An Interview with Ashley Farley
To tell you a little more about myself and my work, I’ve put together questions from interviews I’ve participated in the past.
What made you write a book about sisters? I was six years old when my little brother was born and heartbroken he wasn’t a girl. My five sisters-in-law more than makeup for the female sibling I never had. Based on my own experiences with my older brother, a great guy who died of a drug overdose ten years ago, I wrote my first novel, Saving Ben, about a the close relationship between a brother and sister in college. Wanting to explore the relationships between sisters, I decided to write Her Sister’s Shoes about three sisters my own age who are struggling with the challenges many middle-age women face—managing career and home, dealing with aging parents.
Your book is set in Prospect, South Carolina. Have you ever been there? Prospect is a fictional town forty-five minutes south of Charleston, South Carolina. I loosely based Prospect on Murrells Inlet, a small inlet town two hours north of Charleston where I spent my summers growing up. Every summer when I travel to Murrells Inlet to visit my family, the moss-draped live oaks, salty marshes, and warm summer breezes refresh my soul and invigorate my spirit.
If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be? This is a great question, and an easy one for me to answer. As my characters are similar in age and background to me, there are characteristics of my personality in each sister. I am probably the most like Sam, the spunky tomboyish sister, and the least like Jackie, prissy and high-maintenance, although I have my share of type A character traits. Faith is the innocent part of me, the part I never get to show.
Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack? Funny you should ask this. I have a serious addiction to jelly beans, any kind really but my favorites are the Jelly Belly brand. I love the tropical mix and the smoothie blend the best. Sadly, when I went for my annual checkup this year, my blood work showed elevated sugar levels. Which means no more jelly beans for me. I’ve totally changed my diet, giving up not just the sugar but a lot of carbs as well. I fell better. I have more energy and I’m not constantly starving. Now, instead of popping a handful of jellybeans in my mouth every few minutes, I eat a healthy snack between meals.
Your three Sister protagonists are a bit long in the tooth in today’s very youthful oriented character era. And I as a woman of a “certain age” congratulate your choice because there’s not a lot out there with older star characters.
Was there a particular catalyst or event that brought this story idea to you?
Funny you should mention that. I turned fifty, celebrated my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and became an empty nester all in one year. I love variety in the novels I read, but mostly I like reading about characters I can relate to—modern-day women with very real problems. I wanted to write such a novel, to share my midlife-crisis experiences with other women. The Lowcountry setting seemed an obvious choice as I’m originally from South Carolina. I’m reminded every year when I visit my family how much I love the Lowcounty. I can’t get enough of the laid-back atmosphere, salty breezes, moss-draped trees, and kind folks with genuine smiles.
Was this always your intent to self publish?
Hmm. No. I don’t think anyone starts writing with the intent to self-publish. At least not writers who are serious about their work. I’m impatient, and because the market is flooded with great authors, finding a literary agent is borderline impossible. I mean, seriously. Lit agents get thousands of queries every month and take on one or two new clients a year. Who can beat those odds? I didn’t want to spend years trying to sell my book to an agent when I could be selling books online. Today’s ever-evolving world of publishing is an exciting place for anyone interested in writing. My hope is the self and traditional publishing worlds will continue to merge into a great big playground for all authors.
What’s the best part about self-publishing?
Having total control. And yes, I am a control freak. I love being able to choose my cover and editor, and work on my own timetable. And I appreciate the way a novel can transition from final draft to bookshelf in a matter of weeks. On the flipside, the biggest challenge I face is the lack of support for print distribution. There is no such thing as a perfect world in publishing.
Have you always wanted to write?
While I have always been an avid reader, I had never written much until several years ago. Although I think being an avid reader is the best preparation for being a good writer. When my brother died of a drug overdose in 1999, I had a difficult time expressing my grief. I held my feelings in for years, until I was like a helium balloon ready to pop. Writing has been great therapy for me. I recommend it highly for anyone who has a difficult time talking about their feelings.
What do you see for the future of self-publishing?
I think some blend of hybrid publishing is the way of the future, although the right formula has yet to be determined. The missing link for self-publishers, at least for me, is the brick and mortar bookstores. Plenty of readers still prefer print books and indie authors need to reach those readers. While challenging, promoting e-copies online is manageable, but getting your books in bookstores is a daunting task. In my opinion, literary agents are missing the boat by not throwing life jackets to self-published authors. So many indie authors have great talents for writing and work tirelessly to promote and advertise and build their platforms. I would think indie authors would make dream clients for literary agents. With the right formula, a hybrid publishing agreement could be a win/win for both agent and author.
What advice do you have for writers just starting out?
Write every single day. Learn to tell when criticism is meant constructively and act accordingly. Trust your gut when it comes to your characters and plot. No one knows your story like you.
Interesting tidbits about Ashley
(Click on the question to read the answer)
What is your favorite color?
Regular or decaf?
Regular, but more than one cup a day makes me crazy.
Do you like swimming in the ocean or the pool?
Pool. I don’t like to think about the creepy crawlies in the ocean.
Candles or spray air freshener?
I’ve discovered the Nest Diffusers in fresh scents. They’re expensive but last a really long time.
Do you like to garden? Arrange flowers?
Yes to both. I like to plant my planters. I don’t dig too much in the yard as the deer eat most of my efforts.
What sorts of things do you like to collect?
Camera lens and shoes, of course.
Coke or Pepsi?
Do you prefer the mountains or the ocean? To live in a big city, small town, or a suburb?
Depends on my mood and the time of year. I appreciate each for the beauty they offer. I live in the suburb of a big city. I would love to live in city like Charleston where I could walk everywhere I want to go.
Who is your favorite actress?
Diane Keaton. She makes me feel good about becoming a mature woman. In other words, she makes me feel good about getting old.
What is your favorite magazine you like to read?
Virginia Living and Garden and Gun.
Besides writing, what other artistic talents do you have?
I’m a decent tennis player and I fancy myself a photographer, although the more pictures I take, the more I realize I have to learn.
Ashley Farley’s Blog
Click on any article and read the full story.
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