With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley-Jenkins present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Ashley Farley
Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job. After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save. Ashley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions. Ashley loves to hear from her readers.
Feel free to visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashleywfarley or twitter.com/ashleywfarley
Amazon author page http://amzn.to/2aKfnHo
Author website http://www.ashleyfarley.net
As a bestselling author, how do you keep your readers “turning pages until the wee hours of the morning”? What are some of your strategies for maintaining suspense in your books?
I learned this lesson a long time ago. If I’m bored writing a scene or chapter, my readers will be bored reading it. When I start surfing the Internet for a new pair of shoes, it’s time to either throw out the chapter or mix things up a bit. Writing from multiple characters’ viewpoints creates opportunity for more plot points. Cliffhangers at the end of a chapter are a great way to keep a reader engaged. If the reader starts a new chapter, chances are she will finish it.
What is your writing process? Do you write every day?
When I am in first draft mode, my goal is to write a chapter every day. For subsequent drafts, I set goals that enable me to meet my publishing deadlines. So yes, I write every day.
When you write, are you more of a pre-planner or do you just let yourself write and mold the story as you go along?
A little of both. I swim laps every morning. During that time, I plan scenes, paragraphs, and sentences. When I sit down at my computer later, the words flow much easier. When I start a project, I usually have a general plot in mind. But I count on my characters to show me the way.
What keeps you motivated?
My readers! I love hearing from them. Knowing I have touched their lives motivates me to give them more.
Your latest novel, Lowcounty Stranger, was just released this month. What inspired you to write this continuation of the Sweeney sisters’ story?
I took a break from the Sweeney sisters to write Merry Mary and Breaking the Story. I felt a connection with Scottie Darden and her brother, Will, but it was more from the parent/child perspective. I relate to the Sweeney sisters more because they are the same age as me, and each exhibits a different facet of my personality.
Do you think you’ll write more featuring the Sweeney sisters? How did your writing experience alter in comparison to your first novel about them?
Yes! Boots and Bedlam, a Sweeney Sisters holiday novella, is scheduled for release on October 18. And I’m deep in the first draft of the untitled fourth sequel. Writing about the sisters was much easier the second time because I already knew the characters so well. I understood their likes and dislikes. Their talents and their flaws. But I struggled with the backstory. There’s a fine line between bringing the reader to speed and giving away too much. You want to present a stand-alone book for new readers, but you don’t want to spoil it if they decide to go back and read the first novel.
You introduce new character, Annie Dawn, in Lowcounty Stranger. What inspired you to incorporate her into the Sweeney sisters’ world?
I had unfinished business with all three sisters that I wanted to address. Hence the need for a sequel. Annie Dawn’s plot line tied everything together. I really Annie’s character. She’s resourceful and street smart, yet naïve in certain ways. She’s kind and considerate and touches all their lives. Yes, you will see much more of Annie Dawn in the books ahead.
You’ve mentioned that your brother’s death led you to use your writing talents to reach others, and your novel Saving Ben is a direct result of that. What do you hope readers will take away from this novel in particular?
I want others to know they’re not alone in struggling with addiction, mental illness, bullying, and eating disorders. Okay, so maybe there are a lot of themes for one novel. But hey, it will hold your attention until the dramatic conclusion. An interesting note on the ending, by the way. I hadn’t planned the startling conclusion. When I arrived at the scene, I let my characters show me the way. I love it when they take control.
Have you been able to find some peace through your endeavors? How can others make a difference like you?
Very much so. Writing Saving Ben was therapy for coping with my grief over my brother’s death. My writing career in general is about me having a life outside of my family. I’m devoted to my children and husband, but having something that belongs only to me makes me feel complete. People make differences in many ways. After my brother died, I envisioned myself speaking to groups of young people on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. I quickly learned that I’m not a public speaker. Words come much easier for me when I’m putting them on paper. I encourage readers to identify their passion. Whatever it is that drives your emotions, find a way to express it to others. No one’s effort is insignificant.
You are published through Leisure Time Publishing. Can you tell us a little about the company? Who designs your great book covers?
Haha, Leisure Time Publishing is me, a division of AHF Publishing, a LLC my husband insisted I establish for business purposes. Damon Freeman at Damonza.com designs all my covers. I love working with them. They are professional, and efficient, and committed to making their clients happy.
How do you decide which cover really captures the spirit of the pages within?
When I submit a request for a new cover, I include my synopsis and an idea of what I’m looking for—the elements from the novel I want to highlight, etc. Picking the cover is the most exciting part of the publishing process for me. I ponder my covers from the beginning of the first draft to the end of the line edit. I’m a challenge for Damon at times, because I know what I want, and he isn’t a mind reader. He presents me with three different choices in the first draft. Sometimes he gets it right the first time. Sometimes we have to go another round. And I’m fickle. What I love today, I might not like tomorrow.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely!!! Don’t bother writing a book if you plan to scrimp on the cover.
In your blog, you mention that you’ve been a part of the same book club for almost 20 years. What keeps you coming back for more? Does your time in book club ever help with writing your own books?
I love this group of women. We are more than book pals. We are friends. Most of the time, we spend more time talking about the books we want to read than the book we’ve chosen to read for that meeting. We encourage each other to read books we wouldn’t normally choose for ourselves. I’m a more seasoned reader because of them, which makes my writing stronger.
As an indie author, what is the best advice you have for authors considering self-publishing?
Write a great book, then hire the best editor and cover designer you can afford. The Internet is packed with information on self-publishing. Take online classes and attend webinars. Learn all that you can before you post your book on Amazon. I love the control self-publishing affords me. I’ve been offered traditional publishing contracts, and, while I’m tempted, at the end of the day, I can’t relinquish this control.
What do you find to be the biggest challenges?
Getting my books into bricks and mortar bookstores. I’ve all but given up. Why bother when Amazon is the largest bookstore in the world?
What do your fans have to look forward to with new books you are planning to release?
I’m releasing Boots and Bedlam, a Sweeney Sisters Series holiday novella on October 18. And I’m working fast and furiously on the fourth installment.
The synopsis for Boots and Bedlam . . .
‘Tis the season for chaos.
Wedding bells will soon be ringing in the Lowcountry. All Sam Sweeney wants is to marry her man on Christmas Eve surrounded by family and friends. But emerging complications, some humorous and some not so humorous, threaten to converge and derail the best-laid plans during the busy stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Amidst the chaos—dealing with real estate, planning a wedding, running a seafood market, honoring traditions, and contending with teenagers—even the weather rears its head when the weatherman forecasts a white Christmas. Never has family support been more needed, but will it be enough to restore order and save the day?
Escape to the Lowcountry this Christmas where romance, intrigue, and holiday merrymaking await you.
Thank you for interviewing with us, Ashley!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley-Jenkins has an M.A. in English from the University of Idaho, where she taught composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is a teacher, an editor, and a writer, who loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.