Monday, July 5, 2010

Coffee Shop Conversations: Q&A and a Giveaway with author Jennifer Ashley

Hello all you fabulous dames, and welcome to Coffee Shop Conversations!
Under this segment of the blog, I will be conducting interviews with Authors, Bloggers and anyone else relative to the literary world willing to answer my questions. The coffee shop is symbolic in the literary world as being the place where a lot of the magic happens. We write, converse and even (dare I mention it) eat/drink in these crowded, noisy, but strangely cozy, watering-holes. Coffee Shops are great places to just relax, let the hair down and talk about life, love and good books! So without further adieu, let's get to chatting with my special guest:

Author Jennifer Ashley

USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley has lived and traveled all over the world, and now lives in the Southwest. She writes historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance, historical mystery, and historical mainstream fiction. She writes as Jennifer Ashley and also under the pen names Ashley Gardner (mysteries) and Allyson James (paranormal romance).
Jennifer's novels have won RWA's RITA for Best Novel with Romantic Elements (A Lady Raised High), the Golden Quill, RT Reviewer's Choice awards, the Prism award, among others. Jennifer's novels have been also been translated into several European and Asian languages.
Jennifer enjoys writing and reading above all else, but her hobbies include cooking, hiking, playing flute and guitar, painting, and building miniature rooms and dollhouses.Source

Jennifer Ashley on the web: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads

Jennifer's Latest Release
'Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage'
(in stores TODAY) 
"Six years ago, eighteen-year-old Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized all of London by eloping the night of her come-out ball with the notorious rake, Lord Mac Mackenzie. After three turbulent years of marriage, she scandalized London once again--this time by leaving him.

Now the reformed Mac has returned, and he wants one thing: Isabella back in his life, his house, his bed. He'll do anything he has to, play any game, as long as he gets her back
Read an excerpt: here
 Get Your Copy Today:
RJ:Hey Jennifer! Thanks so much for stopping by for a little chat. Firstly, congratulations on your new book, 'Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage', in stores as of today! What have the past few months been like; with anticipating the release and the feedback you've received thus far? What have you experienced emotionally as well as professionally with the completion of this new book?
JA:First, thanks for interviewing me! I love being interviewed. :-)
To answer your question: Release day is a bit like the opening night of a play. All the hard work you’ve done for the last year, all the time you’ve gone without vacation or seeing much of your family or doing anything “normal”—everything is suddenly going to pay off. Or will it? Until the book hits the shelves, you never know if a) anyone will actually buy it; b) anyone will actually read it; c) anyone will actually like it. So, it’s like standing in the wings waiting for the curtain to go up, not knowing how your audience will react, or whether there will be an audience at all!

On release day, I always feel a mixture of excitement and accomplishment mixed with the bubbling bile of anxiety. :-)

Every novel release is a debut. You never know what will happen.
RJ:Why don't you tell me and the readers a little bit about your book, 'Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage', from the author's point of view? This isn't your first book; how does it differ from your previous novels?  What were you trying to accomplish with this book and do you feel like it's 'mission accomplished'?
JA:Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage is the second book in the Mackenzie series. It’s the story of Mac and Isabella, who eloped the night they met, but their turbulent marriage failed after only a few years. They didn’t divorce—they had a separation, which was similar to divorce today, except that neither party could remarry. (Divorce carried a stigma of ruin for both parties; separation was much more socially acceptable.)

Mac was devastated when Isabella left him, but in his heart, he didn’t blame her. He sobered up and tried to reform, but he discovered that his talent for painting had dried up when he gave up alcohol. When his brother Ian tells Mac he’s not trying hard enough to win back Isabella, Mac decides to change that (seeing Ian so happy inspires Mac too). He follows Isabella to London and sets out to get her back into his life—whatever it takes.

What I wanted to accomplish in this book was to show two people struggling to make a bad marriage work and winning through in the end. They love each other so much, yet they have some tough problems (alcohol, fights, Mac disappearing whenever he felt like it). I wanted to show that when Mac and Isabella both were willing to let love lead the way, they could save their marriage and find happiness.

I did not want this book to be “about” alcoholism, although that was part of the problem, and I did not want their break-up to be due to jealousy (too easy!). When I read through the proofs, I was pleased. Mac and Isabella are a strong couple. Apart they’re weak; together, they’re wonderful.

This book differs from my others in that I’ve not done a “reunited” story before (though I did a similar theme in “The Decidedly Devilish Duke” by Allyson James in Private Places anthology). Also, this is the first time I’ve made a hero an artist, which was fun—I taught myself to oil paint to learn about color and technique.

Also, the Mackenzie series is the first I’ve done that is straightforward historical romance—no paranormal elements, no shape shifters, no pirates! But I love the Mackenzies and hope to write more even when I’m finished with the four brothers. (There’s still Daniel, plus all the children the heroes are starting to have!)
RJ:What challenges or difficulties did you face with the writing of this particular novel?
JA:One difficulty I faced with this book was that I changed publishers in the middle of the series. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (book 1) was published by Dorchester, then I left them right after publication and sold Lady Isabella to Berkley. I’m very, very happy with what Berkley has done for it so far, but I had the added pressure of pleasing my editor, who took the chance of signing me. I’ve worked with her before (Kate Seaver, who actually bought my very first novel at Dorchester, before she moved to Berkley), but still, Berkley is a different place. They’re a subsidiary of Penguin, which is a gigantic corporation, and I feel like a tiny cog in a giant machine!

It was also difficult to write this book after Madness was so well received. If knew that if I wrote a book too close to Ian’s, I’d be heavily criticized; but if I wrote a book that was too different, I’d be heavily criticized. So I just said “Screw it,” and wrote the story I wanted to! (I planned out all four books a long time ago anyway.)

Happily, my editor loved it, Berkley gave it a terrific cover, and it was picked up by Rhapsody Book Club, which will put out a hardcover edition the week after the paperback comes out. Romantic Times gave Lady Isabella’s a fabulous “Top Pick” review and voted Mac one of the best heroes of the month. I’m very happy with all that!
RJ:Where did the inspirations for your plot, characters and setting come from?
JA:Good question! I have no idea. I’ve been mulling over the Mackenzie series for years (I think the idea came to me in about 2003). I wanted to write about a family of four decadent, dysfunctional brothers who loved each other and helped each other, but clashed at the same time. I wanted them ultra-rich, with bad reputations, and many problems to overcome. I have been calling it my “historical soap-opera” (as opposed to Pride Mates, which is my paranormal soap-opera). 

I couldn’t write the books right away, because I had other contractual obligations (a big one being the Immortals series), but once I had the chance to pitch the series, I slid it in. I think it was a good thing I didn’t sell it right away, because it had time to grow richer as it gestated in my brain. Now I’m thrilled I get to write the books that have been part of me for such a long time.
RJ:This book is a part of the Mackenzie series. The first book in the series, 'The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie', received some serious praise. The other brother's books are highly anticipated. Who ARE the Mackenzies and why do you think reader have fallen in love?
JA:If readers have fallen in love with the Mackenzie brothers, I think it’s because I fell hard in love with them myself. When they first came into my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I couldn’t think about anything but them! I figured, if I can’t stop thinking about these guys, maybe readers won’t either.

The four Mackenzies are the sons of the Duke of Kilmorgan, who was a brutal, abusive man. (The family tree is included on the Mackenzies’ page on my website, dating back to the first duke in the 1300s.) Hart, the oldest, becomes duke upon his father’s death. Hart is an interesting guy, having dark sexual appetites and the need to control…everything.

Cameron is the next oldest. He loves horses and women, and nothing else. He had a horrible marriage, ending with his wife’s suicide (some people say he killed her), leaving him with an infant son to raise. He’s turned his life to training the best horses, bedding the most beautiful women, and becoming a hedonist. He loves his son but knows he’s a rotten father. He doesn’t trust women, with good reason, and always ends his affairs before they go too far. And then he meets Ainsley Douglas…

Mac, the wild rakehell artist, you meet in Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage. He “crashes” Isabella’s debut ball on a bet that he can get into the party and kiss the young debutante (Isabella). Mac is so entranced with the lovely and spirited Isabella that he convinces her to elope with him that night.

And then Ian, the youngest, is “mad.” He has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, which gives him difficulties relating to other people, even his own family. He believes he is unable to love or fall in love. Misunderstood, he spent time in an asylum, until Hart let him out at their father’s death. His brothers protect him, even though they too believe he’s a little crazy. Then Beth Ackerley enters his life and teaches Ian what love truly is.
RJ:The first 3 adjectives that come to mind when describing your Hero and Heroine, Mac & Isabella, are?
JA:Let’s see: Passionate, stubborn (*g*), and struggling
RJ:The writing process differs from author to author. Some are planners while others just jump right in. Some consider themselves night writers, while others need daylight and a park bench or a coffee shop (wink) to set the mood for creativity. What's your writing process and atmosphere like?
JA:I write every morning at a bakery. (I limit myself to one bagel, even though they have pastries to die for!) I find that I am very productive at that time, maybe because I’m not truly awake? I then write at various times throughout the day and in various places—my living room sofa, a coffee house, the patio. Never at a desk! I also seem to do best in the morning and late afternoon on into night. In the heart of the afternoon, I’m not very motivated, so not much gets done (cat brushing, maybe).
RJ:When did you first start writing, and what inspired you to pick up a pen in the first place?
JA:I started writing when I was eight years old. I loved to read (had been reading full-length novels since age five), and I realized that novels were make-believe written down. I made up stuff all the time, had tons of imaginary friends and knew their lives in great detail. I started writing it all down and realized that this made me an author. :-) I thought there couldn’t be anything cooler than walking into a bookstore or library and seeing a book with my name on it on the shelves. And I was right!
RJ:You write under two other pen names,Ashley Gardner and Allyson James, for mysteries and paranormal romance, respectively. What is it about those genres that intrigue you? And out of all three genres, which is your favorite to write for and your favorite to read?
JA:Another good question! I like all three genres for different reasons. I love romance, because I enjoy reading about interesting relationships and people ending up together in a satisfying way. Not to mention hot guys. Hot, caring, loving, intense men. Rowr.

I like mysteries because I like intriguing puzzles, and I enjoy the variety of characters you find in mystery stories. I grew up on Agatha Christie (read everything she ever wrote, including all her short stories), and I’m still an avid mystery fan. My favorite author right now is Donna Leon, plus I’m all over the PBS Mystery! series. Foyle’s War and Wallander in particular are wonderful.

My liking for paranormal romance stems from growing up reading fantasy (alongside the mysteries). I read David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Barbara Hambly, and many others, and now I love Terry Pratchett. Paranormal romance combines two of my favorite genres—romance and fantasy—perfect for me! With urban fantasy, my current favorite genre, combines all three! Love it! Writing urban fantasy (the Stormwalker series I write as Allyson James) is a dream come true.
RJ:You spend some of your free time constructing miniature rooms and dollhouses. Admirably, especially because I haven't the attention span or patience for such a meticulous type of project. Why do you enjoy doing them?
JA:I have figured out that I do miniatures the for the same reason I write books: to create a world that didn’t exist before. I love to dream up a miniature room or setting and try to make it look as real as possible. It’s kind of like set design, I think.

I like making my own stuff, but I’m equally happy buying things from talented artisans, and I’m equally happy looking at other people’s dollhouses and miniatures. My subscription to my favorite miniatures magazine is one I never, ever let lapse. Looking at mini worlds is a window to other people’s creativity—their sense of fun or attention to detail or portrayal of beauty.

It’s the kind of hobby, though, that you either love or you don’t! When people encounter their first dollhouse or miniatures, they either yawn in two minutes or become sucked in for life!
RJ:Romances has transcended many different sectors of pop culture. I think the Beatles said it best, "all you need is love". So, what are some of your favorite pop culture romance picks?: Favorite Love Song?, Favorite Scent?, Favorite Romantic Comedy? and of course, Favorite Romance Novel? 
JA:Love Song: “Crash” by Dave Matthews (that song is soooo sexy!)

Scent: I’m not much of a perfume wearer, and I really don’t like cologne/aftershave on men. My favorite “scent” is that of a man who’s fresh from the shower—all clean and smelling of soap (and damp and naked…)

Romantic Comedy: Hard choice! The following movies have been the most romantic to me (I
finish them with a big smile on my face and a good feeling in my heart): Love, Actually; Sweet Home Alabama; My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Shakespeare in Love; Chocolade.

Favorite romance novel: Far, far too difficult to choose just one! The three books that made me take the plunge into writing romance were The Stolen Bride, by Jo Beverley; The Rake and the Reformer (later reissued as The Rake) by Mary Jo Putney; and Deception, by Amanda Quick, from which I learned that humor can be used very effectively in romance!
RJ:What's coming up next for you (book-wise or otherwise)?
JA:Too many things! I write four-five books a year, so I’m always writing something. I’m currently working on The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Chapter 1 is in the back of Lady Isabella) , another Shifter novel (book 3 of the series), and more on the Stormwalker series by Allyson James. The second Stormwalker book (Firewalker) will be out in November, so I’m preparing for that release (proofreading/marketing/etc). I’m also writing a novella that will be in an anthology called Hexed, with one of my favorite UF authors, Ilona Andrews. Exciting!
RJ:Do you have anything that you would like to address to your fans and the readers? 
JA:I update my websites ( and every few weeks to make sure I have the most current information possible--when books will be available, where you can get them, excerpts, etc. So check there for info often. Or feel free to post a question to me on Facebook or via direct email (all contact links can be found on my website).

To those who say I write too slow :-) I really do write these books quickly—I have three sitting at my publisher right now waiting to be released. It takes a while for publishers’ wheels to grind, and for all authors to have a fair chance of getting their books on the shelves. I keep trying for back-to-back releases, but no one has let me do that so far (publishers set the schedules; authors don’t). Hopefully things will change and my books will start coming out closer together (they already are, believe it or not).
RJ:Final Question: Name something shocking or interesting about yourself that the readers may not know. 
JA:I can’t think of a thing. I consider myself a completely boring person, which is why I write novels! I’ve done interesting things like traveled all over the world, but I’m mostly an onlooker wherever I go, watching other people do things. And that suits me just fine! Having an exciting life would be uncomfortable, I think. I’ll let my characters do all the hard stuff while I sit back and relax.

Maybe the only shocking thing about me is that I don’t like coffee. Loathe the stuff. I love the smell, hate the taste--go figure.

-A special thanks again goes to my special guest, Jennifer Ashley! Thanks for being so forthright and telling me all about your new book!  
~*~ Giveaway Details ~*~
Jennifer Ashley has generously offered to giveaway a copy of one of her back-list titles (books older than six months) to one (1) lucky commenter. Check her website in the books section, and if you are the winner, you will be contacted and asked to choose the book you would like to receive. Follow the guidelines below and comment to be entered for a chance to win. The giveaway will run until Saturday, July 10th 2010, 11:59:00PM. The winner will be announced on Sunday, July 11th 2010.

Giveaway Guidelines:
To be entered in the giveaway all you have to do is comment! Make sure to included your email (no email= invalid entry)!

to get extra entries (just commenting gets you the initial entry. Do one or more of the following for some extra shots at winning):

+1 Go to Jennifer Ashley's website and check out some of her miniature rooms and dollhouses. In your comment, tell me which one is your favorite (clearly state it).

+2 Become a follower of this blog/tell me if you already are a follower in your comment.

To all the readers, be sure to make use of those links above to better acquaint yourself with this fabulous author! It has been great, good luck to all of the giveaway contestants and I hope all of you have enjoyed this edition of:


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