Let's kick things off with an interview with Heidi Baldwin Ashworth. Heidi is a writer with two published books to her credit. After reading this interview if you'd like to learn more about Heidi you can visit her blog at www.heidiashworth.blogspot.com or her official author site at www.heidiashworth.com
Q--Tell us a little about yourself. Whatever you want people to know.
I love my parents and family, my husband, kids, and my friends. My oldest, who is 21, suffers from a variety of disabilities so taking care of him has been a huge chunk of my life and what I am about. I refer to him as The Big Guy in my blog and the sidebar has quite a few links to posts I have written about him. I am lucky enough to have another son and a daughter who make all of my mommy dreams come true. The Big Guy brings to pass the undreamed ones, the ones you don't think of or even know you want when you are young and just starting out in life. I am grateful for all the things I have learned through the experiences I have had, grateful for how it has made me grow, made me see and made me better.
Q--Would you please give us a brief glimpse of your road to publication? Maybe include how long it took you to get to the point where you were ready to submit and how many rejections/requests you received.
I started writing when I was very young but didn't write my first actual book until I was 26. I have quite a few older sisters who were interested in regency romance, mostly the works of Georgette Heyer (they enjoyed Austen, too, but she was not a regency romance author, she was a contemporary fiction writer) but one of them got me started on fantasy and I read and wrote nothing but that until I finally caved and read a regency when I was 25. From then on, that's what I wanted to write. Regency romance is unlike any other romance genre and I loved everything about it, especially the country of England as a backdrop as well as Regency England "who" appears in the stories almost as a character. I then took a course in writing romance and wrote Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind, one chapter a week, as homework assignments. When it was done, I submitted it to one of the two publishers that was still publishing regencies (there had been six when I first started writing them) and a year later, I received my rejection. By then, the other publisher had stopped publishing them, as well, so I put it in a box and forgot about it.
Fourteen years later, a friend who also writes regencies, convinced me to submit my manuscript to a company that publishes clean historical romances. Intrigued that such a thing as clean historical romance (the term "historical romance" implies smut from the get-go), I checked into it. After toning down the regency-ness of my book for your typical clean historical romance fan (who coudl these be? I wondered), most of whom would not have a clue as to what a beaver is (a man's hat) or a reticule (a purse) or why Prinny (the Regent of England, hence, the regency) creaked when he walked (corset). I left in as much regency flavor as I dared for all of the regency romance fans out there who were going without their fix (since they pretty much had died on the vine). I then submitted it. I got "the call" nine months later but I did have to rewrite the last fourth of the book, so I didn't get off THAT easy. To me, this is an excellent arguement for knowing your market. I was lucky to have a friend who did all the foot work for me on that.
Q--Would you please tell us about your books! Give us a brief bio about them and I'll be sure to post a link to the Amazon page for each of them.
I have two books in print, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind and the sequel, Miss Delacourt Has Her Day.
MD1 is Ginny, a plain spoken girl in a world rife with social dos and don’ts (speaking your mind being firmly on the don't list) and a young man who is overly concerned with not straying off the path of the social dos and don’ts (sparks fly immediately!). Anthony's grandmother and Ginny's great aunt (in this case, the same woman) loves them both dearly and knows they are born for each other. She concocts a plan to throw them together and they are off on a series of misadventures and romantic interludes. As I said, the book was written for a class and wasn't orignially intended for publication so it is a bit of a caricature of your typical regency romance, an homage to the genre, if you will.
Readers enjoyed the characters so much, some asked for a sequel. At first, this seemed an impossibility but I thought about it for a while and then came up with an idea that I thought might work. Once I passed it through my editor (Go ahead and try it but we don't really publish sequels, quoth she), I had a great time writing the further adventures of. Now that Ginny and Anthony are happily engaged, a wicked uncle enters the scene to put a spoke in their wheels (so to speak). They are off, once again, on misadventures and romantic interludes. What I especially love about it is that it explores a time period of a couple's life--the engagement--that is generally ignored in romance novels. The two books could easily be one novel and I admit I have dreams of their being publishes as such one day. Currently I'm working on a Victorian-era book starring their children.
Q--What inspires you? Not just in writing but in life. What makes you want to do and be better?
Being inspired to write doesn't take much. It's what I love to do. I have to admit, however, that chocolate is a huge aid in getting my creative juices going. In life, I am inspired by flowers, music, the examples of good people and the constant need to create, to grow to do better, to be better. It's an internal drive that's just always been there. Also, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeally like getting what I want which is a huge motivator for me.
Q--Finish this sentence: "I wish I could..."
I wish I could go to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is one of the few things I want to do so badly my teeth hurt that I haven't, and probably, won't get to do. I did have a one week heaven of a trip in England a dozen years ago but I need to go back and I must see the rest. I'm afraid that my personal circumstances will never allow for it, however. Bummer.
Q--What is your favorite book of all time?
Favorite anything questions are a huge bug-a-boo for me. I am the girl who can never pin it down to one thing. I just can't. Except when it comes to my favorite color (pink) and favorite flower (rose---no surprises there) rather like a perennial bachelor, there's just too much love to commit. However, if I knew I was to be stranded on an island for twenty years and was able to choose books to take with me, the complete works of Georgette Heyer and Diana Gabaldon (see, still not just one) are those that that would make the trip. (Sorry Jane!)
Q--Take the heroine from your favorite book and put yourself in her shoes. How would the story be different if you played the lead?
Again, an unanswerable question. I think there are just too many characters inside of me, both from a writer's point of view and that of a mentally unbalanced person (I have my moments) to even consider an answer to this one.
Q--What's the biggest lesson you have learned as a writer?
Do not use the name of a famous person or book publishing company in the title of your book. I have google alerts connected to the names of both my books and I get a rather largish list each day of supposed hits that are all about Susan Delacourt (from what I glean, a politician in Canada) and Delacorte Books in spite of the fact it's spelled differently. That and (still can't choose just one) write write write if you want to be a better writer AND being published is wonderful and opens a lot of doors for you. It's like being on the other side of a huge wall or joining a club. Having said that, you're at the bottom of a pretty tall ladder and all the same insecurities, competition, anxieties and moments of despair are just as prevalent. It's not a magic bullet. But it IS a fun ride.
Q--What are the top 3 things you couldn't live without? (Things. Not people.)
Roses. If I had a choice of a garden with all flowers but roses and one that was nothing but, I would just just the roses. I love and adore all flowers A LOT but I am passionate about roses in a way in am not about most other things. So, that's number one. Something to read would be another (thanks for giving me three rather than just the impossible one!) though I wouldn't be terribly picky as to whether it was a book or a blog or in print or onscreen. Years ago I would have just said "books" but that's just not the case anymore. Lastly I would have to go with chocolate. They better have it in heaven or I'm staying here.
Q--Since you love Regency Romance....would you ever consider living during that time period? Why would or wouldn't you?
When I first started learning about the regency period, I thought it would be incredibly fun to live then. However, the truth is, living now rocks. I would not do well with the odors, the lack of plumbing, good medical care, etc. (plus they didn't have milk chocolate). Unless you were very rich (referred to as the upper ten thousand) you had a pretty grim life back then. Even if I were rich, I think the constant round of parties and social functions that once sounded so pleasant to me, would quickly pall. The clothes, however, would be heavenly, even though, as you might have noticed, I didn't mention clothes in my three things I couldn't live without (just cover me with roses).
Q--What is your culinary guilty pleasure? (Chocolate? Pie? Carmel? What gets you?)
Q--What is your favorite blog to visit and why?
Gosh, I can't do that. Even if I had one, I couldn't say what it was and admit it was my favorite. My favorite blogs are written by people who have become my friends. I love them all very much.
Q--If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
These are such interesting questions. Mine would be physical strength since I don't have much of that. I have fibromyalgia, a muscle pain disorder, as well as hypo-thyroidism, which makes people very tired among other things, and celiac which means I can't eat gluten which is in wheat, barley and rye. The weakness of my body is my main bug-a-boo in life.
Q--What have you learned about marketing (on the author's end of things) since you were first published? What can you share to help other writers gain more success?
Marketing and the psychology of selling has been a really fun aspect of being published for me. Every new writer needs to brand their name. Anything you can legally and ethically do to get your name, the name of your book and the cover of your book out there is worth doing. Having said that, the internet is the way to go rather than physical book tours which publishers aren't paying for very often anymore, anyway. Internet marketing is a lot of hard work but, truthfully, the advance you receive is meant to be spent on marketing your book. It's part of the job. If you do just one thing, make it a book blog tour.
Q--What piece of advice would you like to offer to the aspiring authors out there reading this?
Don't give up. Don't neglect your children. If you don't get published until you're 44 (like I was) it doesn't matter. It's still just as great and wonderful, probably even better. I feel anxious when I see so many young mothers working so hard at it. Their kids need them. If they are writing because they need the money, they should think about a different job. If they are writing simply because they love books and the written word and want to have a part in creating something so wonderful for others to enjoy, go ahead and write but don't stress about not being published or not having made it or whatever--because few writers truly do "make it". Those are the ones we hear about but they are very rare in comparison to all the actual working and professional paid writers out there. Balance is the key.
Q--Tell us about your store.
We have a lot of health problems in my family and the need to bring in some kind of income has become paramount for me. I worked really hard at the writing thing (I was going to be the next Pioneer Woman, oh yes I was!) but even if it becomes a money maker in the future, it certainly isn't now. So, I went to my next best talent/strength/interest, which is making things beautiful. On April 4th opened my store named after my blog (which is named after my home in the custom of the Brits to name their homes) and it is full of all the pretty things I love. There are roses depicted in pretty much every way one can think of. I doubt many of your readers live anywhere near Concord California in the San Francisco East Bay but I hope all four of them come to visit!
Click here to check out the website for Heidi's store Dunhaven Place.
Click here to check out the website for Heidi's store Dunhaven Place.
Thanks for the interview, Heidi!
If you're interested in purchasing either of Heidi's books, here's a link....