We were so happy to (virtually) sit down with Madeline Ash and speak about her recent book releases, writing process and life outside of writing.
What does a typical day of writing look like for you?
I write two days per week and am at my desk by 9am. I write until lunch, take a break to eat, then get back to it until it’s time to start dinner. I’ll always take an exercise break at some point, too, to get the fidgets out and help my concentration.
In terms of output, I write to a daily word count. I’m an appallingly slow writer, so in order to get a book written in a semi-acceptable timeframe, I set a deadline and then work backwards based on expected total word count and number of writing days until the deadline. Once I know what my daily count needs to be in order to meet the deadline, I don’t stop for the day until I meet it. This often means getting back to the desk after dinner.
Have you always wanted to be an author, specifically a contemporary/ romance author, and would you ever consider writing outside of these genres?
I’ve wanted to be an author since my mid-teens when I caught my passion for writing in the heady world of Harry Potter fan-fiction. I wrote several popular Draco/Hermione fan-fics and discovered the exposing yet exquisite sensation of writing something that other people enjoyed reading—and decided that one day, I wanted to create original stories and characters that people loved just as much.
Initially, I used contemporary romance as a starting point because I was under the delusion that it would be easy to write! I thought romance would be a great way to learn writing craft—developing characters, conflicts, goals, and plots—within a simple, formulaic structure. I was wrong. While it does have a formula of sorts, writing a romance that stands out in a saturated market and grabs readers right around the heart is far from simple. It took me six years and twelve (utterly rubbish) manuscripts to hone the craft and find my voice. By then, I was hooked on the genre.
I do still toy with the idea of one day trying my hand at young adult (with romance) or fantasy (with romance) or young adult fantasy (you get it). I read heavily in these genres, so would love to give them a try.
Her Cowboy King, published on 9th July, 2019, was your first self-published book. It follows triplet cowboy brothers as they embark on the unexpected journey of becoming royalty. What inspired you to write this story and how did you find the process of self-publishing it?
Okay, here’s the thing. The idea came to me after I’d finished my first series, Rags to Riches, and despite the books receiving strong reviews and placing well in premier writing contests, sales had been consistently poor. I realised that it probably had something to do with the lack of tropes. The books weren’t easily marketable. So my partner and I brainstormed popular romance tropes, trying to see if something would spark an idea. Nothing did, so I started to get silly with despondence. “A double trope,” I said. “A cowboy prince.” We both laughed—and then stopped as the idea settled rather magically in the silence. “Actually,” I said. “I love that.”
The main thing that inspires me with any story are strong, believable characters, and despite the far-fetched premise, the characters felt as real to me as any others I’d written. I was also inspired by the almost fantasy feel to the high concept storyline. It was unique and fresh and endless with possibility. I’m excited that I get to spend more time in that world as I write the rest of the series!
Self-publishing Her Cowboy King was a steep learning curve, but one I’ve relished. It’s so empowering to take full control. Admittedly, setting everything up was stressful and costly, but I didn’t want to cut any corners. The book had to be of the same high standard as my traditionally published romances. Aside from enjoying having control of the publishing process, I’ve also appreciated having editorial authority over the story itself. Trad publishers can be quite conservative in their ideas of what readers will like—and I got glimpses of how my series might be changed when I was first submitting Her Cowboy King to editors and agents. It was actually the realisation that they would have the ultimate say over my characters and their romances that made me pull my submissions and self-publish.
His Billionaire Bride, published September 3rd, 2019, is the story of Carrie – a Morgan sister that we got an intriguing glimpse of in the Wedding Obsession. We loved that she was given her own story where readers could get to see the vulnerabilities behind her confident approach to life. What prompted you to write Carrie’s story next and were there any challenges associated with writing a sequel?
Carrie didn’t give me a choice but to write her book next! Edwin was also introduced in The Wedding Obsession, though at first without my knowledge (sly thing). I noticed him while polishing for edits and once I read his paragraph, it hit me that he was Carrie’s hero. (If you’ve read The Wedding Obsession, he’s in the opening of chapter two—the guy who orders every mocktail on the menu and triggers Emmie wondering if her donor was just like him). Their differences were so profound, that I could hardly wait to write their story. It flowed faster and more surely than anything I’ve written yet, so I didn’t notice any challenges in writing it as a sequel. I did hesitate over how Carrie would fit within a “bride” trope, but quickly took advantage of her reluctance and used it as conflict.
Do you read often? What book have you enjoyed reading the most in 2019, so far?
I try to read often. Sometimes I get stuck in a writing headspace and convince myself that I don’t have time to read, but that just makes my writing slower and less inspired. And oh gosh, my fav? That’s such a hard question! I’ve read lots of YA fantasy this year and have been devouring any Alexis Hall romance I can get my hands on. Hmm, I think I’m going to cheat and say my favourite is a book that I’ve re-read this year: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s SO good (original, intelligent, romantic, subversive, inclusive, magical, hilarious…all the best adjectives).
I do anticipate that Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell, out at the end of September, might end up being my top pick for 2019, but time will tell!
Of all your books published, which one holds a special place in your heart and why?
Another hard question. At the moment, it’s definitely His Billionaire Bride. There was a stumble getting it past editorial with my publisher, with concerns that it might not be received well with their established readership, so for a brief but dismaying period, I thought I’d have to figure out how to self-publish it. But then they decided to run with it, so it worked out in the end!
I genuinely adore Carrie and Edwin and everything they represent. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to achieving the writing advice: “write what you’d love to read”. As a reader, I’m drawn to smart, sensitive, strong, intense, vulnerable, and inclusive stories—and I think I’ve managed to write that in His Billionaire Bride.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I’m lucky enough to be an aunty of two gorgeous boys under the age of two, so I spend as much time with them as I can. It’s incredible to watch them grow and learn so fast. I also love cooking, trying new plant-based recipes at least once a week, and spending time in the garden (in warmer weather). Living in Melbourne, I’m spoiled with a thriving live music scene, so also like to get out and see my favourite musicians. I just caught Aldous Harding last week (mind blown) and Emma Louise in a few weeks, so counting myself very lucky indeed!
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