Chat with Bestselling Author Jennifer Ashley
Today, we're talking to Jennifer Ashley, a.k.a. Ashley Gardner, a.k.a. Allyson James and Laurien Gardner, (or as I’m calling her, A Rose By Any Other Name), about strategies an extremely prolific writer can use to survive and prosper in the world of publishing.
BtO: Thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us.
First of all, Jennifer, congratulations on your RITA nomination for A Novel with Strong Romantic Elements for A Lady Raised High, written as Laurien Gardner. Also, congratulations for reaching the USA Today Bestseller list with The Calling, written as Jennifer Ashley, the first book in the paranormal series you originated, The Immortals. Could you tell us about each of these books and about the series?
Jenn: Thanks Colleen. I’m very excited about both the RITA nomination and making USA Today. Two firsts for me! (What am I going to do next year? LOL)
The Immortals is a four-part series with a continuous arc from book 1 to book 4. The Immortals are demigods—sons of an aspect of the mother goddess and a human. We have five of them, all brothers. The Calling begins the series—Amber Silverthorne is amazed to be rescued from a demon attack by a tall, gorgeous sword-wielding warrior. Turns out he is searching for his brother, another Immortal called Tain, and his search led him to Amber’s sister. The two join forces and try to find Tain and figure out what’s wrong with the world (and they fall in love of course!)
Book 1 ends with Amber performing the Calling spell to summon the other Immortals— Adrian has determined he cannot stop the evil or rescue Tain without his brothers’ help. But a demon breaks the spell, scattering the Immortals across the world. The witches in the Coven of Light (Amber’s coven) must find them.
The Darkening (by Robin Popp) starts the day after The Calling ends, with Darius, the second Immortal, finding himself pulled to Manhattan, and nearly dying in the process (which is all explained by Robin in her wonderful story.) Darius appears in front of Lexi, a werewolf bounty hunter who has been asked by Amber to be on the lookout for any Immortals. Darius is certainly unusual—impossibly tall and drop-dead gorgeous, he has tattoos all over his body that can morph into weapons. He and Lexi have to battle some vampire gangs and a demon with an agenda before they can join the others. It’s a sexy, fun, adventurous book.
Kalen is the third Immortal and appears in Book 3, The Awakening by Joy Nash. Kalen has ignored the Calling (he can, for reasons Joy explains), and Christine Lachlan is determined to find the elusive Immortal and bring him back to Adrian and Amber. She discovers Kalen in a remote Scottish castle, where he has taken to living a rather old-fashioned lifestyle, complete with kilt, not trusting modern conveniences. He has no idea what to make of this modern American witch who has come to bother him about helping Adrian . He has a secret that keeps him from helping her, and Christine has to convince him the world needs him. (Did I mention Kalen is a hunk in a kilt? Mmm, yes.)
The last book The Gathering, by me (Jennifer Ashley) winds up the four-book arc. At first, we meet Hunter, the “crazy” Immortal, who is fun-loving and reckless, but who hides a darkness in his past. He lands on the island of witch Leda Stowe, who rescues and rehabilitates abused exotic animals. When Hunter lands in her lion’s pen, and the lion likes him, Leda knows he’s an unusual man! Because she’s quit the Coven of Light, she has no idea who he is or why he’s wanted, but unfortunately the real world encroaches on her island paradise all too soon.
The end of the book sees all the Immortals together for the final showdown against the demon, and we learn of Tain’s ultimate fate . . .
By the way, I’ve signed to write Tain’s book, if anyone is worried about him.
BtO: I can't wait to read my copy of The Calling! But paranormal romance isn't all you've written as Jennifer Ashley, is it?
Jenn: I also write historical romance (and am actually working on one right now—a Scottish historical). My two historical series so far are the Pirate trilogy (beginning with The Pirate Next Door), and the Nvengaria books (stories involving a fictional country along with Regency England), the first being Penelope and Prince Charming. I’ve been very pleased with the success of both. The Highlander book I’m writing now is the third in the Nvengarian series, and I will be writing more historicals after that.
I have also written a historical fiction novel (The Queen’s Handmaiden) out in October from Berkley, along the same lines as Lady Raised High, about the young Elizabeth I.
I’ve also dabbled in contemporary comedy (Confessions of a Lingerie Addict). I enjoyed that, but my heart is really in historicals and fantasy for now.
BtO: I know you've written (and continue to write) for other publishers under different names. Could you tell us a little about the work you're doing/have done as Ashley Gardner (I'm a huge fan of these books!) and Allyson James and the reasons you decided to branch out? Would you say it had more to do with individual story ideas or your assessment of the state of the marketplace?
Jenn: As Ashley Gardner I’ve done a historical (Regency) mystery series, beginning with The Hanover Square Affair. I write those for Berkley Prime Crime. As Allyson James, I write erotic romance at Ellora’s Cave, and my first Berkley Sensation book under that name (Dragon Heat) will be out July 3.
Let’s see. I took the Ashley Gardner pseudonym because I sold my first romance and mystery at the same time, and my publishers asked me to take the pseudonym for the mystery series (also the books are very different in flavor). As a green newbie, I didn’t argue.
I took the Allyson James name when I wanted to try my hand at erotic romance, because I didn’t think I’d be good at it! It was an experiment, and I figured if my erotic romance tanked, I could have Allyson vanish with no one the wiser. (Allyson who?)
However, Allyson did quite well, to my great surprise! The Tales of the Shareem series at Ellora’s Cave is doing well, and I sold the Dragon series (which is more paranormal romance than erotica) to Berkley. Because I was under contract at Dorchester for paranormals, I had to use the Allyson James name to avoid violating contract clauses (plus if Dragon Heat does poorly, it doesn’t ruin my Jennifer Ashley career).
Now, if you think any of this was carefully planned, you’d be wrong! LOL When I started my career, I jumped at opportunities, because I was convinced I would vanish after one contract. I kept pursuing contract after contract with the idea that, if one thing went wrong, I still had other eggs in my basket. Now I have many eggs, and I need to ease back and decide which eggs I should focus on, and which I should tuck away for later.
To read more about Jennifer Ashley's career and advice on juggling several genres and/or publishers, please click on this link!