In some of my bios, I mention the idea of the writer’s theme. It’s not the theme of a book; it’s the theme of all that author’s books. Whether or not we writers realize it, an all-over pervasive theme usually emerges in every book by a particular author. I’ve come to realize my theme has to do with characters who reinvent themselves.
I’m well qualified to write it too. I’ve reinvented myself many times—both as a writer and a person. I worked as a registered nurse for twenty years. Before that, I attended Massachusetts College of Art, hoping to become a famous artist and travel the world showing in premier galleries. Then I got real.
Nursing doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity. In fact, it’s actively discouraged. You follow doctor’s orders, period. And if they get “too creative” it’s your job to reel them in. But as you might have guessed, I’m a creative person and that trait doesn’t stay buried easily. Most artists will tell you they become very uncomfortable—physically, emotionally or both—if they can’t create. I’m no different. To satisfy my creative urges, I took a course in screenwriting. It wasn’t as messy as painting and I had since married a neat-nick.
Breaking into Hollywood from New Hampshire isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I did manage to get a Hollywood agent to peddle one of my romantic comedies to the Indies. Unfortunately, there were no takers, so I tried authoring a book. I monitored my reading choices for a while and found I liked reading the ‘hot stuff.’ As soon as I made that admission and stopped blushing, I thought I might try writing it. After reading many hot novels, I had an idea. I’d turn one of my screenplays into a steam bath of a novel!
I was fortunate. The romance genre is 55 percent of the paperback market and women really want authors to turn up the heat these days. Three electronic publishers wanted my first completed novel—an erotic romantic suspense. And by the way, erotic romance is different from ‘pure erotica.’ Pardon the oxymoron. You’d never find these books in the stores with blacked-out windows. Erotic romance isn’t porn. Women demand higher standards. Plot, characterization and relationships must be as important as sexual content.
So—reinvention number one: From nurse to writer. I tried a couple of other things along the way. I trained as a hypnotherapist and an interior designer, but for some reason my clients eventually began smoking or gaining weight again, and it was discouraging. I never earned a dime with my Interior Design training. There were just too many pitfalls, so I used my knowledge to design my own home and offer opinions to friends—if asked. But it was writing that stuck.
Reinvention number two: From hot suspense to hot comedy. I was a published author. I had a few devoted followers and some great reviews, but something was missing. My joy and spontaneity. I wasn’t having as much fun as I would have liked. Writing these books had turned into work.
Then I had an experience that changed me again. I wrote my first erotic comedy. I let myself go buck wild, and it just poured out of me. What resulted was an off-the-wall novella that every reader and reviewer loved. It was nominated for a CAPA and an Eppie award. And I loved it too, plus I loved the experience of writing it.
Fast forward a few years and several erotic comedies later…my paychecks, which had been terrific, were suddenly drying up. A number of different factors beyond my control were responsible, but nevertheless, I had to do something about it!
Reinvention number three: From short to long: I had heard that what readers and publishers wanted was not one, but several related books in a series. So I tried to come up with an idea for a hot humorous series. Let’s see…write what you know…use your voice…and try to make it a long story that can go on and on and on…At first I’d thought of a series of ghost comedies that I’d call Naughty New England. I may still write that someday, but in the meantime, Strange Neighbors was conceived.
And now it’s about to be born! I’m so excited I can barely sleep. Oh, right. This blog was supposed to be about the journey from erotic romance to mainstream romance. Well, I hate to be anticlimactic, but that part wasn’t hard—I mean difficult. (Forgive me, I love double entendres.) My erotic romances tended to be on the mild side anyway. The kinkiest I got was a manage-a-trois and a little bondage. Yawn. I never did any gay or lesbian stuff and wouldn’t know how. So, transitioning from my usual to mainstream consisted of refraining from using one word…and it was a word I really didn’t like anyway.
I think I’m where I belong now. I’m still writing plenty hot, but I don’t have to force myself past my comfort level. I don’t have to write Alpha heroes all the time, I can actually make my hero a nice guy. When I read my publisher’s criteria, I knew I’d be happy. She wanted four things. A hero the reader can fall in love with, a heroine we can relate to, a compelling story, and an interesting world. Did I mention my publisher is female? Do I have to? She obviously knows what women like, and I’m happy to give it to them. Please check out my website http://www.ashlynchase.com/ and Strange Neighbors.
I’m in love with this new series. It’s about an apartment building full of paranormal misfits in Boston’s Back Bay. As you might expect, it’s another one of my romantic paranormal comedies. The building is a typical nineteenth century brownstone mansion, converted to six apartments, plus a top floor penthouse.
The series includes some really fun characters. A were-raven with a morbid sense of humor, an Alpha werewolf who was kicked out of his pack for being too nice and now drums up business for his security-system business by moonlighting as a thief, two witches with an owl familiar who work as phone-sex actresses, a sarcastic ghost, and an “unofficial” resident in the basement—a vampire who fancies himself the neighborhood watchdog and vigilante crime fighter. The new landlord, occupying the penthouse, is a professional baseball pitcher with a secret of his own. But being only half-shapeshifter, he doesn’t have the greatest control over his shifts. He hired his busybody aunt and unemployed uncle to manage and maintain the building.
As they say, birds of a feather flock together, and with the exception of the latest tenant, a very human nurse on her own for the first time, all the hooting, howling, and hollering that goes on drives the busybody building manager a little nuts.
Book one is about the romance between the nurse and the landlord. As soon as she moves out of Apt 1B, her best friend, a lawyer, moves in. The human lawyer hooks up with the werewolf thief in book two. Book three involves a witch-war over the vampire. The witches are cousins from opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, and for a while it’s a bit like the civil war all over again.
Where do I get my wild ideas? As with all my stories, I blame it on Thalia, the muse of comedy. She puts these ideas in my head, and I have to write or she bugs me until I do.
STRANGENEIGHBORS BY ASHLYN CHASE—IN STORES JUNE 2010
He’s looking for peace, quiet, and a little romance…
There’s never a dull moment when hunky all-star pitcher and shapeshifter Jason Falco invests in an old Boston brownstone apartment building full of supernatural creatures. But when Merry MacKenzie moves into the ground floor apartment, the playboy pitcher decides he might just be done playing the field…
A girl just wants to have fun…
Sexy Jason seems like the perfect fling, but newly independent nurse Merry’s not sure she’s ready to trust him with her heart…especially when the tabloids start trumpeting his playboy lifestyle.
Then pandemonium breaks loose and Merry and Jason will never get it together without a little help from the vampire who lives in the basement and the werewolf from upstairs…
A multi-published, award-winning author, Ashlyn Chase specializes in characters who reinvent themselves, having reinvented herself numerous times. Among her many day jobs, she has worked as a psychiatric nurse, run blood drives for the Red Cross, and now uses her degree in behavioral sciences to avoid writing exhaustive character sketches. She lives with her true-life hero husband in beautiful New Hampshire.
For more information, please visit http://ashlynchase.com/.
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