Hello everyone! Remember last week when I was raving about the book “The Word Changers”? Well, this week I’m actually interviewing the author herself – Ashlee Willis! I’m so excited for this, considering how much I loved her book.
Hi, Ashlee! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I am first and foremost a daughter and follower of God! I have been married eleven years, and have a seven-year-old son who makes my life such a joy. I love to be outdoors in creation, walking, swimming, climbing trees, biking, gardening – you name it.
I absolutely love the premise of your book, but I am curious – what made you decide to write it as an allegory, rather than just the exciting story itself?
Well, since God is everything to me, it’s difficult for me to write any story at all without Him as its center. To tell the truth, when I was a child and the first seed of my book’s idea was planted, it did seem just an entertaining story. But as the years went by, and the idea came to the surface again, it had changed significantly. I can only think it was God’s plan that I write it the way I did!
Did you find it difficult to make sure you were consistent throughout the story with your allegory?
Very difficult, actually! I’m a person who likes to have everything “just so.” And it was hard to write a story that worked as an allegory and also kept enough adventure to entertain people. I didn’t want to try too hard to force the allegory to work with where the story naturally needed to go, so it was tricky at times. Honestly, I still am rather afraid to open up my book for fear I’ll see something glaring at me that just didn’t work the way I wanted it to!
The emotions that drive Posy’s actions in her “real-world” are raw and realistic. I love how you portrayed them – even when they are painful and intense, they are extremely well done and relatable to those who don’t live in “perfect homes.” Did you find it difficult to portray Posy’s emotions, or did it just seem to flow from her character?
Well, first of all, thank you for the beautiful compliment! It really wasn’t hard at all. I myself come from a far-from-perfect home, and had several heartbreaks of different kinds throughout the years of my childhood and since then. So, many of Posy’s emotions were ones I felt when I was just her age. I think, though, that no matter what type of family a person comes from, there will always be hardships that arise, and that connect all of us on one level or another.
Where did the idea of having a “Council of Owls” come from – and writing those owls as evil and devious? I especially enjoyed how Falak genuinely seemed to be the “good guy” near the beginning – even though he was far from it.
I just wanted to do something different, and not use a run-of-the-mill mythical or fairy tale creature. So I chose something more ordinary – an owl – and put it in the role instead. At first it was just going to be Falak, and then I decided it would be fun to have an entire council of owls. It was hard for me to make them the “bad guys,” though, because I actually adore owls!! I suppose there’s always Nocturne to help redeem the owls’ good name, right?!
Yes – Nocturne was by far one of my favorite characters in the book. He definitely helped redeem the owls’ name! Haha
Did writing this book in any way help you along your own journey in life? Perhaps clarify your goals or expectations? I know that for me, as an author, writing definitely has a direct impact on how I view life.
Yes! That is one of the reasons I love writing so much. I think I am the one in charge, and then I realize that this process that I’m supposed to be controlling is, in fact, impacting and changing me! How can you write true fear unless you’ve felt it and faced it? And how can you write about real forgiveness unless you’ve been down that road yourself? Many times I won’t know exactly how I feel about something until I’ve written it out – and then it all becomes clear. Very much a God thing, in my opinion.
What are you working on now? Could you give us a sneak peek?
Well, it’s in those early, wobbly stages where it’s hard to say too much because I’m not sure what will stay the same and what will end up changing! But I can tell you it’s a two-part story, the first of which I finished (first draft) about three months ago, and the second of which I’m currently about halfway through. The more I work on it, the more I think it may turn into a trilogy (never thought I’d write one of those – kinda scary!). It’s another Christian fantasy, of course. But this time I’ve got a male as the main character, so that’s making things quite interesting!
What are your dreams as a writer? Meaning, do you hope to someday be mentioned among writers such as J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, Suzanne Collins, etc, or do you really just write for you friends and family? Or somewhere in-between, perhaps?
I would definitely not complain if my name were mentioned among such great authors! But my hopes are much more down-to-earth. I would be quite content with, as you say, “somewhere in-between.” I want the stories God gives me to affect others, first and foremost, because that is the main goal of my writing.
What are some of your favorite books, and why?
The Chronicles of Narnia are up there, of course. They impacted me at an age when I truly needed to hear their message, and they will always have a special place in my heart and imagination. There are so many other favorites it’s hard to pick, but some of the ones I return to the most are Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marilliet (well, everything by Juliet is wonderful, really), How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (his use of language is some of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard), and for non-fiction, Waking the Dead by John Eldredge is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read.
Could you share an inspirational quote from your favorite author?
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” (C.S. Lewis)
-Summer or winter? Winter.
-Outliner or simply see-where-it-goes kind of writer? Outliner!
-Nook or Kindle? Neither, although if I were to get one I’d choose Kindle.
-Chai Tea or Earl Grey? Earl Grey.
-Barefoot, flats, or heels? Barefoot.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me today, Ashlee! I had so much fun interviewing you.