Author Interview: Sarah Ashwood

Hello Friends. It is that time again. Time for another Author Interview. You can read my review of this book over at The Reading BudSarah was a lovely author to interview and the first book in her Land Beyond the Sunset series was a fantastic read. I can’t wait to read the next two books.

But enough chit chat. Here is the interview. 🙂

Sarah Ashwood Author Bio

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  1. What is the inspiration behind Aerisia?

Basically two things: a love of speculative fiction—be it fairytales, fantasy, paranormal, mythology, or folktale—and a sunset walk down a country road. If you’ve read (or eventually read) Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset, you’ll find both influences in the novel. The scene in the opening chapter where Hannah meets Risean Wy’ Curlm, who whisks her away from her Colorado home to Laytrii’s palace in the land of Aerisia, was inspired by an incident in real life.

I used to walk/run country roads at evening when it was cooler, I had a neighbor who raised horses and had a huge, old stump in his pasture, and my overactive imagination sometimes tricked me into thinking that stump was something it wasn’t. Once, it was a bear, once a dog, once a stranger in flowing robes…which got me to thinking. What would happen if I actually ran across a stranger from another time period or world? Put all these factors together, and Aerisia was born.

  1. Are any of your characters modeled after any celebrities?

Unless you’re a reader of westerns, Zane Grey in particular, you probably won’t recognize the name Lewis Wetzel, but he was an actual, historical figure in the American Revolutionary War, and a central figure in Zane Grey’s Ohio River trilogy. He’s also who the Simathe were loosely patterned after. The Hunter, a character introduced in Book 3, Aerisia: Field of Battle, is probably somewhat influenced by Legolas from Lord of the Rings. But other than that, no, not really.

  1. Was there any kind of special research put into writing this novel?

Would it be terrible to say very little actual “research” went into it? Basically, I simply incorporated elements of everything I’ve always liked into my story. There are fairies, giants, and unicorns from fairytales. The Ranetron, Aerisia’s main military force, is heavily based off the military of ancient Rome, and the Galandorf on pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. I like to think these diverse elements help make the world of Aerisia somewhat unique.

  1. When did you decide to become a writer?

When I began working on my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and my passion to keep writing, to tell this story, to finish this series, never gave out. By the time I’d finished, over a year after starting, I knew being a writer was one of my goals in life.

  1. What was the process like in finding the right publishing format for you?

Sadly, it was a long process of being rejected by publisher after publisher until one finally said yes. That was the happy part.

  1. How do you set aside time to write? And do you have a daily word or page goal?

Since having my third child back in March, my daily word count is only 500 words. This doesn’t sound like much, but it can be harder than you’d think to write even that much daily with three kids as young as mine in the house. And those 500 words do add up pretty quickly.

  1. What did you find to be the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part about writing is finding time to write when my kids aren’t in my hair! Usually this is during their naptime or after they’ve gone to bed. My three boys definitely keep me hopping.

  1. How long have you worked on the Sunset Lands Beyond series?

The rough draft took well over a year to write, and then there were at least three complete revisions afterward. So I spent two or three years working on it.

  1. Where did you get the ideas for the names and places in this book? Some of the names are so unique.

The vast majority of them came straight out of my head. My sisters did suggest some, such as Aerisia, Cortain, Lonolith, and lorlin. They were my first readers, and I bounced lots of ideas off them.

  1. Do you know how many books you plan on including in this series?

I have an idea for a follow up trilogy, featuring three more of the Simathe, but I’m in the midst of a couple of other projects I’d have to complete first.

  1. What are your plans after you finish this series?

Right now, I’m working on a novel about a former gladiator set in ancient Rome. When I finish it, I may come back to the world of Aerisia.

  1. Do you want to make a career of writing? Or have you already made a career out of it?

Besides being a stay at home mom and a homeschooling teacher, writing is my career. J

  1. Did you have a professional editor polish up your novel? If so, how did you go about finding them?

My publisher handled all of that. All I had to do was wade through the suggested edits.

  1. What kind of books do you read?

I’m a fairly eclectic reader. I enjoy history, theology, fantasy, fairytales, historical fiction, young adult fiction, and even a smattering of science fiction. I don’t stick with any particular genre, and I’m usually reading several books at once. Takes me a while to get through them, but that’s also because I don’t have as much time to read as I used to. I used to read a minimum of two books a week. This was before marriage and kids. Now it’s more like one-two books a month, if I’m lucky.

  1. Do you have a favorite book or series? Favorite author?

One of my favorite series is the Legends of Dimmingwood, by C. Greenwood. Another is the Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa. Then there’s the Fires of Gleannmara series by Linda Windsor, and The Buccaneers by Linda Lee Chaikin. These are a mix of fantasy, young adult, and historical fiction, and all of these authors are some of my favorites. Like I said, I’m all over the place with my reading.

  1. In the big debate of e-book or traditional hard copy, which do you prefer?

They both have their pros and cons. My bookcases filled with all my beautiful books is one of my favorite spots in my entire house. I love the feel of an actual book in my hands, and I think reading from paper and ink is easier on the eyes and more engrossing to the brain. On the other hand, I love the portability of my Kindle and my Kindle app: basically I can take an entire library with me in my purse! I’m happy to have both.

  1. What is your favorite movie?

Ben Hur, the 1959 version, and then the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was watching Ben Hur from the time I was a very young kid, and I’m pretty sure my lasting fasciation for ancient Rome was probably partly inspired by this movie.

  1. Are there any movies or books that have inspired a story?

Well, I just mentioned ancient Rome… My current WIP builds on all the Roman era movies I’ve ever seen: Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Gladiator, Spartacus, Empire, etc. Certainly, I’ve read dozens of books, both historical and fictional, set in that era. After all that, writing my own came naturally.

  1. What kind of hobbies are you into other than writing? What do you do when you take a break from writing?

As I said before, I’m a mom to three young boys, all under the age of 5. (The oldest is soon to be 5.) I do preschool with my two older boys, and am planning to homeschool them all. I’m also heavily into running and fitness: I try to run and/or workout 5-6 days a week. The day I ran my first half-marathon, two years ago, was one of the proudest days of my life.

  1. Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?

Definitely Shakespeare. The man was a genius! I would love to pick his brain. When I studied him and his writing in college, I was simply fascinated and a little overwhelmed by how many of our common, everyday expressions and figures of speech are drawn from his writing. To be a writer and leave a legacy like that—what more could you want?

  1. Lastly, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Fearlessly self-edit and rewrite! When you reread your rough draft, you’ll find a great deal of room for improvement. Don’t be afraid to keep trimming and snipping, rewriting and improving.

  1. Anything else that you would like to add that I didn’t ask you about?

Just that, although my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy does not fall into the young adult category, it is suitable for readers about 13 and up. I have a mission in my writing to provide entertaining, family friendly books free of gratuitous sex, language, and violence that a large audience can enjoy.

  1. Where can we find you on social media?

You can find me on my Sarah Ashwood Facebook author page, friend me on my Sarah Ashwood Goodreads page, follow me on Twitter @1sarahashwood, or on Instagram where I go by @runnerwritermom. If you want to see lots of pins related to fairytales, fantasy, magic, castles, reading, and writing (and occasionally fitness and running), you can follow me on my Pinterest page, as well.

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Thank you Sarah for being so kind and allowing me to pick your brain. I look forward to seeing more from you!

And before you go, here is a little excerpt from  Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset.

 

*   *   *

The day was darkening, but it wasn’t the peaceful shadows of twilight overtaking the sky. The day was tranquil, but it wasn’t the calm stillness of a summer day drawing to a contented close. A cool breeze whipped up, teasing strands of hair out of the braid I’d replaited this morning. The force of it blew and tangled my horse’s mane. Pulling my cloak tightly about my shoulders, I studied the forbidding sky. Dark clouds scudding across its face were gathering into an ominous, foreboding mass.

“It’s going to storm,” I announced.

A needless comment in light of the obvious signs, but I felt like I had to draw my companions’ attention to the fact. They were plodding along, every now and then casting a glance upward, but otherwise appeared unconcerned.

A raindrop hit the tip of my nose, sliding over my lips. I wiped it away. “Shouldn’t we be looking for shelter?”

I hated storms. As a child, I would quiver under the blankets while they raged outside my bedroom window. When the thunder was so loud it shook the house, I would run to my parents’ room, where I’d be held tight and comforted until the furor had passed.

As an adult, naturally I no longer ran to my parents, but I still disliked storms. Holding my breath and counting the seconds between lightning flashes and peals of thunder, I could never fall asleep until the fury had abated. This oncoming storm was triggering an assault of memories, and I couldn’t tear my gaze from the threatening sky.

Another raindrop hit my gloved hand. Its twin splashed the tip of my ear. My hands were starting to tremble. The wind picked up again, rustling the tall grass on either side of the road. Other than that, there were no noises and, besides our party, no signs of any living creatures. All was eerily silent: the calm before the storm. My horse was tense, its ears pricked. A distant crash of thunder; he shook his head nervously. Lightning flashed among the clouds. Though still several miles away, the storm was obviously moving closer.

I couldn’t stand it anymore. “High-Chief, please, can’t we find shelter? I don’t want to be out in this!”

Not surprisingly, the man was far from alarmed. “It is only a storm. It will pass.”

His unruffled demeanor made my anger boil. Jerking my horse to a stop, I rounded on him furiously. “I know it’s only a storm,” I yelled, rising in the stirrups. “I don’t care! I don’t want to be caught in it! What’s wrong with you?”

Those pit-black eyes narrowed angrily, and I plunked back down. Suddenly, the gaze pinning me was more frightening than the imminent storm. What was I thinking, shouting at him like that? Was I crazy?

“Look about you,” he lashed out, a keen edge to his voice the storm could never hope to match. “Is there anywhere to take shelter?”

The man had a point, even if I hated to admit it. The countryside was all sprawling fields interspersed with grey boulders, large and small. A few scrubby trees dotted the landscape, while mountains loomed large in the distance. There were no houses, no caves, no large trees, no roofs to hide under.

What to do? What to do?

Inside their gloves, my hands were openly shaking.

“The rain will not harm you. We ride.”

That was Lord Ilgard. The man was implacable.

He and his men spurred their horses forward, but I refused to budge. As he passed by, the Simathe leaned from his saddle, catching my horse firmly by the bridle. The animal followed meekly…until I sawed viciously on the reins, making him whip his head to the side and tear loose from the Simathe’s grasp.

Directly overhead, thunder boomed. I panicked and jumped, my silver spurs raking my horse’s flanks. Already spooked, this proved too much for the frightened beast. He bolted down the trail, taking me with him. Gripping the pommel with one hand and the reins in the other, I held on with all my strength. I don’t know how long we ran, or how far, before it happened. Thunder crashed, followed by a brilliant flash of lightning. It struck me…yet it didn’t. One moment I was tearing along at breakneck speed, and the next—a boom, a flash, and I was enfolded in a dazzling veil of white.

Time morphed into a murky soup of air, space, and speed. Beneath me, my horse struggled to run, but it was like moving in slow motion. My body felt frozen, my motions sluggish, and my fingers unresponsive as they tried to relax their grip on the saddle horn and reins.

A fierce rush of wind blasted us, knocking my horse off his feet. I was still clinging to his back and fell with him, winding up with one leg pinned beneath his weight. Terror, obscene and sudden, flooded me like a wave, overwhelming my mind as I lay helpless on the wet grass. I opened my mouth and tried to scream, but no sounds came out.

That brightness was around, within, and about me, holding me powerless in its suffocating grip. I was no longer conscious of the raging storm. Nothing was left except white light and choking panic. Thunder crashed a fourth time, and in its sonorous peals I heard an evil voice. No, I heard the voice of evil. Over and over it called my name, the echoes rolling and crashing like wild waves against a rocky shore.

“Hannah,” it called. “Lady Hannah, the Artan. Hannah. Lady Hannah, the Artan. Mighty deliverer from Earth. Have you come to save these people, this land, from me? From me?”

A face materialized, filling the sky over my head: a gleaming white skull. Formed from the white light enclosing me, vacant eye sockets and a fleshless mouth smiled a hideous smile as it loomed over me, slowly descending.

“From me, Hannah? From me, Lady Artan? From me?”

Nonsensical words. Hideous phrases. I couldn’t figure them out. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. I was reduced to babbling a mindless, “No, no, no!” My head shook senselessly from side to side. My horse didn’t move. Was he dead?

Now the face was upon me, its jaws gaping wide as if to swallow me whole. In the midst of my panic I reacted, throwing my arms into the air in a defensive posture. I touched something tangible; a tremendous weight pressed me down. My arms shook as I fought to keep from being crushed.

“No,” I screamed. “No! Get away from me, leave me alone!”

Nothing at first, then the weight withdrew ever so slightly. Encouraged, I continued shouting commands and denials. There was a pause, one that seemed to last forever. And then, wonder of wonders!—the face began to fade. Another breathless moment of horror and hope, and I was able to pick myself up, rising as far as my pinned leg would allow. With both hands thrust against my opponent, both palms turned skyward, I continued pushing against the terrible weight and screaming for it to leave. New life flooded my veins, and my voice strengthened. To my indescribable relief, as I regained strength, my enemy seemed to lose his.

“Leave!” I shouted once more. “Leave me alone!”

This time, as the words fled my lips, a strange steam of blue light leapt from my fingertips, careened upward, and slammed brutally against the grinning skull. The thing parted its yawning jaws in a hideous, gurgling scream not unlike that of the drocnords. Power, sheer power, replacing any fear, suddenly I was strong and invincible. There was only this moment, this battle, and the magic of the blue brilliance bursting from my outstretched hands.

The monster’s second scream shook the earth. I wanted to double over and press my hands to my ears, but the magic wouldn’t let me go. Another stupendously loud crash of thunder, accompanied by the most brilliant flash of lightning yet. Both the skull and the menacing white light blasted upward, a fountain of radiance spraying the clouds, fading into the next lightning bolt that raced across the sky.

The instant they were gone, my cerulean light fled as well, and all vigor drained from my limbs. A heavy shudder convulsed my body, and I toppled backward into soft mud. Heavy rain drummed on my face, droplets coursing down my cheeks like tears. The last thing I remember thinking was that the storm seemed to be vanishing into the distance.

Consciousness fled.

My eyes closed.

The world went black.

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