Ashley March transports her readers to the Victorian era in her historical romances, focusing on the deepening relationships between her heroes and heroines. Her debut novel, Seducing the Duchess, is available now from NAL.
Denver, Colorado is home, where Ashley lives with her husband, who proudly tells all his friends that his wife is a published romance author, and their one-year-old daughter, who loves trying to escape out the doggie door. Ashley and her husband are expecting another daughter in mid-November.
Ashley is currently a stay-at-home mom, but she did work in higher education in administrative roles in the past. She’s the first person I’ve met who holds a bachelor’s degree in Mandarin Chinese. When she’s not busy keeping up with her daughter in her real world or with her characters in her fictional world, Ashley enjoys reading, collecting (not using!) cookbooks, studying foreign languages, and hiking. She planned to be a translator for the NSA and is writing a non-romance book about genocide.
Ashley is serving up cyber fare I can’t resist and think she may tempt you, too. Check it out . . .
My favorite Mexican food is verde enchiladas: cheese enchiladas topped with tomatillo sauce. Since it’s fun to try new things (like debut authors *wink*), I have plates for everyone today.
I invite you to give in to your cravings, fill one of those plates, and enjoy Ashley’s delish dish while learning more about her and her journey to publication.
Ashley’s Journey Begins
•When did you become serious about seeing your name in print and begin calling yourself a writer?
I had tried to write a romance book in 2006, simply because I was bored with the classes I was taking in college that semester. Even while writing it, though, I knew it was awful. I think the final moment of realization came when I couldn’t think of anything for my hero and heroine to talk about besides their favorite color. 🙂
After that, I didn’t really think I had it in me to be a writer. But in early 2008 I read a fantastic book (I can’t remember what it was now), and it inspired me to just go to my computer and write. I did, and it was so much fun.
I decided that if I was going to try writing again, I would be serious about it this time. I think when I joined the online romance critique group RomCritters was the moment I began calling myself a writer. Then not only was I accountable to myself, but to my critique partners as well. I had actual readers!
Ashley’s Squee-worthy Successes
We’ve heard the old saying, “Good things come in threes.” For you, that definitely seems to be the case. You wrote three stories, finaled in three contests, landed an agent who sold your story three months later, and your First Sale was a three-book contract. Wow! You’ve had many occasions to squee. I wanna hear more about those life-changing phone calls you received.
•Call #1 – The First Contest Call . . .
How did you react when you picked up the phone and a contest coordinator shared the exciting news that one of your stories was a finalist?
Do you usually receive a call? I didn’t. I received an email. But oh, it was a perfectly lovely email. 🙂 I remember reading it, re-reading it, and then re-reading it again. I told my husband (who always reacts with “What’s wrong?” when I say “Guess what?”).
I remember thinking that maybe this really was meant to be; after all, at that time I’d only been *seriously* writing for four months when I entered that specific contest. I was blown away.
What did you learn from your pre-publication contest experiences?
There’s a caveat to my response above about finaling in a contest. Before that, I had entered another contest a couple of months earlier and received a lot of constructive criticism. The judges liked my voice, but there were tons of things I was doing wrong.
I think, more than anything else, being able to get that kind of feedback from published authors was vital to the future of my writing career. They gave me hope for the future, but at the same time showed me that I still had a lot to learn. Even today, there are still dozens of ways I could improve my writing, but fortunately I’m no longer blind to it like I once was.
•Call #2 – The Agent Call (x2) . . .
You’ve experienced the thrill of receiving two Agent Calls. Your first had to have been incredibly exciting. Where were you when that call came? Did you scream in the agent’s ear, babble incoherently, or stare at the phone in stunned silence?
Although it was extremely exciting, it was a little anti-climactic. Instead of getting a call first, I received an email the night before asking if she could call me the next day. Of course, I hardly slept that night, and was a ball of nerves when she finally did call. I wrote up a list of questions like I heard you’re supposed to do, but it didn’t matter. I was already prepared to agree to be her client. 🙂
I had just started a new day job a couple of weeks earlier, and had to take the call in the front office, so I was limited to screaming or anything of the sort. But I do remember my head felt like it was spinning from giddiness and I talked really fast. It was an amazing day.
Sadly, your agent resigned from the Trident Media Group, forcing you to seek representation once again. Since you’d already sold, your situation was different than the first time. How did you go about your search, and were you just as excited when you signed as you’d been before?
As soon as I realized my agent had resigned (I was devastated), the first thing I thought of was trying to talk to Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency. Not only is the agency located here in Denver where I live, but Kristin is the agent of historical authors I love, such as Sherry Thomas and Courtney Milan.
I sent a query explaining my situation, and Kristin asked me to go ahead and send my first manuscript (Seducing the Duchess). Although she didn’t like it well enough to offer, her associate agent, Sara Megibow (who is absolutely fabulous! And not just because she likes my work) raved about it and offered me representation.
I was probably more excited this time than I was receiving the call from Trident Media Group because Nelson Lit had always been my first choice. I’m extremely blessed to be represented by Sara; in only three months she’s shown me the difference between a good agent and a stellar one (and she’s the latter).
•Call #3 – The First Sale Call . . .
December 4, 2009 is a day you’ll remember for years to come. You made your First Sale. Instead of receiving The Call, though, you made a call and received a pleasant surprise. Please tell us about this monumental event, and be sure to include all the emotion we romance writers love.
At that time, the manuscript had been out on submission for over 6 weeks. We’d only had one rejection, which wasn’t bad, but no other comments. I called my agent to check in and see if we’d heard anything back from anyone else that week (read: any more rejections), and she told me was about to call me because she’d just gotten off the phone with NAL, who loved the story and wanted to offer a 3-book deal!
I think my jaw must have hung open for more than a few seconds, I was so stunned. This time, I remember leaping up from my chair (I was at work again) and spinning in circles. I’m sure I asked her questions, but my mind was too full with the news to really hear what she said.
I called my husband afterward and said “Guess what?” Of course, he thought something was wrong. 🙂 When I told him the news, he started shouting and whooping over the phone. It was a fantastic day, and it still feels surreal that I’m actually published!
•Writers encounter many challenges. You’ve faced some tough ones: problematic pregnancies, loss of a loved one, and changes on the day job. My heart goes out to you as I think of all you’ve been through. How have you dealt with these situations?
When I was writing Seducing the Duchess, I was pregnant for almost the entire time. Things got complicated with the pregnancy toward the last few months, and I was put on short-term disability. I didn’t feel like doing anything at all! But I have a couple of fabulous critique partners who saw potential in the story, and they kept encouraging me to write. I finished a couple of months after my daughter was born, and am now very glad that I stuck with it. 🙂
For my second book, I was scheduled to complete it earlier this year. But my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in mid-March and then passed away in late April, and I was a wreck. I cannot tell you how wonderful my publisher was; not only did they tell me to get back to writing whenever I felt like it, but they also sent me a card. Because of the delay, my second book won’t be coming out for another year, in Fall 2011. I dedicated Seducing the Duchess to my mom because throughout everything, she never stopped supporting me and believing that one day I would get published.
Finally, I was laid off from my day job in higher education in late May of this year. It was completely unexpected, but such a blessing in disguise now. I’d been wanting to stay at home with my daughter and devote more time to writing, and now I can. I’m also very blessed to have a husband who supports my career 110% and believes this is what’s best for me.
•You also struggle with procrastination and perfectionism. As a recovering perfectionist, I can relate. Now that you’re contracted, though, you’re writing under deadline. How are you coping with the pressure this presents, which has to be a challenge to one who likes to turn in a manuscript polished to a glossy sheen?
Funny you should ask about deadlines. I actually had to ask for an extension for my second book (my first writing deadline!). It was embarrassing, and I was very humbled. But I think I’ve finally gotten to the point now where I understand my own limitations, and have a pretty solid writing routine down.
As for the perfectionism, I still struggle with it. In the past, I would edit as I write—meaning I could spend 2 hours on one page, just looking for the right word or deciding how to phrase a certain sentence. I’m continuing to train myself now to write everything out first to get my word count, then go back later to edit. It’s hard, but it’s the only way I know how to keep to those pesky deadlines. 🙂
Ashley’s Writing Process
•Noise or Silence?
Silence. No music, no TV in the background, nada.
Laptop or Desktop?
Usually at the desktop in my cozy little office in the basement (which turns really, really cold when winter hits!). But right now I’m pregnant again, and I have to switch from desktop to laptop to relieve various aching body parts.
•More Creative in the a.m. or p.m.?
P.M., definitely. I’ve tried to write in the morning, but it just doesn’t work. I don’t drink either coffee or tea, so I can only wait until I’ve had enough sunlight to wake up my brain. Plus, I like to work when it’s quiet, and that’s usually at night when the neighbors aren’t mowing or sawing or whatever they do at the unholy hour of 6 a.m. in the morning. Yes, I’m a little bitter. 🙂
•Research in advance or as you write?
Depends. If I know that I’m going to write a particular scene that needs research (such as the fair scene in Seducing the Duchess), I’ll do it ahead of time. But usually I research as I write, for example, if I find that I need to know what type of flowers really blossom in Wiltshire, England in the fall.
•Go with the flow or follow a schedule?
I try to follow my schedule as much as possible; it prevents procrastination, which we already know I’m a sucker for. But I also try to be flexible if my family needs me, especially on the weekends when we’re all at home.
Ashley’s Debut Novel
•Please tell us about Seducing the Duchess.
Gambling. Carousing. Flirting. Charlotte, Duchess of Rutherford, will do anything to create a scandal large enough to force her husband to finally petition for a divorce. Once madly in love with Philip, she is now determined to escape from their less than civil marriage and the reminders of his betrayal.
Until he stole her away…
Philip Burgess, Duke of Rutherford, is not a man to tolerate regrets. He wed Charlotte for revenge, not for love or convenience, knowing she would come to hate him. But he never expected he would one day find himself craving her attention or desiring her company….
And gave her something more…
Philip is no longer the cold, deceitful man she married years ago. And when he promises Charlotte a divorce if she will help him become a better husband for another woman, she wonders if she truly wants to lose him—and if Philip may still possess her heart after all….
Reactions and Reviews
•I haven’t sold a book, but I hear the firsts can be amazing experiences. First look. First time to hold your novel in your hands. First time you read a review. What struck you the most during the months leading up to your release?
No matter how far I’ve come in the publishing journey—signing the contract, submitting edits, copy edits, and page proofs, starting promotion, even holding my book in my hands—it still feels surreal. Although my picture is on the back inside cover, it’s still hard to believe that this is the book I wrote, now available in bookstores…and that people who aren’t related to me want to read it!
Right now, it seems beyond belief that I’ll ever get to the point where I take it for granted. Even with some of the great reviews I’ve been getting, it’s still difficult to grasp.
I have to tell you the first thing I did when I received my author copies, though. I sat my daughter down on the couch (at 15 months old), handed her the book, and took pictures of her “reading” it. However, I probably won’t let her actually read it until she’s 18. 🙂
Ashley’s Journey Continues
•Seducing a Duchess is in stores. What can your readers’ look forward to next?
My next book, Romancing the Countess, will be coming out in Fall 2011. Although the titles are similar, the characters are completely unrelated to the first book. In this second story, an earl and his best friend’s wife are drawn together after their spouses die in a carriage accident, and they realize their spouses were having an affair.
I’m really excited about this book (and nervous!) because it seems so different from what I’ve read in other historical romances. The hero and heroine don’t have an instant hatred or attraction for each other, and there’s a delicate balance between maintaining their grief and anger along with their growing awareness of each other. But it turned out to be a very sweet, sexy, emotionally intense story, and I can’t wait to hear what readers think next year!
Five Ways Ashley Fuels Her Creativity
~ I love listening to Sara Bareilles and the Foo Fighters when I’m in the car, because unlike most popular musicians these days, their songs actually tell stories. Over and over again, I’ll hear a phrase here or even a word there that will give me an idea, or just set me in a writing mood.
~ Romantic comedies inspire me. I try to write with both angst and humor, and romantic comedies always give me the happy ending I love in romance novels. A few of my faves: Two Weeks Notice, 27 Dresses, and although it’s not a typical romantic comedy, Love Actually.
~ Reading other romance novels fuels my creativity and inspires me. If it’s a fantastic book, it will make me want to start writing at that very minute. And sometimes I’ll read a line in a book that will give me a spark of an idea for one of my own stories.
~ I have a bookshelf devoted to Victorian history that I peruse often, not only for research, but just so I can remind myself what the era *felt* like. I’ve also found some great ideas for books through reading these when I wasn’t necessarily looking for anything specific.
~ Exercise helps me clear my mind of distractions and focus on ideas or plot issues I’m having. If I’m stuck on a certain page, just going for a 10-minute walk will often help me figure out what’s going wrong and let me go back to work with greater enthusiasm.
Ashley’s Question for You
In Seducing the Duchess, Charlotte is sometimes overtly sexual in the role she plays in trying to get Philip to divorce her. Without purposefully meaning to, I created gloves as a part of the story to symbolize both her vulnerability and daring (when she feels vulnerable, she keeps them on around Philip; when she wants to make him angry, she takes them off in front of others).
When you write, do you ever weave items as symbols in your storytelling? If so, what item did you use as a symbol in your most recent work?
Ashley has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of Seducing the Duchess.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Ashley by midnight November 9 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)
On November 10, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to Christina, winner of the drawing!
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Ashley
Visit her website ~ http://www.ashleymarch.com
Visit her personal blog ~ http://www.ashleymarch.com/blog
Friend her on Facebook ~ Ashley March
Follow her on Twitter ~ ashleymarch34