Hi fellow bookworms!
But why am I bringing this all up again? Well, dear readers, today is a great day because the author of The Hotel Westend, Ashley Lynch-Harris, granted me the opportunity to interview her!!! AND, to add to the excitement, Ashley has provided me with a signed paperback copy of her debut novel to give away to one of my lucky followers! If you wish to enter this awesome giveaway, click here.
Ashley Lynch-Harris, author of The Hotel Westend, writes present-day mysteries that are reminiscent of the Golden Age of detective fiction. Publishers Weekly has described her work as “a charming homage to the classic mystery…” She has a series of short stories slated for publication in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and is a member of the International Association of Crime Writers (North American Branch). An honors graduate of the University of South Florida, Ashley lives in Tampa with her husband, Alex, and dog, Jo Jo. For more information, please visit www.AshleyLynchHarris.com.
Me: How did you decide to become a writer? Do you remember when your passion for writing started?
Ashley: The funny thing is that I never considered writing as a career—it wasn’t an idea I came up with for myself, I mean. I always enjoyed writing, but it didn’t initially cross my mind to use it for anything other than my school work or a hobby like journaling. Of course, that all eventually changed.
I’m a Christian, and several years ago I was praying about what I should do for my career, and God ultimately guided me to write. I remember thinking, “Wow, a professional writer, huh?” (I always pictured Him smiling at me as that idea started to really take shape in my mind.) I buckled down and wrote the first draft of my very first novel in a few months. I had a relentless focus because I was incredibly excited about combining something I naturally loved to do with something I could do professionally. Writing fit my personality perfectly.
After writing that first draft I continued to write new stories so I could improve in the craft. I dabbled in different genres, testing the waters, but I gravitated most naturally toward mystery. I loved to read mysteries and I found it was also my favorite genre to write.
Now I can hold my debut novel in my hands. Wow!
I’m working on the second book in the series now, and the passion continues. I will never say there is a time where I’ve learned enough. I am always striving to grow as a writer, and I feel that’s a critical part of sustaining the passion.
Me: Can you describe your writing routine? Where do you sit to write? at what time of day? do you have a jar of cookies by your side?
Ashley: I am definitely a schedule and list maker. So, I can actually give you the play-by-play of my typical workday. I’ve recently revised my writing routine so that I can spend more free time with my family in the evenings.
I’m fortunate enough to have a study where I write and read. I suppose it’s my own reading hole. J I get up at 5:00am and write from 5:30-7:30am. This is almost always at my desk, but every now and again I write from my recliner. During these first two hours I may work on revisions of what I wrote the previous day and/or I’ll write all new content. Often I’m able to meet about half of my word count goal before 8:00am. That’s a great feeling to have as a writer! (I strive to write 1,000+ words a day).
Then I take JoJo (my dog) for his morning stroll. (I hesitate to say “walk”. That sounds a bit more… purposeful—like I’ve laced up my sneakers and slipped on a headband to conquer the day. JoJo and I don’t really have much pep in our step until after breakfast.) Speaking of which, after breakfast, I have prayer and devotion time, and write again from 9:00am until lunch time. I don’t have a jar of cookies by my side, but I may have a cup of tea.
After lunch I may finish up the scene I was working on, but I find I’m most creative and productive when I write in the earlier part of the day. So at this point, once I’ve reached my word count goal, I will usually check my email and social media. I make it a point to reply back to all readers.
I fill the remaining hours with any other writing-related tasks I need to address. For instance, right now I am getting ready for an upcoming book fair. I make it a rule to finish my work day by 5:00pm so I can spend the evening with my family.
Me: You also wrote several short stories that will be published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. Do you prefer writing short stories or books?
Ashley: I can’t say that I have a preference between writing short stories versus books because I approach each differently. Short stories require me to get straight to the mystery. You’re challenged to create a world and interesting characters in a matter of pages, but I find that can actually be gratifying at times. It makes the story especially vivid. Also, a plus with short stories is that I can finish writing one in a short period of time. Finishing any writing project gives an author a great feeling of satisfaction. A novel typically takes me several months to write. However, it’s that time that enables me to create a more intricate plot and develop my characters. That’s also satisfying!
Me: Why crime? Have you ever tried writing in other genres?
Ashley: Actually, I have written in other genres, primarily Christian fiction titles and its various sub-genres like suspense. I have a few manuscripts where I’ve completed a first draft, but they aren’t at a stage where I would consider them ready for readers. I wrote them a while back—all part of the process of growing as a writer. I intend to go back and work on them in the future, but the mystery genre is my focus. I love to read mysteries, and I fell in love with writing them as well. So, I’ve decided to focus on just that genre for now.
Me: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Ashley: Sure. I humbly offer these few tips…
- Read as much as you can. Read in your favorite genres and also step out into others. When you find yourself smiling at a particular part in a book or you’re excited to see what comes next, take a moment to see why you liked it so much. What technique did the author use that you can apply in your writing? Also, in the same manner, see why you might not have liked something.
- During the final stages of revisions, I recommend having “beta readers” read your manuscript and give you their feedback. They can give you an honest opinion about what they liked or didn’t like, if something in the story was confusing, and they can catch inconsistencies in the plot.
- The writing process as a whole often requires a great deal of time. Consider the time it takes to write a manuscript, for instance. It’s likely that you’ll spend several months writing the first draft and several more revising it. My advice is when you’ve revised it to the point that you think it can’t be revised anymore and you’re (momentarily) sick of seeing it, STOP. Don’t rush to send it to agents & publishers or rush to put it out onto the market. I know you’ll probably be eager to get to the next step (I certainly was!), but set it down for at least a month. Come back to it when you have fresh eyes (and you’re actually happy to see it again), and make sure it’s really polished. Then, when you know it’s definitely ready, move forward.
- Most importantly, block out distractions, write every day, be willing to consider constructive criticism and use what will truly help improve your writing, and never give up. It’s really a matter of persistence and patience.
Me: In your book The Hotel Westend I noticed several references to Agatha Christie’s works. In what way did her stories influence your writing path?
Ashley: Agatha Christie is my favorite author, and to recognize the positive impact she has had on me as a writer I wanted to incorporate a subtle tribute into my debut novel. I included two mentions, in fact. Although I don’t state it directly, the book that Mrs. Tidwell was reading in Chapter 5 was Christie’s The Body in the Library, and I also reference the case from The Murder at the Vicarage.
The reason Agatha Christie’s work was especially influential for me was because her novels were some of the first mysteries I read growing up, and I remember being thrilled at how clever they were. That was significant because that was the beginning of my love for the genre. That always stuck with me. I remember thinking, ‘she told me a great story—an entertaining, clever story.’ I still keep that thought with me today—that my goal as a writer, when broken down to its simplest form, is to “Tell readers a great story.” That’s it. Of course, there are intricacies of the craft that are needed to make that happen, but in its simplest form that’s what it comes down to for me.
Me: What is your favorite book and why?
Ashley: That’s always a hard question to answer! There are so many wonderful books across many genres, each with something special. It may help if I narrow it down to the mystery genre. If I had to choose, I would say “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie is one of my favorite mysteries. The brilliance behind the plot and the way in which she propelled the story forward was absolutely absorbing.
Me: Do you have any current or upcoming writing projects? If so, can you give us a sneak peek?
Ashley: Presently, I am working on the second Maitland Sisters Mystery. I can’t share a sneak peek yet, but I can say that the sisters have started their detective agency and they’ve taken on a peculiar case! I look forward to sharing it once it’s ready!
Also, I send out updates on my projects in my free newsletter along with giveaways and sneak peeks if readers would like to stay connected.
Me: Thanks Ashley for visiting Down The Reading Hole. It was awesome to have you here and interview you! The Hotel Westend was a great book and I can’t wait for the next one in the series. Good luck with your writing!
P.S. Dear readers, don’t forget to visit the giveaway page for a chance of winning a signed paperback copy of The Hotel Westend!