Clare Ashton

Goodmans

I just finished reading Clare (Tig) Ashton’s The Goodmans. Since I started writing (and editing) my own stories, I sometimes have a hard time reading other authors’ work and not editing it in my head. Clare’s book wrapped me up in the story line and I read it beginning to end, not compelled to change sentences or words. (As long as you don’t count the idiomatic expressions which sometimes befuddled me in a good way. They made me feel I was in a different location than where I live here in the US. More on those expressions later. Her book is a great read, and I suggest you give it a go.

When I finished her story, I wrote to Clare and asked if she’d like to do a guest blog. When she said she didn’t have the time to do that right now, I suggested that we chat a bit about writing and our books, and she graciously agreed. The result follows.

Do you like to eavesdrop? Below is the transcript of Clare and my conversation. I hope you all enjoy being a fly on the wall.




AJ:  Hi there...everyone settled?

Clare: Hi! Yes, miraculously! The kids (5 and 7) are a little hyper being on school holidays! But they are sound asleep at last!

Thanks for doing this. I'm looking forward to getting to know you better and sharing some information about your and my books.  5 and 7 are great ages.I taught middle school (ages about 10 - 13 or 14. That can sometimes be a less pleasant age. Then I transferred to high school, and finally found my niche.

Clare:  I was just about to ask if you had kids.

No...just the 4 footed kind. You've met the terrible Toby and Foster?

Toby and Foster?

LOL...Obviously, you must not get my feed. Toby and Foster are my cats. Toby has a bit of a Facebook reputation as a troublemaker. People think he should have his own page. He gets more response than I do! Don’t worry, I won’t tell him…his feelings will be hurt.

Ha! I need to catch up with your page. Facebook shows me only posts a handful of people these days!

Yes...since they changed the algorithm I find the same thing.  You mentioned you live in the UK. I visited the UK back in the mid-seventies. We started in London and traveled north. At our first stop, I discovered trifle and spent the next two weeks sampling it throughout the country. It was fortunate The airlines didn’t charge for added weight back then! We went as far north as Edinburg, Scotland and then headed south through Llangolen, Wales, and on to Bath before returning to London. My favorite spot was the walled city of York. I fell in love with the ruins under the York Minster. I didn’t get enough time there to see it all. Wales seems to be a favorite setting for you in your stories.

Glad you've had a chance to travel here. And sample the trifles.  York is one of my favourite place too (nearly went to uni there). Yes, I grew up in Mid-Wales very close to the border and Shropshire - lots of rolling hills to run around!

Do you still live in Wales?

No although my folks still live there and I get back there often. I'm only a couple of hours away in the Midlands (Birmingham) so it's lovely to pop back. The Welsh Marches (border of Wales-England) is one of my favourite places together with Cornwall.

My trip was so long ago, and my mind is, as they say, not what it used to be. But I do recall Wales being lovely.

Have you always lived in NJ?

Yep...born and raised. Do you write full time?

Only part time. My wife works long hours so I look after the kids out of school hours and in the holidays. Then I write like crazy during the term time

I’m retired, so as my partner says it keeps me off the streets and she always knows where I am. How did you start writing?

I had a couple of ideas for stories that I found very interesting and wanted to weave them together into a twisty, seductive, mystery of a romance. Then I sat down and wrote it.

So, one day you just decided to write a novel. I understand. (Grin).

Exactly!

So, people always ask me where do you get the ideas for your stories. For me, they just pop up in my head. I want to furrow my brow and ask them, “You mean you don't have a lot of plot ideas that pop up in your head?”

Little things that happen every day or in the news spark ideas all the time!

Are you one who plots, or do you allow the story to lead you?

After making a complete pig's ear of the first draft of After Mrs Hamilton I now plot like a demon!

Your stories are more complex than mine. I maybe have two or at most three story lines going ... by the way I loved your story, The Goodmans.

Thank you  The Goodmans and After Mrs Hamilton are definitely my most complex books, although Poppy Jenkins took a surprising amount of thought. On the surface it's a straightforward romance, but I put a lot in the fabric of that book - the setting, the development and arc of secondary characters as well as the two heroines, the themes...

How would you describe your own formula?

Hmm...I don't really have a formula. I tend to get an idea of something I'd like to write about.

If I have a constant in my stories, it's that each involves an interest or hobby of mine, and I guarantee a happy ending.

I like to challenge myself with each new novel in some way, for example going from the twisting, dark After Mrs Hamilton to the complete unapologetic frothy romcom in That Certain Something. Something always has to stretch me.

Have you settled on romance as your genre of choice now?

I love the rollercoaster of romance so I find it hard to stray too far from the genre, or from a love story at least. I'm always tempted by something different though, so I don't know what flavour romance I'll do next.

Yes, mine too are all romances with a happy ending. Are you working on a new story now?

I'm taking a break while the kids are on their summer holidays and catching up with reading.

Do your kids like to read?

Ellie's still reading very simple books but adores being read to. My son Joe is a little older at seven years old and is a complete book worm. He has his nose inside the How to Train Your Dragon series constantly. They write their own stories too which makes me immensely proud.

Did you enjoy writing the comedy, The Goodmans? What was the inspiration for that story?

I think writing comedy is hard. I was more nervous about this book than all the others. Nothing worse than saying this is so funny, and then having nobody laugh. It was my greatest fear about Match Me.

AfterMrsHamilton

I can’t help lapsing into some kind of comedy - even if it only amuses me! I’ve always loved authors with a comic touch – Jane Austen, Kate Atkinson, Douglas Adams, especially those like Kate Atkinson who can also spin a tense tale with a good dose of poignancy. I love a real rollercoaster of a book – one that can plunge you into the depths of despair then lift you up with humour or euphoric love. (Of course there’s such scope for all of that in a romance, which is why I can’t seem to stray too far from that genre!) Putting humour into the mix I think is inevitable for a Brit too. You’re never allowed to take yourself too seriously here. If anything ever gets to morbid or earnest, someone’s bound to crack a joke or take the mick.

Take the mick?

I'm always being caught out by British phrases! Take the mick or take the Micky is equivalent of take the piss?

LOL...I'll look it up. (For those wanting to know more, check this out:  https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=taking%20the%20mick)

PoppyJenkins

Re. how the Goodmans came about….Much of my writing is predicated upon my love for Britain, especially Wales in Poppy Jenkins. But after I’d written that book - which is a real love letter to the Mid-Wales of my youth - we had the Brexit referendum. More than the result, it was the debate and divisive politics of it that really soured many people’s picture of the country – it really stirred up unpleasant attitudes and for a while it felt like I was living in the more bigoted times I thought consigned to my childhood. At the same time, a story idea of two older women had been nagging at me since before Poppy. Originally the story would focus on a quiet, down-trodded middle-aged mother, left by her husband. But I couldn’t fall in love with it. This was when Maggie Goodman marched in instead and took the story by the horns. Gone was the meek heroine and in her place a glorious tempest of a woman in her place - raging about the state of the nation and the planet. And suddenly I found little bits of Britain to fall in love with again. And indeed the whole novel turned out to be about political as well as romantic reconciliation.


Well, it’s getting late for you over there where you live. Thanks for the chat. As much fun as this has been, we’d better wrap it up for tonight. Where can readers find your stories?


Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Clare-Ashton/e/B00715VIDK/

 

Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ClareAshton

 


© JEN 2014