Interview with Ashley R. Carlson, author of THE CHARISMATICS / by Ryan Hill

 

The three or four of you who frequent this site no doubt have come across my author interviews, which are the greatest pieces of hard-hitting journalism this side of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (fun fast: We both went to NC State). The latest author to go under the knife is debut author Ashley R. Carlson, whose steampunk novel The Charismatics released wayyyy back on Dec. 13. Of 2014. 

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First, congratulations on your debut novel! The lead up to a release can be pretty hectic/stressful. Has any of your hair fallen out during this whole process? You have to be careful out there. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JOHNNY A DULL BOY.

Thank you! It has been exciting but mostly surreal--a year ago I was tinkering on my NaNoWriMo project and dreaming of finishing a book one day. Now it's actually happened, and The Charismatics is something I'm really proud of.

No hair has fallen out, thankfully. This hasn't been that stressful for me, mostly because I love the process so much. I hired two amazing guys (Stuart Whitmore of Crenel Publishing for formatting and M.S. Corley to design my cover) and they've helped me SO much to create a fantastic product.

Now it's just a matter of marketing it, getting it into readers' hands, and WRITING THE SEQUEL. That part is what scares me.

When you picked up the first physical copy of your book were you overcome with emotion? Did a single tear drop from your eye and land on the cover, prompting a "Shit! It's ruined!" Follow-up question: Did this make you consider flinging yourself into the Grand Canyon?

I actually recorded myself unboxing my first physical copies and posted it on YouTube for my readers. You can find it here.

This is my genuine reaction--I didn't cry, but I was very excited and getting overheated and my entire neck was red at the end of the video. That happens when I get excited/nervous/overcome with emotion--imagine going on a date and having your entire neck/chest red and blotchy when you talk to the person. Basically a neon sign that says "I'M NERVOUS RIGHT NOW ISN'T THAT COOL." So yeah, basically the opposite of cool. 

Admittedly, you're a good-looking woman. Do you plan to use your beauty to help sell books? Hint: you should.

HA all of this after I talk about my gross, red neck. (Jennifer Lawrence moment, perhaps?) I don't know how to answer this question without sounding egotistical or something.

I do think that a person's appearance can help or hinder in selling their product--an author who is put-together, clean, and attractive is going to be someone you put more trust in with their writing than a scruffy, unbathed, scary "Gollum" look-alike (and believe me, I've had those days).

Ultimately though, I want readers to enjoy my personality. I try to be very forthcoming about who I am not only as a writer but as a person, and invite you into my life. My dating mishaps, my everlasting love for Jennifer Lawrence and animals, and my desire to help those in need (I have a charity page on my website that you can see here, and I'll warn you--it's got some graphic photos of animals who have been abused. But it's necessary to see, so that we can help them). So yes, perhaps my appearance will attract the attention of some--but I hope it is a genuineness and compelling writing on my part that keeps them around.

Ryan note: This is a good, albeit serious answer to a silly question. Also, I gave $15 to a foundation in Africa that helps elephants last week. SEE??? I can be charitable too!

Back to THE CHARISMATICS. Every author puts a part of themselves in their work. What parts of the novel were more autobiographical? The forced marriage? Oh! Wait. DO YOU REALLY LIVE IN A STEAMPUNK REALITY???

HAHA! Thankfully our government isn't evil (erm...) and forcing young people into advantageous marriages to further there secret motives. Alas, I do not live in a steampunk reality--it is very much real reality (as in I have an entire house to clean today and a menu to memorize for my new job at an Irish pub nearby).

I would say that the main character, Duchess Ambrose Killaher, is the most autobiographical element to "The Charismatics." She is strong, but her strength does not lie in her physical abilities. She is no Katniss (The Hunger Games) or Tris (Divergent). She is also not a Bella (Twilight), wrapped up in a romantic relationship and not thinking of much else.

Ambrose certainly wants love and companionship, but there are more important elements that come into play in "The Charismatics" besides that--namely that the poor in her world (called denizens) are starving, and live in horrid conditions. And she has the ability to change that, or at least try to.

So in that sense, I feel a kinship with her--I have always felt the desire to help those who are struggling, especially children and animals. A lot of time however, life and excuses can get in the way. So in The Charismatics Ambrose has to make a choice--whether she is going to keep making excuses, or whether she is going to buck up and do something about the problem. 

What's your idea of a good steampunk? What the heck is steampunk? Does it involve "steamy" punks? Is it like punk rock, but with smoke machines to simulate steam? Maybe it's some new kind of drug the kids are taking...

I didn't set out to write a steampunk novel, that's for sure. I don't even know a lot about the culture, aside from the general definition: 

Victorian science fiction. What makes my book "steampunk" would be the clothes that they wear at times (fancy top hats and "fascinators") and dresses or suits. Think of the elite of Victorian times--similar to that, except that this is an alternate universe, not set in the future or past. So they also have sneakers, and pants... it just has some of those themes/undertones of elaborate dress from that time period. Also, the transportation is steampunk-inspired--there are no cars, because the nobility live in floating cities over the poor denizens. So they use airships and copters and zeppelins to get around--all flying machines in various sizes. Aside from that, my book is more fantasy-inspired. There is a supernatural realm forbidden to speak of, and invisible companions, and winged horses... all my favorite things.

Speaking of drugs, were there any hallucinogens involved in creating THE CHARISMATICS? Alcohol? Surely you had some drug of choice.

Probably sounds like it after I just described The Charismatics, doesn't it?! No, no hallucinogens or drugs or alcohol of any kind. Honestly, I don't drink much and especially when I'm writing--I need my mind clear. For me, the drug is when I get so wrapped up in a scene I'm writing that I can see it playing out in my head lie a movie. THAT is magical. 

Name three of your favorite authors. And yes, I can be one of them.

HA. Well number one is Ryan Hill, obviously. I don't read as much as I should, because a lot of books lose my interest. I find that adult books are too descriptive or deal with things I don't care about, and that young adult books can sometimes be too juvenile and also deal with things I don't care about.

Not a great thing for an author to say, is it?

There are a few authors that will always have my heart though, and they are:

-J.K. Rowling (of course).

-Gail Carson Levine. She wrote Ella Enchanted, a book I've read close to fifteen times. I have a lot of inspiration from her woven into my own novel.

-Stephen King. I am getting into his work--I find that sometimes he can detail things too much and I get bored, but MAN does he know how to build suspense. He's a master. 

Now play the marry f--k kill game with them.

With the authors? Oh geez.

I'd probably marry J.K. Rowling since she's insanely rich and could fund my writing career until I can myself.

I'd f--k Step--oh no. But I don't want to kill Gail Carson Levine.

Want to know which author I would f--k? PIERCE BROWN, author of Red Rising. That guy is gorgeous. 

Ryan note: NOT AS GORGEOUS AS ME!!!!!

So, why get into writing? Is it because you can't count? Science too confusing? I know those two things played a big part for me.

Basically. I have no other skills.

According to my third grade teacher on one of my writing assignments, "I should write a book." So it must be something I've shown promise with for a long time. Just took me a while to realize it--now that I have however, I never want to stop. Ever. 

Tell us, in haiku format, why we should buy THE CHARISMATICS.

A secret realm of

Dangerous dark rebellion

Is waiting for her

I looked up what a haiku was. Hopefully I got it right. Thanks so much for this Ryan, it was the most fun I've had today!

Ryan note: Yes, this is correct. Also, the lack of people not knowing what a haiku is disturbs me, and I may have to make it a mission in life to educate people about them.

Bio

Ashley R. Carlson grew up wanting a talking animal friend and superpowers, and when that didn’t happen, she decided to write them into existence. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with three (non-talking) pets and one overactive imagination. Follow Ashley R. Carlson’s writing at ashleyrcarlson.com, on Twitter @AshleyRCarlson1, and facebook.com/ashleyrcarlson1.1.


Book Blurb

An arranged marriage. A corrupt government called Legalia. A forbidden spiritual realm.

Duchess Ambrose Killaher was just seventeen-years-old when exiled to Shinery—a city of snow and darkness—to marry a man who despised her, finding her only solace in an invisible companion named Roan.

Now as the poor starve in the streets below and rebellious acts become a frequent occurrence, Shinery holds its yearly celebration to commemorate Legalia’s rule. But when Ambrose stumbles into a hidden courtroom and witnesses a violent murder, she is thrust into a secret world of the supernatural—one that could endanger everyone she cares for. With the help of a handsome stranger, Ambrose learns of the past Legalia has covered up, and that she alone possesses the power to stop their unspeakable plans for the future.

Find it on Amazon and Goodreads now.