Welcome to the blog of Tonya Royston, author of Young Adult Paranormal novels.  These posts will include updates on The Sunset Trilogy, new story ideas, fun stuff like books she is reading and lots more!

Author Interview - Ashlee McNicol

Debut author Ashlee McNicol is releasing her first book this week!  I had the pleasure of getting to know Ashlee over the last few months.  Her book series sounds incredible, and her drive and work ethics are admirable.  I wish I could be as dedicated as this talented young woman!

The Unforgiving Truths:  Book One of The Secrets of Ghastillanda Series

This isn’t a game anymore.  The fall of the Safe Havens is close.  A series of keys have been lost throughout the Four Worlds, causing our wildest dreams to come to life.  As deceptions fuse with the truth, one girl is chosen to follow her people’s legacy and unlock the secrets that keep the worlds bound.  These secrets are just the beginning, for she unravels a puzzle that she never could have imagined.

Led by a mysterious entity and a series of magical objects, she journeys to the unknown to meet the ones who started it all.  However, defying magic comes with some consequences, as she risks exposing her secret. On this quest, failure is not an option, for once she starts, she can’t go back. There is nowhere to go.

Find Ashlee's book here.

Interview with Ashlee McNicol

Tonya Royston:  Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?  Is this a standalone book, or the first in a series?  If it is a series, how many other books do you anticipate and when do you expect to release them?

Ashlee McNicol:  My book is about a girl who is kidnapped and brought to a new world.  She discovers the truths about her past and the history of the creation of four distinct worlds.  Where she is from, magic is forbidden. Yet, she was born with magic that she doesn’t know how to control.  The story details her journey in pulling together the worlds that were lost from one another from the hands of many great villains.  She is the Chosen One that has the key to it all, and she is the only one who can do it.

The story idea first came to me when I was in sixth grade. I had a dream about a girl who was falling off a cliff.  A strange woman pulled her up as she nearly drowned.  A charm bracelet dangled from her wrist, and she said, “A debt is a debt that must be repaid.”  That is a huge theme in the The Unforgiving Truths is the first book in the Secrets of Ghastillanda Series. After making some recent changes, there are now five total books in the series.  I plan to wait to release those titles periodically due to my marketing strategy.  I will more than likely release them all by the close of 2015.  The sequel should be coming between January to February of 2015.

Tonya Royston: How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?

Ashlee McNicol: When I first started writing as a second grade student, I was interested in mysteries and teen books that circulated around animals.  I loved the Magic Tree House books because you could escape into a whole new world by opening the pages of a single book.  Writing is about thriving on the depths of your imagination and watching it come to life on paper.  I became interested in writing young adult books because I want to inspire kids.  I have four younger siblings and have grown up around children my entire life.  I have seen the potential of the future generations and I always strive to press the limits of what they understand about the dimensions.  Fantasy is a whole new world to me.  I love escaping into another world by whipping out my laptop and opening my mind. Sometimes, I even do it the old-fashioned way and script my imagination on paper.  YA fantasy is a whole new reality.

Tonya Royston: What's a typical writing day like for you? When and where do you write?  Do you set a daily writing goal?

Ashlee McNicol:  No matter how busy I may be, I ALWAYS write.  If I am absolutely swamped, my writing minimum is about 2,000 words.  This almost never happens.  I never set a maximum because I like to just write and write and write.  I never want to stop once I get started.  My usual word count is between 6,000 to 9,000 words.  I have gotten as much as 12,000 done, but that takes a lot of work, and a lot of quietness.  I love writing in the early mornings, but I am always far more inspired in the late evenings because I am such a night person. When I am not working, I try to write up to 16 hours a day. It isn’t a job for me. It is fun, and I like the challenge.  I like writing at my house or on some kind of comfy couch.  I’m not very good at writing at coffee shops unless there is one of those.

Tonya Royston:  Did you plot out the book first, or did you just start with an rough idea and go from there?

Ashlee McNicol:  I had a rough idea and just went from there for the first couple of chapters.  I knew where I wanted the story to go, so I wrote it the way it was in my mind.  As the story continued, though, I outlined it in terms of each chapter, noting three or so main points I wanted to get across in that specific chapter.  I don’t process every detail them. I mildly outlined and then just wrote.  I like having an outline in place, though.  It is nice to refer back to if you forget something and are trying to figure out where you were going with it.

Tonya Royston:  What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Ashlee McNicol:  The hardest part is writing the middle of the story.  When I write, I often first complete the rough draft as more of a template because I hate adding pointless details in a story to fill a page count.  I like quality stories.  Therefore, I like everything to have a meaning.  Filling in that page count is definitely not my number one goal because I want readers to remember what I write or what they read from others.  I love knowing that what I read will have relevance later in a story.  I am working on pulling the pieces together when not so much action takes place.  Straying from the action is the hard part because you don’t care so much about that part all the time.  It takes a different mindset.

Tonya Royston:  What are you working on now?

Ashlee McNicol:  I made some last minute changes to my current series after completing it.  They were very drastic storyline changes, though.  I had a dream, and my story went into a whole different direction.  Right now, I am working on bringing that together and outlining a new series.  I always have several books written in advance before publication.  I intend to always do that as long as it helps my writing and publishing system. I’ve been focusing a lot on developing this new world, and I can’t wait to share it with the public.

Tonya Royston:  What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Ashlee McNicol:  Don’t stop just because you have a slow writing day.  Keep writing even if you are busy.  If you want something bad enough, you will make time to do it.  If every person stopped doing what he or she loved because they were so busy, there would be no entertainment in this world.  We would miss out on the talents of famous musicians, athletes, actors, and authors from all over.  Make time for writing and believe that you can do it.  If you go in with a good, positive mindset, you will accomplish far more.  Make notes, make a schedule, and complete what you set out to do.  That is important to finish what you start.

Tonya Royston:  Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Ashlee McNicol:  One of my favorite books is The Host by Stephanie Meyer.  I like the strange dystopian complex because it has a great fantasy twist considering the drawing in of souls.  Souls are the main character, and they are brought in from different worlds.  I wouldn’t say I have a favorite author, per say, because I simply love reading in general.  If it is a good book, send it in my direction and it will line the shelves of my favorites.  I love to read and relish in the different worlds that authors bring to life.  YA fantasy is my favorite, ergo why I also love to write it.

Tonya Royston:  What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?  How would you answer that question?

Ashlee McNicol:  I suppose I have always wanted to be asked who would play my main character if my book were turned into a movie.  This is something I have contemplated a lot and discussed with a few people, but I have never been asked this question in an interview.  The main character in the Unforgiving Truths is a young woman named Mrsorri Hall.  She has a very exotic magical ability and strives to win over her challenges in life.  She is relentless.  She wants what is best for her and her family.  Yet, she knows she can’t always have what she wants, and this comes at a price.  If the book were turned into a movie, this character would be Kate Beckinsale.  The way she looks in Underworld is similar to how I envision her in the Secrets of Ghastillanda Series.

Tonya Royston:  I understand you are self-publishing your first book, and I think that's great!  What made you decide to take this route and what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Ashlee McNicol:  Thank you.  I have done a lot of research over the years regarding self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.  I think both options are great.  I am definitely not opposed to traditional publishing, but I chose self-publishing because I like to be in charge of the entire publishing process.  I have an extensive background in marketing and great networking connections, so that part is convenient for me.  I intend to complete my MBA in project management, and I found this to be a great avenue to launch writing as a business just as much as a passionate hobby. I think it offers more control in terms of what the author can do.

In terms of advantages, self-publishing gives you that additional control, as well as more lenience in terms of what you can do.  You can do as you please since you have your book copyright, from everything from formatting to producing promotional materials to hosting book signings. You don’t have to answer to anyone, unless you are a part of a team. You can choose your cover design from an accredited illustrator, and you can choose who you would like to edit your masterpiece.  This is really nice.

There are some disadvantages, though.  For instance, it can be expensive and highly time-consuming.  Also, if you are not very accomplished at marketing or doing literary tasks, there may be a bit of a learning curve. That is why I recommend: research, research, and research some more. Most importantly, though, don’t forget to write. If you don’t write, you have nothing to publish.

About Ashlee:

Ashlee spent her childhood bringing imagination to life by writing short stories that she converted to books with the help of some glue, paper, and staples.  By the time she was nine, she completed hundreds of short stories that soon lined the shelves in the local Washington state elementary library.  Those short stories shaped her writing career, which has now launched to include over fifty full-length young adult novels, waiting to be read.  Ashlee holds a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing from Eastern New Mexico University and serves as her own publicist.  Currently, she is crafting the Secrets of Ghastillanda Series and hopes to have all five books released by the end of 2015.  You can expect this to happen because if you know her personally, you know she never backs down from a challenge.

You can like Ashlee's page on Facebook or follow her on Twitter!

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November 11, 2014