2021 Debut Author Interview: Ashley Shuttleworth!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Ashley Shuttleworth and their novel A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Ashley on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Ashley Shuttleworth was born in Chilliwack, British Colombia and currently lives in Ontario. They have a BA (Hons) in English Literature, and spent some time after uni living and teaching in Seoul, South Korea. When they aren't reading or writing, their favourite pastimes are: playing video games (particularly Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Zelda), watching anime & k-dramas, and piecing together cosplays for conventions. They also like long walks through quiet forests and know far too much about wine.

Keep up with Ashley: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Ashley: Thank you! Honestly, at this moment in time I oscillate between extremely excited to be in the 2021 debut year at last, and extremely nervous. Because I’ve been working on this book in some way shape and form since 2016, and sold it at the end of 2018. It’s been a long journey and I’m so ready for my book to hit the shelves, go out into the world and kick butt. The nervousness is something I think all authors feel at any stage in their career, the ever-existing dread that wonders whether people will like and understand the thing you’ve written. Obviously I want A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR to do well—fabulously, even—but I have to remind myself constantly that it’s impressive enough I managed to get this far, and my entire career isn’t made or break by the first (or even one) book I put out.

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Ashley: The best part about the writing process, in my opinion, is watching a whole new world that never before existed begin to take life and shape. I’m incredibly hard on myself—as many authors are, a professional habit. I aim for a little more perfection in my first drafts than I probably should, and it means I often have to scrap and restart about 50k worth of writing, but heck if I don’t love creating that very first draft. Weaving together a story. Polishing it up and giving it finer details. I love the entire processes of making a book, from drafting to revision to editing. What I find the hardest though is the inevitable amount of personal emotion that goes into my writing. This is a world of fiction, I didn’t write this book about anyone real, but I have used real emotions to help me get in the headspace of a character and convey what they are feeling about whatever situation their in—and that’s a tiring thing, something you have to be in the right headspace yourself to tackle safely.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR?

Ashley: This story was inspired by so many things, oh my goodness. My years in university studying Milton and Greek mythology. My love for the myth of Achilles and Patroclus. Video games like Final Fantasy and Zelda and Kingdom Hearts. The books I’ve read and loved. The things I wish I had growing up, like actual representation of LGBTQ+ people, where a wide variety of terms were used to discuss gender and sexuality, so that I might have been able to start the journey of figuring my own out a little earlier. But I can pinpoint the exact moment the idea for A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR was born. I was in my bedroom, packing up my things, listening to music while I packed—the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, as one does—and a story started to form in my head, with Nausicaä at its centre. The story since then has shifted around quite a lot, but Nausicaä survived every change and edit. The scene I played out in my head is the scene I intend for the end of the Hollow Star series, so I hope this story does well enough to get us to that point, because despite the circumstances that sparked its creation, it’s an overwhelmingly happy scene that’s been the motivation to get me through every bit of nervous worry and panic so far in this process. We’ll see what happens—fingers crossed!

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Ashley: This is such a hard question—I truly enjoy writing all of my characters, which is probably why every chapter gets to be so long! Probably though I’d have to say that the answer to both is Nausicaä. The way Nos speaks is very close to the way I do, so her dialogue is the most natural to me. It’s also very cathartic to be in the headspace of someone who speaks her mind and is powerful enough to take no shit from anyone. However, she’s also the most difficult, because there’s a lot of hurt in this character. Nausicaä’s wit and fire and biting sarcasm are all shields for a girl who suffers from intense PTSD among other things, so while it was easy enough to write the humour that deflects from this, as a person who also uses humour to distract from hurt, sitting down to write her POV—where we’re actually inside her head and can’t ignore what’s really going on—meant a sort of self-reflection and acknowledging avoidance that was difficult at times to pull out of me and put into words.

The Book Bratz: Are there any other books or authors who give you inspiration for your own writing?

Ashley: There are so many authors who inspire my writing, yes! Holly Black, for instance, and Laini Taylor, Roshani Chokshi, and Madeline Miller. It’s going to sound pretentious but Paradise Lost has been a HUGE inspiration behind what I write, because Milton and his works were what grabbed my attention the most in uni and sort of inspired me to actually start trying while I was there. I went through a series of rough patches that made me lose interest in school, but Milton rekindled my motivation to see it through. A few particular things about his works, too—namely, how important the themes of consent and choice were in his writing, but in Paradise Lost, his aim was to reconcile Christianity with Greek mythology and make his own mark on the British Epic. I liked that. I liked the concept of reconciliation—of things co-existing harmoniously, together, because the world we live in is full of religions and beliefs existing parallel to one another. The magical world in ADAHS, therefore, was crafted on choice and consent, and it might be a massive story. There might be a lot going on. Some people might not like that there’s a mash of religions and folklores and mythologies, but I wanted to write a world that also demonstrated all of this co-existing and whatever else, I’m happy that I did.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR?

Ashley: The thing I want readers to take out of this story is hope. Hope that things won’t always be dark. Hope that times can get better. Hope that they aren’t alone, that there’s help and companionship and understanding out there if they reach out for it. I want them to take from this story that they’re worthy of love and space in this world no matter their gender or sexuality, and I want them to take that hope and pass it on to someone else in any way they can. Because the books of my childhood were some of the more important things I had to hold on to during difficult times, and the dream of being an author was deeply motivated by the desire help someone else in a similar way.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Ashley: Oh yes haha There are plans. In fact, I have the sequel to A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR coming out Summer 2022, and I’m hoping to be able to turn this current duology into a trilogy. Anyone who reads it will understand I have a lot going on in this story, so the more books I’m allowed to flesh things out and wrap them up will be appreciated! But I also have other things in the works. My mind is constantly busy with the stories I’d like to share with the world. YA fantasy is my favourite thing to write at the moment, so my next project will still be in this age category and genre, and I’m nowhere near finished playing around with faeries, so you can bet there will be something else coming out along those lines, hopefully in the near future. 

Title: A Dark and Hollow Star
Author: Ashley Shuttleworth
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021

Summary: The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family. A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge. A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne. The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret. For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world. Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way? Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Thank you so much to Ashley for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR and can't wait for it to be out in the world on February 23rd

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

No comments

Please note that if your comment doesn’t appear right away, it’s because we have to approve it. Make sure to click the Notify Me box so you can check back once your comment has been approved! ❤️