Clare Ashton: “Seeing yourself represented and worthy of romantic happiness is very powerful”
The award-winning lesfic author reveals her writing secrets and why she can’t wait for the DIVA Literary Festival.
If you’re a fan of lesbian romantic fiction, chances are you’re already familiar with the wonderful Clare Ashton. Her witty novels have earned her plenty of fans and if you’re one of them, or even if you’re an aspiring author yourself, you won't want to miss the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. We seized the opportunity to ask Clare some of our most burning questions ahead of her appearance at the event.
DIVA: How are you feeling about taking part in the DIVA Literary Festival?
CLARE ASHTON: Bloody excited. There are so many lesfic writers under one roof and I think I want to see every session!
Why do you think events like this are so important?
I constantly hear from people who had no idea that lesbian romance novels existed and devour them once they realise. Hopefully The DIVA Literary Festival will help spread the word and happiness!
Hear hear! Tell us about your most recent book, Poppy Jenkins.
Poppy Jenkins is everybody on a good day – funny, uplifting with a kind word for everyone. She is, however, stuck in Mid-Wales living with her family and hasn’t had a whiff of a girlfriend in a long time. But the otherwise sunny life of the frustrated and breast-obsessed Poppy is disturbed by the return of her childhood best friend – the bright, brilliant and beautiful Rosalyn Thorn. She’s back and stirring up old memories and conflicts. Rosalyn knows how to rub people up the wrong way. It’s just she also knows how to rub Poppy up the right way.
I grew up in Mid-Wales and writing Poppy Jenkins was an excuse to enjoy all the things I loved about my childhood again – the personalities, the rolling hills, those fabulous villages in the Welsh borders. But this time with more boob jokes.
You can never have too many boob jokes! Do you have a favourite character that you’ve written?
Fran from After Mrs Hamilton. She’s pure indulgence on my part. Inspired by Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant in the prime of their middle-age, she’s an aging actress who is adored by the young and beautiful Clo and allowed to shine once more by allowing herself to be loved again. She has that hauteur of a French ice queen and a warm heart inside. And the way she raises an eyebrow could push anyone up the Kinsey scale.
What did you do before you were an author?
I buggered around with a few careers, copy-editor, Little Chef waitress, computer programmer, full-time mum, with varying levels of competency.
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started writing your first novel?
That the reason I kept writing about lesbians was probably trying to tell me something!
At least you figured it out in the end! You’ve written numerous brilliant books so what do you think makes a great lesfic novel?
Real moments - times in a book that put a foot vividly in our world when a character says or does something that resonates.
Talk us through your writing routine.
Procrastinate, then stare.
Actually once I have an outline for a book, I write like a demon so the first draft is coherent and voices of the characters remain consistent. But before that stage, there’s an awful lot of staring, and cake.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
Yes. I get grumpy.
And lastly, what’s the most memorable reaction you’ve ever had from a reader?
It was a review of Poppy Jenkins by Shira Glassman:
“Poppy may as well be a 21st century Anne of Green Gables or other costume drama small-town girl, full of buoyancy and enthusiasm, as well as love for her village and its people. But by making her this, the author doesn’t rob her of her sexuality, and that’s what makes this so wonderful. A woman’s sexual – not just romantic but sexual – attraction to another woman is depicted as innocent and wholesome. Do you have any idea how fucking healing that is? ...and I can say right here and now that if I’d have had a book like this to read when I was a teenager I would have grown up happier and felt way more validated.”
That kind of reaction makes me proud to be a lesbian romance author. Seeing yourself represented in a novel and worthy of romantic happiness is very powerful, and a benefit of romances that many of the genre’s detractors overlook.
You can see Clare take part in interviews, workshops and panels at the DIVA Literary Festival and Awards, which take place 3-5 November at the Hilton Metropole, Birmingham NEC. Book now at divaliteraryfestival.com.
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