When I read the first book in her Cupid's Cafe series, Waffles and Weddings, I not only found myself fending off a severe craving for waffles, but repeatedly laughing out loud and giving way to sighing while muttering things such as, "Aw, that's so sweet," and "I think I might love this character ..."
Her book basically cured my bad day and that's why I am beyond honored to interview Ashley about her work and inspiration! Please take a look at what this amazing author had to say about her motivation for writing and the work that's gone into publishing her books!
Ashley: I’m from Anaheim, California, just 10 minutes from Disneyland. Southern California is very urbanized, but my family owns a bunch of fishing lakes. I spend my weekends fishing, tromping through the mud, and generally having a grand adventure. My dad would throw old towels in the back seat of his truck so I wouldn’t damage his seats, and Mom would literally hose me off before I was allowed inside the house. I loved it. I think that’s were my love of storytelling began. I spent hours searching for buried treasure, saving the prince from the dragon, and watching those big fluffy white clouds tell a story.
I had other dreams, too. I wanted to be an astronaut, like every kid, but I was serious about it. I went to the Air Force Academy for college and still proudly service as an Air Force Reserve Officer. I’m a geek at heart and studied electrical engineering, becoming a radar engineer. I’ve lived all over the world and have enjoyed the adventure each new place brings.
It wasn’t until I became a reservist that I had the time to finish all those stories I kept in a small blue notebook. I love taking a single thought and turning it into an entire book. Isn’t that magical? One thought is the seed that can grow into a story with roots (the background) and thousands of leaves (all those possible futures). I just love that.
Ashley: I love Nora Roberts. Yes, I know she has a set trilogy story structure, and before I start I know exactly which character fits into which mold. But I love the way she strings words together to weave a story into a tale that I can see, hear, smell, and touch. She uses such vivid imagery and her words just flow off the page. I have my own moments where I sit back and reread what I just wrote and think “Wow, I wrote something that I could see in a Nora Roberts novel.” That is an awesome feeling.
Ashley: My main character, Katy Cupid. She’s the owner of the 50’s style diner that the series centers around. Katy has a gift for knowing who should be together. The idea for the series began with Katy. I wondered what it would be like to just “know” who would be perfect together. And if you could do that … how would you use your gift? What would you do for a living so that you could meet a ton of people so that you could match them? I decided that owning your own diner near a college town would be perfect. There would be all kinds of people coming in all the time. Katy could match up the young all the way to the older couples looking for a 1st or 2nd chance at love.
Ashley: I tried the traditional route. I sent query letters and got back reject letters or nothing at all. I owned a kindle and had read books that others had written and thought, “I can do that.” Now, thinking about it and doing it are a different matter. I danced around actually doing it for about 2 years. I’ll admit it. I was absolutely terrified to hit that publish button, but once I did it and sold my first book a week later…. well, I was hooked. I’d love to have millions of readers, but having just 1 fan is so incredibly motivating. If anyone is thinking of becoming an indie author, my advice to them is not to let fear stop them. You will make mistakes, but with digital publishing you can fix it in less than a day and reload a new manuscript.
Ashley: There is so much to learn that you can get overwhelmed. I honestly think the best way is to write a short story and dive into publishing it, knowing that you will have to fix, re-edit, rewrite, get a new cover, and pretty much do everything twice. But if you wait until you have your 100,000 word novel done and perfect, then your first mistake will paralyze you. That novel is your baby and no one wants their baby to have mistakes. But a short story… well no problem. You can just fix the mistake and move on. You can learn on something small that doesn’t mean as much to you as that huge novel.
Ashley: I tried so many things, but the absolute best way is to find a group of authors in your same genre and do joint promotions to grow your e-mail list. This means two things: 1) You need to start a mailing list from day one. At first, it could be just asking your friends and family if they would like information about your book once its published. 2) You need to find other indie authors in your genre and make friendships. Then, once you have a book published you can work with the other authors and do paid advertising together (that keeps the cost down) or tell each other’s’ mailing lists about the other’s books.
Ashley: Covers and descriptions. Newbies often slap on a cover and add a description as an afterthought. This isn’t too hard to fix. Start by going to your local bookstore, library, or check out Amazon and go through books in your genre and read the descriptions. You want your cover and description to be very similar to those in your genre. In this case being different and standing out is not a good thing.
Cover: You want to look similar to other books in your genre so that readers know what to expect. I like to find great royalty free stock photos and use www.canva.com to create covers. I’ve also used pre-made covers. Just search for pre-made covers, find one you like, purchase it, and the designer will put your title on it. You can find great covers for as low as $50. A newbie can definitely be cheap, but spending a little money on a cover is worth the cost.
Description: Look at the tops sellers in your genre and again make it similar. Then, create a few versions and send it out to friends for feedback. Ask them which one would make them most likely to buy the book. If you just ask them which one they like the best you may not get the feedback you are really looking for. You want the description to entice a reader to buy your book, so that’s what you need to ask friends about.
Ashley: I write clean romance and paranormal young adult. The best place currently to find my work is on my website at http://www.ashleylaurenbooks.comwhere you can get a free romance novella to see if you like my work, my Amazon webpage at www.amazon.com/author/ashleylauren or you can check in on what I’m doing on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ashleylaurenbooks/