The Mistress of Pennington's Tour

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Welcome, author Claire Ashgrove to my blog today!!

Claire is here today to talk about her own writing routines, likes & dislikes as well as getting us all in the mood for Christmas with her next release from The Wild Rose Press. It's great to have you here, Claire. I have been over to your website and love the colors you have going on, it looks beautiful. Let's get started with the interview!

1) What is your writing routine?

As a person who sneaks in time whenever she can, when I write during the day there’s no routine. It’s grab the laptop type out what I can when the kids are actually quiet. At night, however – different story. I have to watch two episodes of Golden Girls, and one repeat of Cheers, then I have to have the television on one of the three History Channel’s before I can put any cohesive words on paper. Coffee must be present, as well as something I can munch on. And I prefer, beyond the murmur of the narrator, silence in the house.

2) Which author/s inspire you to write?

Oh gosh – this is tough. It started early on with Johanna Lindsey. These days Karin Tabke motivates me a great deal. My critique group, however, inspires me the most, which means fellow TWRP author, Dyann Love Barr. Ironically, though he’s not a romance author, Steve Berry also. I love speculative fiction, and incorporate a great deal of it into my paranormals.

3) Which is your favorite romance subgenre to read? To write?

To be completely honest with you, I don’t do a lot of romance reading for pleasure. Two reasons – when I’m reading it doesn’t feel “productive”, so I’d rather read a nonfiction. The other, I know I have a habit of picking up other author voices and I will lose mine, inevitably, for the first two or three pages when I return to writing. Which is incredibly frustrating. When I do read though, it’s more commonly historicals.

Writing… hrm… that’s another hard answer. I write contemporary, paranormal, and historical. Each fits a certain need at the time and a certain aspect of my personality. Contemporaries fill the “Just need to get words out” gap. Paranormals allow me to work on scoping sub plots. Historicals fulfill my love of history and making it come to life. So I don’t think I have a true favorite.

4) How do you deal with criticism/rejection?

It’s just part of the game. I can’t please everyone and don’t expect to. I received close to 200 rejections before I finally acquired an agent and sold to Tor Books. Out of those 200, I can think of 2 that really upset me. (And that doesn’t include the honest response I got from one two years ago who informed me bluntly, “Your hero is naive and immature and not suitable to the demands of the industry.”) The others – filed away without a backward glance. If an author wants to succeed, he or she can’t get bogged down with rejections. Learn from constructive criticism. Toss everything else, especially the ones that offer no feedback and are form replies. There really is no veiled message.

5) What do you expect from an editor?

Professionalism. A broad eye and ability to see the bigger picture within the story. I freelance edit as well, so grammar nuances aren’t such a big issue for me. I’m looking more for the ability to take what’s on the page, draw out the unique, and improve what I (usually) feel confident about already. More than anything, I want my editor to be as enthusiastic about the project as I am. As I hope to be in this business a long time, I hope to be able to grow under him/her and improve as well as meet ever-changing industry demands.

6) Tell me about your latest release

My latest “release” is a holiday story, which has a seasonal interest. I’d rather tell you about my coming release.

I worked on a Christmas trilogy with Alicia Dean and Dyann Love Barr about the three King brothers who return home for a surprising Christmas. My book, A Christmas To Believe In, releases on November 24th, and is the third book in the trilogy, about the oldest King brother, Clint.

7) Tease us with a blurb or short excerpt

When a man's dreams are in ruin,

All he needs is someone to believe...

Struggling Thoroughbred breeder, Clint King, hasn't been home for Christmas in five years. This year, his prize mare's due to foal any day, and in the wake of his father's death, Clint can't stand the idea of returning. Except, Alex is getting married on Christmas Eve, and their mother's put her foot down. With his mare in tow, Clint prepares to meet a sister he's never known, and Alex's unexpected triplets. The one salvation he looks forward to is childhood companion, tomboy Jesse Saurs. Yet when he reunites with Jesse, he uncomfortably discovers she's become all woman.

Jesse has everything she needs -- financial security, a home, and a foster child who's about to become her son. With Ethan's final hearing scheduled just before Christmas, her dreams will come true. When she learns Clint and his brothers are returning, she anticipates a holiday reunion that's sure to entertain Ethan. But on the night of Clint's return, the "brother" she expected leaves her trembling after a hug. Even worse, Ethan makes it clear Clint's not welcome.

Will Christmas destroy hopes and dreams, or will it become the gift they've all been longing for?

8) Which is your favorite character in the book? Why?

Clint is my favorite character in this book, although I very much enjoy Jesse as well. He has a quiet presence, which (although he doesn’t know it) exudes strength. He’s somewhere in between an Alpha and a Beta hero. Alpha in the sense he knows what he wants. Beta in the sense he lacks a certain confidence in himself. His vulnerabilities make my heart swell. Just like they make Jesse’s.

9) What is next for you?

I have a brand new paranormal series coming through Tor books. It is a sweeping saga about immortal Knights Templar, arch demons, and heroines who descend from the Nephilim. Azazel, the master of darkness, intends to eradicate the Almighty through the acquisition of nine sacred relics. To stop the unholy ascension, the Templar must first locate their prophesized mates and conquer the ever-growing darkness in their souls.

10) What are you working on right now?

I am working on the third book in the Templar series, and will be focusing on some different paranormal projects for the immediate future.

11) Your biggest piece of advice to aspiring novelists?

Everybody has the ability to write and to get published. Just like any other true “art” or any other professional endeavor, where you want to go with your writing depends on your level of commitment. You can’t count on lucking into becoming the CEO of a major corporation. You must work for it. Hone every little aspect pertaining to the job demands. Study the competition. And like any artist or athlete, you must train and condition daily. Force yourself into a routine if you must. Routines become habit. Habit lends to automatic improvement the more you do something. The old adage “Practice makes perfect” is very applicable, although I firmly believe even the most acclaimed authors always have room to perfect already good craft.

12) Where can readers find you?

My website is: and I have a newsletter signup available there.

I am also active on the following blogs:

Romance Books R Us

The Muse (my personal blog)

Cascade Literary Agency Blog

All of which are also accessible through my website.

Great to 'meet' you, Claire - really enjoyed finding out more about your work routine and listening to your wonderful advice. Can I ask how you landed an agent? Was it through submitting or a contest entry? I've been talking about this a lot lately with other writers and would love your input! Ok, readers and writers, Claire's awaiting....


  1. Hi, Rachel – thanks for having me!

    As to finding an agent:

    I never played the contest game much, although I use them now to feel out audiences and new ideas. I wholly support contests and see the merit in them, but for me, responses were too across the board to have confidence in my work. Or, as in one case, I had a judge who very obviously did not read the genre I wrote it, and those remarks wiped out an otherwise perfect scoring run. More than anything though, when searching for feedback, I require the ability to ask questions on comments – which isn’t feasible with an anonymous judge.

    So with the help of my fabulous critique partners, I did things the old fashioned way: submitted and submitted and submitted… until I found newly established Jewelann Cone, with the Cascade Literary Agency. We clicked right away. She’s just awesome, and it was the best decision I’ve made. About seventeen days later, we had an offer on the table, which blew my mind and left me stunned to the point all work stopped on my then in-progress for several weeks until I could pull my head out of the clouds and focus.

    I don’t think I would recommend anyone to follow any other process. In the approximately two years of submitting, I was able to develop a feel about the agents, moreso than what I had going into submitting. Tone indicated a lot, comments indicated a lot. And I developed a great deal of respect for many industry professionals through following their remarks in my great quest to craft something that would spark their interest. The agent I quoted in my above submission – I wouldn’t hesitate to praise, because of those honest remarks and the way they were delivered. Not always are the folks we think, going into the process are our ideals, end up being that way. Personality is evident in writing, even in brief sentences, and you’ll develop a feel for what works with you and who you are able to mesh with. It might be way cool to share representation with your favorite author, but that agent may not be able to fulfill your expectations – or vice versa.

    If you’re going down that road, I encourage you to don’t give up. And don’t be afraid to take a few risky moves now and then. I can think of five names that probably everyone knows in the industry. I’ve met a few of them. Their reputations are stellar as are their personalities. But if that doesn’t fit for you, don’t be afraid to look outside the box. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to believe in yourself and your work. Even if ten years from now you look back and say “Oh boy, what was I thinking?” BELIEVE in what you’re producing. And absolutely don’t get cranky with the folks who are genuinely trying to offer insight or who don’t share your belief.

  2. Hi Claire,

    Love the Three Kings idea!

    And I'm with you, I don't generally read other romance when I'm writing...everything gets all tangled in my head and I can't focus on my storyline or the way I want to write.

  3. Claire, thank you so much for such a comprehensive answer. As you know I am in the UK but recently attended a conference where someone suggested I try US agents as my work sells better there than here. I've submitted my next book to a couple of contests where agents are judging but now I'm thinking I'll send out a query package direct too!

    Thank you x