Author Spotlight – Clare Ashton
Meet UK Lesbian Fiction Author Clare Ashton
Our reviewer Valden had this to say about Clare Ashton’s books:
A Clare Ashton book is like a chocolate delicacy that you save for a special time. Then you savour it, trying not to hurry the moment because you know that once it is gone, that feeling will be over. Then, once the delicacy is finished, you know you will never be able to repeat that rush, at least not until the next one. For me, it is likely to include a ‘hangover’ as I cannot face another book by anyone for some time.
Clare’s word selection and use of the English language is absolutely superb; I believe there are few lesfic writers today that have such creative ability with words. She is able to make her characters very real in your mind, and she expresses their emotional turmoil so well. Then, in the next breath, there is likely to be some hint of humour or an amusing scenario. Try reading some of the descriptions out loud. It is just poetry!
We spoke to Clare Ashton about her books and her writing plans for the year.
(a) Tell us something interesting about your last published book.
Poppy Jenkins is set in mid Wales, where I grew up, and it’s a part of the world that is as beautiful as it sounds in the book – when it’s not raining. The book is set during a long hot summer, the kind I remember as being idyllic as a child – messing around in streams and rolling down the hills.
Much of the setting in the novel is based on real places. Rhiew Hall is in fact Rhiewport Hall and we lived in a flat above the huge stables when I was five years old. The square, castle and Poppy’s café are all inspired by the versions in Montgomery village and the Victorian hunting lodge was a friend’s house of which I have very fond memories. In fact writing the novel was a lovely trip down memory lane.
(b) What got you into writing?
I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and an avid reader. I was always thinking about stories as a kid. I’m a consummate introvert too – always thinking of the perfect response just a minute too late. That’s all a perfect storm for creating a writer I think.
(c) Can you tell us about your writing style? How do you decide on plots and characters? Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m definitely a plotter. My favourite part of writing is daydreaming the story for weeks and months before I even write a word. Then I outline the story and try to write the first draft as quickly as possible. I have a dreadful memory (“just like Mog the Cat” according to my five-year-old) so I write that first draft like a demon before it all drops out of my head.
(d) If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
I would give my first fledgling stories about strong female characters and lesbians to interested readers rather than disinterested folk who dismissed lesbian romances as not valid literature!
(e) What is next for you? What is your next project?
I finally realised with my last book, Poppy Jenkins, that I really enjoy writing the secondary characters and relatives, so I’ve focused my next novel on a family. It’s still a romance but also a family drama and I’ve loved writing it. It’s another good-length light romance and should be out in the summer 2018.
VALDEN’s TOP PICKS
If I said this book is a romance, with more than a little comedy, it would do the book such a disservice.
Because it is so much more. The book really highlights a number of contrasts and then weaves them into the story almost effortlessly. There is the contrast between Poppy and Rosalyn the main characters; Poppy is bright, optimistic and always seeing the best in others whilst Rosalyn is direct, darker, and according to the villagers, trouble. There is also the contrast between close-knit families and those who are more distant, the wealthy and the working class, between village and town or city, between those with political power and influence and those without.
In addition, it has beautifully described Welsh countryside and more than a little helping of welsh-ness in dialogue and names. The classic Clare Ashton for me will always be the scene when Poppy mis-speaks ‘breast’, ‘boob’ and ‘tit’.’ (If you haven’t read it, it is worth buying the book for that scene alone!)
Not only is it Clare Ashton at her best, but the story itself is full of such cleverly described emotions that it will live with you for a long while. Clo is an ‘escort’ for wealthy women, and her meeting with Mrs Hamilton is one of those thought-provoking moments. I had to put the book down when their meeting was over; I had been drawn into their time together, and it hurt me when she left.
What makes the story though, is the secrets that everyone has, and the emotions that they engender. There is hardly a character in the book that does not have a secret or an untold truth. Thus the layers that run through the story ensure you are on a merry-go-round of twists and turns, and never see what is coming emotionally.