Today I’d like to introduce you to fellow CIR author Sarah Ashwood. Welcome Sarah — would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Sandy, I’m fantasy author Sarah Ashwood, author of the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy, the novella Amana, and the forthcoming Beyond the Sunset Lands series.
I grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma, and I hold a B.A. in English from American Military University. In my imagination, I soar effortlessly through my favorite fantasy and historical worlds. In real life, I live (mostly) quietly at home with my husband and three sons. (Yes, I’m a boymom of three!) I also try to sneak in a daily run or workout to save my sanity and keep my mind fresh for my next story.
So nice to meet you, Sarah. I understand you have a new release, but before we talk about that, I’ve got three questions for you 🙂 Here goes … one, if you could tell your younger self something you know now, with respect to your writing career, what would it be?
I would say, Hey, your first draft is going to stink. Maybe the second and third drafts also. Don’t believe you’re a fabulous author just because you’ve written a book. However, don’t count yourself out, either. Revise. Revise, revise, revise! And when you think you’ve got that rough draft pretty well polished, revise some more.
Get beta readers. I cannot stress how important this is. I really, really wish my younger self had known this before my first book was published. Beta readers are gold: not only do they pick up typos you missed, they can find plot holes, offer scene suggestions, ask questions about your characters’ motivations that you may not be able to answer (because you hadn’t thought of them), and a whole host of other things that will ultimately make your book better.
Pay attention to negative reviews. Sure, some may have nothing helpful to say, but if a lot of them are saying the same things, pay attention to that. Your book may need some strengthening in those areas. Don’t tune them out!
Great advice, Sarah. I agree completely. So, following on from that comes the next question … do you read the reviews that others leave for your books?
As you probably guessed by reading the above question, yes, I absolutely do. I read every review readers leave for me. There are two reasons for this. The first is that a positive review can give you exactly the push you need to keep going on the days you feel like giving up. They are sunshine to authors. They tell us we’re doing the right thing and are headed in the right direction.
The other reason I read reviews is because, also as alluded to above, there is a lot to be gained from criticism. It stings—of course it does! But sometimes reviewers have picked up on something about your book or your characters that you simply didn’t catch. It’s wise to see if you can take away anything from negative reviews in terms of making that book or future books better, then walk away and let the review go. Don’t dwell on it. That can drive you crazy. Acknowledge, ultimately, that your book isn’t going to be for everyone and move on.
Pearls of wisdom there, Sarah. Learn from the bad, enjoy the good, and then move on. Now, for one last question … where are your books set? And have you been there, or spent significant time there?
Well, my book predominately take place in a parallel world called Aerisia, so, no, I haven’t visited there. (Except mentally. Does that count?) However, the opening of my Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy takes place with the MC, Hannah, jogging down a country road, which I used to do frequently. Annie, the heroine in Aerisian Refrain, my newest book, is from the Oklahoma panhandle, which I’ve travelled through a couple of times.
One common setting I find popping up repeatedly in my fantasy novels is forests. Lots of action going on in the forests. I can only attribute that to the fact that I grew up in the country—in a log home way out in the woods. I’ve always thought forests were mysterious and magical, and my love of where I grew up shines through in my writing, I think.
Oh, I’m sure it does! I love forests too … well, in the daytime anyway 😉 So … tell us about this new book of yours.
I’m primarily an epic fantasy writer, but my fantasy has elements of portal fantasy and fairytale, since I love both of those genres.
My Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy tells the story of a young college student, Hannah Winters, who is unexpectedly taken to a parallel world, Aerisia, where she’s told she is that world’s prophesied savior. There’s a couple of hitches, though. Hannah doesn’t have any supernatural abilities, and she’s not buying the idea that she’s some predestined savior. However, neither her allies nor her enemies are agreeing, and her life is in danger as soon as she arrives in Aerisia. What’s it gonna take for a girl from Earth to prove that’s where she belongs?
Or does she?
Beyond the Sunset Lands is sort of a follow up series to this first trilogy, although it can be read as a stand-alone. It contains many of the same characters. The first book, Aerisian Refrain, has just been released.
You can find all of Sarah’s books on Amazon, and her newest book here:
You can find more about my books here on my website. I do consider myself a “clean” author in that I don’t use curse words and I don’t write sex scenes. I also try to keep violence contained. Nothing too graphic, in other words. However, I don’t shy away from tough topics or real emotions. For that reason, I usually give my books a PG-13 rating.