Monday, June 23, 2014

Featuring: Ashlee Willis

Dear imps, I am delighted to have the opportunity to feature Ashlee Willis today! Ashlee is a fellow Books & Such novelist, one of my agent, Rachel Kent's clients. Considering Rachel's interest in fantasy and fairy tale, Ashlee is a perfect fit!

I have had the opportunity to read some of Ashlee's work, and I was immediately impressed by her beautiful combination of elegant writing with fascinating storytelling. Seriously, if you are fairy tale lovers, you are going to enjoy her work. (And I know quite a number of you have already discovered her, so I'm not telling you anything you don't already know!)

In honor of her debut novel's release date, Ashlee is here today to talk about her work. She is also offering a great giveaway, so be certain to enter your names down below! And now, a little about the authoress herself:

 ASHLEE WILLIS is the author of fantasy for young adults. She lives in the heart of Missouri with her husband and young son. While most of her days are balanced between writing, reading, and homeschooling, she also finds time to enjoy tea with friends, forest walks, photography, and piano playing.

Ashlee's Debut novel, The Word Changers, is available now in eBook from Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The paperback is due to release June 23, 2014.


Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?

Ashlee: Tea, most definitely! Lavender green tea in winter, sweet iced tea in summer! The days I’m not writing you’ll find me outside getting my hands dirty in the garden, walking through the woods near our house with my son, or sitting in my oversized chair crocheting while watching a British miniseries. :) 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? How did you get into publishing?

Ashlee: I always had the urge to tell stories, definitely. I remember nights when I was young, lying in bed telling my little sister stories, or rounding up our friends and directing plays I had written to perform for our parents. For such an extreme introvert, I was rather bossy, really! 

The dream of publishing was always there in the back of my head, even when I was much too young for it to be a reality yet. With time, as I wrote more and grew more confident about what I was writing, I decided it was something I had to pursue seriously. Thankfully, I found both a publisher and an agent who had enough faith in my story to take a chance on it. 

Tell us a little about your work! The Word Changers is your debut novel, right? How did this story begin?

Ashlee: Yes, The Word Changers is my first published book. The idea for it came as more of a process than in a single moment of inspiration. I grew up with such a strong desire to climb straight into some of the books that I read, fantasies and fairy tales mainly. So how could I not want to write just such a story? I began writing it and asking myself questions about it, and it grew into something more than I had planned. Something that, I hope, is not only entertaining, but also glorifies God. 

Is The Word Changers part of a series? Will readers get to meet Posy and Prince Kyran again in future books? Or are you moving on to new worlds and new characters?

Ashlee: I don’t have any plans to write a sequel to it. But leaving my characters behind was much more difficult than I would ever have believed. So I did end their story with a tiny spark of hope … both for my own sake and for my readers. I can’t say that I know at this point whether that spark will ever turn into something more or not one day … we’ll see! 

Can you pick a favorite character from this new novel?

Ashlee: Main characters aside, I did love Alvar, who is one of my secondary characters. Within the Plot that King Melanthius has seized control of, Alvar’s role is not a big one. But he has the desire to find his True Story – the one the Author wrote him for – and help return the book he lives within to what it was meant to be. He has the bravery to pursue that story, even risk his life for it. I’d like to think I would have the courage to do that in those circumstances … 

What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?

Ashlee: Nothing is off limits when it comes to inspiration, I’ve found. The most unlikely things can send a story stumbling through my head. A word, a scent, a view or even a feeling can conjure a magic of its own, and the beginnings of a story fall into place. When I need a renewal of my creativity, I head to the Creator Himself … His creation, His gifts to me, and His Word. What could possibly give me more peace and renewed energy than that?

 What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

Ashlee: I really don’t mind my first drafts, although I realize they are torture for many writers. There is something freeing about knowing I can say anything at all, since I will be revising it later anyway … and with that feeling of freedom often comes an angle or a scene or a path that I may never have taken otherwise.

 Revisions, on the other hand, feel like such work! I’m rather impatient … and when I type “the end” at the end of a book, I truly wish it were the end … although, as you know, it’s really only the beginning!

If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?

 Ashlee: C.S. Lewis. I’m not sure I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t visited Narnia as a child. Part of my heart is still there, in fact, and probably always will be.

What are you actively writing right now?

Ashlee: I’m working on the second book in a fantasy duology for young adults. They are both pre-revision, pre-title, pre-everything! But I’m quite excited about them, and getting more so with each chapter I write. 

Can you share a short snippet from The Word Changers?

Ashlee: I certainly can!

Excerpt from

Posy had no idea how to respond to this large man as he towered over her, appraising her with intense charcoal eyes. Her heart beat faster as she bowed her head slightly and lowered herself into what she hoped was a proper curtsy.

"Your Majesty," she murmured, barely daring to look back up into his face. She didn't know whether she was in awe or whether she wanted to burst out laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
"Oh, yes, quite proper!" he beamed on her. "How well you have recovered, my Evanthe."
"Evanthe?" began Posy.
"We will have to begin the Plot again now. This time a bit more carefully, wouldn't you say? We don't want anymore riding accidents, anymore straying from the lines. What would the Kingdom come to, eh?"
"Riding accidents?" Posy asked. "But I thought I was supposed to have had a fever ..."
"Ah.” The king gave her a conspiratorial grin. "Yes, yes, a fever, of course."
How could he have forgotten what happened to his own daughter in such a short time? But then, Posy reasoned, I'm not his daughter, am I? Was it possible she looked so familiar to the princess Evanthe that she was truly being mistaken for her?
"But my name is Posy," she finally said cautiously. "Thank you for helping me recover - I'm still not quite sure what has happened, it's all so confusing. But I am sure I'm not who you seem to think I am ... Your Majesty," she added as an afterthought.
The king looked down on her for several moments which seemed to stretch on, then finally he took a step toward her. He took her arm gently in one of his large bejeweled hands and leaned toward her, closer and closer until his mouth was almost against her ear.
"Now, we can't have that sort of talk, my dear." His smooth voice was deadly as a knife wrapped in satin. Posy's heart began to pound as his grip tightened, his voice hissing just above a whisper. "People will begin to think your injury did you a lasting harm. We follow the Plot here, my daughter, and if you stray from it, you will greatly regret it. You are my daughter, Princess Evanthe. I am your father, King Melanthius. Your mother is Queen Valanor. You would do well to remember everything I tell you ... sweeting." The king's voice brightened abruptly on the last word as he released her arm from his grip.
Posy took one stumbling step backward. The king reached to brush back a strand of her hair in a fatherly gesture, making a tsking noise. "Such a shame, your memory loss! It seems you have forgotten a great deal indeed." He turned on his heeled shoes and walked away down the corridor without another word.
Posy released a shaky sigh, realizing she had not been breathing. Had the king just threatened her? He, and indeed the entire Kingdom, saw her as the princess Evanthe. She wondered how she could have let the farce go on so long. This was her second day in the book. If she had known it would come to this, she would never have done it. 
Then she remembered the king's voice, his breath on her face and his steely hand on her arm, and she knew it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Coldness seeped into her fingers and toes as she realized she was trapped. 
This was becoming more of a nightmare than the pleasant dream she had believed it to be. 

 Thank you for a fun feature, Ashlee. What an intriguing excerpt! It was great to get to know you a little better. And I'm sure all of us are that much more eager to pick up your books.

Readers, you can connect with Ashlee via all the social media options and keep tabs on her newest projects very easily! Here are the links for you.

And, of course, don't forget to add The Word Changers to your Goodreads shelves!

Be certain to ask Ashlee any and all questions you might have about her writing, stories, process, etc. And don't forget to enter your names in the giveaway below. a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hannah said...

So cool to learn more about you Ashlee! As you know, I loved your book

Anne Elisabeth, do the entry options still count if we've already followed a blog or already added a book to Goodreads?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Yes, I believe it should all still count in you favor, Hannah! :)

Deborah O'Carroll said...

What a great interview! Thanks, Anne Elisabeth and Ashlee!

I LOVED The Word Changers and am so excited it's out in paperback now, and it's awesome to learn more about its lovely authoress! ^_^

Meredith said...

Congratulations, Mrs. Willis. Your book sounds phenomenal, and I enjoyed the excerpt. What a frightening king! I hope to read your book someday.

C.S. Lewis is one of my absolute favorite authors, too.

Do you have a particular verse of Scripture that inspires your work? God bless you.

Clara said...

Oh, Ashlee, I'm so excited about this book!!

Anonymous said...

Hannah, Deborah, Meredith and Clara ... thanks, girls! Your well-wishes mean so much to me :)

Meredith, I love I Corinthians 13:12. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." I know, for me, the act of writing makes me see God more clearly ... I can only hope that my readers feel the same way after having read my book!

Anonymous said...

Anne Elisabeth, I'm so grateful to you for hosting me on such a special day :) Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Em said...

Oooh, this book sounds so good! A question for the author: how do you deal with writer's block?

Unknown said...

Congratulations, Ashlee! : D

Anonymous said...

Em, I'm so sorry I just now saw your question! Hmm, writer's block ...
In the past, the most common reason for any writer's block I have had has been simply burn-out. I know where my story is going, but my mind is so saturated with the story, I can't seem to see it clearly anymore. At those points, I try to give myself a break and step completely away from my manuscript for a couple of days (if possible ... it's difficult!). Usually I come back to it with a fresh perspective :)

Anonymous said...

And, Allison ... thanks so much! :)