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Interview with Sarah Ashwood

Don’t believe all the hype: Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, an expert fencer, 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 holds a B.A. in English from American Military University, and is the author of the Sunset Lands Beyond fantasy trilogy, Amana, and A Minstrel’s Musings. She lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily workout or run to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story idea.

Tell us about your latest novel or project:

Right now I’m working on a novel called Aerisian Refrain. It’s the first book of my new Beyond the Sunset Lands series, which is a follow up series to my (already published) Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy. I’m hoping to release Aerisian Refrain Spring of 2018.

Working blurb: Annie Richards’ stellar voice and musical talents skyrocketed her into worldwide fame eight years ago, but they’ve also been the cause of her mysterious crossing to Aerisia, a parallel world beyond Earth’s sunsets. In Aerisia, she’ll discover her musical gifts translate into magical powers and are the legacy of a long banished race that has awakened. Their purposes for her are anything but good, which has many of Aerisia’s most powerful factions united against Annie. Allies are hard to come by, except for one immortal warrior who refuses to believe she is capable of evil, and one woman, also from Earth, who is willing to stand against anything and anyone to help a friend: Aerisia’s prophesied saviour, the Artan herself.

What got you started writing?

I wrote short stories off and on for years as a kid, but my first serious short story—which I later turned into a novel—was written when I was 18. I’ve been going ever since! I credit my love of writing to a lifelong love of fairy tales, mythology, and history. I also write historical fiction, and characters based off historical peoples in Earth—Roman soldiers, pirates, Vikings, medieval knights—often creep into my fantasy worlds.

Do you ever get the opportunity to travel for your writing? Either to market or to research.

Not per se, but I am lucky that my husband is from Washington State so I get to visit the amazingly beautiful Northwest several times a year to visit his family. The mountains and forests of the Northwest play a huge role in inspiring my fantasy worlds.

Who in your life is your greatest cheerleader or support in your writing?

Honestly? I’m gonna give that to my youngest sister, Hannah. She reads everything I writes, including in the unpublished, beta stages. She gives me feedback and tells me I can keep going when I get discouraged. I always look for her opinion first off on anything I write. I actually named the main character, Hannah Winters, in my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy after her.

What was the first thing you did after your first book was published?

Celebrate!! It was years in the making.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you handle the good and the bad ones?

I read all of my reviews. I bask in the good ones and let that give me strength to keep pushing on when I get discouraged. For the bad ones, I try to read them with an open mind to see if there is some merit as to why they disliked the book. I feel you can learn a lot from negative reviews, and they can help to improve your writing. However, if I can’t take any constructive criticism from them, I just chalk it up to my books aren’t for everyone. I let it go and leave it at that.

Where did you get the idea for your first or latest book?

A large portion of my latest book centers on male fairies and their power. Female fairies figure heavily into my original Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, but as I was writing that series I got to wondering why male fairies are underrepresented in fairy literature and art. Typically, when we hear “fairy” we think of a beautiful woman with wings. What about their male counterparts? So I took it upon myself to write a storyline that explains where the male fairies went and why. This was the original premise for Aerisian Refrain.

That is a good question.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Try to wake up before my toddler. Drink lots and lots of coffee and write in the dark while the toddler sleeps. That’s when I’m at my most productive. I like writing in the dark. Helps me get in the mood.

What is your best experience meeting a fan?

Most of my fans are somewhere out in the reader stratosphere, so I haven’t actually met them in person. However, just a couple of days ago I walked into church on Wednesday night and a young woman stopped me to tell me her teen sister was now my biggest fan. Both girls told me how she’d devoured an unpublished YA fantasy manuscript I’d asked them to beta read, then she went off and grabbed her mom’s copies of my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and devoured them all…all 4 books in just a couple of weeks. She was grinning ear to ear while she told me how much she enjoyed them, and I’m still smiling just thinking about it. Honestly, those are the kind of moments that make a writer’s life golden.

Many authors have a word or a phrase they automatically use too often. Do you have one?

I find myself weeding out like, very, and just. They pop up a lot. I’ve also been told by beta readers that I overuse colons, so I’m in the process of whittling those down.

What quirk or trope of your genre do you like or dislike?

Likes: alpha males. I admit it. I love a good strong, silent alpha male character. The stern, silent warrior or barbarian—yes, please. Dislikes: heavily overplayed romantic theme. While I love romance in fantasy, I like the romance to be more realistic and less romance novel-ish.

Thank you so much for sharing some of your story with us. If you want to find out more please visit her on Facebook here.

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