I received this book for free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The first KA book I read was Mystery Man. I fell in love with Hawk and even more so with your storytelling. Tell us about the Dream Man series and how these alpha males and sassy women came to be.
“First, Kelly and Danielle, let me say hello there, girlies! Thanks for having me on your blog. 🙂
Okay, now into my Dream Men, a place I don’t mind being!
Let’s see…this came to me with Hawk as this closed off hot guy living a sterile life. Truthfully, the big warehouse he lived in was what came to me first. It was very sad to me that his home was this vast cavernous space in the middle of nowhere that was functional and nothing else…except that heartbreaking area under the loft. Of course, I knew his backstory so that and the life it led him to live were even more heartbreaking.
Enter Gwen who does not live sterile. Her life is crazy and messy and vibrant. This started as stand-alone book but that lasted for about a chapter. Then I met Tack. And then I met Mitch. After that, I met Brock. Clearly these men had to have their own books so I knew it would be a four book series where I would get to enjoy them all!”
One of the things that attracted me to your stories is that the characters are so relatable. I love that you write characters with flaws and quirky behaviors. Do you see yourself and loved ones in the people you write?
“Oh yes, absolutely. Just had my good friend, Helen, visit me from England and we were talking about my heroines. I told her that people ask me frequently which one is most like me. She laughed and said, “All of them!” and she’s soooooo right. I’m the most complicated woman I know! HA! But I think you have to put your heart and mind and passion into your characters so that readers will find them genuine and can relate either from the viewpoint that they share some characteristics or know others who do.
I also throw in things for secondary characters in order to guide readers to love them (hopefully) as much as I do. One of my favorite examples of this is that in ROCK CHICK RESCUE, I gave the character Trixie my dear friend Dixie’s hands. Dixie is not like Trixie in any way…except they have the same exquisite hands. Giving Trixie Dixie’s hands, I could connect with Trixie and through that give that connection to my readers.”
You never just tell a story and make characters. You create communities. You build them into each series and then weave them with the communities of other series. How do you know when one of your stories will be a stand alone, like Play It Safe, or become a series?
“Most of my books start as stand-alones, save the ROCK CHICKS and CHAOS. I knew those would be series. But when a series is born, it grows from the first book. Actually, PLAY IT SAFE, although a stand-alone now and written as such, I intend to build a series on it. I need to get back to Mustang! It’s just finding the time to write it.”
When do you know a series is complete?
“There are times, like DREAM MAN, when the series defines itself early. I often get requests to build on that series but it really can go no further—the four men introduced in MYSTERY MAN and that’s it. ROCK CHICK was supposed to be far less books, I didn’t intend to tell Eddie, Hank, Hector or Ally’s stories. But the instant I met Hank, then Eddie, then Hector…that changed. And Ally was the natural bookend so early on I decided she’d finish the series.
Sometimes, series just keep growing. For instance, COLORADO MOUNTAIN was a stand-alone but then I gave Nina to Tate as his attorney and it just ballooned from there. I didn’t think I’d like Chace, then I fell in love with him and he had to have a book. We were introduced to Deke and Deck and then they had to have books. I knew I couldn’t leave Reece from FOR YOU alone and it seemed perfect he’d end up in Gnaw Bone, so off to Gnaw Bone he went. And I actually didn’t expect to delve into Wood’s story but now I’m obsessed with telling it. I think he’ll be the perfect bookend for that series with Deke’s story before him. We’ll have to see, though, if that’s how the series pans out. I mean, they will both get a book. It’s just if I introduce more hot guys along the way!
In the end, though, I let my books take me where they want to go and I just move with their flow.”
You have successfully crossed genre lines by writing murder mysteries, paranormal, suspense, romance and so much more. What were your inspirations for making this leap into other genres?
“If it comes to me, I write it. And I’ve found that I like going from building a total fantasy to doing something in the “real world.” By the time I’m done with a fantasy or vampire book or something like that, I’m all excited to get back to “real” because real is a bit easier to write since you don’t have to build whole worlds and keep track of all the details. But then it’s vice versa with fantasy. Doing this lets me be more creative and challenge myself. It wasn’t something I thought about. Stories come to me all the time in every genre and if they take hold, I go with it!”
As the Original Rock Chick, you are a known music junkie. If you had a theme song, what would it be? Any theme songs you would apply to some of your favorite alphas?
“A girlfriend of mine pointed out the song “Unwritten” to me at a time in my life when I needed the words to that song and it was perfect so, now it’s what I say is my theme song. This is because I feel every day is my chance to write stories and I say “stories” in plural because I mean the stories I write for a living and the story of my life. I’m not a teenager but I’m the kind of girl who will never be fully formed. I’ll always be learning, cleaning that slate each morning to live the day ahead as best as I can.
Another song for me is “Day That I Die” by the Zac Brown Band. The way he describes his passion for writing music is exactly how I feel about writing my stories. I most definitely was born with stories inside me and I keep chasing them every day. And I hope that on the day that I die, I end my life as a woman who really lived, loved, never compromised and they find me in my home, at my keyboard, chasing yet another story.
As for songs for my men, the one that stands out is Tack and Tyra’s song in MOTORCYLE MAN (though it’s not mentioned in MOTORCYCLE MAN, it came to me later). I see their song as Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” The lyrics of this song tell the story (in my mind) of a man speaking to his lover as she dies during childbirth. However, it isn’t hard to transpose these words to Tack thinking about losing Tyra. If you haven’t heard this song, listen to it. It’s a tremendously beautiful song, I’ve always been moved by it, but now I think of those two when I hear it and I get chills.
“Give me these moments back. Give them back to me. Give me that little kiss. Give me your hand.”
“I should be crying but I just can’t let it show. I should be hoping but I can’t stop thinking. Of all those things we should have said that we never said. All those things we should have done that we never did. All those things that you needed from me. All those things that you wanted for me. All those things that I should have given that I didn’t…oh darling, make it go away. Just make it go away now.”
Oh God, I’m getting teary-eyed right just thinking about it! YouTube the official video. It’s 80’s but it’ll tear at your heartstrings.
I also have a couple songs for Deacon, soon to come from the UNFINISHED HERO series, but I’m not going to share them yet because they’re going to be in the book and I don’t want to spoil anything!”
HOW? How do you manage to write such amazing alphas? Who are the men behind these characters??? And where can we find them?
“Again, I was talking with my friend Helen about this because a lot of folks ask me this question and I always found it a bit odd because, truthfully, I have a bevy of very strong, charismatic, dominant, protective alphas in my life and have since I was born. My grandfather, my uncle, my brothers, my brother-in-law and a number of male friends to name a few. Helen told me she only has one and that broke my heart, but I see this is true for many women.
Even just recently, with a bunch of construction I’m doing at my home, I spoke with my construction manager and explained how there were some things that were not reported during the purchase of my house that have caused a great deal of headache and cost a lot of money. I also explained, with me not really understanding about air conditioning and roofing, it’s easy to get taken advantage of and that’s always stressful. I could tell he was angry on my behalf and from that point on, for weeks, he has been informative and protective and deals with all the dudes out in my yard to make sure the job is going smoothly, I get what I want and am not disturbed (too often). My family and neighbor keep commenting on how fast the work is going, how quiet the guys are and how well the job is getting done. That’s a bevy of dudes taking care of me in their own way.
In other words, I find that men just are good, if you allow them to be and take a moment to see those aspects of them. I know there are douchebags out there, I’ve met my share. But I don’t dwell on them nor allow them the ultimate in douchebaggery: let them harden my heart.
In fact, this has been such a part of my life, it’s ingrained in me and my heroes spring from the love and safety that these men in my life have given me. It isn’t about one of them or the other…it’s a collection of memories and feelings. Because of this, I so love it when readers can get beyond the bossiness and aggression and see the sweet and beauty underneath. My heroes deserve that as many men deserve it and I love it when they get it.”
You incorporate horses into many of your stories. Are you an equestrian?
“I do? HA! This question threw me because I can only think of the FANTASYLAND series (which necessarily includes horses) and PLAY IT SAFE. But I’m sure there are more. Thinking about it, SOMMERSGATE HOUSE and THREE WISHES have horses too so I guess that’s a goodly number of my books!
Bottom line on this is, I love animals. Dogs, cats, horses, birds. I’ve always had pets all my life and feel a house isn’t a home without them. So no, although I’ve ridden horses, I’m not an equestrian by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just an animal-lover!”
The food in your stories plays like its own character. Who was the amazing comfort food chef in your life?
“Me! HA! And my sister and brother-in-law are both awesome cooks. My Auntie Bec was a speed-comfort-food-cooker. She could lay out a meal in thirty minutes that was to die for. In fact, I think the only crappy cook in my family was my grandmother but only because she didn’t like doing it so she made awful food so we’d never want her to cook. That said, she had some awesome dishes she could pull out in a pinch!”
You have been on an amazing journey with your stories from writing them to self-publishing to the people of goodreads screaming, “OMG A NEW KRISTEN ASHLEY BOOK!!!” What has been the most exciting thing that has happened in this ride up to this point?
“There has been much, much beauty in this journey. But I do believe that when I quit my job to make a go of a career as a writer, and I would check my sales practically every hour and it was disheartening that I’d go for days without a single book selling. Then there was that day I woke up, logged in and saw I sold 15 books. It was a day I will not forget because, from there, that grew and grew and such happiness grew with it. I can’t imagine I’ll forget any of this journey but that jumpstarted it. The instant I saw that figure, I thought, “Okay, something happened and maybe, just maybe I’m gonna be able to do this.” It didn’t take long before “maybe” went out of that statement.
Another big moment was that, you know, every girl has dreams and they can take on fantastical details. Say, you stand in front of the mirror giving your Oscar acceptance speech or dance around your living room wanting to be the next Beyonce.
I used to dream of people wanting me to sign their books. With these thoughts came: “Wouldn’t it be cool if I had reader who so liked my books, they made a t-shirt and gave it to me.”
Now, kid you not, at the Book Bash last year, my first signing ever, the KA Pink Ladies were the first in line and they gave me a t-shirt. Straight up. First in line, my girls went out of their way and did that for me, making what was to me a fantastical dream come true.
I nearly burst into tears. It took everything I had to keep it together. I put it on immediately and they were shocked I did but no way in hell I wasn’t donning that pink tee! As the line kept going, I got more t-shirts and gifts and since, I’ve had folks send me other fabulous bits and pieces of love and beauty. I have them all, from pins and magnets to sippy cups and Christmas ornaments. If I get it, I keep it (and display it in my office). Every last one. I started wearing my tees but got freaked because I want them to be perfect forever! So now they’re tucked away and safe and come out only when I want to show family and friends how cool my readers are. And trust me, my family and friends are well-acquainted with how absolutely awesome my readers are 🙂 “
Of all your couples, whose proposal was your favorite? Favorite argument?
“I can’t say a favorite because I love them all (truly) so I’ll say which one came to my mind first and that’s Hank’s proposal to Roxie in ROCK CHICK REDEMPTION. Not a bad way to ask a woman to marry you. HA!
Weirdly, I’m drawing a complete blank on arguments! Okay, in thinking on it, I was gutted when Max laid it out for Nina in THE GAMBLE. He was right, in my opinion, but OUCH! And it wasn’t an argument as such but the meeting with the lawyers between Lily and Nate in THREE WISHES kills me every single time I read it. And obviously, the one-sided argument between Ty and Lexie in LADY LUCK makes me lose my breath even as many times as I’ve read it, not to mention and the following beach scene hurts my soul.”
Which of your books was the hardest to write?
“None of my books are hard to write, as such. It’s more that I feel all the emotions the characters are feeling (including secondary characters). With this in mind, I’d say THE GOLDEN DYNASTY was a toughie. There was a lot going on between the hero and heroine (another “argument” for the question above, Circe laying down the law when Lahn did the unthinkable after she forgave him for doing the ultimate unthinkable!). I loved writing that book but there was a huge amount of emotion in it and when you feel it all, it can get exhausting. At the same time, while writing that, I hated Dortak. Detested him. He lived in my head and he’s so freaking despicable, I had trouble having him up there. It really messed with my mind. Needless to say, it was such a relief when Lahn took care of him so I could let him go!”
One element that each of your stories has is a strong sisterhood of friends for each of your heroines. What strong female influences are in your life?
“Well, all of them! I grew up in a house with a multi-generational family, seven people, four generations, and only two men. My grandmother and her friends, Mom and her friends, Auntie Bec and her friends, my friends, my sister’s friends, I think you get where I’m going. J The sisterhood is extremely important to me, as reflected in my books. I’ve lived this and felt that love my whole life. There was never a time when I didn’t have that bedrock under me, and it’s crucial to any girl to have that, understand it, appreciate it, and most of all, take care of it.”
Who are your favorite authors?
“Well, I must admit I don’t read very much anymore. I used to be a voracious reader and I’ve said this over and over again but I do hope this year is the year I get back to my books. But when I did read, I read pretty much everything. So the list is vast but I’ll just share the first that come to mind: Judith McNaught. Carl Hiaasen. Kurt Vonnegut. Fannie Flagg. Jude Devereaux. Penny Jordan. Margaret Atwood. Johanna Lindsey. Janet Evanovich. Julie Garwood. Tom Robbins. And my favorite book of all time is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. Ah, Atticus Finch. Now there’s a hero!”
Are you working on any projects right now?
“Of course! I took a wee break at Christmas that lasted until February to get work and life in order and that was the first time in years I wasn’t working on a book. But I’m back at it writing Frankie and Benny’s story, the next in THE ‘BURG series. I’m actually almost finished with it—yee ha! A few more chapters and I’ll get to share a release date!”
Okey doke, there you go! Thank you again for having me on your blog. I’ve enjoyed sitting in my office, the sun shining in, the doors open to the slight breeze, sipping coffee and spending time with you! All the best, my lovelies!
Buy Kristen’s Books:
The Dream Man Series
Rock Chick Series
Colorado Mountain Series
Unfinished Hero Series
The ‘Burg Series
The Chaos Series