Women In SFF Author Spotlight – Ashley Poston
Ashley Poston loves dread pirates, moving castles, and starry night skies.
She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BA in English, and went on to work at both Kodansha USA and Bloomsbury Publishing. But the dazzling bright lights of New York City couldn’t keep her away from old country roads, so she moved back home to pursue a full-time writing career.
Her books have been on the Indie Next List multiple times, and have been featured in Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Entertainment Weekly, Hypable, and Buzzfeed, among others. She has also been a Goodreads Choice Finalist in 2017 for Geekerella, and a semi-finalist for The Princess and the Fangirl in 2019. She also has a critically-acclaimed space opera series, the Heart of Iron duology, which was named on 2019’s Rainbow List.
When not writing, she can be found playing Dungeons and Dragons and writing fanfic. She lives in South Carolina with her bossy cat, and they are firm believers that we’re all a bunch of weirdos looking at other weirdos, asking for their username.
Welcome to the Hive, Ashley Poston. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Recently, I read TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea, and I have to say it’s somehow the perfect combination of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens and Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle. The book feels warm and familiar, and that’s exactly what I needed in 2020.
Adds to her TBR…
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?
Oh I am definitely an anxious Wizard specializing in conjuration magic, lobbing fireballs at everything that moves.
When you’re not trawling 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!
I love writing in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep and everything is silent. I can’t write to music — or any sort of noise, really. Just me and my computer, clickity-clacking away into the night.
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Diana Wynne Jones. I love all of her stories, and how she so seamlessly weaves soft stories of families into a high fantasy setting. The creator I most want to work with someday is Trung Lê Capecchi-Nguyễn. I love their artwork so much, and to be able to work with them on a comic would be a dream!
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I’m currently bingeing InuYasha. I loved it as a teen, so I’m revisiting it a decade later and I have to say it holds up really well! Rumiko Takahashi is one of my favorite manga artists. The way she weaves humor and heart into her stories is breath-taking.
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?
I would boot up my PS4 and replay Final Fantasy 7 Remake, because I love it so dang much.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m working on a few different things at the moment! Ghost love stories, vampire romances, a gay Jane Austen retelling, to name a few.
I’m most definitely going to need that last one in my life please!
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The least helpful writing advice I’ve ever gotten was from my creative writing professor at my university — he basically instructed us to write for publication. But that’s silly. If you try to write for the market, you’ll end up being years behind trends and wasting your time. Write what you want to write, and make the time well-spent.
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?
Chocolate. No, really. I have chocolates I lay out on my keyboard, and every time I get to a milestone I get to have another one. It’s weird but it works! I don’t do it all the time, but just for the chapters that are giving me a hard time. It’s a good way to watch your progress, and to look forward to the next benchmark.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Oh, I’m not sure at all. I want to visit everywhere! As for when in history… maybe the year 2100 just to make sure we haven’t gone extinct?
Who are your favourite female characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of female character you enjoy writing?
Going back to Howl’s Moving Castle, I love Sophie Hatter fiercely. She’s probably one of my favorite characters of all time — and Kikyo from InuYasha.
I love writing complex anti-heroes. Anyone who’s not a cis hetero male are so often either sweetly unproblematic, or foil for another (often male) character’s development. I like writing characters who are engaging and faulty and human. There are some people who might call them unlikeable (like Kikyo), but I think those are the most interesting.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde!
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Bookish and the Beast is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in the world of the Once Upon a Con series, with a headstrong Beauty and a Beast who might’ve bit off more than he can chew.
That’s brilliant! Thank you so much for joining us today Ashley.