Happy Sunday everyone! For a change of pace, I've invited fantasy author Ashley J. Barnard to stop by for a cuppa and a chat. If you appreciate dark fantasy, swordplay, and complex characters, I cannot recommend her books more highly. Seriously. I got hooked into the storyline and absolutely had to finish each the day I began. Here then, I've brewed a pot of Paned Gymreig and picked up some cinnamon scones...Good, huh?
You won Novel of the Year from Champagne Books—congratulations! How often are you polishing that trophy?
Ha, ha, I’m afraid to touch it! I’m a pretty terrible klutz, and knowing me I’d drop it. It’s on the piano in my living room – my daughter just won a bowling trophy and was so excited to put it up next to mine.
And thanks, by the way – I’m still having a hard time believing it.
You have said your award-winning novel, Shadow Fox and the newly released Fox Rising, sprang from writings when you were twelve—and the trauma of your parents divorcing. Whose books influenced you during that time? How did you adapt the story or change the characters as you matured?
I was just making the transition from Choose-Your-Own Adventure novels into “adult” fantasy novels. I picked up Split Infinity by Piers Anthony from a used bookstore and was hooked. My mom thought it was sweet that I was still reading unicorn books until I gave it to her to read and she discovered the unicorn turns into a woman and has voracious sex with the book’s protagonist. I devoured the whole series.
The story really appealed to me because – and I am making my way back to your question – something magical and childlike could change form and have human desires and passions. I was going through puberty at the time and so my own stories, which were about foxes, were going through a similar transition. I gave my foxes the ability to turn into humans, and a year or two later, they became human permanently. And with that came a slew of human conflicts and emotions.
Do you find writing intensely in the dark realm of fantasy taxing on your real life?
When I wrote the first draft several years ago I found that very much to be true. I was in a dark place already, and that just pulled me in more. When I finished that first draft, I cut off all my hair and started wearing black. I almost went Goth, but I’m too airy-fairy at heart and found my way back eventually. Having a child really helped; it’s hard to be in a dark place when you have a little bundle of smiles. I think she helps keep me balanced, because when I went back to do the rewrites, I was able to stay centered and happy.
Your experience at LepreCon, the fantasy convention in Tempe, was difficult, wasn’t it? What is the one thing you would advise another newbie to avoid at all costs? Would you still consider attending a larger event such as ComicCon in San Diego?
Yes, it was hard! I did have fun also, but unfortunately I came away from the whole experience unsure I would ever do it again. Probably the number-one thing I would advise other newbies would be to assert their boundaries. I worry way too much about hurting feelings, so it takes me a really long time to speak up and say, hey, that’s not all right. I would also advise bringing buddies. I felt like being a lone woman put me at a disadvantage. People that hovered around the table probably thought they were keeping me company, but plopping down in the seat next to me for almost an hour wasn’t particularly welcome.
I think a larger event would be more fun, but of course it costs an arm and a leg to rent a table at a place like CominCon. I think if I had reinforcements I’d definitely consider it.
What’s next for you after Night of the Fox?
I’m putting the finishing touches on a Victorian romance called In Byron’s Shadow, and I have several WIPs [Works in Progress] that I need to revisit. My agent has some nibbles for foreign language rights for Shadow Fox – I never dreamed I would be translated! I don’t know what that entails, but I think – ahem – an international book-signing tour will be in order. : )
If you had the opportunity to talk to the young girl you were as you began writing, what words of caution and encouragement would you leave under her pillow?
I’d be afraid to say anything. When I look back, I see how perfectly it all fell into place, how one circumstance led to another. I’d be so afraid to leave a ripple that could jeopardize everything. I’d love, for instance, to tell myself hey, watch out for that *&$#@ boyfriend on the horizon, you don’t need that guy. But that guy pinned me into a corner and in desperation I moved to Arizona where I met my future husband, started a theater company, got some plays published, had a wonderful little girl and then saw my dream unfold. While it took FOREVER to get published, many stories came to life during that time that may not have been born had I taken a different route. I suffered for it here and there, fearing it would never happen. But if I’d known ahead of time how it would work out...well, it might have made me lazy. : )
That’s a great question, by the way. It’s something I think about a lot because I was so desperate for a sign from the universe. But the universe knew it was up to.
Thanks so much for agreeing to join me on my blog, Ashley.
Thank you so much for having me; we desert gals need to stick together!
Ashley J. Barnard has been writing steadily for almost twelve years, ten seasons running the Actors' Renaissance Theatre, a small, Shakespearean company which gave her the opportunity to direct, write, and act in plays. She has authored seven novels and two published short stories. Shadow Fox was her first published novel (awarded Novel of the Year for 2010 by Champagne Books) and its sequel, Fox Rising is now available. The third book of the series, Night of the Fox, will be published in September 2011. Ashley resides in Phoenix, Arizona with James, her husband of sixteen years (who is also a writer as well as an English professor), eight-year-old daughter Alexandria, and Sophie the Welsh Corgi.
Also available from Champagne Books