Hi Leah and welcome, we are celebrating your new direction and your new novel, the first in the WASP Team series. What cocktail would you like to start with for the celebration?
A gin and tonic with a wedge of lime!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure! I live in Perth, I’m married and I have two awesome girls. I’m an introvert, positive, stubborn, and determined.
I started writing in my early twenties when a great friend of mine told me she was writing a book, and took me along to a romance writing workshop. I loved to write stories in primary school, and I used to love having my work chosen to be read out to the class. But when I hit high school my stories were clearly not literary enough (and my creative writing marks reflected this) and so I left highschool thinking I wasn’t particularly good at writing stories. So I never planned to be a writer!
How many books have you published so far?
9 books with Harlequin Mills & Boon (contemporary romance) and the first book in my sexy romantic suspense series is out now.
Your new series WASP Team is a different direction to your previous novels, can you tell us what triggered the change of direction in your writing and what can you tell us about that new direction and how you came up with your ideas?
When I started writing for publication I targeted Harlequin Mills & Boon as writing contemporary romance felt “easier” than having to come up with a romantic suspense plot – even though I’ve loved reading romantic suspense since I was a teenager! I just didn’t think I had clever enough suspense ideas in my head – I’ve always found coming up with ideas the hardest part of writing. I’m not one of those writers that has a million ideas warring in their head. I generally have exactly one idea, and I’ve fought hard for it!
But after writing so many books for Mills & Boon, my confidence had grown in my writing, and I’d also started to push my creativity. For example, my last two books for Mills & Boon are set on a fictional island nation, and I had to create all sorts of fictional laws and rules and locations – and it made me realise that I’M in charge of my fictional world, and can make up whatever I like. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think I’ve always taken “write what you know” too close to heart, and it stifled my creativity.
With my WASP series I’m finally writing the books that I love to read, which are hot, fast paced and suspenseful. I wanted to write a series and so thought an elite policing team would be a great way to link my books. I also wanted to cover more than just tactical (SWAT) police, so WASP is made up of lots of different teams – like undercover operations, police bodyguards etc etc – it gives me way more scope to write different types of stories within the WASP world.
I have been lucky enough to read book one UNDAUNTED, and I loved it, in fact, it kept me up until 2am reading because I just had to know what was going to happen. I especially liked that it was set in Perth and I could relate to all the places in the story. What can you tell us about the story to entice others to read UNDAUNTED and the rest of the series?
Undaunted was supposed to be a short novella, but soon I realised that there was way too much story for that! It was inspired loosely by the movie Speed (with Keanu Reeves) in that the action starts almost straight away, with a hostage situation taking place on a train in chapter two. I’ve aimed to keep up the pace through the whole book, but I’ve also made sure that it is primarily a romance.
The titles of all my WASP books are related to the heroine, so it is Luella who is “undaunted” in this book. She is a police officer who made a big mistake a few weeks before the books starts, and she’s been stripped of her firearm and put onto desk duties. Throughout the book Luella has to confront that mistake, and eventually learn to forgive herself. Nate and Lou have a shared past, too, that they need to overcome, even if their attraction for each other is as electric as ever. I love Lou and Nate as characters – they are both proud, strong people who are brilliant cops – but they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, they are vulnerable – and they have really fantastic sex 🙂
How long on average does it take you to write a WASP book? And how much research did you have to do for this series in order to keep the police procedures realistic?
I allow about 12 weeks to write a book, but the reality is that I usually write the bulk of it in the six weeks before it’s due.
I am lucky to have access to a police officer who I can ask lots of questions, but Google is also super helpful 🙂 I probably spend more time researching before I start writing, to make sure the general concept is plausible, and from there I just research a little as needed as I write.
Your WASP series is has criminal aspects, what crime would you like to get away with and how would you go about it?
I wouldn’t like to get away with any crime, the guilt would destroy me!
But if I had to, I’d hack into a bank to siphon money away from greedy corporations that dodge taxes, and donate it to domestic violence and refugee charities.
Oh I like that crime which is really rectifying a wrong, a modern day Robin Hood
Have you always been a reader, if so what is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer?
My favourite childhood book was A Stable for Jill by Ruby Ferguson. I LOVED pony books, I still have my favourites on my bookshelf now. I used to read voraciously as a child and teenager (and adult until I started writing!) and I’m positive all the reading I did as a kid has helped my writing now, even if I didn’t aspire to be a writer until much later.
Do you read your book reviews? Do you appreciate reader feedback and take it on board, even if it is negative? How do you deal with negative feedback after spending so much time writing your book?
Yes, I do read them. A great review can make my day! And a bad review is always at least a momentary kick in the guts. However the more books I write the more confidence I have in my writing, and if someone really dislikes my book I now tell myself that my style is just not for them, rather than assuming I am actually the Worst Author Ever.
If I was seeing consistent feedback in my reviews I would definitely take it on board. I know I can always improve as a writer.
Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people would know?
I played the flute from age 7-17 and played in my high school band. I wasn’t very good, however 🙂
How has being Australian AND a woman impacted on your writing and/or writing career?
The impact has only been positive for me, as the Australian romance writing community is incredibly supportive, and it’s a lot easier for a woman to write romance than a man. With Undaunted out next week (as I write this) I’m yet to see whether the Australian setting is a plus or minus for international readers *crosses fingers*.
What authors and types of books do you love the most?
I love romantic suspense, historical romance and contemporary romance. Some of my favourite authors are Linda Howard, Karen Robards, Laura Lee Guhrke, Tessa Dare, Tessa Bailey, Molly O’Keefe and Sarah Mayberry.
Is there anything you would like to add before we chill and have another cocktail?
Only to say that if you love a book (whether mine or any authors!), please consider sending the author an email or contacting them on social media to let them know, or writing a review. Writing can be isolating at times, and there’s nothing better than hearing from readers.
Can you tell us what’s next for the WASP Team? And are there any other projects in the pipeline?
Book two is called Definant, and is out about 4 weeks after Undaunter (just before Easter). In Defiant the hero, Damon, is an undercover cop for WASP, and the heroine, Beth, is a recently divorced high school teacher. A one night stand ends in a kidnapping and they end up running for their lives across the desert to escape a murderous bikie gang. It was fun to write, and I LOVED that Beth is a little older than Damon. Plus, it ended up being super hot. Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me – my MIlls & Boon books were so sweet 🙂
For now WASP is my only focus, but I have four more WASP books in the pipeline. Relentless (book 3) will be out in May and is about a politician’s daughter and the bodyguard she doesn’t want – and then in book four (no title yet!) the hero and heroine are both police snipers.
Thank you so much Leah for joining me for a few coctails and a chat, I can’t wait to read the other books in this series.
About the book:
The first book in the exhilarating WASP Team Series by RITA Award Winning Author Leah Ashton
A gunman. Five hostages. And her ex. Trapped. On a train.
A disgraced police constable
Luella Brayshaw is a great cop. Until she isn’t.
Dumped on desk duties and stripped of her firearm, Lou’s first task is a civilian role in a covert training exercise for WASP. But when that exercise goes horribly wrong, she’s stuck on a train to Fremantle with five terrified hostages – and the man who broke her heart more than a decade ago.
An elite tactical operator
Nate Rivers has dedicated his life to his career. That meant making tough choices – including walking away from Lou. But he’s never doubted that decision… until now.
Twelve years on, Nate is shocked to discover the connection between him and Lou is as electric as ever. But first – they need to get off this train.
A desire they never forgot
The gunman has no idea he has two cops on his train – but unarmed, can Nate and Lou keep everyone alive all the way to Fremantle?
And if they do, Lou knows she can’t make the mistake of trusting Nate with her heart again. But faced with a new threat, they must work together to survive as their passion ignites – and this time, there’s no way Nate is walking away.