An Interview: With Ashley Chegwyn
Sarah interviews Australian author, Ashley Chegwyn, about writing, self-publishing and what's next!
Loaded is the story of Noah, rockstar and trouble maker, he gets himself in a situation when he sleeps with the wrong woman. The mafia is on his tail, but beautiful secret agent Casey might just be able to save him and change his ways…
17 Promises is the story of siblings abandoned when their father is sent to jail. It would appeal to fans of The Impossible Vastness Of Us.
S: You self-published your debut novel Loaded in March 2015. Talk us through the process.
A: Self-publishing was both a rewarding and challenging experience. Lucky for me, my American mentor, Lisa Terry, had just gone through the self-publishing process and was willing to walk me through everything. She talked me through the pros and cons of all the publishing platforms out there, and I eventually settled on using both Amazon Kindle and Createspace, which would allow me to produce digital and physical copies.
Once I knew where I was publishing, it was a matter of formatting each of the versions to suit the standards provided by Amazon and getting a cover made. When that was complete, I set the publication date and on March 15th, Loaded went live. From there, I did as much marketing as I could on my own social media channels and had a few bookish friends who helped spread the word as well.
S: What was your favourite part of the process and what did it teach you?
A: My favourite part of the process was speaking with my cover artist, Deborah from Tugboat Design, and working on a concept that both captured the essence of Loaded and would appeal to audiences. I’m a very visual person, so I really enjoyed talking to her about my characters and my plot and watching her bring it all to life. She was extremely generous with her advice and taught me that even the smallest touches on a book cover can change the message it conveys. People really do judge a book by its cover.
S: Your stories feature significant amounts of travel in them. Would you say travel is a big part of your life?
A: Travel is a huge part of my life. I love a good adventure and I’m always looking for the next one. I went on my first trip overseas back in 2010 and ever since then I’ve had the urge to travel. There’s just something about going to a new place and discovering the people and the culture that gets me really excited. It’s also a really good way to give yourself a break from your routine, which definitely helps with bouts of writer’s block.
S: What advice would you give to first-time self-publishers?
A: Take your time making decisions and always proofread! The ability to self-publish means that you have complete control of your story, which basically removes any pressure of a deadline. There's no need to give yourself a tight deadline and create unnecessary stress. One of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t give myself heaps of time to get Loaded proofed and I basically had my sister and mother up late a couple of nights before publication checking for mistakes. I’d given myself such a tight deadline because I believed it was a ‘now or never’ situation when it came to publishing, even though it really wasn’t. So as long as you remember that you’re in control of the process and give yourself plenty of time, everything will be okay.
S: Tell us about yourself. What are your goals? What should we know about you?
A: I’m a final year Media and Communications student at the University of Sydney, who also majored in French in Film Studies. I have a major shopping addiction, which means I have way too many shoes and handbags. I’m a complete romantic and a sucker for a good rom-com. Ideally, I’d love to work in Fashion PR or at a magazine or publishing house, while continuing to write my novels in my spare time. Writing has become such a huge part of my life that I definitely can’t imagine ever giving up.
How I decided to become a writer is actually a really funny story. When I was 15, this really cute guy moved to my school and he was in most of my classes. My school happened to be one that you could go straight from primary into high school, which meant you were basically with the same people for 13 years. So when this new guy came along, all the girls in my grade had a crush on him. We became friends and chatted quite a bit over text, which gave me plenty of time to say some really awkward and embarrassing things that I still cringe about now. Towards the end of the year, he started dating another girl in our year and I was completely shattered. One of my friends encouraged me to write the pain away and so I did, in a series of poems that I later uploaded to HarperCollins’ website Inkpop. They gained quite a lot of traction, reached Top 5 status and were reviewed by HarperCollins’ editors. So, basically a guy rejecting me turned me into a writer.
S: What kind of writer would you like to be? Who are your literary role models?
A: I’d love to be one of those writers that grows with their audience and manages to stay relevant. I’d be extremely happy if people always thought of me as an author that has incredibly deep, complex and realistic characters and plots that keep them engaged.
My literary role models are Rainbow Rowell and Sophie Kinsella. Rowell’s characters are just the perfect combination of quirky and realistic and the way she writes a story is just amazing. She keeps you hooked from the very first line and her writing is just so beautiful and lyrical. I love Kinsella because her stories are just so funny! Every time I read the Confessions of a Shopaholic series, I burst into laughter. I love how she balances comedic elements with more serious plot points and wish that I could master the art as well as she has.
S: What are you currently writing?
A: I’m currently writing my pride and joy The Lucky Ones. It's been a project that I’ve been working on for five years, so I think I have over 15 versions of it on my hard drive. While most people may have given up on a manuscript after the first few tries, I persisted with it. I think it was important for me to go through a few things first, so I could understand the characters that I was writing about and place them in an engaging plot.
It’s basically the story of me and my ex-boyfriend, which has been thrown into a completely new context, so it’s really special to me. It gave me a chance to go over everything and figure out what went wrong, what we could have done better and basically make peace with how things ended.
I’m trying to find a home for it right now, seeing if any agents or publishing houses are interested. However, if no one bites, I’m happy to go through the self-publishing process again. I’m so emotionally attached to this story that I want to share it with everyone.
S: What was the last book you read?
A: The last book I read was The Wrong Girl by Zoë Foster-Blake. I absolutely loved it. Like I said, I’m a sucker for a rom-com.
S: Who is your favourite book character and why? (Not yours)
A: I love Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. She was just a really relatable character. She preferred to stay at home writing as opposed to going out and drinking. She spent way too much time in the fictional world as opposed to the real world. She also doubted her ability as a writer sometimes, even though she knew people really respected her. Her experience is just so relatable to other writers that you can’t help but feel attached and see a bit of yourself in her.
S: Who is your favourite book character that you have written and why?
A: I love Emery from The Lucky Ones. She was the first character I ever created, so she automatically has a special place in my heart. There’s also just so much of me in her that it’s easy to slip into her mindset whenever I’m writing as well.
S: Tell us about your novels and where to find them.
A: I currently have two books out now, Loaded and 17 Promises, which I wrote in conjunction with American author, Lisa Terry. Loaded tells the story of a rockstar who’s gotten himself in a bit of trouble with the mafia and has to be saved by secret agent, Casey. 17 Promises tells the story of two siblings who are left to fend for themselves when their father is thrown in jail. He throws them a curveball that basically threatens their already precarious situation. Both are available on Amazon in digital and hard-copy, as well as few other sites like Bookworld and Booktopia.
My next project, The Lucky Ones, will possibly be out early next year if I decide to self-publish. This one follows Emery Grey, the daughter of a famous Hollywood couple, who comes back from a mandated six month hiatus and finds herself in the same position she was when she left. She drowns under the pressure her mother has placed her under and relies on her behind-closed-doors boyfriend, Colton to keep her afloat. However, she’s also very conscious that he's an overachiever and wants to make sure she doesn’t hold him back.
More information about The Lucky Ones can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when it becomes available.
S: What kind of characters would you like to explore next?
A: I’d love to explore characters that are a little closer to home and a little bit older as well. I have a giant notebook filled with rough plot lines and character notes. Most of these newer characters are older than ones I've previously written about. I think that comes with the fact that I’m growing up as well. So as I shift into new phases of my life, the characters I create will reflect that.
My goal has always been to give a voice to characters that may typically not be heard. My characters are often very deep and complex. I’m not afraid to make them realistic and suffer from things like depression and anxiety, because I think it gives readers the chance to relate to someone and kind of explore their own emotions and feelings through the lens of someone else.
S: Rainy days reading in bed or warm sunny days reading beside a pool?
A: Definitely rainy days reading in bed. I’d get sunburnt reading by a pool.
S: What did you want to be at age 5?
A: I wanted to be an actress and I still kind of do. It’s my dream to turn one of my novels into a movie or TV series and get to play one of my characters on-screen. However, I’d also settle for being involved in the screenwriting process.
What great advice! Thanks Ashley! We can't wait to see The Lucky Ones on shelves!