Women In SFF Author Spotlight: Holly Ash (THE JOURNEY MISSIONS)
Holly Ash is the author of the underwater science fiction series The Journey Missions. She has worked for the last ten years as an Environmental Engineer after receiving degrees in Environmental Science and English Literature from Central Michigan University. Holly lives in the metro Detroit area with her husband and two tiny people who constantly want her to do things for them.
Welcome to the Hive, Holly! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I recently read Ready Player One for the first time and loved it. The story is so addictive, and the world-building is incredible. Also as writing, I really like the idea of being able to build the world of my stories inside of the video game and get to live out the stories I’ve written.
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?
You’re going to challenge my nerd card right out of the gate, since I must confess that I’ve never played D&D, but being a sci-fi writer with a science degree I know I can turn to the one thing that never lets me down: research. I think I’d be most like a Ranger with fierce independence and a need to protect others. Plus as an environmental engineer, the idea of living away from the cities and being at one in the woods sounds perfect. As for weapons I like the idea of a crossbow, silent and deadly.
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!
Well, I always pants the first draft and then plan the crap out of every draft after that. I do most of my writing at night after my kids are in bed, or while my toddler is napping in the afternoon on the weekends. I like to write to music and have a playlist of heart-breaking love songs to help me get in the right mindset to write those emotional scenes since those are the moments I struggle with the most.
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I never really connected with a lot of sci-fi or fantasy authors. My favourite authors while growing up were S. E. Hinton and Barbara Kingsolver. It took me a while to find stories that I really connected with in the SFF genera and then it was mainly YA dystopian books. Which was why I started writing my own stories in the first place.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
If you don’t count the Netflix cartoon Spirit Riding Free that my daughter is currently obsessed with, there are a few shows I’m currently watching. The first is the original Charmed series since it’s been a few years since I’ve watched it. It’s one of my go-to shows to watch when I’m taking a writing break like I did last month. I love the sisters and the way they balance kicking ass, work, family, while still making romantic endeavours a priority. I love when strong female characters are portrayed as also having traditional feminine qualities. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I also just started re-watching The Umbrella Academy in preparation for the new season coming out at the end of the month. The first time I watched this show I felt like they had pulled a writing prompt off Pinterest about former superheroes. At the same time, it’s such a unique story and the characters are so amazing that I quickly get sucked in every time I watch it.
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?
There’s a good chance I’d spend the day in the kitchen. I love cooking from scratch and canning but it’s hard to find the time to take on an all-day project in the kitchen. My grandparents taught me how to can food, and they were amazing cooks, so I feel connected to them when I spend time in the kitchen. I also get some amazing brainstorming down while I’m doing labour intensive cooking like that.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
My main project for the last couple of years is a New Adult underwater military sci-fi series called The Journey Missions. The stories take place on a planet that was colonized by humans 300 years before the series and features two female officers. With this series, I really wanted to challenge gender stereotypes. Both Desi and Crystal lead combat teams and I wanted to make this a norm in this world instead of an exception. I’ve currently published 3 of the 5 books in this series.
My other project is an eco-terrorism story called Cleansing Rain that shows the events leading up to a dystopian future. I’m still in the editing phase of this story so no publication date for it yet.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The most helpful advice I’ve ever gotten was to set your draft aside and rewrite it. When I first heard it, I thought it was crazy, but honestly it’s been the best thing to ever happen to my stories. I now rewrite all of my books at least once. It allows me to build so much more depth into the stories and characters, especially since I tend to write very lean first drafts.
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’m big on setting goals and since I have strong perfectionist tendencies and a good dose of fear of failure, I usually meet those goals even if I have to force myself to sit down and painfully dig out one word at a time. However, there are days when it really is a struggle, and those days I try to give myself some grace to step away and take the day off. It’s important to find a balance between hard work and burn out. On the days I need to push through, a few tricks I have to get the creative juices flowing include taking a hot shower, always get my best ideas in the shower, or doing some beta reading and letting others’ work inspire me.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt, so I’d love to visit there to see it in all of its glory.
Who are your favourite female characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of female character you enjoy writing?
I really like smart well rounded female characters. The ones that aren’t ashamed of how smart they are and don’t hide it. A few that come to mind are Happy Quinn from the TV show Scorpion or Artemis from Ready Player One. Characters that aren’t afraid to be exactly who they are and don’t care what anyone else thinks of them. I also loved Lieutenant Commander Hitchcock in the old 90s TV show Seaquest, which is actually the inspiration for my series The Journey Missions.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
The Starchaser Saga by Renee Dugan is an incredible New Adult epic fantasy story that I think everyone needs to read. The first book in the series, Darkwind, is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
I’ll give you my pitches for both the series I’m publishing and my WIP since I think that one is a lot better.
The Journey Missions: It’s like Star Trek but underwater.
Cleansing Rain: The Earth is dying and the only way to save it is to eliminate its biggest threat . . . humans.