Welcome to The Plain, Ashley. What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
A great story has to have great characters so a romance has to have characters the reader can fall in love with. The hero has to be intense, in whatever he does, and when he finally realizes his love for the heroine, he needs to have that same intensity. The heroine has to be strong in the face of all her adversity so that same strength has to be seen in her love for her hero.How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
I suppose they're technically romances. I like to call them historical romances but that scares some people away. I don't overload the reader with the history and a reader certainly doesn't have to come in already knowing about the time period. I think the 11th and 12th century are just really exciting-colleges are just starting out, towns are being joined together into powerful entities, knights and chivalry are just being established. A lot going on and I try to bring that into my story so that the reader can escape into it.Do you set your books/stories in your hometown, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
The Bruised Thistle is set in Scotland, down in the Borders area. There was a lot of struggling back and forth here so it's ideal for my story. The entire Order of the Scottish Thistle series will be set in Scotland. My next book to be published is The Saxon Bride and that is set in southern England.How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
For The Bruised Thistle I had studied the Crusades and decided Seumas, my hero, would be a war hero from the Second Crusade. I decided on the Second Crusade because it wasn't successful like the First Crusade where they actually were able to take back Jerusalem. I think the difficulties of adjusting for a soldier from something that wasn't a clear win, like more modern conflicts, is an issue that transcends time. How do you handle what you saw? How do you forget? How do you fit back in? If you were injured, how do you go on?Sounds like you’ve done your homework. Was there much research involved?
In The Saxon Bride, I really have a lot of focus on William the Conqueror. Even today there's back and forth about how bad or good he was. My hero, John, is like a son to him and sees him through very different eyes than his bride, Rowena, who is the niece of the deposed King Harold Godwinson. You can see where the conflicts will arise. The clash of cultures is another theme that transcends time.
Research is never ending and I love looking through primary sources. My MA in History gives me enough background to make assumptions about what I'm reading so I can make it accessible to those who don't know the time period. So much of what is written today is based on the unity of scattered groups into what become powerful entities known as countries. My time period is still struggling, wiping each other out, and there is no clear cut winner which changes how they react.Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
Absolutely! I learned from Mary Bucham that for every rejection letter you get in response to your query letters, you're supposed to be taken out to eat. I loved that advice, told my husband, and was all set for that. When I decided not to query but publish independently, I had to make up for all those missed rejection letter dinners so we try to have a bottle of champagne chilling at all times. We go out to dinner for the smallest celebration.I like that philosophy! Do you have a set writing routine?
I do have a set writing routine up to the point that I know I'm going to my computer and getting started. Unfortunately, there are days when I don't get to the writing because I'm answering emails, working on blogs, or handling marketing. I think that sometimes my brain is working on my scenes when I'm thinking about these others things so that when I actually do sit down to write, it flows pretty easily.Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
Johanna Lindsey. I love her romances. They cover all different time periods and they went everywhere. She has such an amazing imagination. My very favorite was Gentle Rogue. I bet I read that one 25 times. I love James Mallory. He is such a hunk, although in my mind he never looked like Fabio, who was the cover model when I bought the book. I also like his relationship with his brother, Tony. It's funny but that's not a time period I pick up now. Pomp and circumstance doesn't really interest me.You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
The Bible, of course. If I'm on a desert island, it's not looking good for me so I'd like some scripture to see me through and strengthen me for such a trying ordeal. I try to memorize scripture but find my mind can only get the gist rather than the actual words. I think there's power in those actual words.Have any new authors caught your interest?
I loved Jennifer Lyon's Plus One Chronicles. She did such an amazing job with her characters. I felt like I knew them all personally. I think there's a real market for physically strong women like in her story. It's hot. Also Pat McDermott, oh that's you! I loved The Rosewood Whistle. I felt like I was actually in County Mayo, Ireland when I read that story. I like authors that transport me to new and exciting places.Why, thank you, Ashley! We all appreciate support. Who supports your writing activities most?
My husband is my absolutely biggest supporter. We met when I was still in high school. He was a handsome older man having just graduated. I told him I wanted to be a writer and that was it. It was a done deal. He does everything he can to encourage me including listening to me work out my plots. The ideas come at the strangest time but he just goes with it and gives me his feedback. He's helped me with a lot of my ideas but then sometimes I have to rein him in and say "Okay, honey, but that's not my story."Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
I love to spend time with my family. I have three independent, loving children whom I am very proud of. Our time together is always memorable for all of us. Weekly, I spend time going to sessions where traditional Irish and Scottish music is played. There are fiddlers, concertina players, whistles, flute and uilleann pipe players, singers, bodhran players - it's fun. It's really my biggest non-writing commitment. I play guitar and sing. I'm learning to play my whistle but still get messed up when I'm playing at a session because they go so fast and I like to listen. I can't play my whistle and listen yet.Fun is the best way to learn. And now, let’s learn about The Bruised Thistle.
A new non-writing activity for me is Lumosity. It's a site where you play games that help with your memory and cognitive functions. I'm addicted. I go through their suggested games for that day and then I pick even more. Every day I have to play the word bubble game where they give you 2 or 3 letters and you see how m any words you can come up with, and the track one where you have a track with a bunch of switches and you have to get the right train into the right house. It's fun.
* * * * *Blurb:
Iseabail MacNaughton, the orphaned daughter of a Scottish laird, is forced to flee her home and seek assistance against her lecherous uncle, who has usurped her family’s land. When she meets Seumas, a strong and valiant mercenary, she cannot help wondering if he could be the one to stand with her against her uncle. But with a price on her head and enemies on all sides, her trust is not something she can afford to give lightly…
Seumas MacDonell is a man wounded in body and soul, driven by guilt. When he rescues Iseabail from one of his men, he cannot deny the attraction he feels for her, despite the wound that left him unable to act on it. In the hope of finding redemption for his sins, he agrees to help Iseabail…but will his feelings for her prove to be the ultimate obstacle to his salvation?
* * * * *About Ashley York:
New England native Ashley York writes historical romance novels full of passion and intrigue set in 11th and 12th century Ireland, Scotland, and England. Her debut novel, The Bruised Thistle, is the first in The Order of the Scottish Thistle series.
Ashley is a member of Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, Hearts through History Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. After pursuing an MA in History, she has realized her lifelong dream of bringing history to life through vibrant and meaningful characters.
When she is not writing, talking about writing, or thinking about writing, she enjoys going to sessions for live Celtic Music. She lives in southern New England with her husband, three children, and three very spoiled animals.
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The Bruised Thistle / Available from Amazon