We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Caroline Ashley, a writer whose literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of October 2023.
What does it mean to be selected as Author of The Month?
Being Author of the Month is a lovely validation that my work is worth sharing and people enjoy reading it. I’m so grateful to everyone who voted and to Spillwords for giving me the opportunity. Becoming a published writer is an experience that’s filled with rejections and a moment of appreciation like this makes it all seem worthwhile.
How have your friends and/or family influenced your writing?
All of them have influenced me in different ways. My parents always encouraged me to write and their pride in my achievements motivates me to keep working to reach my goals. My husband has a wealth of knowledge on various topics and he’s my sounding board for working out story details as they’re forming in my head. My children see the world through new eyes and remind me of all the things that are magical in the lives we live.
What inspires and motivates you to write?
I have always been inspired by magic. I love the idea of a world without limits, where anything can be possible. The stories that I enjoy writing are about the characters who live in those worlds and the lives that they might lead. I love that writing about the impossible, the creatures of our imaginations, often allows me to speak to the everyday problems of our lives.
What was your writing catalyst?
In my high school year book, I wrote that one day I was going to become a famous writer. I spent most of my childhood scribbling or typing away and in my adulthood I continued to work on different stories, but never with the same focus. I got distracted by university, then work, then university again, then work. Followed by getting married and becoming a mother.
The most recent step forward in my writing journey was triggered by being pregnant with my second child. I realised that I wasn’t getting any younger. I have a multitude of stories in my head and only so many years to write them. I realised as well that I wanted to set an example for my children, to show them that you don’t need to let go of your dreams if they’re important to you.
So I started writing a novel and started writing short stories. Twenty months later, I’m still going.
Please share a glimpse into your writing process.
I write around my two young children! One thing that’s helped my momentum with writing is realising that typing in five minute blocks on my phone, in amongst entertaining a toddler, is still better than not writing at all.
In terms of the actual content, I often start with an idea or a character and then just write and see where it takes me. I will do a bit of planning as I go, but usually I find that the refinement comes after I already have something written.
What do you find most fulfilling about the act of writing?
There is a moment I get when I’m working on a short story when I just start to feel like I’m ‘there’. Up till that point, I’ve been trying to work out how to tie my themes together; how to make sure the story flows; how to get rid of all the sentence level errors. Once I’m ‘there’, it feels like I have something complete, a product that I can offer to others. A week later, I often still find something to change, but it doesn’t take away from the satisfaction of that initial ‘finished’ feeling!
How does the use of imagery contribute to conveying your story?
Imagery is an important part of bringing a reader into your world. When I use imagery, I try to think of comparisons that evoke a tone or theme that adds to the story that I want to tell. This is particularly important with fantasy, because when you write about the impossible, the imagery is what helps your reader to connect with the story you want to tell.
What is your favorite reading genre?
I am a fantasy fan, through and through. I grew up reading the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings; the Belgariad; the Chronicles of Narnia; The Last Unicorn; The Princess Bride; the Drenai Saga; the Discworld series. If it was fantasy, I probably read it.
What human being has inspired you the most?
Oh, I don’t know! The writers that have influenced me the most are probably JRR Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, both of whom created worlds that I fell in love with and still love now. But everyone in my life inspires me in different ways. For their compassion, their drive, their knowledge, their love of life, and many other things.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
I would just love to thank you all for supporting me with my writing. I hope that you all know how much I appreciate it. I’m grateful to be part of such an amazing community of writers.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
Legacy feels like quite a final word. It’s something that’s decided by the generations that come after us; something that we never get to know. My main hope is that my writing might be remembered when I’m gone and be something that inspires others, even if only in a small way.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.”
OCTOBER 2023 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Caroline Ashley is a clinical psychologist who works for the NHS in Scotland. She was a finalist for Globe Soup's Science Fiction Short Story contest and two of their 7 Day Story Writing Challenges. Caroline is currently posting a serialised young adult fantasy novel on her website and also writes a monthly blog about the psychology within fiction.