Author Spotlight: J.P. Ashman
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is J.P. Ashman!
J.P. Ashman is the author of BLACK CROSS, BLACK GUILD, FALL, and DRAGONSHIP. Born Lancashire, England, J.P. is a Northern lad through and through. His career may be in optics as a manager/technician, but he loves to make time for writing and reading every day. Writing is a huge part of his life and the medieval re-enactment background and tabletop gaming lend to it; when he’s not writing the genre, he’s either reading or playing it. He plans to keep writing, both within his current series, and those to come, whether short stories or epic tomes.
Thanks for joining us, J.P.! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
So many! So. Many. It’s hard to narrow it down, but I’m going to say The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams, but I didn’t read it, I listened to it. I listen to a lot of books because there’s hours in a week where I’m driving or working on my own. Audiobooks turn those hours into enjoyment, rather than a chore. The Ninth Rain is full of intrigue, action and deep characters full of emotion, humour, backgrounds and desires. There’s magic and monsters, wonderful landscapes and a very well developed world. Read it!
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Ooh… This is so me! I’m an Eldritch Knight (fighter – D&D 5e) with plate armour and a polearm (and an arming sword and rondel dagger to back myself up). My polearm glows orange – like a hot poker – with my magical prowess as I stalk through the dungeon, my honey badger by my side.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Type. I do hand write on occasion and Black Cross’ first draft was hand written, but I’m a fast typist and it’s the only way to keep up with my imagination.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
The latter. Who doesn’t? Silence in reality, though. Music inspires scenes or characters, but when I write, I write with the sound of nothing but the central heating rushing through the pipes.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I write in a full harness of plate armour (I wish). I’m a bit of both. I plan stuff and stick to some of it, but not other bits. I run off in random directions with some characters, whereas others need my guiding hand. I don’t meticulously plan, but nor do I truly wing it. When I try to plan too much, it doesn’t feel natural. When I don’t plan at all, I stray far too far from the path. I have my balance and I like it.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Currently it would have to be Dungeons and Dragons 5e, but it’s been everything from Warhammer and World of Warcraft to TV and movies.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Vikings fourth series. Love it! I class it as fantasy, though, because I love my history and the series isn’t as accurate as I would like – why do none of them wear maille or helmets (for starters)? I do love it though. The characters! They’re so rich and the actresses and actors nail it.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
A full day playing D&D 5e with my brother, cousin and friends, OR at a medieval re-enactment with my new klappvisor bascinet (helmet) that my mother-in-law bought me for Christmas.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Laura M. Hughes and Jeff Gardiner (editors) would tell you that I’m useless with them all, but I’m not sure I could get rid… Hmmm… I think exclamation marks are overused, but I do like them to make things pop! I like to use ;;;;; despite knowing others don’t, so, erm, perhaps I’d get rid of : : : : You get the idea. It’s not as useful as everything else, in fiction, methinks.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
Three paragraphs for three WIPs, starting with my Black Powder Wars series, in which I released Black Guild (book 2) in February 2018, and will be releasing Black Arrow (book 3) summer/autumn 2018 and Black Prince (4th book), well, Black Prince is being written. The war is spreading and speeding up and it is far bigger than Wesson, or even Altoln, and its peoples – as might be thought if reading Black Cross (book 1). New players, old players, and a conflict that spans a continent. The magic gets bigger. The cast gets bigger. The monsters get bigger and the guns do too.
Dragonship! I’m asked again and again by readers of the standalone short story whether I’m writing more set in the empire. Yes I am. Simple as that. How could I not? I loved writing dragons with ships chained to their backs. I loved writing indentured gun crews and vile officers. So, I’m writing a novel that follows on from the short story. Psst, it starts with the chaining of a dragon!
Swem. I’m not sure what Swem is at the moment (both the character and the story). I think it’ll be a series, but it’s early days. Think Riverbank Tales meets… some dark shit. Grotesque magic and vicious critters living along the picturesque riverbanks. Twists and turns, betrayals and unusual friendships. It’s been started and I’m thoroughly enjoying writing this fish riding, pike dodging and magic wielding protagonist and the riverside world she lives in.
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
So many to choose from!? I’m honoured to know so many authors I would love to work with, but I’m trying to think about an author who writes the genre in a way that grabs the history fan in me as well as the fantasy fan. I’m torn between Christian Cameron and RJ Barker and I cannot narrow it down, sorry.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
DO THIS LIKE THIS! DO THAT LIKE THAT! Fuck off, I’ll do it how I want to do it – although it took me a while to realise that’s how it should be done: your own way. There’s no right or wrong way to write. I know very successful authors in this genre who write completely differently to each other. And most of them will tell you to find what works for you and run with it, and to develop your trade year on year. Don’t try and emulate others, but ultimately, again, write in a way that works for you and your stories.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Can I be seen/effected by our awful histories? If so, I’ll pass. If I can view it like a spectre, I’d hit up Medieval England, probably during the reign of Edward I – it’s the period I re-enacted for years and I’d love to see what it was actually like.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I don’t write. It’s why I went through a huge period this year where I just did not write. When I don’t want to, for whatever reason, but I force myself to… I don’t like it, simples. I’ve forced it before and rarely use what I write. When I want to, I blast through thousands of words and love it and produce work I want to share. Again, this is different for everyone. I have friends who kick out thousands of words a day and push themselves to, and produce great stuff. That isn’t me. After a huge slump, it was friends and family that pulled me through. I am very lucky there.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
The Penitent Assassin by Shawn Wickersheim. It’s been out for some time, but it’s under-appreciated and not read enough. It received five stars from Conn Iggulden, who read it after Shawn entered it into Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO. It’s gritty and dark and twisty and action packed. Read it.”
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
ARGH! The hardest thing to do…
I like to write fantasy that explores the highs and lows of worlds as real as our own – by real I mean brutal, gritty, dark, light, stunning and beautiful; full of characters both nice and nasty, violent and peaceful. Grotesque beasts and fabulous, fantastical creatures. Raw magic and close-quarter combat. I like humour and emotional rollercoasters. I like life! And I want readers to experience life in my worlds, whether they see and hear and smell it through royalty or peasant or goblin.
Medieval set Black Powder Wars series of epic fantasy or steampunk set airships strapped to the back of gargantuan dragons (Dragonship)… I’ll let you decide whether you want to check my stories out or not.
Brilliant. Thanks again for joining us today, J.P.!
Laterz taterz, and thanks for reading.
J.P. Ashman is the author of Fall, Dragonship and The Black Powder Wars.