Interview with Author Kristen Ashley @KristenAshley68
It’s no secret that the
Sizzling Girls are HUGE Kristen Ashley fans. When offered the incredible
opportunity to interview our reigning Queen of Romance, we were sent into a
tizzy, giddy with joy and honestly, a little freaked out. Given a chance to
chat with a literary rock star that we idolize doesn’t happen to us everyday. So
when cooler heads prevailed and calmer nerves set in, we’ve come up with some
questions regarding Ms. Ashley’s novels, her latest release - Ride Steady and
some of our favorite insanely hot Alpha-males.
SP: Kristen, thanks so much for
taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions. We’re super
excited over the third installment in the Chaos series, Ride Steady and to meet
your latest couple, Carson “Joker” Steele and Carissa Teodoro. Can you share a
little bit about them - how these characters came about and how their
background stories came to you?
Kristen: First off,
thanks for asking me to take the time! It’s cool to “be here” with you all.
As for Joker
and Carissa, I was a little surprised when Joker strolled through the Chaos
Compound, ticked off about what was happening with Natalie in Own the Wind. He came from out of
nowhere and, like any of my heroes, he hit me like a shot. When he did, I
absolutely knew his story was coming eventually. But, to be honest, it
whispered to me.
Sometimes a story will come to me with a “Holy crap! I gotta tell that story!” or
alternately while listening to a song or watching a television show and I’ll
file those away hopefully to get to them later.
Carissa’s story came on a whisper. Starting with Joker’s horrific past with his
father and moving on to the shocking loss Carissa’s family endured when she was
a young girl. Then Travis came to me and it all fit together, these two meeting
and what would come next.
SP: When we first met Joker in
“Own the Wind”, Tabby described him as “seriously good looking in a scary way”,
who possessed a “natural confidence” and whose steel gray eyes were like a
“shield, holding everyone back from the mysteries that lay within”. All this
spells a serious badass whose name contradicted his personality. Was it challenging for you to tap into Carson’s
intense character in order to pry open his steel trap to reveal hidden secrets?
Kristen: Lucky for me,
my heroes aren’t very able to keep their secrets from me. :) Sometimes I have to be patient and wait for them to give it to
me. But I’ve got all the patience in the world for my heroes (and there are
many incidences when they need it!).
really hold back. As mysterious as he was to Carissa, and even to his brothers,
he wasn’t a mystery to me. He laid it out there. I was grateful. His journey
was a beautiful one, weirdly soothing to have these two who had so much taken
from them so early find so much in each other (and, for Joker, finding so much
in his Chaos brothers). It was an honor to be on that journey with them. But
honestly, that’s how I feel about all my heroes and heroines in their books.
SP: Aside from hot dudes, sassy
chicks, and panty melting sex, several of your stories address serious social
issues. Ranging from victims of rape, survivors of child and spousal abuse to
poverty, these characters faced huge obstacles that added a different dimension
to their personas – they became lifelike. In Ride Steady, we see a glimpse into
Carson’s childhood, all that he had endured, the pain and demons he shouldered,
and it was heart wrenching. How did you prepare yourself emotionally to tell
his story? How important is it for you to have your audience look beyond the
romance and see the importance of these issues?
Kristen: Life is life
and shit happens. Ugly shit. Unfair shit. Undeserved shit. Crazy shit. We have
to deal. We all have to find a way to get past it and get on with it. That is
no easy task and I’m not simplifying it. But the fact remains, there isn’t any
During a very
difficult time in my life where I was at a serious low due to the loss of my
mother, I had a friend say to me, very quietly, “Chin up, Kit.” Now, whenever I
get low, I think of her giving me her kind eyes, knowing I was in pain, and
softly saying, “Chin up, Kit,” and that helps me keep my chin up. I might feel
like crap on the inside, but I keep my chin up and keep on keeping on. Time
heals and I’ve learned that. It can be a struggle to get through it. But I do
it…with my chin up.
That said, the
beauty of my books is that I can control what my characters get on with. How
they keep their chin up. Because even if it kills me (emotionally), I’m getting
them to an HEA. That’s just how it’s gonna be. And I can build their strengths,
and maybe teach a few lessons or give folks things to think about along the
As for seeing
beyond the romance to these issues, my romance isn’t (all) about fantasy. I
like to give it a foundation of real because I feel it draws the reader in (or
it does for me). Inserting every day good (like family, humor, friends) or bad
I hope helps people to identify with my characters and what they’re
only one purpose and that should not be mistaken as me using important social
issues as an excuse to inject drama into a romance novel. I definitely have
missions with my writing (yes, plural). Overall, I want women to find their
confidence and beauty regardless of what images they’re bombarded with to make
them feel like they are less than…whatever. I
want them to take the backs of their sisters, to see the beauty of the
sisterhood and each other, to embrace that rather than us being engaged in
dragging each other down (using those images we’re bombarded with as the first
stepping stone to the dragging down part). And I want to slam the issues I take
on (rape, child abuse, racism) in people’s faces and show them, even
fictitiously, how deeply they affect their fellow human beings.
case, he endured a lifetime of child abuse from his father—both physical and
emotional. Extreme child abuse. Exploring how he, in his Joker way, kept his
“chin up” (leaning on his neighbors, going to Ride to watch the Chaos men,
drawing his pictures) then how he coped with the residual anger (underground
fighting) only to land in a safe place and be given the space to find it in
himself to heal and get goodness in his life… I love that.
I love that I got to give him that. I wish I could wave a wand and give that to
every abused child. But alas, my magic only works in a novel.
SP:Love the use of symbolism in
your tales. What is it about Carissa that makes her Joker’s butterfly?
Kristen: She was
wearing a butterfly dress and shoes with butterflies on them when she comes to
him at the garage to get new tires. That’s what she chose in order to dress up
for him. But Joker internalized that. Even if Carissa is a tough cookie (in her
sweet, ex-cheerleader way), Joker sees her as delicate. Something fragile and
beautiful he wants to possess and protect. And that definitely says “butterfly.”
something profound about Joker. His father crushed beauty. Jefferson Steele
beat it and kicked it and shouted at it and burned it. That Joker is so far away from the cycle of that that
he’s attracted to his Butterfly, that he’s all about protection, not only of
her but of who she brings with her…that says it
all about Joker.
I love him to
SP: The boys of Chaos are a
colorful crew. Hot, intense, profoundly loyal to their beliefs, family and the
brotherhood. Good men that live by a certain code, which often veers a vigilant
path outside the law. In a way, would you consider them anti-heroes? (Can’t
help but see the similarities between Chaos and the men from Unfinished Heroes
Kristen: Oh, they’re
definitely anti-heroes. Though, they aren’t as deep into illegal dealings or
the underbelly of society as the boys in my Unfinished Heroes series. Chaos
lives in their world. It’s a biker world. It’s their rules, their way of doing
things. But unlike Knight and Deacon (both off the grid in their ways) and even
Raid and Creed in some instances, the Chaos boys also live in the “real” world.
Their garage is very famous and getting more so. They don’t have a choice.
SP: Kane “Tack” Allen, the
infamous leader of Chaos (and Ang’s literary “King of ALL Alpha-heroes”…EVER!), is one of your more
popular and larger than life character. When penning Motorcycle Man, did you
already lay out a plan for the Chaos Series? Or, was it Tack’s popularity that
led to the spin-off?
Kristen: I never lay
out plans! HA! I’m definitely a “seat of her pants” writer. :) And I honestly did not expect Tack to be as popular as he was.
I like the terminology “larger than life.” I think of him as “more alpha than
alpha,” whatever-the-heck-that-is. I just know Tack is it, whatever it is.
(Then again, Hawk from the Dream Man series is the same…but I digress).
series actually came about because I don’t like to say goodbye to my
characters. To stay in Denver after the Rock Chicks, I created the Dream Men.
To stay connected to all of them, I created Chaos and the
Unfinished Heroes. I just can’t let them go. They live in my head and keep
living. Having good times. Making babies. Being there for each other. So I need
to be with them…and thus give
them to my readers.
SP: One of the many things we look
forward to when diving into a new read is discovering which old friends will
make an appearance. Ride Steady was an all out Alpha-fest. Holy shitoly! You
rallied the troops and name-dropped characters from several series. Freaking
ecstatic to see some expected and unexpected favorites pop in. Did you bring
them into the storyline as a chance to reconnect with their characters as well
as needing their ‘expertise’ within the plot?
Kristen: I have a
feeling I answered this above! HA!
SP: Next up in the Chaos Series
is High’s story. Will Snapper and Rush get their own romances?
Kristen: Yes. Snapper,
Hound and Rush will finish out the series...maybe, or
maybe not in that order. Though, Rush will bookend the series. That’s for
certain. It all started with Tack. That led to Tabby. It definitely needs to
finish through the last Allen standing (not counting Rider and Cutter, of
Hi Kristen, it’s Angela -
just wanted to say that I find myself constantly rereading ALL of your novels.
They just have an inexplicable way of calling to me. Can’t help but notice how you
emphasize the importance of your characters’ yearning for redemption. It’s a
reoccurring theme throughout most of your tales. Whether it’s seeking
forgiveness for how they hurt their woman, (Ty, Tate, Cal, and Dax – just to
name a guilty few) or to atone for their past (as in Tack and Chace’s case),
your heroes struggle greatly on their journey towards redemption. Tyra’s quote
from Motorcycle Man best describes exactly how I feel - “Truth, honesty, perseverance, strength, love of all kinds and
forgiveness are all beautiful…The most beautiful stories ever told are the most difficult to
stories were unbelievably intense and highly emotional. Also, the more they
piss me off in breaking the heroine’s heart, the deeper I fell in love and reveled
in their triumph. When writing their stories, which hero(es) did you feel had
the more difficult path(s) to redemption? Personally, the most challenging were
Joe Callahan and Dax Lahn - they totally shattered me. But, as always, they’ve
conquered my heart as beauty was magically spun from their pain.
Kristen: Hey, Angela!
Thank you for your lovely words about my books.
Now, to your
question, it has to be Dax Lahn from The
Golden Dynasty. It’s true, his world is very different from ours, but his
wife isn’t from that world. The men in his world, however, most especially
members of the Horde, hold all the power in a variety of ways, including
amongst the genders, which translates to within relationships. Lahn’s actions
were perfectly acceptable in his world but not acceptable to Circe. He had a
lot to learn in a world where he didn’t actually need to learn it. He could
have chosen to do what he pleased.
him the way not to do that.
I love that it
did. I love that he learned compromise. It’s a tremendously beautiful thing.
That book was
the book that took me to a variety of places I never wanted to go, taking risks
I didn’t ever expect to take in storytelling. Because of that (amongst other
things), I’m tremendously proud of how it turned out.
Kristen, Nichole here, and I
wanted to share that your stories have this powerful way of bringing me to the
highest highs and then in one compelling scene, I come crashing to such
profound lows, that I have to be totally alone when I read them because my
emotional reactions can be so dramatic. I need to cry or scream or laugh or
just hold the book and think for a while and process everything I just
read. That’s how touching your words are for me. In fact, your writings
inspired the Sizzling Pages’ slogan “When
the words on the page leave you burning for days…” The feeling I am left with
after each read is all consuming. I often wonder do you ever get emotional and find
yourself lost in all the feelings of the characters? Which story(ies) or scene(s)
have moved you the most?
Kristen: Hey there,
Nichole. Wow. What beautiful things to say. And wow, wow, wow, what an honor that
my writing inspired your slogan!
Last, yes to
your question. Absolutely. I just went through the copyedits of Hold On, the finale to The ’Burg series,
and laughed out loud. I also got choked up. And straight-out wept. All
repeatedly. My books totally get a lot of emotion from me!
But I can’t say
which stories or scenes moved me the most because I have them in every book.
And I have several in every book. So that’d probably take a year!
Heya Kristen, Cariad here –
a new fan coming at you all the way from the UK. You write some of the most outrageously
sizzling sex scenes. I would love to know what your personal favorite sex
position is…to write about?!? Any preferences? Or do you just go
with the flow of the mood you’re in?Also,
I’m thinking I need another new hot Brit. Any plans in the works? Cheers!
Kristen: Heya, Cariad.
I don’t have a favorite sex position to write about. I don’t even go with the
flow of the mood I’m in. I go with the flow of the mood my characters are in.
My books come to me like a movie in my head and I just write what I see and
hear, typing as fast as I can. So they do what they’re gonna do…I just give it to you.
And no hot
Brits in the works. I do hope to
get back to my ghosts and give folks the story of Lachlan McPherson. But he’s
not on the schedule for a while. Still, I haven’t forgotten him!
Stephanie here - Music is
such an important element within most of your romances. Not only do you have
outstanding taste, but also the songs themselves tell a story. The most
memorable scene for me is at the end of Jagged and the song “Colder Weather”.
It was such a moving moment. Has a song ever inspired a character or story?
Kristen: All the time.
The entirety of Deacon was inspired
by the song “Say Something” by A Great Big World. The end of the next book I’ll
be writing next was inspired by a song that is currently my obsession (don’t
wanna give it away because it’ll be in the book). I’m a music person. If I’m on
my own and I’m not writing or in front of the telly, I’ve got music on or my
earbuds in (with music on, obviously). And I’m
open to inspiration striking anytime.
SP: Most of your novels are
written in first person narrative from the heroine’s point of view, with the
occasional insight from the male leads, written in third person. Is there a
reason for the narrative difference between the hero/heroine’s POVs? Golden
Trail immediately comes to mind, because we see the entire saga playing out
through the eyes of Tanner Layne and it gave a different “vibe” to the read -
it was refreshing to see first hand the world through his eyes. How do you
determine whom, either the hero or heroine, will tell the story?
Kristen: I’m delighted
Tanner Layne worked for you! I took a risk with that, just telling his side of
the story. I worried people wouldn’t identify with his heroine, Rocky, if I
didn’t give them some insight into
what was in her head.
But I think
that came to me just in Layne’s point of view because Rocky’s issues were such
a mystery. After she imploded their relationship, we had to see him come to
terms with that, forgive her, move on, and with the maturity he now has, hold
on tight when the inner demons she’s battling threaten to destroy them again.
Alternately, Soaring was almost entirely in Amelia’s
point of view. I kept wanting Mickey to take over but he stayed back. After I
finished it, I felt this was a kind of character-to-creator gift Mickey gave
me. He knew his Amy needed to get herself sorted, to find herself, so he let
her have almost the entire book to do that. He’s unselfish that way when it
comes to Amy.
That said, I
don’t consciously decide whose POV to tell a story in (or parts of a story in).
The story just plays and I’m there with it. However, I do consciously write the
heroine in first person (mostly, there are a few that didn’t come to me that
way) and the hero in third. I think I do this because I want to drag my readers
into her head, specifically hers. I
want them to step in her shoes. I want them to feel what she’s feeling and give them that through her POV. I just
gotta hope it works!
SP: Kristen, you have a HUGE
following of loyal fans, which you graciously interact with via social media
and through the Rock Chick Rendezvous. There are devoted Facebook fan pages, dedicated
to discussing your works and characters (such as the ‘All About Kristen Ashley’
group). You’ve inspired new authors to
write their own romances. Most importantly, you, as well as your female
characters, send a positive message that encourages so many women to look
beyond their flaws, embrace their beauty, and find happiness regardless of
their shape, size and self-image. How does it feel to know your powerful words,
beautiful characters and fictional worlds you’ve created, affected so many?
Kristen: Since that’s
part of why I do what I do—a big part of it—I wish I could share exactly how it
feels that my sisters are taking in that message. But the feeling is too huge.
There aren’t words big enough to describe it. It’s a privilege and a gift. It’s
precious and moving. From the first time a reader reached out to me to share my
work positively influenced her up to yesterday when I read a note of the same
from another reader, those feelings don’t fade. I would love to change the
world…but I’ll take doing what I can for my
sisters, one Rock Chick at a time.
SP: A great big THANK YOU for
joining us today. This has been beyond exciting for us. In the time we've been
blogging together we've learned that we all have such different reading tastes.
We actually rarely read the same books.
You are our own Sizzling exception.
Kristen: Oh goodness.
Now, there you go, making me feel privileged, moving me with something
precious. Thank you!
For us, you give exactly
what we've all come to love about reading romance. Your stories gift us with
characters that burrow themselves into our hearts and leave pieces of
themselves behind. You pen love stories that captivate and keep us riveted for
hours and days.
Stop it! Now
you’re gonna make me cry!
We simply want to say thank
you not only for spending time with us, but for every single story you've
written, every single Hero you've made us fall in love with and every single
Heroine you've brought to life in such vivid ways. We hope you know that you'll
have forever fans here at Sizzling Pages. Write ON and of course. Rock ON!
Thank you for sharing that beauty with me, sisters. I’ll work my
ass off to try to continue giving you that. You can take that to the bank!
Rock on, right back at cha!
Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA. She nearly killed
her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the
umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorize and
she hadn't taken her first breath!).
Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana but has lived in Denver, Colorado and
the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and
family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is
good when you want to write.
Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They
lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst
the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake
(and the wardrobes that matched).
Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a
good way to grow up.
And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.