Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Interview with Heidi Ashworth

What prompted you to become a writer?

When I was seven years old, I wrote a little story and read it to my mother. She was very encouraging about it, which made me feel special. Since I am one of eight children, seven of them girls, and one of a pair of identical twins, “feeling special” didn’t happen very often. I guess I just wanted to pursue that feeling. It was a way for me to stand out, a talent on which one of my many older sisters hadn’t corner the market.

What part of writing do you find most satisfying?

I tend to write character driven stories rather than plot driven. I love it when the characters take on lives of their own and inform me what is going to happen next. When people respond to that and enjoy these characters, it’s very satisfying. It’s almost as if the people in my books are my children. I’m very fond of them.

What part do you find most difficult?

The middle. The beginning of a book is easy. The end is easy. It’s getting from point A to point C without being boring, cliche or contrived–that is work for me. Also, writing to please a specific person. I love to write, but the revisions I needed to do on my first book for the then editor of Avalon, though very much needed, were pure torture. I wasn’t sure how to give her what she wanted and I hated every minute of it. I guess it all worked out in the end because the book is much stronger as a result and she gave the okay to write a sequel, which is almost unheard of in this particular genre. Series, yes. Sequels featuring the very same hero and heroine, no.

What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting? Or something else entirely?

I would say characters but, since I write regency romances, a very rigid setting is already very much in place. I think it is helpful to have the main details of how, what and where my characters live in place before I even get started. But, yes, after that, it’s definitely the characters.

Where do you find inspiration?

The Regency is a time period I enjoy and that fascinates me quite a bit. It was a very short period of time, but an incredibly specific one. What’s more, the rules of traditional regency romance are even more defined than the time period itself so certainly all of my favorite authors who wrote during or about that time period are highly inspirational. Jane Austen needs no explanation but some might not realize that Georgette Heyer was the mother of the traditional regency romance genre and I adore her books. Events that occur in my life are also a huge source of inspiration. I believe that we have just as many conditions on our lifestyles as they did then; they’re simply different. How we respond to those conditions, whether they are inescapable or cultural conventions we feel compelled to follow, is universal. As a result, the trials and joys I go through in life are not that different than those gone through by people from other times and places–just the details are different.

Tell us about your book.

Both of the books I have sold are traditional regency romances. Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind is about a girl who has no patience for the cultural conventions of the day and, as a result, is an old maid at twenty years of age. Her guardian and great-aunt contrive to throw Miss Delacourt together with the aunt’s grandson, Sir Anthony, who is a splendid soul bogged down by the artifices of society. They naturally have a strong distaste for one another but each is the person the other needs in order to be the best versions of their true selves. I wanted every regency element to be in it, from the china shepherdess on the mantle to the duel at dawn. As a result, some see it as being very unoriginal, but others (including the professional reviewers) see it for what it truly is–a sly wink at an art form I love. Miss Delacourt Has Her Day is a sequel to the first. I asked that a wedding dress be on the cover because I thought it was very important that fans of the first book know, from the outset, that Miss D is going to get her man. However, Miss Delacourt isn’t quite so sure. Since the end of the first book, Sir Anthony’s cousin had died, making Sir A the heir to his uncle, the duke, a duke who does not approve of Miss D as the proper bride for his nephew and heir. Her future mother-in-law hates her and an old flame of Sir Anthony’s makes an appearance, giving the reader a deeper look into his former need to depend on artifice to cope with life. It’s another fun, light book, but both are rooted in the universal challenges of communication and the hazards that follow when we say too little or too much.

What else is in the works?

I have several partly written books but the one I intend to write next is the romance between Miss Delacourt and Sir Anthony’s daughter and the son of a secondary character in my previous books. It will take place in the Victorian time period, another favorite of mine, so I am excited to explore a slightly different setting for this new story.

What other authors do you especially admire?

Other than those already mentioned, I adore Barbara Metzger. I love her light touch and sense of humor. When my first novel was purchased, I did a lot of research as to what one should do to promote one’s book. One writer suggested approaching your favorite author who writes in your genre and asking that person to read your book and provide a cover blurb. Not realizing that Avalon did not do cover blurbs at the time, I contacted Ms. Metzger, who graciously agreed to read my book. Now I look back and think how bold and gutsy that was, but she was very, very gracious about it. Thank goodness she liked it (or at least pretended to) and she provided a lovely blurb that is now on the back cover of my second book.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I have three wonderful children, one of whom is multiply disabled, so he’s a lot of work. I also deal with physical challenges (fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism and celiac), all of which make things challenging for me. As a result, I haven’t been able to work outside the home for quite some time. I sold collectibles and antiques on eBay for a long time, including miniature furniture that I converted into shabby chic style treasures. I also write a blog, garden and enjoy home improvement projects designed to convert my 1970’s California bungalow into an English cottage (or at least the illusion of). My husband and I are just now embarking on a new adventure: we will soon be opening a store, part thrift store, part consignment store, part antique store and part retail boutique. It’s very exciting. Hopefully, there will be enough down time during which I can work on my next book.

Do you have a schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in when you can?

I wrote both of my published books (my second will be released February 4th) on a strict schedule. In each case, I reserved one day a week for book writing. I spent eight to ten hours a day writing while other people took care of my children and dinner (sometimes my husband, sometimes others). Both books were written in 6 months using that method. Since I completed Miss Delacourt Has Her Day, I have been dealing with health issues that made it hard to have the energy to write but those are now being properly treated and are under control. Having the flexibility to write was one of the reasons we chose to start our own business rather than being employed by others so, hopefully, I will be able to squeeze in some writing time once we get things set up and going.

What refreshes you creatively?

Without a doubt, chocolate. I keep a bowl handy at my computer desk when I’m working on a book. It’s absolutely essential. (On those rare occasions when I’m staying away from sugar, I’m dumb as a brick.) I also get a lot out of my garden; it’s a great stress reducer. I enjoy watching movies set in the time period about which I’m writing and am currently enjoying a lot of dramatized Dickens in preparation for my next book. Most importantly, having a variety of ways to express my creativity is the key. The act of creating fuels creativity in every facet of my life.

You’ve already mentioned that you have a personal blog in addition to your participation in AvalonAuthors. Do you have a website? If so, please feel free to add a link.

My blog is called Dunhaven Place and it's found at:

My official writerly website is:


Kay Finch said...

Heidi & Sandy - Enjoyed the interview very much. Heidi, I certainly agree that the middle of a book is the hardest. I'm in the middle of one right now. We share physical ailments - I'll bet you know which chocolates are gluten free because I do.

Jane Myers Perrine said...

Thank you, ladies. Very interesting.

Heidi said...

Thanks, Sandy, for taking the time to do this!

Jean said...

I always enjoy getting to know the other Avalon authors better.

Tracy D said...

Fascinating person you are, Heidi. Fun to read about you.

Nicola said...

Great Interview! Love the Regency favourite!

Joselyn Vaughn said...

Great interview! I totally agree about the middle. I always wonder how much more stuff has to happen until I can write the end. Good luck with your new book.

Tessa McDermid said...

Great interview. I enjoyed finding out how you put your love of the time period into the book. Georgette Heyer was one of my first introductions to romance stories and I was forever hooked on the Regency period.

Sandy Cody said...

Thanks all for stopping by. I had a good time interviewing Heidi and getting to know her better. Both she and her books are well worth knowing.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

I'm with you, Heidi, the beginning and the end of my story is always in my head and easy to write. The middle--not such much. I guess that's why it's called the 'sagging' middle. It was nice learning more about you and your writing.

Fran McNabb said...

Heidi and Sandy, thanks for a great interview. Nice to know others have problems with the dreaded middle.

Beate Boeker said...

Heidi, loved the interview, and am so impressed by the many things you have overcome in order to be an author. Congratulations!

Kazzy said...

I love Heidi's writing, and I am excited for this new book!