Tuesday 11 September 2018

Interview: Ashley Uzzell

tales-of-mentara, ashley-uzzell, book

Children's author Ashley Uzzell has kindly agreed to stop by the blog as this week's featured author on The Writing Greyhound - keep on reading to find out more about Ashley, her writing process, what inspires her, and Tales of Mentara, her fantasy series for children

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Ashley Uzzell. I live in small-town North Carolina and I write family friendly fiction. Poetry, children’s books, young adult romance, and clean adult romance are my specialities. My daughter, Kyra, is my co-author and illustrator of our Spunky’s Magical Adventures series. I currently have eight books published and have participated in three anthologies. 
I like to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. Writing in multiple genres and meshing them together is interesting and gives me a wider view of the indie world than I originally had when I first entered it. Supporting other indies is also important to me. I like to buy their work, share it around on social media, and even let friends and family borrow my paperbacks. I have made some amazing friends in the indie business. 
I am excited to follow my dreams and pour my heart and soul into my work. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I was that kid who made up little stories to tell everyone. Asking my parents for supplies so I could create my own cardboard and paper books was a norm at my house. My third-grade teacher read my creative writing assignments and loved them. She encouraged me and taught me that the love of reading and writing was nothing to ever be ashamed of. 
When I was in middle school, I began writing poetry from time to time. I decided to take my craft seriously about ten years ago and began to write in earnest. There is something about creating your own worlds and characters that, for me, is vital to my existence. I need to write like I need to breathe, even if the finished product is never seen by anyone other than myself. It’s a large part of who I am.
Tell me about Tales of Mentara.
This series has been a long time coming. It is loosely based on Peter Pan, but instead of siblings flown away magically for an adventure with a strange boy, this book has a more serious side to it. Basically, five children become stuck on another planet that is similar to Earth. They have no idea when they will be able to return home, so they have to figure out how to survive there. They meet a tribe of local children and things become a bit complicated. The book focuses on four children, showing the events through their eyes. There is some humour, some drama, and a few life lessons here and there. Mostly, there is action, adventure, and magic! The Portal ends on a cliffhanger, so be sure to keep an eye out for book two.
Why did you decide to write for children?
After years of writing for myself, it just kind of hit me one day: Why don’t I write something my own kids would enjoy reading? Followed immediately by: Why don’t we write something together? That’s when the idea for the Spunky’s Magical Adventures series was born. Since then, as my children grow older and their love of books increases to match mine, I continue writing books for young children and children their age. They are my best beta readers, after all!
ashley-uzzell, author

What drew you to writing fantasy?
Fantasy has been my favourite genre to read since I can remember, so it was only natural that I would turn to it for writing. I honestly write in various genres under this name and my pen name, but I always seem to come back to fantasy and all its lovely sub-genres. Something about taking the magical, the mystical, and making it real is enticing to me.
Did you have to do any research for the book?
Oh, yes. I researched ingenuous Native American and African tribes to get ideas for my Orphan Village. I also research plants so I could accurately describe harvesting of certain crops and the way Charlotte might “speak” to certain plants. Sometimes research for books is boring but I quite enjoyed myself with this story.
How did you get inspiration?
Peter Pan was a huge influence on this book in particular but dreams also inspire me. My vivid imagination truly comes to life when I sleep, and I usually remember most of my dreams. As a child, I often dreamed of a girl in Neverland who didn’t quite fit in back home. She never wanted to leave because she was magical, and Neverland felt like her true home. This would one day become the inspiration for one of the main characters, Charlotte. The story evolved from there, building in my mind and changing as I grew older. Soon, I realized I wanted to write this story that had become not just about children and their wild adventures, but about pre-teens learning about themselves and finding their place in a strange world.
What’s your writing process?
Writing is a fun process for me, but I take it quite seriously. I need a quiet place where I can sit with a cold glass of water and stare at the wall for hours. (Yes, this is actually part of the process!) Though I don’t usually listen to music when I write so I can fully concentrate on my characters and plot, I often have a soundtrack for my books that I play in my planning stages, when I am still piecing things together. I am both a plotter and a panster. I also edit as I go. Everything depends on the story itself and what my muse happens to whisper in my ear that day.
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
For me, the hardest part is finding time to do it. I have to sneak it in when I can, usually in the middle of the night when the world, and my household of kids and cats, is quiet. Another difficult part is handing it off for someone to read and critique. The biting-fingernails-while-you-wait stage is bad enough, but sucking it up and making changes once you get your feedback can be hard as well.
What do you love most about writing?
As I mentioned above, it is the ability to create these new, unique worlds and characters that is just the best. I try to create characters that are different, and yet not. The loner at school who not only has magical powers but abandonment issues. The snotty rich girl who secretly has a thing for the poor guitar player. The bisexual witch who is quite powerful but also sometimes doubts her abilities. The normal cat thrown in scary situations who wants nothing more than to turn tail and run. The genius boy who likes to dress like a girl because it makes him feel safe. Creating a character that anyone from any walk of life could relate to is my goal and I live to make it happen.
Which authors inspire you?
As an avid reader, there are so many authors who have inspired me over the years. As far as children’s books, I adored Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Her ability to create a complex world alongside our own fascinated me when I was younger. Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket mangas really showed me that grey area between good and evil and how most characters reside there, unawares. Her books illustrate how changing your entire mindset can positively affect your life. Other authors who awed me with their writing include Stephen King, Kresley Cole, Hideyuki Kikuchi, and J.R. Ward.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Keep writing. Never stop. Make the time for it. Don’t let others try to quash your dream. Don’t let others try to tell you how to write your story. Tips and advice about how to present your story are always great and you should be open to them, but in the end, there is no right or wrong way to writing. Tell your story, breathe life into it.
What are you currently working on?
At this time, I am working on the second book in my Fluffy Folktales series. Fluffy Folktales are just that, amusing romances based on different fairy tales and legends passed down through the ages. These stories are humorous, sweet adult romances with diverse characters. This book will be titled Beauty and the Beastly Herb Gardener. Our heroine is a loud, talkative girl who is having trouble deciding what she wants to do with her life. Our hero is a cursed prince turned recluse who values his peace and quiet. Throwing these two together is definitely entertaining!
What are you reading at the moment?
At this time I am reading Once Upon a Fabulous Time, an anthology by various indie authors. I am also reading Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Looking at my future and my writing career-wise, my only real goals are to keep publishing at least two books a year. Would I like to do this for a living? Most certainly. It isn’t possible at this time, but perhaps one day. For now, I am satisfied with the knowledge that those who have picked up my books so far have seemed to enjoy them.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I enjoy sewing, making jewellery, jamming out to music, and gaming. I love playing games whether it is a card game, board game, console game, or something on my phone. I’m also a huge movie and TV buff, especially anything fantasy, horror, or science fiction. Oh, and anime! When I’m not nerding it up indoors, I love to take walks. Hiking and camping in the woods is probably the best thing in the world. I love being close to nature.
Tales of Mentara is available to buy now. For more information about Ashley and her work, check out her website.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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