Like I seem to do I have come quite late to Trisha Ashley novels, reading my first The Twelve Days of Christmas in December 2010 and then onto Chocolate Wishes and The Magic of Christmas in 2011. 2012 so far has brought me Sowing Secrets and her latest novel Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues. I am ready charged with two more in paperback and on kindle so I think by the time the next Trisha Ashley novel is published I could be well caught up!
In the meantime, I thought I would perhaps ask Trisha a few questions about herself, writing and books in general so without further ado it is over to Trisha
Tell us about yourself.
I think the foreword to my quarterly newsletter says it all:
The plot so far: Except when she is occasionally let out to enjoy a couple of days of frenetic partying in London, or to give a talk, Trisha lives in beautiful North Wales, together with the neurotic Border Collie foisted onto her by her student son and an equally neurotic but also vain, bad-tempered and chancy Muse. Muse, whose first name is Lucifer, slipped into her head and took up residence while she was reading Paradise Lost at school and refuses to leave. He is male, steely-blue, wears a lot of leather, is winged, has talons (so that’s where her blue nail varnish went, then) and is devilishly handsome, if you like that kind of thing. He only eats words, but gets through a lot of Leather Food and Trisha is starting to suspect that he does more with it than just rub it into his wings…
If you were not an author, what would you be or like to be?
I can’t imagine not being an author and I have been published since the early eighties…off and on. I have also always been a painter and I would be someone else if you removed those elements. Of course, I have held many diverse jobs over the years to support my writing, from lead light making to working in a National Trust stately home and also done manuscript critiques for various agencies for over twenty years.
Do you have any tips for budding authors?
Get on with it: if you are a writer, you write and, as Rose Tremain said, life is not a dress rehearsal. If you are totally at a loss how to start, then read Natalie Goldberg’s book called Writing Down the Bones. If you want to know what the reality of the journey to publication is like, then Stephen King’s book On Writing tells it like it is.
Why did you want to return to Sticklepond in your latest novel Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues?
I wanted to see what the characters from A Winter’s Tale (Jo – Ooo I did not realise this was a Sticklepond book) and Chocolate Wishes were doing.
Do you think you will return there again in some future books?
My new book, which I am currently writing, is also set in Sticklepond. After that, I am going to go and revisit one of the other villages.
I absolutely wanted to scream at Tansy’s two stepsisters – were they easy characters to write about? Are there any characters from this book or others that are more difficult to write about?
Writing ‘bad’ characters is very enjoyable, though often they do have some redeeming features, or the possibility of change. In one or two of my books where the heroine is in a difficult marriage, readers often ask me why she puts up with her awful husband: but of course he was not horrible when they fell in love and married. Change takes place gradually over several years, so it takes some sudden event or disclosure to make the heroine step back and perceive what has been happening.
You have written a couple of Christmas themed books which really get me in the mood for Christmas. Do you write them in the middle of summer or in the depths of winter?
Always in the spring and summer: I am playing carols and baking mince pies while the visitors are out there on the beach.
Do you have any say about the covers of your books?
No, though I do see it in its final stages. I am very lucky that my publishers (Avon HarperCollins) have used the same very talented illustrator for all my covers.
Recipes feature heavily in your books, so much so that I want to get up in the night and start cooking! Do you have a particular favourite recipe? And in terms of writing – what comes first, the book and the recipes fit in or the book has to fit around the recipes.
The recipes are incidental to the books – I just add those for one or two of the things my heroine has been cooking up or brewing. The Meddyg in Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues was a fairly important element, though. The fruit cake recipe is a favourite because it is no-fail: the worst thing that can happen is the edges get a bit too brown, or the fruit will sink to the bottom, and it will still taste wonderful.
Is there a genre of novel that you wish you could write about but currently don’t?
In a few of my novels the heroine is an author in a different genre – for instance, in Singled Out, she writes horror novels, while the heroine of my Regency romance, Lord Rayven’s Revenge, is a Gothic novelist. There are pieces from the novels they are writing in both books, so I have actually plotted and part written a few novels in other genres. Maybe I will write them in full, one of these days…
What novels have your really tried to read but just cannot get into and therefore remain sadly unread?
Lots – though I am not sad about it. I read a few chapters and if it isn’t grabbing me, then I go and find something that does.
Do you plan your books and know exactly what is going to happen or do you just start off and see where the characters take you?
I am character driven and the novel unfolds before me as I write. This is not to say that I am unaware of the themes, symbolism and plotlines as they appear, which form the warp to my weft, and which will be brought out more clearly in the second draft.
How do you cope with ‘bad’ reviews or do you simply not read them?
Not everyone is going to like your book, and usually they will loathe the elements that the ones who do love your book like best. Nasty reviews are upsetting, but it is my readers whose opinions are important and they are going to make their own minds up.
I do think that Amazon reviewers should only be allowed to review under their own names, ( Jo – totally agree) though, which would go some way to cutting out the ones who like to say horrible (and generally untrue) things about an author’s work because they get some kind of kick out of it. Then there are the ones who say how awful a book is and then put in a link to their own/a friend’s book, saying it is much better!
I collect some of my worst Amazon reviews (Jo – Will pop back and check my reviews!) to read out when I’m giving a talk, because they are unintentionally very funny: I am a firm believer in composting my life and growing something fresh from it.
A popular question at the moment: do you think the eReader and paper books can survive quite happily together?
I have discovered that most of my readers buy both the Kindle and paperbacks of my books, though some say they are not going to open the paperbacks, just keep them in pristine condition on the shelves! I do think the paperback will survive, since many people will want a ‘real’ copy of their favourite authors as well as a kindle one. I think what would be a good idea is if bookshops stocked the paperbacks with the Kindle download together as a package: I’m sure this could be done.
And what is next for Trisha Ashley?
I moved house at the end of last year on the day a novel was due to be delivered and have been constantly working since, so it would be pleasant to finally finish unpacking and sorting the house out. I am currently writing a new novel for late next year but also looking forward to the re-publication of Good Husband Material in March, which has long been out of print.
Thank you very much Trisha for taking the time to answer my questions.
Trisha’s website can be found here