Author Interview with Kris Ashton

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Author Kris Ashton after his appearance in the Lethal Impact anthology.


  1. What inspired you to start writing?

If it was any one thing, probably Stephen King’s short fiction in Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. But an interest in reading and writing has been an innate part of me as far back as I can remember. I always enjoyed writing fiction and penned my first full-length short story in my early teens.

  1. Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing the story?

Most of the time an idea hits me almost fully-formed. If I’m convinced it has potential, I roll it around in my head for a few days to work out the characters, detail and finesse the plot, examine everything for problems. Once the way seems clear, I put my head down and go.

  1. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I imagine almost every author has periods where motivation and self-belief are in short supply. Some days you’re an F-18 Hornet streaking across the sky, other days you’re a dung beetle trying to push your manuscript uphill. Those dung beetle days are especially hard while writing a novel. Discouragement comes easily when you still have 40,000 words to go. Keying in changes on each draft of a novel is the least enjoyable part of the process for me.

  1. On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?

I’m a journalist as well as an author, so few are the days where I’m not hammering away at a keyboard. If I’m at work on a new piece of fiction, I try for a thousand words a day bare minimum. That can take an hour if I’m really blazing or three if my mental state is boggy.

  1. Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

I almost died from bacterial meningitis when I was two years old. A night doctor misdiagnosed it as gastroenteritis and I ended up being rushed to hospital the next day. I survived, obviously, but suffered nerve damage that left me with next to no hearing in my left ear.

  1. Where do you get your inspiration?

Reading fiction definitely helps. It stimulates the creative centre of my mind and I’ve had more than a few story ideas arise from a nifty line or image in another writer’s novel. Sometimes inspiration comes from true-life stories I hear from friends and family. Other times I’ll simply be alone with my thoughts when two independent concepts crash into one another, exploding into a new story idea.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King in his early years. Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cujo, Pet Sematary, Different Seasonsand his short fiction collections wowed me as a reader and shaped me as a nascent writer. In those days he had the perfect balance between ‘soothing’ narrative voice, thematic weight, and plots packed with verve and energy. His post-1980s stuff didn’t resonate the same way and his 21st century output has been hit-and-miss, in my opinion.

  1. What are you reading now?

I’m making my way through Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875). Like most authors from that period his books require a large investment of time and concentration, but he was a gifted writer with a fine sense of humour.

  1. How do you come up with your book titles?

Some authors agonise over story and book titles, but I’m not one of them. For me it’s simple word association. I distill the story down to its basic elements in my mind and then see what phrases pop up in response. ‘Blood and Light’ in Lethal Impact is a good example. It’s a long story with a lot going on, but ‘Blood’ and ‘Light’ (which act as verbs as well as nouns) came to me almost right away. They sum up the story’s plot and themes on multiple levels.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

On my website at krisashtonwrite.wordpress.com I keep a blog and publish the ‘stories behind my stories’, which are the literary version of making-of documentaries for Hollywood movies. I’m also @KrisAshtonWrite on Twitter because authors are supposed to have a social media presence these days (I don’t have a high regard for social media’s overall effect on society).

Author Interview with S.O. Green

With the upcoming release of Dragon Soul Press’ Lethal Impact anthology, DSP interviewed Author S.O. Green featured within.


 

  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. That, to me, was more important than being a writer. I wrote fan fiction as a way to flirt with my girlfriend (actually, I still do) and as a way to hone my craft. It was only two years ago that I started looking at professional writing, and only this year that I started to take it seriously. So here I am.

  1. Describe your writing process.

I usually start with a concept or a theme. That’s why I love Dragon Soul Press anthologies. The themes are always so strong. Once I have a theme, I brainstorm a premise using some of my favourite character archetypes. Then I write out the plot as it comes to me, fix up the holes and improve the flow before starting to write. I add layers as I go and always allow room for growth but I’m a planner at heart. I try not to research anything until the story is written because I prefer to focus on character and drama rather than detail. Once it’s written, I let my girlfriend take an axe to it.

  1. How do you come up with the titles to your stories?

The title is the very last thing I decide on. Early drafts are always entitled things like ‘The Demon Story’ or ‘Reign of Queens Story’. When I finish, I look back through and see if I can find a phrase that describes the entire piece. My latest story for Dragon Soul Press is named ‘Eve’s Apple’, after the main character’s love of apples. That quirk wasn’t even in the original plan but, once I started writing, it became important pretty quickly.

  1. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I do all my writing on an Alphasmart Neo. It’s basically a keyboard with a calculator screen. No games, no internet, no nothing. There are no distractions. It’s the main reason why my output is so high. I’ve typed over half a million words since the start of 2020 and it’s great because I used to really struggle with my output. Oh, and there’s also usually a redhead in my stories somewhere.

  1. How do you handle writer’s block?

Honestly, I try to just not get it. I start every day with a little writing. Something rough with low stakes so I can just let it flow. It might never see the light of day. On the other hand, it might also be the first draft of something. If I get blocked on a specific project, I try to approach it from a different angle – a new point of view, a new character or a new starting point. My experience of writer’s block is less about the writing and more about motivation.

  1. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I tend to say the empty spaces. I read; I watch TV; I play video games. My stories come from the spaces between stories. ‘What if?’ scenarios or events I felt should have happened but didn’t. ‘Eve’s Apple’, was based on the question, ‘what if a main character knew they were an android all their life?’ You can find the answer in the upcoming Lethal Impact anthology.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Mainly, I search for new ways to make plants delicious and learn to kill people with my bare hands. I play a lot of video games – classic survival horror, epic open world and twee farm simulators tend to be my favourites. I try to read a lot too. I’ve found some brilliant indie authors since the start of the year whose work I adore, like Carrie Gessner and Dan Trudeau. I also have a job but who cares about that?

  1. What are you currently working on?

My current project is for Dragon Soul Press’s Fairytale Dragons anthology. Really, I’ve been spoiled for choice with DSP’s catalogue of submission calls. They’ve recently added a call for steampunk as well so I’m going to be very busy over the next few months. I usually try to have a few projects on the go at once so I can flit between them and keep my motivation up. Short fiction is a fever I can’t sweat out, but I have a novel I’m revising for self-publishing and a novella that is under consideration with a publisher as well. I like to keep busy.

  1. If you could travel to any fictional world, where would you go?

Frank Baum’s Oz. The characters are all so nice and it really is a paradise. Baum’s descriptions of it were always so beautiful and it feels like anything might be possible there. Guilt-free, plant-based chicken dinners grow on trees. Ozma of Oz is also one of the first transgender characters in Western literature, having spent her formative years as a boy named Tip. Reading his original canon recently, I was amazed at how relevant the series still is. On the other hand, I don’t think they’d appreciate my work there, being of a significantly more cheerful disposition.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

I update Amazon and Goodreads whenever something new comes out. There’s also my blog, where I review what I read and tease out issues that interest me. I’m also there for the banter on Twitter and Facebook.

At some point, I’ll grow into them all and they’ll look pretty and professional. Until then, enjoy the chaos.

Funding Your Writing

Teamworks recently approved me for a mentorship to help in editing my novel. I am so happy.  An editor, Valerie Compton is available to edit my novel.  I was stressed out for two weeks because I couldn’t afford to pay her.

Then I contacted Teamworks. They are an organization that helps people gain more meaningful employment that supports their passion in life and helps them cope with their struggles in disabilities. I have a learning disability. Rather than let that defeat me, I found ways to turn it into an opportunity.

To qualify for the funding, Valerie Compton and Teamworks agreed to turn the editing job into a mentorship. This means that the process will  take longer, but I don’t care. I know the mentorship will be valuable and I will learn a lot in the process.

Anyone who faces my struggles can enjoy the same success as anyone else. You just need to know who to reach out to.

Sometimes knowing who that can be is a challenge in itself. I am fortunate because the resource was in plain sight. Teamworks funded my copyediting course. I graduated successfully from the course, which was a bonus when I applied for the mentorship. This fall, Valerie Compton will mentor me, editing and revising my novel to its very best. I can’t wait to work with her.

Other places offer funding, such as the Canada Council. It gives out grants to writers. Writing organizations are a great place to search for other sources of funding. The local libraries are a way to find information. Libraries are slowly opening to the public after the pandemic lockdown. 

If you wish to meet with an arts grants officer to discuss a proposal for funding, don’t let the social distancing and lockdown get you down. Zoom meetings and Skype are great alternatives to meeting in person. You don’t have to leave your house. Just log onto your laptop and you’re all set.

I have to keep in mind though that as I get this funding that helps me complete what would otherwise be financially impossible, is that they often expect an outcome. For example, when I graduated from the copyediting certification course. That was a positive outcome. Teamworks will want a measure of achievement from this first half of the mentorship. I am not sure yet what that will be, but to quote Indiana Jones, “I’ll think of something.”

Don’t let a disability, no matter what type, be a barrier to you seeking success in life. Turn an obstacle into an opportunity. Arts grants are now more inclusive of people who face those struggles. It opens doors for them instead of the door being closed to them. It is not easy, but not impossible. This is proof of the positive changes taking place in society today that benefit everyone.

Let’s hope that continues.

 

 

Proper Etiquette – Emails to Businesses

These days, technology is booming. It’s often easier to communicate using various mobile devices available on the market rather than a laptop or PC. We found one major problem with this: professionalism is left out or forgotten when responding to emails, work chats, etc.

When communicating with businesses or leadership at work, it’s important to remember to include the proper headings (“Dear ____”), the greeting, purpose along with details, questions, and the closing (Sincerely, Regards, etc). For a solid breakdown of each of these sections, view this unaffiliated resource.

When the headings and closings are left off from emails, it marks the sender as unprofessional or even lazy. For companies that receive dozens of emails daily, a quick glance is all they can afford to size up the sender’s capability.

You may be thinking, I’ve been in communication with them already though. It takes mere seconds to include the heading and closing to an email. The inability to do so reflects poorly on the sender, especially when closings (Sincerely, etc) can be automatically inserted for every email under settings.

By using proper email etiquette, you will impress and receive a more positive response in future.

Playlists and Mood Boards

We’ve all struggled with some form of writer’s block. Either the right words just aren’t flowing, or you’ve hit a wall in terms of story progression. Sometimes the story is there, but we just don’t feel a motivation to write.  Regardless of what form your writer’s block takes, you can’t sit and wait for inspiration or motivation. If you do, your manuscript will never get written. It’s painful, but sometimes you just need to push through until you find your stride again.

While I find that storyboarding everything out definitely helps in terms of linearity, just staring at my cork board full of different colored index cards isn’t always enough to get me fully inspired. Sometimes, you just need a little something extra. 

Playlists and Mood Boards are perhaps some of my favorite tools for getting myself hyped to write. The sounds and visuals definitely help to spark the creativity when basic text on some index cards isn’t cutting it. I like hearing what my characters would be hearing in the moment – it makes me feel like I’ve stepped into their world. Youtube has been my go-to since it’s pretty simple to add songs to playlists for yourself. But a new site that I discovered was ambient-mixer.com. Not only do they already have dozens of already mixed soundscapes to choose from, there is also the option to create your own! That little bit of creativity of making your own mixes will definitely get the creativity flowing. 

As for mood boards, I find that these visuals are wonderful to look at to get in the spirit of your story. You can make one for either a scene, a chapter, or your whole novel. My go-to place is Pinterest, of course. I love to create mood boards for different chapters or characters of mine using the many aesthetic images that interest has to offer. But lately, I’ve gotten a little old school in my pursuits. I’ve taken to cutting pictures out of magazines to printing pictures straight from Pinterest and just making collages at home that I then pin to my cork board along with my notes. It’s very 1995, but it’s fun!