Kristen Ashley's Blog - Posts Tagged "mystery-man"

Right sistahs! Onward. Earlier this week, I gave you Part 1 of my interview with Goodreads's Searock. Below you'll see my answers to Part 2. This'll take us halfway through. SHOO!

FYI: Searock's questions are bulleted and mine are italicized. And remember, there may be some spoilers to several of my books in my answers so be cautious while reading.

Right away we go...

• There were so many themes and metaphors showing up in Motorcycle Man. I’m wondering what that writing experience was like. Did it feel especially creative? For example, “letting go” was a pervasive theme and was woven richly through the book, but it is just one of many and of course I have to mention a few like “colors” and the rollercoaster, and the pulse thing (oh my).

Actually, mostly I was anxious about giving Tack a happy ending. I adore him and I really wanted his story, and the love he found, to be a good one. I also very much wanted my readers to have a knock you back awesome end to a series that I’m very proud of. The rest just came to me and fit very well with Tack and Tyra’s story. There is not a lot of back story to Tyra’s life mainly because, before Tack, she was drifting… as I said in the book, she was essentially asleep until she met Tack. He woke her up. He taught her life was about living. But, considering she had to move into and accept a whole different world and way of life, just as Tack needed, Tyra needed to know he had her back. He wouldn’t let her go. He would always be there, no matter what. So he showed her a life in color then invited (or pulled her onto) the ride of life. It all just fit.

As for the pulse thing, I don’t think anyone would argue with me about Tack’s intensity. This is a man who devours life. He has an awesome amount of energy and strength. He can be extremely patient in getting what he wants. He is highly intelligent. He has a keen sense of loyalty, a deep protective instinct and a definite way he views life. It would stand to reason a man like that feels things incredibly deeply. And, for Tack, that goes beyond his unique ability to express those feelings in his Macho Tack Way. He had a shit life then, practically from the moment he left home as a young man, he patiently, methodically went about making it better. But in doing that, he hit obstacle after obstacle. I could not imagine waking up and finding my sister dead, she was messed up on drugs or not. That didn’t mark him. It scored through him, a wound that would never heal. And beyond the tough, gruff Macho Tack Way of explaining his feelings verbally, because of what happened with his sister, he does it physically. Going straight for the pulse and permanently inking his body. Pure Tack.

But again, this all fell into place. It was simply their story as it played out in my head. So it really all came naturally.


• I suppose this question only applies if you don’t always have the whole story before you write it: Are you going through the same emotional process as the reader will when you are writing a book? Do ever wonder along with us, “how the blazes are they gonna come back from that”?! For example, when did you know about the word, “filler” in the writing of Mystery Man? I don’t want to create spoilers so maybe you can’t answer that, but that word still gives me a case of the freakin’ shakes and I am super-curious about moments like those. Do you know with malice aforethought (lol) that you are going to traumatize us or are you just as shocked as we are?

Yes, I go through the same emotional process. Absolutely. As I’m typing, I’ll be breathing heavily, tears will sting my eyes, my blood pressure will skyrocket. And as these books I write play out like movies in my head and I just record them on the computer, these moments hit me with a zing too. I have no freaking clue where “filler” came from and when Gwen heard that in Mystery Man, I felt her pain, her humiliation and it was extreme. Though, I will note, Hawk never, never called her that nor did he think of her like that. And he was enraged and did something about it when he heard someone else did.

I think many people get so caught up in “filler” they miss Hawk’s response to it. It is very telling that, although he is removed from Gwen (in the beginning) for self-preservation purposes and he does, indeed, have other women in his life before things fire up with Gwen, he does not have the emotional connection with or protective instinct about the other women in his life. He’s kidding himself that Gwen doesn’t mean more to him for reasons he’s clinging to after experiencing a grave loss. But his actions state precisely how he feels about her. Even before things fire up, he watches over her and the instant she lands in trouble, he’s in her face and at her back.


• Another example would be the incidences of violence in “Golden Dynasty” that were so heart-rending. Were you as traumatized as the reader when certain “culturally acceptable abuses” occurred? Was it beyond your vision at any point that the love between could be rescued? Are you always confident things will work out when disastrous events occur in your stories?

Again, this stuff plays out in my head and I have no idea what will come next. But I’m glad you mentioned The Golden Dynasty because it was definitely one of the most difficult books I’ve written. I promised myself I would never, ever write a rape scene. Ever. Have a character who was raped, yes. Write a rape scene. No. Absolutely not. So having the hero rape the heroine was totally beyond my comprehension. Though, I didn’t describe the rape scene in detail, still. It happened and the reader knows it.

The same with a hero striking a heroine. No effing way. And Lahn did that too! And man, oh man, when that happened, it was almost worse than the rape as the rape was part of the Korwahk culture and they don’t even consider it rape. But Lahn hitting Circe was a break in trust that was unforgiveable. My hands were shaking as I typed that scene. I felt her sense of betrayal but worse. I felt Lahn’s reaction as he was comprehending what he did. Her speech afterward tore him up. Shredded. He had no freaking clue. But when she was done talking, he knew, boy did he know. And he already knows he loves her beyond anything. And he has no clue whatsoever how to heal what he’s done. He is not a man who doesn’t know what to do. His action undid him more than her. And feeling both the characters emotions in that intense scene, crap! I’m actually trembling right now just recalling how it felt!

And I’ll tell you, Searock, I debated with myself leaving BOTH of those in. I really, really wanted to make Lahn the type of person who knew what he had during The Hunt and decided against taking her then. But that made no sense whatsoever to the story. That story is about compromise. He had many lessons to learn about love and caring for his woman. The same with striking her. If I had taken those scenes out, it would not have been true to the story but more, Lahn and his journey. The story and the love that grew between those two would have been far less rich and, in the end for them (and the reader), rewarding.

So yes, I was traumatized and I worried Lahn couldn’t pull it off. Thankfully, he did. Then again, he fell in love with Circe the moment he looked into her eyes and when he did, he fell hard. So he’d do anything for her.

But with that book, Dortak was worse. I hated, hated, HATED having him in my head. And, again, I wasn’t keen on writing a scene/chapter that described a great deal of gory violence. If I see a movie or TV show with blood and violence, I look away and even chant “la la la” to myself if you can hear unpleasant things so writing one was something I didn’t think I could even do. But Dortak’s death, for the story, had to be described. It further defined Lahn, his relationship with Circe and the Korwahk people so it was necessary.


• I notice that you don’t defend or reject your hero’s bad behavior and you don’t have them reject their own bad behavior in your stories. They are unapologetic bad-asses for sure. For Tack, he was imperfect, but perfect for Tyra. Do you ever find yourself writing something that begins to feel too imperfect or too scary or unacceptable in your hero and therefore adjust it or do you just let it fly?

Hmm, I’m not sure I agree with this. Tack messed up with Tyra and he knew it. He didn’t apologize straight out, but he lost sleep over it and admitted that. He also talked through the incident with her. And last, he changed how he communicated with her.

I’m rereading Sweet Dreams and Tate straight out apologizes for being a jerk to Lauren and he does it more than once. He does explain to her that he’s always had a bad temper and he’ll do his best not to say mean stuff but he can’t promise he won’t. Then, not long after, he’s angry about something happening with Jonas and Laurie see’s he’s about to blow and instead he takes a breath and a drink of beer and doesn’t do it. It’s subtle but Lauren has pointed out how his flares of temper can be wounding and he makes every effort to stop doing it.

Hawk is a total jerk to Gwen in Mystery Man when he becomes terrified of the depth of feeling he has for her and breaks it off but he also explains why he breaks it off. He later seeks her out (in his Hawk way, HA!) and explains what was going in his head when he did it. Of course, he did it in a macho alpha way that, to my recollection, didn’t include the words “I’m sorry,” but he shared his thoughts and emotions with her in an effort to explain his behavior. Hawk’s a commando, for goodness sake. Him sharing his feelings at all is telling.

I’ve also just reread The Gamble, and Max goes caveman on Nina a couple of times but he then admits straight up he was wrong.

Yes, my boys do find it difficult to admit they’re wrong or apologize straight out. But my men are action men and actions speak louder than words. It may SEEM they get away with a lot. But they really don’t. If you pay attention to what they do rather than what they say, you’ll see it.

And to answer your last question, I just let it fly, always. I may have mentioned this before in a blog or something but when writing Sweet Dreams, Tate and Lauren are having a very intense fight and he loses it, picks her up to carry her to the bathroom and he smacks her ass when she’s protesting. I had severe problems with this because I do not find it acceptable in any way for a man to hit a woman, especially if he’s angry. Tate was not working out anger, his intention was not to hurt her and he didn’t. That said, I believe that Tate spanking her ass was wrong and I still do. I walked away while writing that scene and struggled mightily with taking that out. Then, like with Lahn in The Golden Dynasty, I found I had to do what you said… just let it fly. It was Tate. It was what Tate would do. It’s what he DID do when it played in my head. I had to stay true to Tate. So I had to let it happen and hope.


• In the same vein, you don’t seem to shy away from hot potato issues in your writing. Illegal behavior, infidelity, etc. is notably present in Motorcycle Man (not shocking as it is set amidst a notorious MC). You don’t glorify the behavior either and seem to write them with a light hand. Are you purposely delving into these gritty issues? Does striking the balance that keeps them from overshadowing a story come easily to you?

The thing is, my stories are fantasies. The purpose of reading fiction and, for me, especially romantic fiction, is to come out of my life, enter another world and enjoy the ride. That said, I, personally, prefer it when the hero, heroine, etc. is not absolutely perfect in every way. Says the right thing, does the right thing, every time. I like a little reality injected because it seems less of a fantasy and I can slip into those worlds easier. People make mistakes. People say the wrong thing. Crime happens. People sleep around. People have different philosophies about right and wrong. And I like these faults and foibles, complex worlds, situations and people because I can identify with them seeing as I’m not perfect nor is anyone around me and life is complex. It isn’t your best attributes that make the person you are. Everything you are makes you the person you are. So how we deal with our mistakes or the shortcomings in others (acceptance, forgiveness) makes us the person we are. So yes, I purposefully delve into these issues, or, more to the point, as these stories play out in my head, I tell them like they are and don’t pussyfoot around. I do not shy away from much. And I think it makes the experience richer.

As for the infidelity in Motorcycle Man, Tyra had a lot of learning to do about how she was going to be expected to negotiate in her new world. And Tack had a lot of learning to do about how to guide her through it. These men are MEN and they’re going to do stuff like that (Hopper having sex with BeeBee). Tyra was going to know it, see it or hear about it. And she needed to learn what to do or in his case what NOT to do in order not to put Tack at odds with his brothers.

That said, it isn’t only Shy and Tabby who got me thinking about the spin-off Chaos series. Hop intrigues me. His behavior with BeeBee, his infidelity to Mitzi and his conversation with Tyra… he’s a good but complicated man who’s going through some stuff. Although Mitzi does not play a major role in this book, she’s fully formed in my head. It may be, in future, we’ll see more Hop. But, I’ll warn you, it is unlikely he’ll find his way with Mitzi. There’s a reason he did what he did. And there may be a lesson he learns from it.


• Similarly, you mentioned in a previous interview that you are quite fearless in your writing. Are you deliberate about being fearless or adventurous in your craft?

Yep. As above, sistah!

That's it for Part 2. Stay tuned... in a couple of days I'll give you Part 3!
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Published on June 09, 2012 00:35 • 809 views • Tags: circe, gwen, hawk, kristen-ashley, lahn, max, motorcycle-man, mystery-man, nina, sweet-dreams, tack, the-gamble, tyra