It’s that time again!! Bein’ giggly and silly with the maker of the ultimate HOTTEST uber-alpha-males so far, and dare I declare her queen of the alphas (well, the human alphas, at least)…Dare I? I do have a few other #1 alphas on my list (*ahem* you know who they are… we still squee over ‘em) but so many of Kristen’s men rank high on that list, now, too. Keyword –> so many. She sure has found that magic touch that makes so many of us absolutely *swoon* while simultaneously wanting to kick ‘em you know where!! Now THAT is a feat!
Let’s welcome Kristen Ashley, today while she let’s us into her writing world, and introduces us to her alpha inspirations! Yes. Some of them DO sorta exist.
Did someone just faint? Oh wait. That was me. Again. *blush*
Maryse: I adore all of your characters. EVERYONE of them is so important and relevant to the story, to the series, and to the feel of their “world”. They make me want to be a part of it! Your heroines are strong, sassy and independent, and while not completely sacrificing their sense of self, for love, it’s so fun to watch them as they (willingly and then not so willingly) adapt to the needs of their alpha male. You know what I’m getting at with this (“chick territory… and ummm d*%k territory – *sigh* Tate), and of course, keeping the balance in check.
Do you recognize yourself in any of the characters? You being an American living in England and all – I quite enjoyed that similarity with Nina!
Kristen: There is a bit of me in many of my heroines and yes, including Nina . I write what I know, I draw on my life and experiences all the time. For instance, I worked in charity for many years and Julia works in charity in Sommersgate House. But I would say the heroines that most “resemble” me are Jet from Rock Chick Rescue, Roxie from Rock Chick Redemption and Ava from Rock Chick Revenge. Like Jet, I used to be pathologically shy around men I was attracted to and I still am not comfortable with a lot of attention. Roxie dresses like me (then again, all my girls do, I have a Rock Chick look and then a less Rock Chickian Rock Chick look) and Trish and Herb are based on my Mom, Patty and Stepdad, Reg (with only slight exaggerations and that is no joke). And I used to be very heavy and worked very hard to take off a great deal of weight and still struggle with that as well as self-image (like many women do, such as my Ava). Kate and Keira, Violet’s daughters in At Peace are based on my nieces, Jill and Karen (who are the loves of my life and are even more beautiful than Kate and Keira, inside and out). And there is a huge amount of me in Lauren of Sweet Dreams.
Maryse: Ohhhhh wow. Lauren is still my absolute favorite heroine. Mind you, I’ve still got many of your books waiting for me to explore, but so far, I connected 100% to Lauren. Strong and yet so realistically human. And she had her hands full with Tate (uhhh… errrrr… Tee hee!!! Well LOL! You know what I mean ) and it takes a strong woman for that.
So! Off topic (sorta). What’s it like being an American living in England? Like Nina from “The Gamble”, were there any funny quirks, expressions and foods that you’ve had to adjust to?
Kristen: When I go home, I stuff everything in my gob I can’t get here (“gob” for non-UK readers, is British slang for “mouth”). Nina eating pigs in a blanket and boxed mac and cheese is something I so totally would do. Nina shovelling out attitude to Max for popping the biscuit roll is something I would do too (that’s the fun part! How dare he!?!). You can’t get grape jelly here and Nina craving it is again straight from me doing the same. That said, I fear I’m turning very English, last year I even found myself enjoying mince pies! EEK! But the entire culture is different. Mathilda, SuperWitch was written very shortly after I moved here and many of her discoveries while adjusting to living in England were, obviously, mine. Including being sure not to jump the queue (ever!). They don’t have grape-flavoured anything here, even candies, which is one of my favourites. They have black currant (gack! w-r-o-n-g, WRONG). I have had to learn how to spell in two different languages that are the same language (as it were) and even now, nine years down the road, folks will say things, slang terms or referring to television shows or music, and I’ll have no clue. So yes, there was a great deal I had to get used to, in other words, everything.
Maryse: Whaaaaaa??? No grape? Is it illegal or somethin’? That’s my favorite flavor!! Flavour? LOL!! So sweet and delicious, and dark!
Speaking of sweet and delicious and dark… how did you manage to create the PERFECT alpha male character again and again? Each one seems to grab us and hold us so intently. Each one seemingly so real, and so raw. Did you know one personally?
Kristen: Well, um… I take them OTT (side note from Maryse: I think this stands for “over the top”. hehe. Must be a British expression?) Absolutely. No apologies. No weakness. Decisive. Five minutes before they enter the room, you can sense the testosterone. That said, many of them are intentionally flawed, sometimes hugely and this is because to me, in a sense, they are real and real people are always flawed.
The thing is, I don’t actually “create” anything. Characters come to me fully formed and I tell their stories. I’ll have an idea, for instance, with Sweet Dreams, I wanted to tell the tale of the romance of a man who is hugely unlikable and my challenge to myself was to make him likable. Then Tate from Sweet Dreams popped into my head. I didn’t create him, he just came to me. With At Peace, I was beginning to tire of writing a formula where every hero in every book knew from the instant he saw the heroine that she was the one and he would stop at nothing to have her. So I challenged myself to write a story of a man whonever intended to settle down, ever. Then Joe came to me. By the by, that was very difficult to write, I hated him hurting Violet and then the girls. But it was him and I had to be true to his story, his personality, his history and his pain. So hurt them he did. With Hawk in Mystery Man, I wanted to explore a man who was shut down from life completely but he understands exactly what he is shielding himself from. Then he makes the conscious decision to try again. But he finds he can’t do it… then he finds he can’t not do it. And finally, life’s journey takes him to the difficult epiphany that he wasted precious time. One of the chapters I am most proud of is the epilogue of Mystery Man shown from Hawk’s point of view. I love that.
The answer to the second question is yes. Several. I know this may seem weird but primarily, my brother. He is very much a man. He is driven, successful, tall, good-looking, played football (very well) and he holds his cards close to his chest but if he loves you, he loves you. You have no doubts about it. He has no problem handing out a heartfelt but succinct, genuine compliment. He is generous and gives the best gifts because he pays attention and buys you things your heart desires. He is funny as all hell. He wears clothes very well in a way where he wears his clothes, they do not wear him. He is tactile, always hugging and holding you. And once, in a bar, a man insulted me and uh… being me, I didn’t accept this graciously and let it slide. I snapped back, my brother heard and, as the man walked away, he turned to me and asked, “What was that?” I told him what the man said to me and that was it, no joke, not even a nanosecond went by when my brother was straight out of his chair and all six foot two of his linebacker body was bearing down on this man. The man took one look at my enraged brother and ran from the bar. RAN! (hee hee, take that you cretin!) It was a good decision, my brother would have wasted him, there was no mistaking his intent.
But the best thing about him is (freaking heck, crying now), if you have a place in his heart, he makes no bones about making sure you know you do. My brother would lay down his life for me. I’m certain of it. And it would take a great deal of restraint for him not to lay the hurt on anyone who hurt me. I’m certain of that too.
There are others, of course, that I draw on from personal life. A career soldier who I met in a hotel lobby the day before he was going to war, his pickup line was, “How you doin’, buddy.” (and thus Joe calls Violet “buddy” in At Peace, because, trust me, a hot guy in fatigues with great eyes and a deep voice calls you “buddy” you will want to change your name to that). And Wood is entirely based on a guy I met at a motorcycle rally, tough, rough, gruff, gorgeous but when it was just him and me, sweet and gentle.
Maryse: Okay hold up. Whoa. You do know that your brother will likely cause a bit of a *squee* fest here, right? *sigh* Now you need to write his book!!! (P.S. you guys… I checked. He’s taken Figures!) Oh and I LOOOOVVVE the “buddy” reveal. A hot guy in fatigues.. yeahhhh… hehe. *waggles eyebrows* I’ll admit I wondered about the “buddy” thing as an endearment (but I adored Joe so I was good with it), and this explains the inspiration, perfectly! Makes it that much more special.
So… out of all of your alphas, which one was your favorite to write? Which one made you feel the most?
Kristen: This is nearly impossible to answer. I love them all.
Ty from Lady Luck came to me very strong and I felt his feelings very deeply. I usually get the feel of one or the other, hero or heroine, one always comes out stronger. With Ty and Lexie, though, they both came at me hard. So the confrontations they had or the meaningful moments were crushing to me. I can still feel Ty’s pain when he sees Lexie’s wedding bouquet in the garbage. I can feel them both sitting on the beach, such despair, it was hard to write with the tears flooding my eyes. But I can also feel Ty’s triumph and satisfaction when he *spoiler* (sorry Kristen… TMI).
Maryse: Sorry that I had to “spoiler” tag it. It was a really good part, too!! LOVED that book!!
Kristen: No probs, babe, definitely don’t want to spoil anything! In going on, these may be a minor spoilers too so beware to readers on the next couple of paragraphs but I’ll try to be careful… But it is more scenes than the characters that I feel. It might surprise readers that my heart was with Lahn after he struck Circe in The Golden Dynasty. At that point in the book, he already knows what she means to him and not just that together they will be legend. He adores her and he has no idea whatsoever that he did wrong. I definitely felt Circe and her speech but more, I felt Lahn hearing her words, coming to an understanding of what he did and that he put their blossoming love in dire jeopardy and her words wounded him deeply. A man like that who is free to do whatever he wishes whenever he wishes confronted with the knowledge that doing so caused the woman he loves hurt on a deeper plane than the physical, understanding that to his core and completely incapable of rectifying his (very grave but he didn’t know it) mistake was wrenching to me. After that, he has no clue whatsoever what to do. He is completely lost. The love of his life is lying by his side but she is gone. Can you imagine? Ouch! Lahn discovering through Circe the acceptable aspects of his society were unacceptable for her and struggling with protecting her, giving to her and the fact that he could not change his entire world for her was difficult for him (and thus me) – as evidenced by his deep sigh when he is holding her at the games and cannot confront Dortak, something he would never do normally, something Circe needs him to do, something he cannot do and feeling her anguish, it settles inside him and at that point, his internal conflict begins.
Maryse: Oh wow… that sounds intense. I bet that was hard to write. I remember being shocked at a certain moment in the book “Outlander” (also time travel) where the alpha hero (Jamie) has a certain way of doing things that didn’t at all, mesh with Claire’s more modern and independent ways. Made me react, big time!
Kristen: It was difficult to write. Definitely. Other scenes that hit me were Tate moving through the house after Laurie is taken, seeing her presence everywhere, smelling her, sensing her, remembering her and knowing he cannot live without her is another one I felt deeply. In Three Wishes, when Nate discovers what befell Lily after she left, I felt that too. Tor watching Cora bring his birthday cake to him in Fantastical. Vance finding Jules in the climax of Rock Chick Renegade. Mace’s reunion with his family in Rock Chick Reckoning. Prentice coming to terms with the fact that he could have ended Elle’s torment in Fairytale Come Alive. Oh boy…
I could go on but I’ll shut up now. Suffice it to say, I love my characters, all of them and when you love something, that runs deep.
Maryse: Ahhhhh I was wondering what “The ‘Burg” stood for. Now we know! I bet your real life character inspirations got a kick out of reading their “book-selves”. Will there be more in the Colorado series? I adore Carnal!! It feels like home Perhaps Wood’s story? He was so sweet and gentle and trustworthy despite my initial apprehension of him. I’d love to read an entire story dedicated to his world with Tate via his eyes, and of course… When he met his wife, their separation, their reconciliation?
Kristen: Oh yes. Definitely. There will be at least two more in the Colorado Mountain Series. Chace and Faye will be up next. And I will move back to Gnaw Bone to tell Graham Reece’s story (he is February Owens’s “special friend” as introduced in For You). And I had plans to tell Wood and Maggie’s story but I have to say, I’m uncertain. I don’t think I’ll want to leave the series at just five and Wood is very precious to me so I have a feeling he’ll start nagging me to tell his story.
Maryse: Yep. You made Wood so interesting and real… I read that you wrote a ton of books on your spare time with no real intention to release them. I’m SO glad you did!! There are so many books in your published repetoire, that it seems like the stories just flowed out of you. These are heartwarming, steamy, and completely relateable. Unforgettable. Can you describe your writing experience? Most memorable moments while writing?
Kristen: As mentioned above, I tell my characters’ stories. I don’t think, “Okay, should something blow up now? If so, what?” They grab me and I go with the flow. I do not outline, decide an end and work back, none of that. I am so addicted to my “process” that I tune out any possibility of hearing how another writer writes because I don’t want it to contaminate the way I do things. It is entirely organic. I do not know where the story will end. It is very strange but I love them being in my head. I can hear their voices (thus much of my dialogue has dropped “g’s” in a word ending with “ing”, a great deal of cursing, slang or other such colloquialisms – I can’t help doing that, that is how they speak in my head so that is what I write). I have tried to force stuff and it never works so I always go back and delete it. Even my secondary characters come to me fully formed, with back stories and strong personalities. It is like a movie playing in my head and I am at a keyboard typing out the description and dialogue.
Maryse: I’ve heard of a few authors that write that way, and they are some of my favorites. I think it’s great. Letting it flow as it should, keeping it “real”. Probably what gives each story that true-life feel. Something that we can relate to, moments and conversations that make us forget that these characters don’t really exist. Unless… they do exist? LOL! Oh well… a girl can wish.
Kristen: I have laughed myself silly and cried myself sick while writing. The epilogue in Fairytale Come Alive undid me. I have heard that it isn’t popular but to me, sometimes, it isn’t so much about the hero and heroine but just as much about those that love them. I’m giving my readers a romance but also I’m introducing them to a world, a family, in its entirety. Jason needed that and I needed to give him that. I couldn’t let Jason not have that. Or Sally. It had to happen and I thought it was beautiful. I struggled with Prentice not being in the epilogue at all. But it wasn’t about him or Elle. It was about my Jason and my Sally. They needed their Momma. I have lost mine so I know. And the beauty of writing is, fictitiously, you can make miracles happen. The beach scene in Lady Luck , again, was extremely emotional for me as Ty and Lexie were so deeply embedded in my head I felt everything both of them were feeling and it hurt, like, a lot. And the final sentence in The Golden Dynasty… I am very, very proud of that. I think it’s gorgeous.
Maryse: How has your experience been, releasing these books to the public? Any memorable moments? Any obsessed Tate fans (tee hee!! present company excluded )
Kristen: Since I was a little girl, I had trouble sleeping and, in order to go to sleep, I told myself stories in my head. I still do this. I am a storyteller. I started reading Harlequin Romances at a very early age (too early, probably.. and thus the creation of Faye). And my dream has always but always been to be a writer. Wanting that so… very… badly, it was still very, very scary to embark on this journey because not only was there a high probability of failure (how many people want to write for a living? Gazillions? How many do? Not gazillions). But I took a shot at my dream. And, even as a wordsmith, it is not possible to describe how intensely beautiful, how enriching, how freaking unbelievable it is to be establishing a readership. I love every effing minute. Every one. Getting mail from readers. Communing with them on facebook. Exchanging tweets on Twitter. Meeting cool as heck chicks who write book blogs. My world is full, it is vivid and I dance in the colors my readers have created by sharing with me that they enjoy my stories. To say I am happy is an understatement. This… is… bliss.
Maryse: I can understand that completely. Reading and discussing my favorite books has opened up so many wonderful opportunities! Meeting fellow book lovers, sharing in our book enthusiasm, squee’ing over favorite heroes together, chatting with some really great and fun authors, and the best part. Amazing stories that thrill us to no end. I haven’t been bored in years!! So. What’s next (book-wise) that we might not know about yet?
Kristen: Hmm… Rock Chick Regret is coming out, likely, 11 December. Then I shall work on Heaven and Hell (oo… Sam!). Then, I will finish and release my first in my vampire/werewolf trilogy, Until the Sun Falls from the Sky. After that, I will finish Lucky Stars and Law Man (Mitch Lawson’s story in Dream Man Series). Then onto Mike Haines’s story in The ‘Burg Series. After that… perhaps Apollo from the Fantasyland Series or maybe back to Carnal for Chace and Faye.
Maryse: Yay!! I’m reading Mystery Man right now and have a HUGE crush on Mitch. But for now Hawk is ruling my world. And plus. He’s got dimples. I have a thing for those, and they sure keep popping in often enough to make my stomach squishy. Hehe. But as I’ve said before… I’m a bit fickle. Tate though… still #1.
Since (in my opinion) you’ve created the perfect alpha hero over and over again, I was curious what other books YOU might have enjoyed and want to recommend that have a similar *squee-worthy* hero.
Kristen: I have to admit, I have not read much since I started writing. No time and I lament this. I love to read and I miss it. BUT! That said, I love, love, love Judith McNaught’s books (A Kingdom of Dreams, Almost Heaven, Once and Always, etc.). And I am a die-hard Ranger girl from the Stephanie Plum series. I love Carlos Manoso and want him to break into my house right now! Though, if Joe knocked on my door and made me spaghetti, I would not kick him out.
Maryse: Fantastic! I must check ‘em out! For those who want to get started on your books, where can your books be found, and where can they find more information about you?
Kristen: Only three of my books are available in print (the first three of the Rock Chick series) and only available on-line. The rest are all on ebook and can be found anywhere ebooks are sold, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and Smashwords. I regularly update my website at www.kristenashley.net and always put working chapters on so folks know what I’m doing with my days.
I go to my Facebook page every day to commune with readers… same with Twitter. And if you email me, I will respond with a personal message and I do not mind if you reply, in fact, I encourage it. But remember, I love to write… but I also clean my bathroom and do the ironing so it may take a few days to get to you. That said, I answer EVERY email. And if you don’t hear from me, your message has been returned (no joke).
And lastly, I would like to say, Maryse, thank you truly for selecting my books to discuss on your blog but also for this opportunity to talk about them. Obviously, I’m good at that. You are extremely funny, your blog is fab-you-LAS and “meeting” you is the perfect example of the new vibrancy of my world… I never would have had that chance unless I took a chance, and the gifts life is giving me are precious.
Maryse: And thank you, Kristen, for putting your books out there to be discovered, and for chatting with us today. We obviously have so much more to look forward to, from you, and your gorgeous, infuriating, Über alpha men! We love ‘em!!!
Check out some of Kristen’s Series (I’ve listed a few of them in reading order):
- Kristen Ashley – Colorado Mountain Series Reading Order
- Kristen Ashley – Rock Chick Series Reading Order Guide
- Kristen Ashley – Dream Man Series Reading Order
- Kristen Ashley – Crime (The ‘Burg) Series Reading Order Guide