The wonderful Ashley John has agreed to do an interview and here is what he had to say.
Vanessa: Why did you become a writer?
Ashley: This is such a long story, because it is something I’d always wanted to do, but never had the balls to. When I was a kid, I’d dream of being a writer, but it always seemed like such an inaccessible profession. It’s like when you say you want to a pop star, and people say ‘that’s nice, but think about getting a real job’. I always looked at it as something I always wanted to do, but never could. I was always trying to write books as a kid, and especially as a teenager, but I could never stick to it. After I left school, I hopped around, jumping from one career path, to another. I started off going to graphic design college, which was a complete waste of my time. I’d been self-teaching myself to design from the age of 13, so going to a college where the ‘design tutors’ didn’t know how to use Photoshop was discouraging. I then became a hairdresser, which was another waste of two years of my life. It wasn’t until May 2014 when I finally told myself ‘fuck it, do what you want to do’ that I decided I was going to throw myself at writing. I was working in McDonalds, and I quit my job to focus on it full time. It was a crazy decision, but it was the kick in the butt that I needed to force myself to succeed. I told myself failure wasn’t an option. I didn’t have a plan B. Luckily, I had the support of my fiancé, who took over the bills and rent whilst I waited until it started to make me some money! I knew about self-publishing through Amazon, so I wrote my first book, The Secret (which I’d been trying to write for 2 years), and here I am now! The book when to the top of the Gay Short Stories chart, and so did the two sequels. I’m currently going through those books and fine tuning them, because obviously I made a lot of mistakes when I started out, but those books (The George & Harvey Series) showed me that I could succeed at something I loved. Those books acted as a springboard, and it’s been like a snowball effect since. I’m making more money than I ever thought was possible from self-publishing, and I’m loving every second of this crazy journey. I still love designing, but I channel that into making my own book covers, which is probably one of my favorite parts of the process.
V: If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? Why?
A: I’d love to go to New York. I was raised on Sex and the City, so I’ve always been in love with the city. I’ll watch anything set in New York. When I was in my late teens, I had a dream of packing up everything and moving there, but I realized that wouldn’t quite workout (I live in the UK). I’ll visit one day, but you might have to drag me out by the ankles when it’s time to leave. I was raised in a tiny town, so there’s something about cities, especially New York, which just sparks my imagination.
V: If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow would you be ready?
A: No! Actually, maybe. Every year for Halloween I’ve been either a Zombie or a Skeleton, so I think my tactic would be to do an awesome paintjob on my face, roll around in Zombie blood and guts and fake it. I love sleeping, so I’d probably just curl up somewhere and sleep through it until help arrived.
V: If you could meet anyone past or present, who would it be?
A: I’d meet Channing Tatum so I could lick his face. Seriously though, I don’t actually know. There are so many people that I would love to meet, for different reason, but I think I’d muck it up, especially if they were really famous. I was at a Lady Gaga concert in October and I was that close to the front, I made eye contact with her and I almost fainted, so I don’t know what I’d be like meeting a person I admired. I think you always run the risk of them not being who you expected them to be. Sometimes, the fiction is better than the fact.
V: Where do you see yourself three years from now?
A: Ruling the world? I’m kidding, but I am very ambitious and driven. I know what I want, and I will get it. I believe that hard work pays off, and I know that I work hard at what I do. People don’t always see me on blogs or on social media, but they also don’t see the 16 hour days, locked in my office, typing like a madman in my underwear. I’d love to be a lot more successful, but who wouldn’t? I’m not embarrassed to say that I want to earn a lot of money. Growing up, we didn’t have much, so it would be nice to be comfortable. I’m getting there, slowly. This is the first year I’ve actually had money left over, after paying bills, and that’s thanks to writing! I’ve gone a bit crazy and booked 3 vacations for this year alone, but everyone needs a break. I’ve been on 1 vacation in 6 years, so I’m making up for lost time! If in 3 years, I’m still here, making a living from writing, I’ll be a very, very happy boy. Growing up, people always say that it’s more important to be happy doing something, rather than earning money, but I say, why can’t we do both? I never thought I’d make money from my passion, so it’s super satisfying when the check comes through every month, because I know I worked my butt off and I had fun (when I’m not stressing out about deadlines and having mental breakdowns during my first drafts!).
V: What is the one thing your readers don’t know about you, but you wished to share?
A: There are so many things! I think something people won’t know, because I don’t talk about it, is that I put a lot of myself into my books. I’m only 21, but I feel like I’ve experienced a lot. Themes such as depression, suicide, domestic abuse have all been pulled from my life, and my childhood. I think it’s true when people say you write about what you know, even if you don’t realize it. My Surf Bay books especially, have so much of my life littered through the pages. My life and my past have been pasted onto so many of the Surf Bay characters, creating dozens of versions of myself, all different. Sometimes I do it subconsciously and then my editor, who is always my best friend, will point it out and I’ll have ah ‘ahhhhhhh!’ moment, and everything suddenly makes sense. I think another thing people won’t know is that in real life, I’m quite a shy person. I have my moments of being extroverted, but generally, I keep myself to myself. I guess my books are my way of expressing my feelings, even if I didn’t intend for it to be when I started out. The older I get, the more private I get, which strange when I air so much of my own dirty laundry in my books, but people will never know what is true and what isn’t, which is comforting. It’s like going to a confessional, but instead of a priest on the other side of the screen, it’s my readers.
V: If you had one superpower what would it be?
A: I’ve always said invisibility. I used to think when I was a kid that if I was invisible, I could walk into shops and get all of the things that I really wanted. Now of course, I realize that is called shop lifting and is frowned upon in most societies. That, or the power to mold my body into whatever I wanted. I’d give myself a 6-pack and my face wouldn’t age past 25!
V: If you could write with anyone past or present, who would it be? Why?
A: Nobody! I’m a control freak! J.K. Rowling was the first author I read as kid, so I’d say her. Her name on one of my books would amazing, and I’d listen to everything she said. Scratch that, even if it was a secret, I wouldn’t care, because I’d know that I wrote with her. She’s the woman we all look up to, because she did it on such a huge scale, that nobody else will ever reach. Anyone else though, I’d be too adamant that I knew what I was doing, even if I didn’t. I think my inability to hold down a real job is because I don’t like being told what to do. I’ve always been a fiercely independent person and I prefer my own company. When I write, it’s a solitary experience. I lock my office door, I light candles, I play music and I lose myself in the process. I don’t think I’d ever be able to successfully share that with somebody.
V: What is up next for you and your books?
A: I’m currently working on the fourth book in my Surf Bay series, Love’s Medicine. I can’t believe I’m on the fourth Surf Bay book already, but the reaction to them has been overwhelming. My readers seem to love them, so I keep writing them. I’m nearly finished with Love’s Medicine, and I’m really excited about this one. It’s the story of best friends, Sammie and Justin, and their complicated relationship. They’re keeping a lot of secrets from one another, which creates a lot of tension and drama. After that, I’ve decided I’m going to take a break from Surf Bay, at least for a couple of books. I have some standalone MM Romance books that I’ve been dying to write for months, but haven’t had the time. I think one can get so lost in writing a series, they forget about all the other things they’re itching to write. If I could clone myself and write everything at once, that would be perfect. I see myself doing 2/3 standalone MM Romance novels, and then maybe a couple more Surf Bay books, before drawing that series to a close. I don’t want to still be writing about Surf Bay 98 books into the series. I think 6 or 10 is a nice number. It’ll be a body of work I’ll be proud of, but I think there are only so many characters in one small California town that can be gay. Beyond that, my general plan is to just keep releasing and writing books for the foreseeable future. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m enjoying watching my fan base and my brand grow. I never thought I’d get to this point, so I look forward to driving it forwards. My foot is crammed firmly in the door, I just need to kick it down.
V: Who is your favorite character from your books? Why?
A: There are a couple of characters that I love, but there’s one standout that I love right now, and I don’t know if that’s because he’s in the book I’m currently writing, but it’s Justin from Love’s Medicine (Surf Bay 4). Justin is a male nurse who works at the Surf Bay Hospital and if I had to say any character was me, it would be him. Not in looks, or profession, or even tastes, but in personality and life experiences, he’s me. He’s a bit of a geek, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Sammie. A lot of things go wrong for him, and he’s got a huge secret locked up in his house that he doesn’t want anybody knowing about. He’s been through a rough time prior to the book, and sticking to my usual style, things go downhill quickly from the very first page. Things never seem to go right for him, and it can get him quite down. He’s a very feisty character, but he doesn’t have the guts he needs to do what he wants in life. He’s a softie, and I think the readers are really going to relate to him. I think we’ve all been in a place where we want somebody who doesn’t want us, or situations where we’ve felt powerless to stop the things happening around us. His world is crumbling from the first page of the book, and we’ve all been there.
Have you checked out his Surf Bay Series? If not he his a bundle for Volume 1! It’s on my TBR!
Ashley John lives in the North of England with his fiancé Reece, and his cat Jeremy. Ashley is a lover of love and a lover of life, and that’s why he writes Romance novels. He’s a sucker for gripping love story. His characters are fighters, strong and complex, and they’ll do anything to get the happy endings they deserve (and there are usually a lot of tears and heartache along the way!). Ashley is best known for his best selling George & Harvey series and The Surf Bay Series. When Ashley isn’t writing, he uses his creativity to paint and draw, and when he’s not being creative, he’s usually taking a nap.