Aspiring-Author Interview #2: Rika Ashton

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(Read her stories on FP)

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’m a twenty-year-old aspiring author who refuses to tell anyone her real name. I wrote my first book at the age of seven, self-published it with illustrations and sold it to my sister for a quarter. I never thought I’d turn to writing as a career, in fact most recently went through a phase where I chose to brood and pose like Hamlet near windows, while loudly reciting “To write or not to write…”

2. What is your novel about?

As of now, I have two things to be proud of. Firstly, my first full-length novel, Masquerade, is complete. For those of you not familiar with it, here’s a synopsis:

Hidden secrets. A possible murder. Matchmaking grandmas. Scandalous, well, scandal. And last but not least, the romance of a lifetime. Let the masquerade begin!

Lucien Castello, a former student of Oxford and the heir to a weathly dukedom, has been ordered to commit the most grevious of deeds…GET MARRIED! To make matters worse someone has been sabotaging his secret empire. Really what’s a man to do?

Enter Jade…

She is Lucien’s every wish fulfilled and the perfect wife to boot…only she refuses to surrender her independence for anything! Jade knows that marrying Lucien would mean revealing the very secrets she has worked to hard to conceal, yet the young duke-to-be is proving far more persistent that she would have imagined.

And so the masquerade begins…

I had so much fun writing Masquerade and working with the characters of Lucien and Jade was a blast. I’m going to miss working with them as the focus of the story, but that hasn’t stopped me from looking forward to writing the sequel, Midnight Phantom.

But all that doesn’t start until my second biggest project is underway. So announcing…drum roll please…the first ever Regency ezine! I’m proud to say that the Regency Times, will be a free ezine available to anyone with an internet connection. It’ll feature fashion from the time, book reviews, interviews with aspiring authors, character interviews and more! This is great project that me and my editor, Illiana, cooked up when I announced that Damon would make a great cover model.

And don’t forget folks, you read it first on June’s blog!

3. What inspired you to write this story?

Masquerade was my answer to a reading dry spell. A few times while reading a book, I would get so disappointed by the way things were going that I would put it down and never pick it up again. Of course, this meant that I was rapidly running out of reading material. So I decided I should write my own book, one that would interest me enough to read till the end and one that wouldn’t disappoint. And, naturally, it had to be a comedy.

4. Where are you in your journey to publication?

Currently, I’m stuck in the dreaded querying process. Being the perfectionist that I am, I’ve written and rewritten my query letters a dozen times, now it’s a matter of getting them out to the literary agents.

5. Your top five favorite books?

Ah, the million dollar question. I would have to say that my favourite books, or for that matter any books that I like, would have to be the same ones that inspire me to write. Julia Quinn’s “How to Marry a Marquis”, Johanna Lindsey’s “The Magic of You”, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s “Dance With the Devil”, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” These books taught me that good books break conventions, have unlikely heroes and sometimes, bad guys are allowed to win!

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Author Interview: Sarah Tormey



Sarah Tormey’s Recipe for Romance:

Wit, humor, and a rakish hero determined to risk everything to win the heart of the woman he loves.



I discovered this most talented author through her blog and fell in love with the first chapter of her Historical Romance, Flirting with Scandal. I immediately contacted Sarah Tormey to ask for an interview and she kindly agreed to answer some questions pertaining to her experience on “both sides” of the publishing industry. At last, the interview is ready, and I am now super excited to share this with everyone! 


You worked for several years at Random House as a mass merchandise sales representative. Could you share a bit of your experience with us? What did you do exactly?

When I left Random House last summer, I was selling all the adult imprints to Target.  It was an amazing job covering everything from presenting the upcoming releases to shipping reorders to providing the publishers with current sales data.  I would arrive at my office each morning excited to see the daily sales figures for recent releases.  And there were times when I would literally jump for joy in my office after securing great placement for one of my favorite authors.  While I love having more time to write, I still miss my coworkers and the buying team at Target.      

When you decided to leave this job to become a full-time writer, was it a hard decision to make? 

Very hard.  I knew I needed more time to write apart from the time during my subway ride to and from the office and the few early morning hours I set aside for writing.  While I loved my job, completing my first manuscript was my dream.  I spoke with my husband and we decided that now was as good a time as any to pursue my dreams.       

Could you tell us about your historical romance, Flirting with Scandal ?

Set in 1813 England, Flirting with Scandal is the story of an innocent twenty-something lady whose best friend’s unconventional plan leads her to pose as a courtesan and come face-to-face with the one man she vowed never to marry.  To learn more and to read an excerpt, please visit my website at  
Why did you set this story in the Regency Era?

I fell in love with the Regency Era years ago when I first started working in publishing.  I was helping with a marketing campaign for Sabrina Jeffries and once I started reading her books, I couldn’t stop.  Next I fell in love with Mary Balogh’s Slightly series, then Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Madeline Hunter (just to name a few).     

Do you write following a schedule or when inspired?
Most weekdays, I sit down at my computer after I make my husband’s french toast.  I write until lunch time, taking breaks to check email, read my favorite blogs or move the car (NYC is a land of alternate side street parking).  After lunch I usually continue until about five, sometimes later if I’m feeling inspired.  On the weekends, I start each day writing, stopping only when the inspiration fades or another obligation pulls me away from the computer.  

What difficulties have you faced in your road to publication? And how did you deal with it?

Patience.  The hardest part for me is the waiting.  But I don’t think I’m alone in this.  About two days after I send out my first round of query letters, I learned that I needed to find more patience.  I keep telling myself that becoming a patient person will help me in all aspects of my life.  There is a post-it note on my wall reminding me of this.  

  To overcome my impatience, I generally turn off my email and try to lose myself in my current work-in-progress.  If the impatience returns, I remind myself that the agents and editors who have my work are very busy people.  And they can’t read all the time.  They have families and other obligations.  After all, there are only so many hours in the day, which I have a strong feeling applies to both agents, editors, and writers. 

As a last resort, I clean my apartment.       


What has been your best and worst experience in querying to agents?
I have found the querying process very rewarding.  Most agents I’ve queried have responded relatively fast with a request for either a partial or a full.  After I sent out my first round of partials and full manuscripts, I received a handful of rejections.  Each rejection offered insights into how I could improve my work.  I then spoke with an agent who’d read the full and offered lots of great suggestions.  Based on her feedback, I completely revised my manuscript and resubmitted to another round of agents.  

What are your top five favourite books?

Just five? Wow, that’s a hard question to answer.  To come up with a response, I thought about the books that I simply can’t part with.  If my apartment caught fire, I would grab my cat and this list of books.  These are the books that if I give my copy to a friend, I order a new one for myself the next day.

And I certainly can’t put them in any sort of order or pick a #1 favorite.  Of course this list is constantly changing as new books are released.  If I could add a sixth, I think it would be Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare (on-sale in July 2009).  Thanks to my former coworkers at Random House, I read an advanced copy and loved it.    

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A Wild Pursuit by Eloisa James
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
The Romantic by Madeline Hunter (It was very hard to pick just one of her books!)
Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series (I can’t pick just one.  I would save the entire series from the fire without a second thought.)

Could you tell us about your experience working with RWA?

My experience working with RWA while I was working on the other side of the publishing industry played a large part in my decision to take the leap to full-time aspiring writer.  I knew before I made the transition that the romance community was a supportive, encouraging group of writers and readers.  I had been to the Romance Writers of America® national conference in the past for my job and witnessed this first hand.  Thus, one of the first things I did when I joined RWA® this past fall was to also join my local chapter in New York City and then a few months later, The Beau Monde.  I would recommend that anyone who is interested in writing romance join RWA and your local chapter.  Even if you don’t attend the meetings, I find that it is nice to have a support group to share your successes and your setbacks. 

Do you have any advice you’d like to give to other aspiring authors?

 Write.  Dee Davis, a fellow member of the RWA NYC group and a highly acclaimed author (, posted a few words of wisdom to the group online chat loop that I printed out and hung on my wall.  I’m paraphrasing slightly, but basically she said:  “A writer writes period.  Regardless of whether you’re published or still waiting for “the call,” the truly important part of the process is the writing.” 


Excerpt from Flirting with Scandal

Charlotte Ashton stared in wide-eyed horror as Nathaniel White rounded the corner at the far end of the otherwise empty hallway. Breathless at the mere thought of coming face to face with the notorious rake, Charlotte did what any other reasonable eighteen-year-old daughter of an earl would do.

She sought refuge in the nearby window dressings. Read more here.


If you have any questions for Sarah Tormey, please leave a comment.  She’ll be checking in throughout the day. 


Author Interview: Mandy Hubbard


“If the shoe fits, wear it–and if you’re in the mood for a frickin’ awesome romance, this is definitely the shoe for you.” – Lauren Myracle, New York Times Bestselling Author of TTYL

Pride and Prejudice meets The Wizard of Oz meets The Princess Diaries in this enchanting story of a young girl’s journey back in time… With delicious romance around every corner, and tantalizing mysteries waiting to be uncovered, Prada & Prejudice will satisfy the sweet tooth of dreamy, young readers everywhere.” – Kristin Walker, author of A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL, Coming from Razorbill in 2010.

“Based very loosely on Pride and Prejudice, this humorous teen time-travel romance is the perfect escape.” – Cyn Balog, author of FAIRY TALE, coming from Random House in June 2009.



Here’s my interview with Mandy Hubbard, author of the soon to be released YA novel, Prada & Prejudice (June 11, 2009).

For the people who’ve just learned about your book, Prada & Prejudice , could you tell us a bit about it? It’s a young adult novel about a fifteen year old girl who trips in her Prada heels– and ends up in 1815.
What inspired you to write it? 
I am completely in love with Regency romances, but sometimes I wish the heroines would think and act more like me. So I thought– why not make my dream book and put a modern girl into 1815?
How did you come up with your characters? Do you develop them from people you know?
I always come up with the “hook” or plot first, and the characters second. I create the kind of character who would have the most trouble with the set-up so that I can have a lot of conflict. In Prada & Prejudice, Callie is from the twenty-first century, so I created Alex (a duke) who is, like most guys in 1815, sexist. He doesn’t understand or believe that girls can be just as smart and successful. Callie herself is used to trying everything to conform and be popular, but when she meets someone as maddening as Alex, she does the opposite– she speaks her mind and sticks up for people.
Do you have any plans to publish Broken Road, the story you posted up on Fictionpress?
Right now, no. I do love that story, but it needs some extensive revisions to be ready for publishing. I do sometimes play with the idea of tackling it, but at the moment I have enough projects to keep me busy! I am, however, THRILLED that it continues to find readers on Fictionpress. It is by far my most popular story– more so than the rest of them combined.
Both fictions are based on romance. How would you define ‘love’? And what elements do you believe are required to make a good romance novel?
I’m not sure how to truly define love– it’s an emotion that consumes us until we can’t think of anything else, that’s for sure! It’s the ability to see the best in someone else, it’s finding someone who snaps into your life like they were made for it. I think a good romance is one that takes two flawed characters who can come together and be better because of it. A good romance needs plenty of conflict, though. I HATE Romances in which the only conflict arises from a very simple misunderstanding– one which if one of the characters said about two sentences about it, the whole book would be wrapped up and the conflict would be gone. I prefer ones in which there are both external and internal conflicts, and the reader really has to wonder how the problems will be solved in time for a Happily-Ever-After.

And yes, a HEA is a must for me.
What do you do when you’re in a writer’s block?
Force it. Truly. It doesn’t always work, but if I’m having trouble and I have a deadline or a goal, I just write pure, utter drivel until it starts flowing. Sometimes it only takes a few pages, other times a chapter or two, but eventually I strike gold and things start flowing again. Then I have to go back and cut the yucky stuff.
Are there any authors that influenced your writing?
Kat Martin wrote the first ever regency romance I read (THE BRIDE’S NECKLACE) and is the one who inspired me to try and go from Fictionpress to published.
How long have you been writing for?
I created my Fictionpress account in 2003, so I suppose six years now! 
What do you find most difficult about writing?
Staying motivated to make it through the middle and to the end. I like to say, “I don’t like to write, I like to have written.” 
What are your favourite 5 books?
Oooh! In no particular order:
 Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
The Season by Sara Maclean
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Hate List (fall 2009) by Jennifer Brown
A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL (2010) by Kristin Walker
Favourite movie?
Empire Records
Do you have any advices for aspiring writers?

 If you love it, it is worth it, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. It’s impossible to NOT encounter rejection or bad reviews, but as long as you stick with it and put the time into improving your craft, it WILL happen. The question is, will you stick with it long enough?