We are all aware of the ever-growing number of amazing LGBT books coming out next year (well, I hope we are & I know the list Charlotte and I curate is already almost 200 titles long…) but! Let’s not forget about books getting published in 2021! It’s never too early to show them some love.
Which is why today’s interview is with Ashley, whose book A Dark and Hollow Star will be out in 2021. It’s a YA fantasy with faes, found family & very gay romance plots. Mark your calendars, guys!!!
First of all, thank you again for taking the time to talk with us! And for being so enthusiastic about it, it means a lot to us.
Absolutely! I’m flattered you want to talk to me haha. So, thanks as well 💖
The whole point of our blog is promoting LGBT books so finding out about upcoming sapphic ones is always amazing. AND getting to talk to the author? A dream come true. Let’s start at the beginning then. How did you first get into writing?
I’m pretty sure it was when I was 11 and had just discovered Harry Potter, and myself and one of my friends at the time decided to write a bunch of fanfiction together for it. We used to sit in my dad’s truck (I have no idea why, I guess we just liked it and no one would bother us there) and write these really wild stories for it
Starting out by writing HP fics seems to be a pretty universal story. I love that.
Hahaha yeah fanfiction in general seems to be a common origins story? And it’s awesome. One of my favourite things about fanfiction really—it totally helps to hone your craft.
It really does! I just wish the older generation would appreciate it more? Because there are always people who look down on fic writers and it just seems silly to me.
Agreed, there are a lot of people that don’t like/don’t understand fanfiction and you know what, that’s fine? But don’t harass/knock the people that do. Especially when a lot of fanfiction authors are teens just trying to enjoy something.
Exactly!! And especially since we know that a lot of those teens will actually go on and continue the writing adventure. Half the world literature is just Holy Bible fanfiction, come on guys.
Hahah truth. A lot of authors got their start in fanfiction.
Fics are basically invented to help people practice, apart from giving them joy. So like, go forth and prosper, right.
Okay, so you used to write HP fics and your upcoming book is fantasy. Are there any other genres you like to write? And is it a different choice for when you’re a reader yourself?
I really like the sci-fi/fantasy genres and at the moment, it’s where I’m most comfortable and content writing. I’ve tried writing a YA fiction once, and it was fun, but fantasy is where my heart is at. When it comes to reading I’ll go for anything that grabs my interest, it doesn’t really matter the genre, but on a whole I still prefer sci-fi/fantasy.
Frankly, with how little LGBT fantasy we still get, that’s really cool to hear! I say ‘little’ but I mean, when you compare that number to the sheer amount of very straight fantasy books written by white men.
We definitely need more LGBTQ+ fantasy in the world!! Oh it’s absolutely little. Exactly as you’ve said, in the grand scheme of things, there’s not a lot. Even less when you break it down by genre and age group.
And when you just focus on wlw books? Oh boy.
You mentioned contemporary as not your first choice, but are there any other genres or tropes you wouldn’t write?
I would be rubbish at historical fiction. Love to read it, would not be able to write it. There’s a certain pressure I think that’s placed on the shoulders of authors who write historical fiction and I would not do well with that. Neither would I be able to resist writing magic in somehow haha.
You say that as if mixing in some magic into a historical fiction isn’t ideal…
Hahaha I mean, yes.
As for tropes! That’s a tough question. I’m trying to come up with an answer here and you know, it’s less for me what tropes won’t you write and more, how I don’t want to write it.
Can you expand a little bit on this?
Of course! I just mean, so take the “chosen one” trope for example. Instead of writing a character that embraces that destiny, as is the standard form of that trope, I would rather write about a character who rejects it. A character who’s been designated the chosen one and does all they can to opt out. It’s something I deal with in ADAHS actually. I like taking tropes and familiar concepts and finding new ways to spin them.
So just taking tropes and making them your very own? It’s a great approach, honestly, and speaks volumes about your creativity!
Yeah! As much as I can, at least. And thank you haha. Hopefully. There’s the vision and then there’s the execution—we’ll see how it goes.
If the vision is amazing, the execution can’t really be far from it.
That’s the hope! Haha.
How about inspiration for your books? Where do you usually find that?
I would say my top sources of inspiration come from video games, music, and other books. Sometimes I read something and it sparks a million ideas and I’m possessed with the motivation to get back to writing. Sometimes a song will inspire a certain feeling in me, and that feeling will be the centre of an entire new story. Sometimes I’ll be playing a video game, and the world that’s been built around my character is so vibrant and immersive that I learn new ways of responding to things I wouldn’t get to encounter in real life, and I get to take that knowledge back to writing. Personal experience is also a good form of inspiration. Going out and doing things, seeing new places, eating new foods, it’s all good for motivating new stories ideas.
I love how diverse your answer is, how many different sources you have and that you don’t limit yourself to, say, just other books.
Other books are great! Research material, books read for fun, it’s all excellent and necessary but yeah. I need other things as well.
And I like what you said about video games, how they offer not only a inspiration by being a story themselves, but also a different outlook on things, a perspective you wouldn’t normally consider.
I will never stop recommending video games to people. It helps put you in the headspace of someone else, lets you interact with different settings and situations, forces you to respond to those settings and situations, and often requires a lot of problem solving in defeating bosses or advancing story that’s super transferable to writing.
I feel like, exactly as with fics, video games are often overlooked as just a silly hobby. Especially if it’s girls who play them. But you’re so right! They can be so helpful! Apart from being fun, of course.
Oh, totally. People are quick to write off many things as silly. But, that’s on them. It’s not silly to me, and that’s what matters in the end. And I think fun is an important aspect though—you won’t be as willing to learn from things you don’t enjoy.
It’s why kids generally don’t like to do schoolwork…
I hated math haha.
I’m the total opposite lmao! But I never did very well with chemistry or physics.
I did just fine at it, it’s just that I found it boring and stopped applying myself at it haha.
You actually mentioned music as a source of inspiration but do you have a writing playlist? And if you do, does it focus more on the lyrics or melodies, vibe of the songs?
I do have a writing playlist! It’s more of a pre-writing playlist because I can’t listen to things and write at the same time. The songs just get me pumped to do the writing, and put me in the emotional space I require for the place I’m at in said writing. The playlists are different for each book but they all tend to come from video games, anime, movies—stuff without lyrics for the most part.
Oh, that’s interesting, hyping yourself up with music before you start! You’re like a boxer coming onto the ring and having your team cheer you up. Any artists that always find their way onto your mixes, no matter what book you’re writing?
Hahaha yeah pretty much. Mmm Yoko Shimomura, who does a lot of the stuff for Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, but it’s mostly just a collection of whatever fits the bill. A lot of my music comes from Square Enix related material though.
I’m gonna have to check it out, I usually go for Dragon Age OST if I’m in the mood for that kind of music.
I’m a terrible person who hasn’t played Dragon Age I’m sorry, but I’m sure it’s also good!
I actually haven’t played it, I just like the music and have friends constantly talk about it near me lmao. So, okay, you listened to you mix, you’re pumped and ready. What’s next in your writing process? At what point do you let other people read your drafts and who are they?
So, the inspiration phase takes quite a while. At least a year of music and games and books and thinking things over and trying to find the right place to start/envision the rest of the book. I’m a panster. I don’t really like outlines until I have the first draft of my story done. I have a barebones direction, and I make notes as I go so that I don’t forget things for later, but I pretty much just write until the first draft is done. Then I like to let it sit, and then I’ll rewrite the entire thing into a fresh document, give it a quick edit, and then send it to a few of my closest writing friends to read it over and help me see where I need to focus in a proper edit. I don’t normally let people see my stuff until it’s done because I’m intensely hard on myself haha. But with the WIP im currently on, I did let a couple people read the first few chapters, just for the peace of mind it wasn’t terrible.
Personally, I never understood how people can have very detailed outlines from the get go and then actually stick to them. The story grows, so it’s pretty obvious the outline should grow as well… I love your approach of not making one until you already wrote that first draft!
I envy people who can! I’m getting better at shaping outlines pre-writing but I can’t get too caught up in them. I find if I start getting too detailed I start getting bored with the story. I like things to evolve naturally—I’ll go in after and prune it back.
And as someone who craves constant attention, I can only admire and envy your dedication to not show people your stuff until it’s Ready.
Yeah that part is hard hahaha. But my constant fear my friends will hate me if I write a bad story usually wins out.
It only makes sense!! Ahh yes, that eternal battle.
Impostor syndrome never stops.
It really doesn’t. Okay, so for something more fun before we start dwelling on our inadequacy for real. Summarise your upcoming book in up to 5 words and a meme.
Omg the toughest question haha.
Charlotte wanted to just stop at 5 words, but I really loved the idea of a meme, sorry!
“Faeries behaving badly”
THERE! There are too many pics saved on my phone hahaha IVE MADE MY CHOICE!
IF I WASN’T ALREADY SOLD ON YOUR BOOK!
It’s beautiful. Which three authors would you say influenced your writing the most?
I’d say the three authors who most influence my writing are Laini Taylor, Roshani Chokshi, and Holly Black. The first two because Laini and Roshani write GORGEOUS stories and I want to be able to paint worlds as beautifully as they do. Holly because she’s the queen of faeries and I’ve looked up to her since I was really young.
I know Charlotte is gonna be excited by your answer, given how much she adores Roshani Chokshi. And not gonna lie, this list of names just makes me all the more excited for your book!
I love them so much, they’re fabulous authors. I remember reading The Star-Touched Queen and thinking it was the most beautiful prose ever. Hopefully one day I can contend!
If (when!) your book(s) were to be made into movies, who would you like to direct them?
I don’t really pay enough attention to the movie world to know exactly who I’d want to direct mine if it was made into one. All I can say is that I hope it’s someone who really gets where I’m coming from, and has a sense of humour and dramatic flare.
And for something that is also very important to us & what we put a lot of emphasis on when blogging. What does ownvoices LGBT representation mean to you?
I think ownvoice LGBTQ+ stories are important because they’re written with a certain depth that only authenticity can reach. There’s a difference between putting yourself in someone else’s shoes—no matter how well researched—and actually living the experience, so to me, ownvoice stories mean actually having a voice. And while no two people experience something the exact same way, it also means listening to a voice I can—hopefully—trust to accurately represent me.
Rec us some great LGBT books you’ve read recently! One can never have enough recommendations!
I’m afraid I’m incredibly behind on my TBR list but We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan are both sitting there waiting for me to finish Jade City by Fonda Lee. I’ve been really looking forward to them. Ash by Malinda Lo is probably my favourite of recent LGBTQ+ reads. It plays with the story of Cinderella, with a bisexual MC and just all around beautiful writing. I loved it so much!
What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?
If I could talk to my younger self I would just tell her to keep writing, but I might also let her know she’s pansexual—it took a while to figure that out, since I didn’t even know the term existed.
If you could have dinner with one member of the LGBT community, dead or alive, who would it be?
If I could have dinner with anyone in the LGBTQ+ community it would have to be Noelle Stevenson because I admire her so damn much! Nimona and She-Ra are my EVERYTHING and I would probably be too intimidated to talk but eating in her presence would be nice haha.
Thank you so much for talking with us! I had a lot of fun and I really hope you did too!
Thank you so much for including me! It means a lot, and had a lot of fun answering these questions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Shuttleworth was born in Chilliwack, British Colombia and currently lives in Ontario. She has a BA (Hons) in English Literature, and spent some time after uni living and teaching in Seoul, South Korea. When she isn’t reading or writing, her favourite pastimes are: playing video games (particularly Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Zelda), watching anime & k-dramas, and piecing together cosplays for conventions. She also likes long walks through quiet forests and knows far too much about wine.
Her cat, Zack Fair, is roughly the size of a miniature panther and eats better than she does.
Hopefully it shows through the text, how much fun we had chatting with Ashley! And hopefully, you enjoyed the end product as well. :>>