Today our Featured Pennwriters Member is Ash Krafton of Area 6. Ash Krafton writes fiction and poetry, and is currently marketing her first novel Bleeding Hearts.
Ash, thank you for joining us today and sharing a little about yourself!
JB: To start us off, tell us a little about what you like to write. I’ve noted fiction and poetry – do you have other hidden literary passions I don’t know about?
AK: To quote Geoffrey Chaucer in the movie A Knight’s Tale, “For a penny I’ll scribble anything.”
In addition to novel-length fiction and poetry, I’ve recently plunged into the realm of short fiction (wish me luck.) I guess my blogging and essay work would fall under the category of creative non-fiction.
Early in my career I did a lot of medical writing for the institutions at which I interned, so I suppose I might always make a return to that sort of practice.
All in all, I don’t think I can settle myself into any particular category. I’ll scribble anything.
JB: I understand that your day job is outside of the literary realm – could you tell us about what attracts you to writing? When did you get started with putting pen to paper, and fingers to keyboard?
AK: My degree is in Clinical Pharmacy. Not much room for creative writing there! However, I’ve managed to keep in touch with my literary side by practicing in drug information resources, writing articles for a variety of sources.
When my oldest was in Kindergarten, I began experimenting with fiction as a pastime. I wrote perhaps 15k on a story line, filling marble notebooks with text and notes for about a year, without taking it too seriously. About a year and a half later I had an idea that became my first novel. Now, its sequel is nearing completion, the follow-up is outlined and begun, and my WIP file contains four other novels as well as a variety of shorter work.
My oldest is in fourth grade now (and I’m proud to say that she’s developing writerly tendencies of her own. Yay!) I’ve evolved considerably as a writer since that first early attempt.
JB: What are your key sources of inspiration?
AK: I thrive on sensory input. I’m a country girl with an appreciation for simple nature—clouds and dewy spider webs and the colors of golden sun on blue winter shadows. I take pictures of everything and it drives the husband crazy when he has to upload the files. Images lead to words and vise versa.
I’m very audio-oriented as well. I love music, obsessively so. Music inspires me so much that I end up making “soundtracks” for each of my projects. I can read passages and remember what was playing when I wrote it. For me, good music is linked to emotion and that drives my imagination to no end.
JB: Who/what are your greatest literary influences? I know you’re a fellow Poe fan… what else do you enjoy as a reader?
AK: I adore Poe. I’m the cheerfully depressed kind, and secretly root for the emo kids. My tolerant children know Poe’s cemetery like their backyard because we visit his grave every time we’re in Baltimore. Halfway down I-83, one of the kids will invariably complain: Do we have to go see Edgar again?
My earliest influence, however, is a much less macabre source: RUSH lyrics. I admire Neil Peart’s writing, both his songs and his books. He’s a philosopher with a wonderful lyrical style to which I’ve always related. His insights have both inspired as well as provided me with a vast source of wise, quotable quotes.
As a reader, I prefer fantasy. My contemporary favorites are Melanie Rawn, Mercedes Lackey, and Robert Jordan. The husband is a card-carrying member of the church of Tolkien and I love the Elric saga by Michael Moorcock, so epic and hard fantasy are high on the list. My genre favorites are the ladies I call my “H Shelf”: Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, and Tanya Huff.
JB: Now I want to talk about your attitude young lady: your short story Boots on a Branch illuminates your willingness to embrace your inner rebellious-youth. I’ve observed this in your writing and your attitude in life – tell us about your creative approach as a writer.
AK: Yikes! Promise you won’t ground me?
The seriousness of my clinical work is balanced by my writing time. All writers strive to capture something—my quarry is my sense of humor. I guess I never outgrew my high school title of Class Clown.
My creative approach to writing is a natural one. It’s best reflected by my essays, I suppose. They tend to be very personal writing: anecdotes and experiences that I can’t keep to myself. I talk—a lot—and so that type of writing comes easy to me. Sometimes writing requires taking a step outside myself but even then there’s a shade of my personality in it. That might limit me one day as a writer, but right now I have so many fun projects lined up that I don’t feel limited at all.
Of course, ‘research’ for projects such as “Boots On A Branch” are the perfect way to maintain my youth, especially when my kids cheer me on as I climb trees. As long as you can have fun without breaking your neck, I say: go for it! You can act like a grown-up later.
JB: What are your goals as a writer?
AK: My goals range from short term to long range. Short term is easy and simple: to finish what I start.
Long range, I want to see Bleeding Hearts published so I’m currently querying that novel. I want to build a successful bio as a writer so I’m polishing my short fiction and poetry for publication. I’ve had two acceptances in the past month, and I’m happy with those accomplishments. I look forward to the day I can proclaim myself a Published Member of Pennwriters.
My goals have evolved since I started writing four years ago. At first, I only wanted to accomplish writing a novel—could I actually do it? After placing in/winning a few contests, I realized I had a real chance with it. I stopped considering writing a hobby. Now, I can envision an agent and an audience and authorship and all sorts of other lovely A words.
The end point used to be ‘finish the book’. Now it’s become ‘get published’. If I keep finishing what I start, I’ll reach my goals and have the opportunity to re-define my end points once more.
JB: In your recent blog post The Thinking Writer you talk about the different factors of creative whim and creative discipline. You mention that “[you] put the daydreaming to good use when [you] decided to begin novelling.” Tell us a bit more about this tool. How can other writers employ the same approach?
AK: Hard to imagine daydreaming and discipline in the same sentence, isn’t it?
The Thinking Writer muses upon the pre-writing phase that occurs before the words hit paper. The blog entry was actually written to justify my tendency to stare off into space; it’s writing, not an absence seizure!
As for other writers employing the same approach, I assume all writers do it to some extent. I don’t have a degree in creative writing, so for all I know people actually go to school to refine these techniques.
I myself found Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook extremely useful because it changed the way I approach projects. Now when I daydream and strike upon an idea worth pursuing, I switch to writer’s mode—toss in a conflict, an inciting incident, an opposite characteristic.
The end result is a useful daydream instead of merely a pleasant distraction. At least it makes doing laundry a lot more interesting. When I’m ready to sit and type, I’ve a good cache on stand-by.
Of course, if I wrote steamy romance, I could probably have a lot more fun with this method although I’d be walking around blushing red all the time.
JB: I’d like to know more about Bleeding Hearts: could you give us a synopsis?
AK: Bleeding Hearts is the story about a woman who’s saving the world, one damned person at a time. Long story short—girl meets boy, boy tangles with vampire, girl saves boy but loses him anyway.
When advice columnist Sophie meets mysterious Marek, she learns life-changing secrets about them both—he’s a demivampire struggling to avoid evolution and she’s an empathic oracle destined to save him. (Talk about a high-maintenance relationship.) She soon discovers the world is populated by darker things. None of them play nicely so if she wants to save anyone, she’d better start with herself.
JB: We’re glad to have you as a Pennwriters member. Tell us, why did you join, and what are some of your favorite benefits from the organization?
AK: I’m coming up on my first anniversary, and yes, there will be cake.
I joined because I wanted to be a part of a national organization; I didn’t expect to find all the fantastic resources that Pennwriters has to offer. Of course, I’m looking forward to the 2010 conference. I’m also making progress toward published status, and I can’t wait to take advantages of those services.
By far, my favorite thing is the sense of community. I don’t encounter many like-minded people in my line of work, and my responsibilities at home prevent me from hanging out at the bookstore with all the other cool writers. I’ve enjoyed being involved with Area Six and was thrilled/crushed when Pottsville started a critique group (thrilled for the group’s inception and crushed because the day job had other plans for me).
Your support as Area Rep has made me feel like a valid member, not just some anonymous name on a roster, and I’ve had a great time ‘working’ with you. I’m glad I joined Pennwriters and plan on being a lifer.
JB: And now, the words of wisdom: what advice would you give other writers?
AK: I suppose if I had to sound wise without quoting Rush lyrics, I’d say. . .If you are going to write, do it well.
Do everything you can to learn about good writing. I myself have approached writing as a learning process and have accumulated quite a library of resources, including creativity workshops from Margie Lawson and editing manuals from Bobbie Christmas. No matter what your goals are, make sure good writing is part of all of them.
Whether you write for an audience of one or one million, make it a quality read.
JB: Thank you again for joining us Ash, we wish you the very best in all your writing endeavors!
AK: Thanks, Jade. It has certainly been a pleasure.