Author Spotlight – Ashley Capes
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Ashley Capes!
Ashley is a poet, novelist and teacher living in Australia.
He teaches English, Media and Music Production, has played in a metal band, worked in an art gallery and slaved away at music retail. Aside from reading and writing, Ashley loves volleyball and Studio Ghibli – and Magnum PI, easily one of the greatest television shows ever made.
Welcome to the Hive, Ashley. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Not too long ago I read The Vanished: The ‘Evaporated People’ of Japan in Stories and Photographs which was actually quite harrowing in many ways but it’s really stayed with me since finishing. It’s perhaps not in an in-depth look at what happens, but fascinating still.
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?
Maybe Bard actually – my first thought was Ranger – but I used to ‘sing’ for a few heavy metal bands when I was younger and so my weapon could be… a reasonably vicious scream? I’m no Mikael from Opeth, that’s for sure, but if I was able to rig up some sort of magical PA system I could… rupture some eardrums I guess 😀
When you’re not screaming your way through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? 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 a little bit about your writing method!
Definitely with music – and it’s usually of an evening when it’s quiet outside/no-one can drop in for a visit. I tend to use a lot of thrash and groove metal but sometimes OSTs of games and film; I’ve found the Sonic 3 and the Chrono Trigger soundtracks to be pretty ace at evoking certain moods or just setting a tempo that makes me feel like I need to type.
I definitely use general plotting before I begin and then I try and drive the story and characters within that framework. I have to have fun while I’m actually writing, so I tend not to plan everything detail, I like to try and surprise myself. 🙂
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Tough question! I’m not sure who I’d love to work with – maybe Hayao Miyazaki and his team around ‘Princess Mononoke’-era, or perhaps David Gemmell? I don’t think any one really writes heroic fantasy the way he did and I suspect he was just as big of an influence on me as Eddings, Feist and Jordan were. I try and have my pacing a little quicker than some of my favs but that sense of adventure and wonder, linked to heroes who do the right thing despite rough odds, I think that feeds into my stories.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
Probably ‘Batman Ninja’ – stumbled across it on Netflix and I instantly knew there was no way I could pass it over, the premise is pretty wild with Batman and both allies and friends being sent back in time to Feudal Japan. It’s pretty wild, even for a super-hero film 😀
If I can squeeze in a game answer too – I recently re-played ‘Hollow Knight’ because it’s stunning from top to bottom and I’m very keen to play the follow-up ‘Silksong’.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Right now, I reckon I’d use it to try and gather some friends and record a few songs perhaps, haven’t done that in ages. If that wasn’t possible, try the same thing but for a game of volleyball (indoor) as I’ve been somewhat injured lately and haven’t played much.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
Right now I’m juggling an Urban Fantasy following one of Death’s nephews as he solves crimes in Melbourne and another is the eighth in my ‘Book of Never’ series which has quite a few threads to tie up so I’m excited about that too, but it’s only in planning stages at the moment.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t remember whether I received this or sort of (slowly) came to see it for myself over the first few years of writing but I think the best advice around the writing process at least, is to find your own method. If you see anyone suggesting that ‘their way is the best and only way’ to write, and by inference that you aren’t a ‘proper’ writer unless you follow that method, then dismiss that person immediately. That’s dangerous stuff – it’s far, far better to try a whole host of things and figure out what works for you, I reckon, than to slavishly adhere to someone else’s process.
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 used to joke about the way I beat stumbling blocks/motivation drops – I claimed it was the three Ds for me – Discipline, Desperation and Deadlines. Now, I’m lucky enough to sometimes have readers tell me they’re keen for the next book and that makes a real difference to motivation. At other times, I accept that it’s time for a break and I switch to something else fun or relaxing and get some distance, at which point I’m usually thinking away in the background and return ready to work.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I think I’ve mentioned this before somewhere but I really enjoyed First Blood by David Morrell. I suspect when folks think of Rambo it’s often the films, and the more over-the-top sequels, that come to mind but the book is pretty ace. It’s a bit of a struggle between two former soldiers (from different wars) and we get a lot more characterisation from the main players and a deeper understanding of what motivates them, so I wonder if today, that novel is a little underappreciated.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
I can try! When it comes to my standalone novels I tend to describe them as ‘small town supernatural’ and for my epic fantasy stuff, which is more series-based, one has this tagline which is kinda cheesy but it does sum up fairly well: Adventure? Check. Magic? Check. Sarcasm? You Bet!
Brilliant! Thanks again for joining us, Ashley!
Ashley Capes is the author of numerous fantasy novels and series, including THE BONE MASK CYCLE, BOOK OF NEVER, and current SPFBO entry FAIRY WREN.