Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview: "Maiden's Mistake" by Elizabeth Ashtree

Please let's welcome Elizabeth Ashtree to Romance Book Junkies. She is here to do a interview and share some information on her new book Maiden's Mistake. 

I know you get asked this question over and over but can you tell us a little about yourself? Maybe something juicy. ;)                      

I have a day job working as an attorney for an intelligence agency in the Department of Defense.  So I get to work with spies.  That’s pretty cool, right?  I wasn’t working there when I started writing; I was stationed at the Pentagon at the time.  So I started out in romance (not spy thrillers, as people might expect).  I found I loved romance because of the happy endings.  Naturally, with a day job in government, I decided to use a pen name.  I also served in the Army as a JAG.  Used to be, people wouldn’t know what that meant, but once there was a TV show by that name, everyone recognizes that JAGs are military attorneys.  Here’s my official Army photograph from a long, long time ago:

When did you first start writing? Are you a full time author or do you do it on the side?

I started writing stories pretty much the minute I figure out what fiction was all about.  I’m not able to write full-time yet, but eventually I’ll retire from the government and will definitely write full-time after that happens.  I wrote my first book while holding down a day job and raising two boys single-handedly.  People sometimes ask me how I ever found the time, but I simply never watched much TV and wrote whenever I could.  I had an early laptop and would bring it to my kids’ karate class and sit on the floor of the gym writing away!

Do you have a author that has really inspired you?

I’d have to say that my original inspiration for writing seriously was Lavyrle Spencer.  But others would include Laura Kinsale and Mary Jo Putney I suspect they are why I decided to depart from writing contemporary romance to try my hand at historical romance for my latest book, Maiden’s Mistake.  For contemporary fiction, I’m big fan of Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, and Harlen Coben.  And my mentor and head of my critique group is Ruth glick who writes as Rebecca York, so I love her work, too.  Lately, I’ve been reading mostly fantasy literature or speculative fiction.  I wonder if that will inspire me to write one of those myself.

How long does it normally take you to write an average book or your last book?

I joke that it takes me nine months to write a book, same as it took me to make a baby.  Whether I write a book under contract for a publisher or just write one for the love of it, it takes about nine months from first chapter to last.  But sometimes I will rewrite a story to meet requirements of an editor or according to what’s interesting for readers at the time.  

What do you think makes a story great?

Emotion.  The books I like to read are packed with all sorts of emotion, so I try to make sure that every page of my own books is filled with emotion, too.  Conflict is important to keep the story interesting, but if an author can’t bring out the deepest darkest feelings of the characters, the conflict won’t matter all that much.

Can you describe your book "Maiden’s Mistake" in one sentence?

After a lifetime of tragedy, Jonathan Everleigh, the Earl of Mercia, didn’t believe he could find happiness; until the spirited Juliette Markham enters his life and reminds him that love and devotion can be found in the most unlikely circumstances.

Have you done lots of research for your books or do the stories just come to you?

I research elements of my books, because I like to add interesting details.  But my story ideas just come to me, prompted by various things that happen in my life.  Maiden’s Mistake was inspired by a question someone had about house fires.  One thing I researched deeply for Maiden’s Mistake was the history of indoor plumbing.  The plumbing throughout the earl’s house is featured prominently and ends up being a big part of how the story sorts itself out.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a contemporary romance.  It’s about Zarchary Blaine who comes home from the war to find his wife has died and his son has been turned over to a man claiming to be the three-year old’s biological father.  This biological father has a girlfriend, Elaina Palmer, who has been helping to take care of little Ryan while she sorts out what to do about her cheating man who doesn’t have much real interest in the responsibilities of fatherhood.  In no time, Elaina loves Ryan and longs to raise him as her own child.  But Zach is a good man and he’s not about to give up Ryan without a fight, so Elaina is torn about what she should do.  She’s an attorney and can sue for custody, but knows she hasn’t got a strong claim to the boy.  Zach isn’t genetically related to Ryan either, but he wants to continue to be his dad anyway. Eventually, Zach and Elaina realize the only way to keep Ryan safe is to join forces.  

Can you tell us about some of your prior achievements or works?

Hey, you gave me an opening to brag, so I’m going to tell you how proud I am of my two sons; one is in law enforcement and the other is taking after his mom by pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing.  His writing is amazing.  Maybe his interest was piqued when my very  first book, An Officer and A Hero, came out when he was just over ten years old and was nominated for two RITA awards (for best contemporary and best first novel) and then won the Romantic Times Reader’s Choice Award. After a start like that, I couldn’t stop - so I now have eight books published, with many more in my head that I want to write.

Is there anything that I didn't cover that you would like to talk about or say to your potential readers?

Here are a couple of photos to give you a glimpse into what I hold dear:
1) I live in a beautiful log home on six acres that includes a small apple orchard I’m working to bring back to production.
2) My six pound Chihuahua named Spy, because she’s all black and she stole my work badge out of my purse the first day we met her and clearly wanted to be a spy.
3) My five pound Chihuahua named Ping, because she bounces, pounces, and runs every where at top speed at all times, except for the ten seconds it took to take this picture of her.

I’ve enjoyed building my own web page and keeping it up to date.  I also have a Twitter feed. I’m on Facebook, and I write a blog.   Here’s where you can find me:
my web pages at
or follow me @EAshtreeBooks (!/EAshtreeBooks)
or subscribe to Telling Tales at
Just for fun:
Hardback or Paperback?  Actually, I read audio books and ebooks almost exclusively.
Dog ears or Bookmarks
?  When I do read a paperback, I use a book mark.
YA novels or Adult novels?  I love YA novels.  I’m reading a YA audio series right now.
Library or Bookstore?  I love libraries, but rarely get to them due to my work hours.  So I buy my books online.
Reading glasses or No glasses?  I admit to no longer being able to read anything without glasses.  Sigh.
Snack while reading or No snacks?  Yes to snacks!
Beach or Mountain?  Mountains, but I have fallen in love with the orchard/farm we bought a year ago, so spend my time in the gentle hills of Pennsylvania.
Vampire or Werewolf? 
Werewolf, for sure.  I want Patricia Briggs to write more of her lovely werewolf series, please!
Hot or Flirty?  Flirty is usually more about the emotions, so I’d say that’s preferred.  But hot can be fun, too.
Movie 1st or Book 1st? Book first, always.  And the book IS always better.
Contemporary or Historical?  Love them both, but lately reading speculative fiction - where does that fall in the time spectrum?  Only Dr. Who knows for sure, I suppose.
Page-Turner or Tear Jerker? I love a page-turner.  But it needs to be emotion-packed, too.

 Fire stole his future, until she reclaimed him from the ashes.

Knowing he can never have children of his own, Jonathan Everleigh, Earl of Mercia, marries scandal-plagued Juliette Markham, saving her from disgrace. But when he finds his ruined bride is still a virgin on their wedding night, Jonathan is vows to annul their marriage. But when Juliette discovers that she actually is with child, this time from her wedding night, she is as determined to stay married as he is to leave her.

When Jonathan’s past catches up with them, the Earl and Lady Mercia must navigate their marital problems, countless dangers, and a final confrontation with the madness plaguing them.

If they can make it out alive, love might be there waiting for them on the other side.

“It’s for your own good, Juliette.  Trust me in this,” he’d said.

 “How dare you threaten to set me aside and then claim it’s for my own good!”

 He’d looked stunned for a moment, then pained.  But he’d steeled himself against her again.  She knew he had when she saw his eyes go cold and his expression stony.   “You’re the one who lied your way into this situation, my dear,” he said calmly.

 “You don’t believe that.  I know you don’t.  You’re using it as an excuse to be rid of me.  You know I was ignorant of the ways of men and women.  You know I made an innocent mistake.”

 “I know nothing of the sort.  Perhaps you contrived to wed me because I’m an earl.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been married for my money and title.  Those were Carolyn’s motives for marrying a man who repulsed her.  They must be your reasons for lying to me, too.”

 Stymied by that, she’d tried a different approach.  “Even if you’re right–which you are not–about me lying to you, can’t you see that I want to be a good wife to you?  I want to be your companion and give you children.  I lo . . . ”

 But he hadn’t let her speak those last words.  She didn’t know what she’d said to set him off, but she’d clearly infuriated him.  He’d bolted from his chair and come at her with all the fury of a hurricane.  She’d backed up quickly, surprised by his show of rage.  Before she knew what was happening, she’d found herself on the other side of the library door.  The door had clicked shut and then she’d heard the lock turn.

 So words were not her friend in this campaign to win her husband back.  She knew she’d had his devotion before–he could not have feigned those tender words just before he’d taken her to his bed.  He’d cared for her once and she would find a way to make him do so again.

 But she had to get near him to do that.


Anonymous said...

Just knowing a little about the woman behind these books is interesting enough to make me want to read them. Bonus: Excerpt makes me want to know what happens next!

Sloane Taylor said...

Wonderful interview! Thanks for opening the doors to your life, Elizabeth, and the teasing excerpt.

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Very nice interview, and I love all of the pics, Elizabeth. And I cut my teeth reading Lavyrle Spencer, so we're almost like sisters! Your book sounds better every time I read one of your interviews, so it's reached the impossible to pass up stage now. You are obviously an accomplished, self-assured woman, so I know your characters are strong and interesting. Best of luck with this one.

Rhea Rhodan said...

Great interview. You are so cool, Elizabeth! Can't wait to read your book.

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