Today I am visiting with the lovely and talented author of the new novel A Good Vintage available today from Dreamspinner Press. Ashlyn’s former book American Love Songs (I still listen to my ALS playlist, this book has the BEST music in it!), is one of my favorite books in the entire genre and one of the best stories with musician main characters. ALS came out a few years ago and this Ashlyn’s latest foray in the M/M world. Like I said in my review ealier this week, I loved this book and an thrilled to have Ashlyn here to answer a few questions about the story, her writing habits, her favorite pizza and wine and even a bit of her future plans! Without further a do…
The Tipsy Bibliophile: Ashlyn your first book American Love Songs )which is one of my all time favorites by the way!), also had heroes who took their time finding their way to each other. Tell me what is it about this kind of love story that appeals to you?
Ashlyn Kane: Aww, thank you! I think, for me, love stories are all about the journey and the romantic suspense–the butterflies in the stomach, the will-they-or-won’t-they (of course they will, but I have to at least pretend they might not), the obstacles that must be overcome. Once it’s obvious that the characters are in love, they’re happy, they’re making it work, what more should I say? The fun goes out of it for me. So I sort of have to write stories where they take their time finding their way to each other, or I’d have to stick to short stories and novellas. Besides, I think the slow build makes for hotter sex scenes. I like to make people wait. 😉
TB: In both your books you employ flashback as a writing tool, do you find that it is a useful device in your storytelling? Does the fact that it is something readers usually find distracting a reason why are creative with how you present flashbacks in your stories?
AK: I use flashbacks to avoid a lot of expository writing and to provide readers with the background info they need as they need it. When I’m editing and I come across a lot of exposition, I find it really noticeable and annoying. Of course, an excess of flashbacks can also be noticeable and annoying! But even though sometimes it’s better to tell than show (there’s no reason to show Luke at the grocery store buying bread, for example), if something’s important, I want to illustrate it rather than just tell the reader about it.
As for the creative formatting of those flashbacks, I have to blame that on my English degree. For me, a great deal of the writing process is play rather than work, and I love playing with narrative frames–characters telling stories, letters, blog posts, between-the-scenes snapshots, magazine articles. The fact that readers find this less distracting than regular flashbacks is just a bonus.
TB: The setting of Mal and Luke’s book is in the Napa Valley of California which is place known for wine and food. Why was this setting alluring to you? What inspired you to write this story?
AK: My husband and I were actually in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, for our first wedding anniversary when the plot bunny for A Good Vintage struck me. (That was two and a half years ago, so this book has been in the works for a while!) NOTL is also known for its wines. Parts of southern Ontario are actually on the same parallel as parts of California, so it’s one of the few areas in Canada that can actually support viniculture. It was hot, it was dusty, we stayed at a B&B and drank a lot of wine and got sunburned–of course I had to write a book about it.
Then I watched Bottle Shock and the scenery of California just called to me. Ontario’s beautiful (in places), but NOTL doesn’t have quite the same feel to it. I had to put the two together.
TB: Where do you do most of your writing? What would be your ideal space to write?
AK: Honestly? On my laptop at my dining room table. I’ll write just about anywhere–I’ve always got a notebook and pen on me, and I write on the bus, on the tram, in the car, on the train, on the plane, on the beach. (Can you tell I travel a lot?) But I do most of my writing at home between the hours of midnight and 3AM. The more wine I’ve drunk, the more likely it is that I’m writing something smutty.
My ideal writing space is really anywhere I can put my laptop on a table to avoid excess wrist pain. As long as it’s quiet–dishwasher noise is okay, but voices tend to distract me.
TB: My blog is a bit unique in that I usually cook and do a wine pairing for my book reviews. For this story I chose to make homemade pizza, and paired it with a California Petit Syrah. What is your favorite California wine? What are your favorite toppings for a pizza?
AK: Oh man, a food question! Pizza first, as that one’s easier. I like pizza with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, or roasted peppers and onions and olives, or ham and pineapple (which is so mainstream, I know, but salty+sweet=delicious). Honestly, what’s more important than the toppings is the wood-burning oven. Pizza made in a wood-burning oven is just better.
I once was delivered a seafood pizza by mistake, and I do not recommend it, even for those among us who enjoy seafood, since most pizza-delivery places aren’t going to have the freshest seafood. That one was across the line of how adventurous I’m willing to be.
As for my favorite California wine… I do love a Syrah. I’m partial to reds in general. But on a hot summer day, sometimes a nice cold Zinfandel is better. I’d tell you the brand I normally buy, but its name currently escapes me and I can’t just pop over to the grocery store to check as I’m in a different country at the moment!
TB: Lastly what are your future plans? Do you have any stories in the works?
AK: I have another book coming from Dreamspinner this summer. It’s called Hard Feelings, and I cowrote it with Morgan James, whom I’ve worked with a few times before. Rylan and Miller meet at a conference and do not get along. But they’re ridiculously attracted to each other, and one thing leads to another, and they have a one-night stand, figuring they’ll never see each other again. And then a few months later, they end up working together, but they still can’t get along unless they’re having sex. It’s sort of the opposite of what I said I like to write in #1 above, but it’s also just a different kind of slow build, a lot of banter and snark and sex that eventually turns into more. It’s the first book I’ve worked on in a long time where the characters have sex before page 70. It’s my current favorite.
Morgan and I are also working on a superhero book. We love superheroes, so while we’re doing our best to make our story unique, it’s also a homage to established franchises–with a gay romance twist. Shadow is sort of Batman meets The Godfather meets Captain America meets Pretty Woman. Blake Hayward knows his brother, Dick, is using his position as CEO of their father’s multi-billion-dollar investment firm to launder money for organized crime. He’s sure that’s what got his boyfriend, Sam, a forensic accountant, killed. Blake wants revenge, but first he needs evidence, and most of the police are on the take. Unfortunately, Blake took a bullet through the knee when Sam was shot, so he can’t do the legwork himself. He combs through their legal files to find people who hate Hayward Investments as much as he does, and ends up hiring Rob Lazarovich to be his Batman-by-proxy. But things don’t go as planned. He ends up falling for Rob, and then Rob gets kidnapped. By the time he returns, he’s been declared dead, and he ends up with a fake identity as Blake’s paramour. All kinds of angst and awkwardness there.
And then when we’re done with that, I plan to write the American Love Songs not-quite-sequel, When the Stars Go Out, which is about the lead singer of Red Star and what happens when a rock band falls apart. Jake and Parker will have cameos, of course.
TB: Thanks Ashlyn, for taking the time to answer these, and I just wanted to say, I loved the book and I am glad to see your name back in the DSP roster! And I am terrified and delighted to hear that there will be a sequel to American Love Songs! Jake and Parker have a special place in my heart!
AK: You are so welcome, and thanks for inviting me! I’m happy to be writing again!
Thanks again to Ashlyn for kindly taking the time to hang out with me, and for those of you who stopped by to read the interview. I am very excited to read more of Ashlyn’s work soon.
Cheers and Happy Reading!