Part one can be read here.
Part two can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and the rest of your life?
Charlotte Ashley: I’m lucky enough to have a job that lets me write at work. So writing is part of my work, I do it in my work-space, and the rest of my life is what I do at home. I think if I ever had to leave my job, I’d still need that division: writing as a job in my work-space, and the writing stays there.
AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?
CA: All the time! Like I say, I’m an extrovert, so I jump right in whenever I have the opportunity. I contribute regularly to three different writer’s forums, and have regular private correspondences with people from all three. I’m all over Facebook and Twitter. I beta read and workshop for piles of people.
I also have an amazing, tight writing group in real life with three other women at a similar place in their writing careers. We meet once a month to workshop stories, gossip, brainstorm, and compare notes. They are the best thing for my writing. I owe them so much!
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
CA: I’ve found my voice, I think. When I started, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write science fiction, high fantasy, magical realism, or what. I like all of them. But I’ve come to realize my happy spot is alternative history, or historical fantasy. I like research, history, politics, sociology. The more I can cram in there, the better.
I’ve also come to realize that I prefer longer forms. Getting stories under 5k words was always a struggle, and editors would always say “I feel like this is part of a longer work.” Now I write novelettes pretty consistently. If I need more space, I take it. I’ll go back to novels soon. I think it’s time.
AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
CA: I thrive on input. Social input is important to me – having readers, writing buddies, crit groups really helps me. Inspiration is helpful too, so I try to read as much as I can – non-fiction, in particular. I shy away from junk input, or filler. If I’m going to watch a movie, I need it to be a really good, original, thought-provoking movie. Same with television, books, music, websites – people. I want things that will teach me new things and push me, well, anywhere. The more that is coming in to my brain, the more will come out of it.
AA: Quality in, quality out J How is Toronto for writing? I haven’t been to the city in a very long time but I recall that is was a good, manageable, and engaging city. Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc
CA: I am so lucky to be here. Toronto has everything, everybody. I grew up in rural places – the scenery is nice, but it’s a living hell for someone like me who thrives on bustle and experience. In Toronto, I could be at a play, a concert, a book launch, a party, a community event any day of the week. There are so many different types of people with so many different ideas of how to be. If you want to – and I do – you can have more different experiences here than you could find the time to engage in. I love it.
AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?
CA: Knitting. Joining a band or a musical ensemble. Writing video games. All of the above, plus writing too.
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?
CA: I have kids, so their lives tend to take up a lot of mine. I love cooking and baking – we make bread and bagels almost every day. The kids are in music lessons, so I’ve dusted off my viola and play myself. They took up gymnastics, so I took up parkour. I still do a lot of gaming – RPGs, video games, board games. I also do a lot of community and volunteer work. In the summer, I do a lot with Not Far From the Tree, a group that harvests & uses urban fruit.
AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?
CA: Honestly, having kids. I can be a bit scattered – I want to do everything, so anything can be a distraction. But having kids forced me to put down some roots and stick with things. I decided to get serious about writing because it was time to focus and really excel at something, instead of flitting around doing a bit of everything. So even though the kids take up a huge amount of my time, the fact of their existence is what gave me the focus I needed. The challenge, then, has been to maintain that focus. Not to, tomorrow, rebrand myself as a game developer. Or a chamber musician. Or director of a cool NGO.
AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite beverage, fashion accessory, and automobile?
CA: White wine (Riesling, please,) unexpected socks, and a bicycle.
Thanks, Charlotte, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!
Keep up to date with Charlotte’s latest news on her website.
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