Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Ash, author of the book series “The ELI Chronicles”! I had a lot of fun doing this one, and Julia reveals quite an interesting backstory! From her Goodreads bio:
JULIA ASH is the author of a dark-fantasy series, The ELI Chronicles, which includes THE ONE AND ONLY (April 2018), THE TETHER (April 2019), and THE TURNING POINT (planned for release in the spring of 2020). As a realist with a passion for the fantastical, Ash enjoys reading and writing fresh twists involving monsters in literature (zombies, vampires, and werewolves). She lives with her husband Rick and two Brittany bird-dogs on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Her exciting stories, featuring main protagonist Ruby Spencer and her family as they fight to save the world from the terrible ZOM-B virus, shove the reader into realistic doomsday scenarios and legitimate science, making them a unique read! You can download both books by clicking here!
Now, without further ado, here is our interview!
First, tell us a bit about yourself!
I love the outdoors and all the adventures it offers. Four-wheeling, hiking, waterskiing, marksmanship, boating, paddle boarding, and sailing—I adore them all. And even though I live near the Atlantic Ocean and find the beach rejuvenating and special, my heart belongs to mountains, lakes, and rivers. They’re just a natural fit for me.
My husband and I belong to a hunting and fishing club, located by a lake in the Pocono Mountains. I am in awe of wildlife. Watching bears, eagles, deer, coyotes, beavers, upland birds, and bobcats thrive in their natural habitat inspires me. My working career has centered around communications and public relations. I am steadfastly passionate about the power of education, so one of my favorite jobs ever was working for our local school system as the coordinator of public relations. In 2015, I retired from our school system to begin my second career—one I had always dreamed of: authoring novels.
So you’ve always wanted to write novels. Did you ever attempt to start a novel earlier in life? Or was it something you always planned on doing later after you were done working? I myself have started several projects that never fully materialized, for one reason or another.
I’ve always wanted to write novels as part of my retirement plan, though I jumpstarted the transition a little early, writing two novels within five years of the big day! These two novels, however, are collecting dust, as they didn’t hit all the structural marks inherent in a solid book.
So you and I share the experience of having projects that never made it to publication! Not yet, anyway! Writing has always been a component of my life. In college I took a creative writing course. Over the course of my communications career, I wrote technical marketing documents, press releases, manuals, annual reports, brochures, and newsletters.
What was your first favorite book that you can remember?
My hands-down favorite was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I’m drawn to the melding of realism with the fantastical, and this YA science-fiction & fantasy adventure delivered when I was a middle schooler.I loved that Meg Murry’s father was an astrophysicist working for the government to unravel the mystery of space/time travel! And then Meg’s Dad disappears. When she, a classmate, and her brother encounter travelers from another world and time, the adventure to find her Dad and bring him home begins.What a perfect and memorable book for me!
That’s a classic! Do you think any elements of that story have helped shape your own writing style?
A Wrinkle in Time taught me that as long as an author creates compelling characters whom the reader relates to and cares about, the reader will follow the characters anywhere…including through space and time. Having engaging characters is certainly an element I strive to create in my books. Let’s face it, I’m asking readers to follow my main character while she’s navigating a zombie outbreak and then, in book 2, Ruby travels to a vampire planet! They need to want to be by Ruby’s side 🙂
Your book series The ELI Chronicles has been receiving a lot of positive feedback. What was your inspiration for writing this story?
I’m thrilled when readers enjoy my books! In terms of my inspiration, I wanted to write a series about the potential impacts of scientific greed, when science has no boundaries.
In spite of the fantastical elements of my books, I actually think this issue has great relevancy in today’s society. We only need to look at the opioid crisis, for example. Certainly bioweaponry falls into this scientific quagmire. The overarching question I’m hoping readers will ask themselves is this: just because we can do something scientifically or technologically, should we? Newton’s third law of motion is one of my favorite realisms; “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
In The One and Only, a bioweapon was unleashed on humanity, intended to decimate animal populations. With food shortages, humankind was expected to become dependent on a protein product manufactured by China. And then came the “equal and opposite reaction” to the scientific greed. The bioweapon mutated into Zoonosis Mutated Bacteria (ZOM-B) and transferred back to humans. Certainly not the intended consequence!
Do you also hope the realism of the main premise of your story, the ZOM-B, will inspire younger readers to an interest in science?
Great question! Yes, yes, yes!
I love making the connection in my books between education and survival. Meaning, what students learn in the classroom can have powerful, life-saving applications in the real world. Ruby is a microbiologist. In The One and Only, the reader is privy to how Ruby collects and analyzes data in order to better understand the ZOM-B threat and to create a viable defense. She also needs to understand how the villains are manipulating science for their own heinous advantage.
In The Tether, one of my favorite exchanges between Ruby and her nine-year-old daughter emphasizes the importance of education. Gabby asks her Mom if she’ll use weapons (like her sword and knives) to try and destroy the villain. Ruby answers: “Intelligence and character are sharper than any dagger.” And since Ruby is facing a physically unbeatable vampire villain, she tells her daughter that outsmarting him is their only chance at saving humanity. Good thing Ruby took her education seriously, especially her love of science, because that’s a tall order!
As a writer, I know that some characters are a lot more fun to write than others. What was your favorite character from this series to write?
Wow. That’s hard to answer. I’ll warm up with a little backstory! The One and Only was my first novel that I wrote in multiple points of view. I don’t know how to explain it, so I’ll be dramatic to emphasize my point! Writing in multiple POVs was like opening a portal inside my brain. For the first time, I could actually hear the characters and feel their authenticity.
Bottomline, writing in multiple points of view was the best decision I ever made as a writer. I think it elevated my characterizations and writing to a whole new level. And I finally felt that my work was ready to publish. To almost answer your question, I love my main character Ruby Spencer the most, followed by her husband Clay and daughter Gabby.
But your actual question was which character was my favorite to…write! Believe it or not, I really enjoy writing narratives and dialogue from my villains’ perspectives! Who knew? So Ox, Zagan, Vladimir, and Em have been super fun. (If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Zagan.) I also have soft spots for certain supporting characters like Seaman Frank Davis and Lance Corporal Eugene Insley from The One and Only, as well as tour guide Atea Patel and human psychic Neviah Bain from The Tether.
I agree, writing from the perspective of the villain can be a blast! Were any of these villains or protagonists inspired by people you know? When I first began writing, a couple friends insisted I put them in the story!
My protagonist reflects the woman I wish I could and would be if ever faced with an apocalypse where humanity needed to be saved! My villains are not inspired by anyone I know! But hopefully, I’ve given my readers an understanding of why they fell from their potentials into the depths of villainy.
What’s next for Julia Ash the author?
I’m currently writing The Turning Point, the third installment in The ELI Chronicles. I anticipate that this book will be published in May 2020. I’m holding back on saying The Turning Point is the “final” entry for the series because I could always add on to it if another worthy adventure materializes in my brain!
My next project after the series will probably be a paranormal thriller. I grew up in a haunted house and some ideas are bouncing around in my head, like how to take some of my experiences and weave them into a contemporary thriller.
You grew up in a haunted house? I’m afraid I’ll need a little elaboration on that!
My childhood home was built in 1869 and was (and is) a haven for the paranormal, including one of its residents who died of old age when the house was being wired for electricity. My family grew accustom to thrown objects, unclaimed footsteps, doors slamming, windows shutting, lights turning on or off, foul odors, plummets in temperature, and appearing manifestations.
Did I enjoy having the paranormal drifting about and occasionally causing havoc? No! However, the experiences have given me material for a paranormal thriller, so at least that’s one positive takeaway! Note: My parents sold our house, called Bleecker Hall, around 1994.
If you could go back to your first days of writing and give yourself advice, what would that be?
I would give myself the following advice:
- Don’t start writing a novel until you fully understand novel structure;
- Hire a professional developmental editor to critique your manuscript, especially for your debut novel
- Edit your manuscript to the point of exhaustion
- Don’t ever query a literary agent until you’ve accomplished 1-3!
Being self-published has been a wonderful experience and I believe it has given me the best understanding of a very complex process and industry. However, I started out wanting to go the traditional publishing track. I queried my first two novels which received countless rejections and are now collecting dust on a shelf, remaining unpublished. The reality is, because of a saturated book market and competition that’s off the charts, the traditional track is rather unforgiving. My advice to debut novelists: Do it right the first time (see steps 1-4). Treat the opportunity as if you’ll never get another chance.
Measure twice, cut once, as the saying goes. Excellent advice. Are there any go-to editors/proofreaders/cover designer you’d recommend to my readers, or ones to avoid?
Before my manuscript goes to beta readers, I hire a professional developmental editor to critique my story. She specifically analyzes the pacing and makes sure I’m hitting the plot points at the right time. Anything that slows down my story is chopped. My editor is Kerrie Flanagan and she is FABULOUS. I love working with her; we gel in our expectations and communication style. Kerrie is highly recommended! Her website is https://kerrieflanagan.com (Click on Services and then Consultations)
My cover design is produced by Damonza: https://damonza.com . Damonza is easy to work with and they really consider the information that an author furnishes! I highly recommend them.
Besides writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
I enjoy reading, cooking, and anything outdoors!
I love cooking as well! Do you have a home-run recipe you enjoy cooking, something that really knocks everyone’s socks off?
The Food Network is one of my favorite TV stations! I love the show Chopped 🙂 If I had a homerun, it would probably be a homerun meal versus a recipe.
My holiday meals seem to result in very clean plates! For Christmas Eve dinner, for example, we have tenderloin filets, twice baked potatoes (also called potatoes on the half shell), fresh corn off the cob, and a cheesy spinach casserole! I don’t need recipes for these dishes because I’ve been making them for so long! Otherwise, I’m game to make just about anything, as long as I can find the ingredients locally!
Let’s end this interview with a bit of whimsy: you’re going to be stuck on a remote island for 30 days and you can only bring 3 things with you (not including food or survival gear). What are you packing?
When you say “packing,” I’m picturing a very large container with ventilation and padding! (I write science fiction & fantasy, so I like to think big. Haha! I would bring my…
1. Husband, because he can make something out of nothing—seriously;
2. Son, because he’s like my husband and would help build a shelter and cultivate food and water;
3. Daughter, because she is obsessed with reading and problem solving, so she would share inspiring stories of perseverance and help devise a rescue plan.
What thoughtful choices, it would absolutely help to have companionship!
Thank you! And that’s companionship with smarts and the drive to overcome obstacles!!! By the way, if I had one more opening, I would include my daughter-in-law who is a school-teacher!