Dragon Soul Press had the opportunity to interview Author Ava Harper Kent! Enjoy her introduction below and continue reading for the difficult questions we collected for her.
Hello, my name is Ava and I am a book junkie. I love to immerse myself in worlds created by words, whether I am reading or writing them.
I love books that make me think and feel deeply, stories that crackle to life, and characters that stay with me when I close the book. I enjoy most genres—history, memoirs, mysteries, philosophy, poetry, cookbooks, plays . . . and toe-curling, steamy romance novels. It’s the whole human experience! No one fits into one neat category in real life or in successful fiction. My hope is that my varied interests will lead to characters and plots as well-rounded as my reading list.
I am currently being entertained by the voices of the Whiskey and Wildfire series, and they are pushing and shoving inside my head to make their way onto paper . . . or the monitor, as the case may be!
Each of my stories starts with a woman finding her inner strength to blaze her own path. I’m a proponent of real love as a partnership of equals; a supportive relationship that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the kind of love I’ve shared with my husband for over 20 years, and I know that it is a rare and precious gift. You’ll find life lessons we’ve learned in each story I write, and a little bit of my sexy beast in all of my men.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
My dad used to make up the best bedtime stories for us off the cuff, weaving in plenty of personal details. I remember copying him, making up my own stories and songs before I could write, and I took every opportunity to write in school—newspaper, creative writing, you name it! I even loved writing papers. For some reason, I lost touch with my creative side in all the day-to-day busyness of being an adult, but I eventually found my way back!
How do you handle writer’s block?
I try to work on another project or see if another scene in the current project is speaking to me. If not, I step away and look for something to inspire creativity—reading, music, tinkering with spices and seasonings in the kitchen, or discussing deep subjects with my husband. I keep engaged in the book by looking at some of my stream-of-consciousness notes sketching out the book, listening to the playlists I have for each book, or researching a topic I’ll address later in the book.
How do you come up with the titles to your books?
The first one in this series? It just came to me. I knew I would have a reason to explain Whiskey and Wildfire at some point, but I didn’t know what it was at first. About half of the way through writing, I was sorting out some character motivation one day at work. Out of nowhere, the main male character’s father piped up in my head and had a heart to heart about his background and he showed me what the title meant.
As for the rest of the series titles (I have five sketched out, with a few potential short stories or novellas), I planned to name them all Whiskey and “something that starts with a W.” However, contrary to popular belief, there aren’t a lot of meaningful W options! I like the alliteration, so I decided to use a different liquor for each title. I’m currently working on book two in the series, Vodka and Vertigo. Book one has a self-contained HEA for Grant and Kat, and book two continues with Nate and Grace (whom we met in book one).
What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
Having a sense of purpose, loving deeply, and finding ways (great and small) to help others.
Where do you get your inspiration?
First, I have been happily married for over twenty years to the love of my life. I’m surrounded by long and happy marriages in both of our families, and they are all different. I also have many strong women to draw characteristics from. Although I am much more of an introvert than the rest of my family, their legions of friends have provided me with many hours of people watching, entertaining stories, and lively discussions where I learned to appreciate other points of view.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I have two. I had a loss, and after the brief time I felt it was socially acceptable to express my grief, I bottled it up. I let myself escape by reading during long baths with candles and lots of wine. I circled back to Jordan’s Savage Brothers MC series for a reread, and I fixated on Saving Dancer. This tragic man was falling apart over something that happened to him through no fault of his own, and he was lashing out at everyone around him like a wounded animal. He couldn’t admit what was wrong or express his emotions about it, and I couldn’t help but cry for him. I have no idea how many times I reread that book before it finally occurred to me that I was crying for my own loss I hadn’t fully grieved. Our situations were totally different, but it’s like Jordan wrote that specifically to give me permission to express my emotions and begin to heal. Not long afterward, I began writing as an additional avenue for this, and it has been therapeutic as well.
The other author is MariaLisa deMora. I love her characters, her stories, her worlds, but also her skill. She doesn’t just put words on the page. She has natural talent, but she also works at her craft without allowing her day job, injuries, or the things that inspire her (cross-country solo bike trip, anyone?) to be an excuse. She isn’t afraid to tackle important issues like substance abuse, sexual assault, and a wide range of sexuality. If I had my way, her standalone novel Hard Focus would be required reading for everyone, but particularly every woman. She interacts with her fans with kindness and compassion, and she has been gracious with advice to a newbie author on several occasions. (And if you’re reading this, MariaLisa, I’m still not over Hoss or Watcher.)
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My husband and I are foodies, and we enjoy finding new local spots in Nashville for good food and cocktails. We love music, so we are always sharing new artists or songs we’ve discovered. We travel when we can, and I’ve incorporated book research into some of our travels—poking around Glasgow and Bowling Green, bourbon tastings, and planning a trip that will include research for book three! I’m starting to do signings, but for now, I don’t travel far from my adopted hometown (Nashville, Tennessee) to keep expenses and travel time reasonable. I enjoy reading, but I prefer to read new titles on breaks between my writing. If I’m working on a scene with a specific requirement, such as confrontation that doesn’t sound like a preteen argument, I reread a book that does that well. Our families are within driving distance, but far enough away that we have to plan visits. I suppose it’s a family version of that saying “good fences make good neighbors,” because we are able to enjoy the time we have with them…then return to our own lives. I have a day job with some great people (and a few annoying ones, but don’t we all?), and a couple of kitties with strong personalities who demand chin scratches, tuna juice, and open windows.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Justice Earl Warren, because his time as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court produced so many landmark decisions and put the spotlight on civil liberties. I’d like to talk about the climate of the time, and how they addressed concerns that they were overstepping their mandate.
Jim Thorpe, because he was arguably the greatest athlete of his time, despite having his Olympic medals stripped from him for a technicality that applied to many other Olympians. His first marriage failed before the Great Depression, and his early professional successes faltered shortly thereafter. He tasted such extremes of success and failure.
Hedy Lamarr, who was known both for portraying the first female orgasm onscreen and for inventing and patenting technology that allowed missiles to go undetected. This later laid the groundwork for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular technology. Most of her life was spent in notoriety while her intelligence was overlooked, but she pursued this research and invention while her life was signed over to Hollywood studios. This was her side gig!
Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book? (If not, what music inspires you to write?)
I listen to New Age type instrumental music to write. I get too distracted by lyrics and distinct melodies, so even some classical is out. But I do make playlists of music that I hear that fits specific scenes or the relationships and listen to them when I’m not writing. For some reason, I never did one for Whiskey and Wildfire, but Kat’s ex first demanded his time in the spotlight by collecting songs for his playlists. He has three or four going now, I think! He was supposed to be a throwaway character in a couple of scenes at most, and now he has his own book in the works.
Back to the music, though! It started with heartbreak songs like Drink You Away (Justin Timberlake), Tequila (Dan + Shea), Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers), I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt), Stay With Me (Sam Smith), Not Over You (Gavin DeGraw), and Breakeven (The Script). Then it moved on to love songs that spoke to me about the relationships these characters have. Shape of You (Ed Sheeran), At Last and Sunday Kind of Love (Etta James), Say You Won’t Let Go (James Arthur), I Like Me Better (Lauv), First Try (JOHNNYSWIM), Rather Be (Clean Bandit Ft. Jess Glynn), Life IS Better with You (Michael Franti & Spearhead), Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol), Speakers (Sam Hunt), Mind Candy (Walker Hayes), Take Me to Church (Hozier), Gorgeous and Naked by X Ambassadors, Glory Box (Portishead), Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton), Moondance (Van Morrison), All of Me (John Legend), and the Amazon Acoustics version of lights down low (Max).
Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Thank you for investing your time in the world I’ve created. I hope to see you again!