”
Grunting in frustration, he ripped his hands away and planted them in his lap, staring straight down at his fingers so that he wasn’t looking at Tom to see his own embarrassment reflected.
Instead of judging, Tom simply asked, “Why are you nervous?”
Cole thought for a second, trying to think of a way to word it but he knew the only way was the truth. Turning to face Tom, whose face was soft and open in the dancing firelight, Cole wondered if he should say the words that he felt deep in the pit of his stomach.
“Because I really like you.”
They silently stared at each other as Cole waited for Tom to react. One part of him expected Tom to laugh and the other part of him expected him to get up and leave. The storm was still battering the side of the farmhouse, which meant that the second option was less likely. When Tom closed his eyes and leaned in, the first option seemed just as unlikely.
Tom’s lips brushed gently against Cole’s and it felt as though time stopped around them. Cole couldn’t hear the wind and the rain shaking the old windows, nor could he hear the crackling fire as it warmed up the room; all he could hear was the beating of his shuddering heart in his chest.
The kiss was delicate and it was over as quickly as it had begun. Tom pulled away, his teeth nibbling as his lip and his brows downturned at the edges.
“I like you too,” Tom’s voice was barely above a whisper, “but I haven’t done this in a while and I don’t want to rush into anything.”
“I wasn’t going to rush you.”
“Good,” Tom sipped his wine with a small smile before leaning into Cole’s side.
At first his body was rigid against Cole’s chest but he seemed to settle into a space that seemed as though it had been perfectly made for Tom’s body. Pulling him in close, Cole smiled down at Tom as he stared ahead at the fire. His curls had dried and one hung limply over his eyes. Reaching out, Cole brushed it to the side so he could see Tom’s eyes. He looked up at Cole and he smiled back nervously.
Cole had no idea what they were doing or where it was going but he knew that it felt so different to his usual hook-ups and he liked it.
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing yourself and your writing with us today! I certainly enjoyed the excerpt.
If you haven't read his books, I urge you to go out and get Timing!
The short version of Ashley's bio from Twitter says:
No.1 Best Selling British author of Gay/MM Romance. I hear voices in my head and I write them down. The longer version from his WEBSITE says basically what he said above.
Buy Links: US: amzn.com/B01ETKCW66
I hope you've enjoyed this interview with Ashley. For other interviews, check out my Friend Friday posts, or recent posts from C. Kennedy, Atom Yang, or A. E. Via. If you'd like to do an interview with me similar to this one, PM me on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.