The Novel Approach welcomes author Ashley John today, on his Sink or Swim blog tour. We have an interview and excerpt to share with you, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win one of three e-copies of the book.
TNA: Thanks so much for joining us here at The Novel Approach today, Ashley. I’m so glad to have you here with us to chat about the newest book in your Surf Bay series, Sink or Swim. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ashley: It’s great to be here! Thank you for having me on my first tour stop at The Novel Approach. My name is Ashley John and I’m a 21 year old male writer of gay romance. A lot of people are intrigued about my age, because they think I can’t have possibly lived enough to have material to write, but I’ve always felt older than my actual age. My writing, especially my Surf Bay series has a lot of my own experiences and struggles written in to it. I live in England, with my fiancé Reece, and our two cats/babies, Jeremy and Jinx.
Writing was always something I’ve wanted to do, but I didn’t take the plunge into publication until June 2014. It’s almost coming up to my first year birthday as a writer and in that time I’ve published a three-part novella series, The George & Harvey Series, and I’m currently releasing books in my Surf Bay series, which is a series of standalone gay romance books.
TNA: I saw in your author bio that writing is only one of your creative outlets. When it comes down to it, which would you say is the more personally satisfying and why?
Ashley: Writing is definitely the most rewarding of my outlets. I draw, I paint, I graphic design and I write, but writing is the one I can reach the most people with. When you post a picture of a painting, or a drawing, the response is always very ‘flash in the pan’, but with my books, I can reach thousands of people in every corner of the world. To me, that’s mind blowing. Like I said, I’ve only been releasing books for a year, but I’ve just sold my 20,000th book. To some, that’s probably small numbers, but I never thought I’d reach the 100 sales mark. I was working in McDonalds before I published my first book, so writing has literally changed my life and given me a career I can be proud of, but above all of that, it’s something I utterly enjoy and love to do. I love talking to people about my books and seeing how they respond to it. Saying all of that, I’d love to make more time with my other outlets. I design all of my own covers, but I’d love to find the time to paint more (although writing takes up a huge chunk of time!).
TNA: How old were you when you discovered you had not only a love for writing, but a talent for it? Do you remember what the first story you ever wrote was about? Would you care to tell us about it?
Ashley: When I was a little boy, I was always super creative. When kids get taglines for their hobbies, I was always ‘the arty one’ at school. All of the awards and certificates I won at school were art/writing based (I have a shoebox full of them in my attic!). I have very vivid memories of my sitting on my nan’s carpet, in front of the fire, writing endless stories on sheets of A4 paper. I’d always illustrate them and try to make my handwriting as neat as possible, but I’d never show them to anyone. I remember one of my earliest ‘books’ was a story I wrote based on The Beauty and The Beast. I’d never seen the movie as a kid, so I made up my own version about a beast-man who lived in the attic because he couldn’t find the key. A woman, the beauty, also lived in the castle and she helped him find the key which was hidden above his door the whole time. Riveting stuff, right? I think I must have been 5! I stapled pieces of paper together and I illustrated the whole thing! I actually still have it, so I may dig it out to take some pictures! In my teen years, I lost my passion for writing. I hated school, so anything slightly ‘educational’, I rebelled away from. School bored me and the only subject I liked was English, but I never liked learning how to analyze writing, because I wanted to be the one writing it. When I left school, I initially wanted to be a graphic designer, which is was always another of my passions, so I went to college, but I ended up being bored again. The tutors were teaching graphic design 1989 style, so they weren’t teaching me what I needed to know. I then spent two years as a hairdresser, which is when I rediscovered my love of writing. That’s when I first wrote of the first draft of the The Secret (Part One of The George & Harvey Trilogy, my first release), but it wasn’t until I was working in McDonalds two years later that I finally decided to do something about it! It was a huge risk, but one that has paid off.
TNA: Since we’re here to chat about Sink or Swim today, will you tell us some things about the setting and characters that make it a fun world for you to write in?
Ashley: I love writing about Surf Bay. Surf Bay is a fictional surfing town in California, where all of the books in the Surf Bay series are set. It was once the jewel of the surfing scene, but in recent years, it has been taken over by bigger and better towns. I love writing about the same town, because it’s full of so many interesting characters and even though each book is standalone, focusing on different main characters each time, it’s fun to see established characters popping up. I love it when my readers say Surf Bay feels real to them. So many of them say they can picture where everything is in the town, which is so fun for me, because it’s straight from my imagination and on to the page. Sink or Swim, which is the fifth book in the series, is the first to be taken out of the current timeline. It’s set in 2003, which is 11 years before the start of the series (Lost & Found) and is an origin story for Finley, who has featured in every other Surf Bay book so far, but never as the lead.
In Book 4 (Love’s Medicine) he had a bigger role than ever before and he’s a really complex character and the readers doesn’t know much about him. He’s British, living in America and running a nightclub/crime empire, so I thought it would be fun to go back to him arriving in Surf Bay as an 18 year-old. I get to write him completely different to how people know him, because it’s the events in Sink or Swim, which made him the distant and emotionally detached man we see in the other books. Sink or Swim can be read as an origin story for Finley, a prequel to the whole series or as a complete standalone, so even if people haven’t visited Surf Bay before, it’ll still make perfect sense to them. There are so many dynamic characters living in Surf Bay, so until it’s wiped off the face of the planet by global warming, I’ve got lots of stories to tell about the town and its inhabitants. There are no main characters in Surf Bay, because the town is the main character.
TNA: Between this and your George & Harvey series, which do you think would translate best to the big screen? If you were casting the movie version of a couple of your books, which would you choose and whom would you choose as your leading men?
Ashley: Oh lord. It’s like asking which of your children you’re going to send to college! Okay, I’m going to cheat here, because I’ve never seen Surf Bay as a movie series, I’ve always thought of it as a TV Show. There’s such a huge cast throughout the Surf Bay books, it would work so much better as a TV drama. If it was ever to be developed, I’d imagine all of the books would be mashed together, and each chapter would be an episode of the show, so you’d focus on a different character every week. When I was writing George & Harvey, I imagined it would make a good movie series. It’s a lot more intimate than Surf Bay, because there’s a smaller cast across all three books and it’s the same faces.
For George, I could imagine somebody like Matt Bomer taking on the role. George is a man in his early 30s, described as having thick, brown hair with flecks of gray and sharp, high cheekbones with piercing eyes. Matt Bomer is utterly gorgeous, so I’ll go for him. Harvey on the other hand is the complete opposite. He’s 19 years old, tall, skinny and pale with black hair. He’s slightly more difficult to cast, because he looks like my image of Harry Potter from the books, but nothing like Daniel Radcliffe. I think Andrew Garfield, as a teenager would be an okay fit, or maybe a young Ben Barnes!
TNA: Would you like to share an excerpt from Sink or Swim with us, and share why you selected it? What makes it special to you?
Ashley: This is part of a scene taken from Chapter 14. It features Finley and his love-interest, Jay. It’s a rare moment of calm and serenity in the book, which is quite dramatic and fast-paced. This was me pressing pause for a scene, to show how perfect Finley and Jay are for each other. Jay is a photographer, but he’s scared to show his work to anybody and Finley has pretended to be the tough guy all of his life, so being photographed on the beach, in front of a crowd of people, goes against everything he believes in, but he’ll do it under the condition that Jay will show his work to somebody. I love these two together and for me, this scene shows what makes them special.
“What? You’re already doing it! No conditions!”
“Hear me out.”
Jay sighed, dropping the camera to his side for a moment, copying Finley’s stance, “What do you want? Blow jobs? Because let me tell you, that thing you have is far too -,”
“No!” Finley waved his hands, “I want you to show your pictures to somebody.”
“I already have,” he shrugged, “I showed you.”
“Somebody else. You mentioned a gallery in the town hall. I want you to try and get your pictures in that gallery.”
“Jay,” Finley cut in, “Just promise me you’ll try. You’re too good to have your portfolio under your bed for the rest of your life.”
He could see Jay arguing with himself in his head. He was struggling between his want to photograph Finley and his fear of having his work judged. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, each time, sighing and huffing out his chest, as if a tantrum was brewing.
“Fine!” he cried, “Will you let me take your goddamn picture now?”
“Just tell me what to do,” he scratched the back of his head, “don’t leave me hanging.”
“Don’t worry,” Jay held the camera up to his eye, and clicked, the flash almost blinding Finley, “I can tell you’re going to be a natural.”
“I wasn’t ready that time!”
He clicked again, and again, leaving Finley standing there, more and more terrified each time the bright light burned his eyes.
“You’re not going to pose,” another picture, another flash, “just be you. Be Finley. Be the person I see, not the person you want people to see.”
At first, that statement puzzled him, but after a second of thinking, he understood it perfectly.
Jay saw through every act, every wall, to see the person he was deep down. He saw the person behind the fake passport, without even knowing the full story. He didn’t seem to care that Finley was hiding things from him, but that didn’t matter to Jay.
TNA: Would you care to share a bit of news about your current WIPs and any more upcoming projects?
Ashley: After the release of Sink or Swim, I’m jumping straight back into a WIP I was writing before I started Sink or Swim. It’s a book called Boss, and it’s something I’m very excited about. I pushed the release from May to June, because I wanted to have some more time to make things perfect. It’s a story about a wealthy man who returns from years of travelling to discover his father has died and signed his inheritance away to a mysterious man. It’s set in London, which is my first book to be set in my home country, so it’s really fun for me to write. It’s a romance book at its core, with splashes of erotica, but it’s all about the characters and their personal journeys throughout the book. After that, I’m planning to release the sixth Surf Bay book, which is all outlined and ready to write, and then I’m going to be alternating Surf Bay and standalone books until the end of the year! Lots to write, but it’s going to be fun!
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
Ashley: I think I’m on about every social media there is! You can find me on Facebook at fb.com/ashleyjohnart, Twitter at twitter.com/itsashleyjohn, Instagram at instagram.com/itsashleyjohn and Snapchat at @itsashleyjohn. I also have my own website, ashleyjohn.co.uk, which is a mixture of blog and an official website for my books. I post a lot of blogs on there as well as teasers and sneak peeks for my upcoming releases. Speaking of upcoming releases, you can also sign up to my newsletter at ashleyjohn.co.uk/newsletter to be notified of releases and sales (I only send about one newsletter every month).
TNA: Thanks so much again for being here with us, Ashley. Come back and visit any time at all.
Blurb: Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, British teenager, Finley, is given a fake passport and forced to forget the life he’s always known. When he arrives in Surf Bay, he meets his uncle, Monroe, and he learns his time in America isn’t going to be a vacation. From the second his plane hits the ground, he is dragged into a world of organized crime, working under his uncle’s wing.
He is forced to share a tiny apartment with another of Monroe’s employees, Jay, and they soon become puppets, acting out Monroe’s terrible crimes, side by side. When their work starts to become increasingly more dangerous, Finley is torn between his need to obey his uncle and his need to protect Jay.
As his life spirals out of control, he falls deeper and deeper into a world filled with money, crime and power and his only form of escapism is in his growing love for Jay.
Can Finley resist the lure of a life-changing proposition from his uncle, while still protecting the one he loves, or will he make sacrifices, which could change the course of his life, forever?
Author Note: This is 5th book in the Surf Bay series. It is an origin story for Finley and not a HEA romance novel (although it does have romance elements). It is recommended that you have read the other books in the Surf Bay series first, although this CAN be read as a standalone (no cliffhanger) or as a prequel to the rest of the series.