Monday, November 7, 2011

Interview and giveaway with Ashley Lynn Willis

Hey peeps. I know I've been MIA over the last days, but I had family over and had to entertain for them ;) Today, I have a surprise for everyone.

I don’t even want to get started on all the crimes I’ve committed to get anywhere near this next guest of mine. I’ve been stalking her since forever, and through some threats, disguises, and an epic battle with swords and nunchucks, I finally managed to get to her. Ladies and gentlemen, (drum roll)… Ashley Lynn Willis.

She’s a long time friend and an awesome writer, so it was about darn time her book came out for the masses. Of course, I’m talking about her paranormal romance novel, The Calling.
Here presented - Awesome cover

Welcome, Ashley. Grab some cookies and fizzy drinks and settle down for a chat with me.

S:  How does it feel to finally be a published author?

Ashley (A):  Scary as heck. It was almost a letdown, if you can believe that. After a year of writing, editing, and getting pushed around by my critique partners, beta readers, and editor, my book was finally live. After I pressed the Publish button, I just stared at the screen, thinking, What’s next? Then, the blog hops, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways began, and I haven’t had time to think since. That’s a good thing because, if I had to think, I’d just obsess over my reviews as I worried that readers wouldn’t like the book.

S: Wow, that sounds a bit... sad. After all that work. But I think it's all for the best. People responded really well to your book.  What made you decide to go indie with The Calling?

A:  I started writing The Calling in November of 2010. I actually penned the book in hopes of landing an agent or ePublisher. My first book, Killing Abel, was too long and crossed genres, so I needed something easier to sell. About a month into writing The Calling, I read on Critique Circle about Victorine Lieske’s journey as a self-published author, and I was immediately intrigued. After hearing her success story, I decided that I would go the Indie route. I loved the idea of controlling my destiny.

S: It is an interesting idea, and I confess I feel pretty attracted to it as well. Might have to give that some thought. Now, tell the masses a little something about yourself. (I’m kidding myself that I know most of this stuff. :))

A:  There’s really not much to tell. I’m a stay-at-home mommy to two preschoolers, and when I’m not wiping snotty noses, kissing boo boos, or performing my short-order cook duties, I’m writing. Boring as it sounds, that’s pretty much my life.

S:  What’s your awesome book about?

A:  You can read the blurb and the first chapter on my website. The main theme in The Calling is to never lose hope. Mandy is recovering from emotional and physical scars after having breast cancer. Justin is trying to come to terms with his family’s dysfunctional state, caused by a paranormal event in his childhood. Together, they are stronger and able to cope with life’s tragedies. In each other, they find hope, peace, and love. It is a love story in the truest sense.

S:  What made you decide to write this book? Where did you get the idea?

A:  I always know the ending of my books well before I plot out the beginning or middle. As I wrote Killing Abel, the seed for this book grew roots in my mind. I outlined the dramatic ending that had to do with a paranormal event, and the story germinated while I continued with Killing Abel. By the time I’d finished that book, I had the beginning of The Calling worked out. From there, I had to fill in the middle, outlining how my characters got from point A to point B.  That’s always a lot of fun because it’s where I learn what my characters are made of.

S: It's a bit weird for me. I always figure out the beginning first, then usually a few major turns that shape up the story and I figure the ending out last. For Hunters, I actually had a different ending planned (just talking, no fighting), but the characters butted in and changed everything (lol, Daniel's a fighter, not a talker).  What’s your favorite part of this book?

A:  My favorite part by far is the ending! I loved, loved every minute of writing the last six chapters. Those chapters were how the book started in my mind, and I had to wait so long to get the ending on paper that, by the time I got there, I was chomping at the bit. The ending is very tense and action-packed. It’s almost a hopeless scenario. Almost… *wink, wink*

S: Lol, you're making me so curious, and I still don't have a copy of this to read (sniff, sniff).  How did you choose the title?

A:  That’s a secret. Hee hee. It’s too ingrained in the book and would spoil some of the surprise.

S: I think I actually know this, but won't be spoiling for everyone else. But you're lucky. I usually have a lot of trouble with titles (though for my NaNo novels, I came up with the titles before I even thought up the story. And honestly, I'm very proud of my current novel title). Let's move to marketing.  What do you do to promote your book?

A:  Book blogs, blog hops, interviews, and guest posts. I gave away lots of copies of my book for review. I’m active on, but with all the blog activities, not nearly as much as I should be. I am very active on Goodreads. As an author, I feel it’s important to go where the readers are, places like Goodreads, Librarything, and Shelfari. But no one has unlimited time to spend on the internet, so I decided to pick one venue, Goodreads, and spend the majority of my time there. I’ve met some awesome people there, who I’m happy to call friends.

S:  So… I hear you’re writing a series (wink, wink, nudge, nudge – I’m hoping you’ll get back to that as soon as possible) What’s that about?

A:  Killing Abel is a series about redemption. You can read more about it on my website, and I’ve made the first chapter available there as well.

S:  What are your plans with this series – traditional publishing, or are you going to go indie with them, too?

A:  I had planned to send Killing Abel out to ePublishers, but after watching a friend’s relationship with her ePublisher fall apart, I decided to self-publish the series instead. I already have such an amazing team with Lynn O’Dell of Red Adept for an editor, Glendon Haddix of Street Light Graphics as my cover artist, and my wonderful critique partners—you included, Steph—that I just don’t know what an ePublisher would bring to the table.

I’m not knocking traditional publishing at all, but the major marketing budget is reserved for the high earners.  If I’m expected to shoulder the brunt of the one thing a traditional publisher could help me with—marketing—then I’m not sure why I would go that route, except maybe to eliminate editing and cover design costs. Now don’t get me wrong, if a publisher came to me with a six-figure deal, you can bet I’d run with it, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m content self-publishing.

S:  From all the characters you’ve ever written, which do you like most? And which was the hardest to write? Which one is most like you?

A:  Jessica, the heroine in Killing Abel, is the one most like me. Stubborn and a bit naïve, she’s definitely the easiest character for me to write because I just tap into myself when I need to figure how she’d react to a situation.

The most fun to write is Constantine. He’s a hard-drinking, potty-mouth womanizer who’s found himself in love with an unobtainable woman. That kind of conflict makes for some intense scenes that are a blast to write. The hardest character to write has been Abel because he’s so reserved. He also carries a huge burden that weighs on him every second of every day. Being in his skin can be exhausting. Did you notice I haven’t mentioned any characters from “The Calling?” Hmmm. I really need to get back to my first love, the Killing Abel series.

S: Okay, enough chit-chat. It's time for the Lighting round – rapid fire stuff:

Cats or dogs?

A: Cats

S:  Sweet or spicy?

A: Spicy

S:  Books or TV?

A: Books

S: Jessica or Mandy? (ha! Have you here!) 

A:   Jessica! Didn’t even have to think about it.

S:  Justin or Constantine?

A:  Ugh, OMG! You are so mean. I love, love Constantine, but really, I think I might have to go with Justin. He’s just so sweet. If I had to pick a guy to marry out of all my characters, it would be him. And he’s the character most like my husband.

S: Yes, I am evil.  You’ve also unlocked the secret question of this interview. If you could be a character in a book, who would you be in what book?

A:  Hmmm. This changes based on my mood. Today, I’d like to be Annwyl the Bloody from G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series because she can kick butt, and Fearghus (her dragon lover) sounds yummy right now.

S: And now, I want you to give us your favorite excerpt of your book, for the readers to feast their eyes upon. :D

Mandy glanced across the beach, wondering why more people weren’t milling about on the sand. Not that she minded, the fewer beachgoers who saw her in a swimsuit, the better. Though, thanks to her best friend Lori, she was wearing a cute tankini that even showed a little cleavage without revealing her mastectomy scars. Tomorrow, she’d buy that girl flowers for her Herculean efforts.
Justin led her to a quiet, flat spot and laid out a beach towel big enough for four. “I figured we’d share.”
Mandy chuckled as she plopped her bag down on the blue terrycloth. Slipping off her sandals, she stared at him. Something about him seemed different. She’d noticed the change yesterday at the hospital, but hadn’t been able to put her finger on it until this moment. The three years she’d known him, he’d always looked sleep deprived, with bloodshot eyes ringed by dark circles. Now, his eyes were crystal clear and sparkling brown. “You seem well rested.”
Justin tilted his head. “You noticed?”
She nodded. “Sleeping pills?”
He sat down on the blanket and tucked his long legs beneath him. “Busy summer. I always rest better after a rescue.” He held out a bottle of sunscreen. “Do you mind?” As soon as she took it from him, he slipped off his shirt.
She’d seen him bare-chested more times than she could count, but she’d been so in love with Ty she’d never paid attention to his attributes. Turned out, he had plenty. His shoulder muscles curved in smooth ridges under his golden skin, and his chest tapered to a trim, flat stomach, cut with washboard abs. His swimming trunks hung low on his hips.
As she stared at his perfection, a tingly feeling traveled down her spine, then lodged in her stomach. Attraction? The prickling sensation turned into a brick that sat heavy in her gut. She hadn’t taken notice of a handsome man in so long, she’d forgotten how it made her feel.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. No tingles allowed.
She kneeled behind him, squirted a large dollop of sunscreen on her hand, and rubbed the lotion onto his smooth skin. Reminding herself that he was Justin, her ex-fiancé’s best friend, she squashed her lustful thoughts. But the reminder didn’t stop her from noticing every hard muscle as her fingers glided across his back.
Trying to distract herself from the tingles that refused to go away, she allowed her palm to linger on the sea serpent tattoo wrapped around his bicep. In the black scales of the reptile, she spotted hidden profiles of sharks, corals, sea turtles, and even a barracuda. She’d never considered tattoos as artwork, but his was a masterpiece.
She traced the head of the snake, lingering on the slithering tongue. “Have I ever told you I love this?”
He turned his head and, suddenly, their faces were inches apart. “No. I would’ve remembered.”
She felt his dark eyes gazing straight into her, and her heart pounded uncontrollably. She rocked back on her knees to put some distance between them and picked up the pace, quickly covering every inch of his back with lotion. “There. Not even a gamma ray would burn you.”
“I’ve got a spray in my bag if you want me to douse you.”
“I already put on my sunscreen at home.” Thank goodness for her foresight. If he so much as touched her right now, she’d turn into a giggling puddle of female hormones. She cleared her throat. “You’re supposed to apply lotion thirty minutes before you go in the sun, you know. It’s more effective that way.”
“You’re the nurse,” he said.
She screwed the lid back on the sunscreen and handed it to him. Time to get in the water, she thought as she sat next to him. Reluctantly, she fidgeted with the hem of her white cover-up, twisting the cotton fabric between tense fingers. The scars aren’t visible, she reminded herself. She’d made sure by contorting her body like a Cirque du Soleil performer in front of the dressing room mirror. Even though she had no reason to be self-conscious, her nerves were firing up like bullets without a target, bouncing around in her stomach and wreaking havoc.
“Ready to get in?” he asked.
She nodded. Swallowing hard, she grabbed the bottom of her cover-up, lifted it over her head, and tucked it in her beach bag. As she adjusted the straps to make sure everything remained covered, she looked up to see Justin’s gaze resting on her chest. After a second of staring, his brow furrowed.
Mandy cringed, wanting to wrap her arms around her breasts. “Is there a problem?”
Justin’s widened eyes darted to her face, then to the crashing waves pounding the beach. “Wow. I’m being rude.” He blushed bright red. “I just… I didn’t…”
She knew exactly what he meant. After her surgery, she’d caught most of her friends staring at her missing breast, even though she wore a falsie. A woman without a boob, especially a young one, was a subject of fascination. Justin must have thought she’d still be deflated on one side. “You expected me to be lopsided?”
He nodded, his gaze locked on the surf.
“Reconstructive surgery.” Had he thought she’d be flat forever?
He blew out a noisy breath, grabbed both the boogie boards, and stood. The smile that spread across his face didn’t reach his eyes. “Still remember how to use these?”
Thankful for the change of subject, she jumped to her feet. “It’s been a while, but I think I can manage.” She took a board from Justin, surprised by its light weight given the size. Had it really been so long that she’d forgotten how a bodyboard felt in her arms? Good thing she was getting back in the saddle before she forgot how to swim altogether.
“The last time I surfed, I was with you,” she said.
“You were a fast learner.”
“I’ve probably forgotten everything you taught me.”
His smile came with the crinkles around his eyes that marked it as genuine. “Then, I’ll teach you again.”
Justin had been so patient with her back then, she had no doubt she’d be an expert by the time she left for home. After she fastened the Velcro bracelet to her wrist, she scanned the water. “I don’t think the waves are big enough.” They seemed no more than a foot or two, not exactly high enough for a riveting ride.
He winked. “They’ll get bigger.” With that, he dashed into the sea. Water sprayed around his legs and body as he plunged into the surf. Sure enough, the waves seemed to follow him, cresting higher and ebbing lower. Was a storm moving in, kicking up larger swells? She glanced at the sky. Fluffy white clouds floated lazily toward the east, and the blue surrounding them was endless. She shrugged, then hurried after him.

Alright people. That would be it from Ashley today. I hope you enjoyed finding out things about her. I know I did. And just because I'm she's so awesome, there's a giveaway involved. So if you're not a follower, do that, and if you are, just leave a comment to say hi to Ashley and give her your email address, for a chance to win her awesome book. I'll be announcing the winner in about two weeks, most probably ;)

You can also buy her awesome book here (Amazon), here (B&N), here (Smashwords) and it's on Goodreads here.

I'll be back soon with another post on NaNo (Check out the nifty bar of the right) and how my characters are giving me a monster headache.


  1. Currently reading The Calling on my Kindle! Loving it! Great job Ashley!

  2. Hi Steph! Thank you so much for hosting this giveaway and for inviting me to do an interview. :) It was a lot of fun.

    @ Christina - Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. :)

  3. It was fun for me, too. Just remember me when you're an insanely famous author ;)

  4. Yay! I want to read this!


  5. I remember seeing this on CC, and being intrigued with a bit I read about Justin. I wanted to keep on reading to find out more! Great interview, and interesting to see the reasons for self-publishing. It's something at the back of my mind for when I finally sort my novel out.

    Thanks for the giveaway :) (cdmeetens[at]gmail[dot]com).


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