Thursday, 30 January 2014

Meet....Trisha Ashley

A HUGE HELLO to Trisha Ashley

Having recently read, reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed Trisha's latest book I am very pleased to welcome hers truly to the Novel Cafe to answer some questions. Thank you and a Huge Hello!
Interview conducted in Dec 2013. 

1. Trisha, tell us a little about your journey to becoming an author.
I think most authors start out as children, writing stories, poetry, plays – but then there comes a moment when you read a novel and think: ‘I could do better than that!’  And you do, though of course getting published was just a dream for a very long time! 
      My big breakthrough was being taken on by my wonderful agent, Judith Murdoch, because she showed me how making small changes to the sort of books I was writing (which were satire) would enable them to fit into the romantic comedy genre.
      Now, many years down the line (and I can tell you it was frequently a very bumpy journey!) and sixteen or so published novels later, I've had five consecutive Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, so I feel very blessed.   

2. What are you doing when you’re not writing?
Walking the dog, baking, pottering in the garden and oil painting.

3. What do you find most challenging about writing?
I write about topics that interest me and which appear to strike a chord with readers and this isn't always easy.  I’m often surprised at reviews that describe my books as ‘a light frothy read’ because all of them contain the darker strands that can affect women’s lives, such as miscarriage, divorce, breast cancer and infertility…  For example, at the start of The Twelve Days of Christmas, the heroine is struggling to come to terms with feelings of grief and anger about her husband’s accidental death, while my latest one, Wish Upon a Star, is all about a very ill small child.  But ultimately, I want my readers to finish my novels feeling happy and warmed right through, so that’s a challenge.

4.Is there any book you think ‘I wish I wrote that’.

5. Many of your novels are set in the village of Sticklepond. Is this based on a real place?
Six of my novels are set in West Lancashire, though only four of them in Sticklepond, which is an entirely made-up village. In fact, I've created a whole new borough stretching from the sea above Southport to the beacon hills to the east.
       I didn't set out to write a series, so the novels all stand alone, but by now there are quite a lot of overlapping references to characters, places and events, so people often want to read them in order. Lancashire is easy to write about, of course, because I know the people, the old legends and traditions, so there’s a lot to instantly spark the imagination. 

6.  You like to write festive novels.  Is Christmas a special time of year for you?
  I do seem to include a Christmas scene even in those of my novels that are not specifically set around that time!  My own Christmas is always quiet and laid back because we've forged our own way of doing things over the years, a mix of old and new traditions.  For instance, we have roast duck on Christmas Day, because we like it better than turkey, and usually profiteroles for dessert, saving the Christmas pudding for Boxing Day.   We watch lots of Christmas films, play board games, take the dog for walks and generally chill out.

7. How would you feel about selling the film rights to one of your books?
Deliriously happy!  I often amuse myself by casting characters in the various roles – and what a wide cast of interesting female ones there would be!   I think there is always room for a new feel-good Rom-com, so fingers crossed that one day…

8. Your latest book, Wish Upon a Star, was released last week.  Can you tell us a bit about it?
Cally is a single mum with a life that revolves around her little girl, Stella, who was born with serious health problems. When Stella’s condition suddenly worsens, she sells up her London flat and they move to the village of Sticklepond in West Lancashire to live with her mother, while Cally tries to raise enough money to take Stella to America for a potentially life-saving operation.  
      Cally only realises quite how tough shouldering everything alone has been when all the villagers - and especially laid-back and charming baker Jago - rally round to help.  All Cally wants for Christmas is a miracle to save Stella and the story is very much about following your star wherever it may lead and however tough the going might be, with hope in your heart.

9.  Will we continue to read more about the residents of Sticklepond?
Yes, but not for a couple of books, because I like to leave them to get on with their lives in peace for a while.

10. What’s next for Trisha?
      I’m currently writing the next book – I always seem to be writing Christmas books in summer, and summer books in winter - and next spring Avon Harper Collins will be producing a new edition of one of my long-out-of-print novels, Every Woman for Herself.  It’s set in Yorkshire, where the Rhymer family, Emily, Charlotte, Anne and Branwell (the result of a misguided and failed attempt by their father to recreate the Bronte family) slowly return home, one by one, to the haven of Upvale – only to find that things are about to change forever.
      Every Woman for Herself was voted by readers one of the three best romantic novels of the last fifty years, which was a truly wonderful moment, and I’m constantly being asked where a copy can be found, so I’m delighted it will soon be easily available again.     
     And could I just finish by saying that I have the most lovely, loyal and supportive group of readers any author could wish for, which is why the dedication at the front of Wish Upon a Star is just for them – truly my stars to steer by.

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