Jennifer Ashley

I know a few authors who get annoyed when someone asks them where they get their ideas. I like the question, personally, because it’s fascinating to try to figure out how stories evolve—how we go from nothing to a complete world inside a book.

I think authors are thrown off by this question because usually the answer is “I don’t know.” It’s difficult to remember the germ of an idea after it’s been fleshed out and given life as a complete book.

I’ve written twenty-three books now (five more will be published this year), and several novellas, and I’ve lost track of what inspired them all. Ideas stream to me constantly, from dreams, random thoughts, incidents I observe, current events, historical events, a word, a phrase . . .

Here are a few inspirations I remember:

Perils of the Heart (my first published novel). I read a legend of a woman pirate commandeering a merchant ship to rescue her pirate lover from prison in Havana. So what if I put an innocent governess on this ship, and suddenly she’s forced to participate in pirate plots? And what if the handsome captain of the ship assumes she’s a pirate? The potential for fun and heat was too much to resist!

The Pirate Next Door. I was desperately trying to come up with a plot for another historical. I had plenty of ideas, all of them “blah.” I looked out my window at my neighbor, who is a biker. I thought “If I was writing a contemporary, I’d call it The Biker Next Door. But I’m doing a historical—so—ah, The Pirate Next Door.” And the entire story popped almost fully formed into my head.

The Captain Lacey mystery series (written as Ashley Gardner at Berkley): I wanted to write a series with a Regency dandy as a sleuth. However, several authors had already done that, so I thought—what would be the opposite of a Regency dandy? A forty-year old cavalry captain, gentleman-born but his fortune lost, with nothing to do after the Napoleonic wars and no money. He would live in the “bad” part of town and have street girls for neighbors, and be getting over a broken heart. Captain Gabriel Lacey was born. I’ve written six books in this award-winning series so far. I did get my Regency dandy though—he’s the hero’s best friend. :)

Tales of the Shareem (written as Allyson James). In the past in England, lower-class village men sometimes auctioned off their wives as a quickie (though technically illegal) divorce. I thought, how unfair—why shouldn’t the men be auctioned off, too?

And then I thought—why not? How about a scifi story in which a factory creates men to be sexually enhanced and sold as pleasure slaves to women? And to make it more interesting, the factory has shut down, the Shareem (the slaves) are outlawed and barely allowed to live. What would these men do to survive, and what would women do to have access to the forbidden Shareem? I’ve written four of these books now and more are on their way.

Dragon Heat (forthcoming by Allyson James from Berkley). I was staying in a NY apartment for a weekend and thought—what if a young woman opened the spare bedroom door and found a dragon behind it? What if time and space had bent to allow a sixty-foot dragon to occupy a ten by ten space? (My brain can go in odd directions sometimes.) And what would happen if the dragon was allowed to cross over and become human? I changed the location to San Francisco, because I knew it much better than Manhattan, and Dragon Heat was born.

The Immortals series. This one came to me on one of those sleepless nights—what if a group of men existed through time to help people in trouble? One would be Adrian, the leader with a dark past. One would be Tain, red-haired and Celtic. One would be Hunter, compensating for a broken heart. And so many more possibilities! When there was danger, the Immortals could be called via a spell or ritual, and would appear to help.

I kicked that idea around in my head for a long time, thinking about plots for each character. I didn’t have the chance to pitch it, having plenty of books to write and deadlines to meet, until my editor at Dorchester told me she’d welcome new ideas for a continuity series if I had them. The Immortals seemed to fit right in, and I quickly wrote a synopsis…. And here we are.

The first book of the Immortals: The Calling hit shelves on May 1. This is Adrian’s story, with The Darkening by Robin Popp (June 2007) telling Darius’s story; The Awakening (August 2007) by Joy Nash telling Kalen’s story, and The Gathering (Sept. 2007) telling Hunter’s story plus bringing the series arc to a close. But wait, there’s more! Tain’s story will also be told in a followup book, pub date TBA.

I did an interview with Adrian of The Calling on Dorchester’s website at http://www.dorchesterpub.com/Dorch/SpecialFeatures.cfm?Special_ID=2264

Read about the books that come from my wild brain at http://www.jennifersromances.com/; http://www.allysonjames.com/; and http://www.gardnermysteries.com/

After all these books, have I run out of ideas? No way! New ideas come every day. If only I had time to write them all down….


Jennifer Ashley
(and her other personas)