Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Interview With Julie Gilbert, Author of Ashlynn's Dreams

I’d like to welcome Julie Gilbert, author of Ashlynn’s Dreams to my blog today to share a little bit about herself and her book with us.

SFOB: So Julie, I understand that you are a full time high school teacher.  What do you do to relax?
JG: Geek confession: I enjoy listening to audiobooks while playing MMORPG’s such as Star Wars: The Old Republic. Sometimes, I watch television series like Criminal Minds, Once Upon a Time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Person of Interest. Other times, I’ll just sit down with a library book. Often, I’ll drink tea during the above pastimes.

SFOB: Tell us about something about yourself that you would like to share.
JG:My deep love of books started when I was just a kid, while my mom read me stories like Richard Scary books, Are You My Mother?, and The Red Ripe Strawberry. From there, I remember liking some of the sports books by Matt Christopher and the Goosbumps series, but for a long time, my true book love was reserved for Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Star Wars Jedi Apprentice series. I think I’ve probably read a combined 500 Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books in my life. YA and children’s books still have a lot of appeal for me. Authors I admire include Vivian Vande Velde, Stuart Hill, Tim Downs, Dee Henderson, and Taylor Stevens.

SFOB: Why do you write?
JG:I write because it makes me happy, and over time, I’ve become better at it. I like that it’s a skill that can grow over time and with much practice. There’s an extra measure of joy involved with being able to share works of loving labor with friends and perfect 

strangers. Everybody loves getting praise, but there’s something special about hearing that a child enjoyed your work and could really connect with one of the characters.

SFOB:Do you ever get writer’s Block? Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
JG: I actually don’t usually get writer’s block, but I think that comes from not writing constantly. I leave all the serious writing for the two-and-a-half months of summer, so when that time rolls around I know I’m on a tight deadline. I practice the avoidance method of dodging writer’s block. I take plenty of tea breaks, sit out by the pool, read, watch a movie, or just take a walk and think. Usually, by the time the break ends I’m more than ready to dive into a new chapter.

SFOB: What have you written?
JG: My writing interests are almost as varied as my reading interests. I started writing the summer before my freshman year of college; I think. Scary, but it’s been so long I forget now. Aside from a few hundred random poems over the years, I believe the first major writing project – which will never see the light of day – was called Zophan Chronicles and featured a young girl who moves to a new planet and immediately gets swept into a civil war with four factions.

Each summer during college I wrote a new novel. The next summer’s project, Heartfelt Cases, was a series of Christian novellas featuring a pair of FBI agents tackling three of their most personal cases. The Collins Case was recently revamped, proofread, and re-released as an ebook. I’d like to do the same for the other two stories in that series. There’s also a 4th Heartfelt Cases story, a novel called The Keres Case, which pits the intrepid FBI agents against a serial killer.

After Heartfelt Cases came Reshner’s Royal Guard, a science fiction story about a prince who trains to be a Ranger so he can avenge his parents’ murders and a princess who shares a mysterious connection to the villain occupying the throne. I guess I form emotional attachments to some of my characters because a few years later I returned to the Reshner universe to expand on the backstory for the prince’s parents. Reshner’s Royal Ranger answered how the king and queen met and came into power, and Reshner’s Royal Threat answered questions about how they ruled and what went wrong to lead to the events of Reshner’s Royal Guard.

Throughout college, I joined two online writing groups of sorts. One gave prompts each week and had the members post short stories. Out of this sprang the first short story featuring Jillian Blairington. I loved her character voice so much that I brought her back a few years back when I wanted to write another more real-world based story. That story became the young adult novel Ashlynn’s Dreams. This time I played more with the emotional impact of kidnapping aftermath rather than the who and what and how do we get her back sort of questions.

A couple of months later, one of my students made me aware of human trafficking’s existence in the modern world, so I did some research. The next summer, I wrote Nadia’s Tears, which incorporated that sad theme into the events facing Jillian and Danielle.

The other writing group was a website (hence the “of sorts” part) called Legends of Mernac which opened character threads and had people upload fictional biographies and short story threads. I won one of the character contests and got to play the part of Terees, goddess of wisdom, for a few months. I wrote a lot of character and city and event sketches and even ¾ of a novel and a novella. The novella featured my character, Terees, and her brief affair with the god of lust, Quont. Around this time – I think – I also ghostwrote three short stories for a game website.

During a recent period of unemployment, I actually had the opportunity to write a fantasy novella. The story seed sprang from a friend’s challenge to write something in the paranormal teen romance genre so I could become rich and famous and he could die well in a subsequent movie ;-). The novella that actually came about – Redeemer Chronicles: Awakening - was more of a good vs. evil fantasy story about a teenager named Vic who finds out she’s destined to save her world but hasn’t a blessed clue as to how.

The most recent writing project, Malia’s Miracles, is the third installment in the Devya’s Children series, which includes Ashlynn’s Dreams and Nadia’s Tears. Once again, Jillian and her siblings face tough choices and dangerous circumstances. This time around they wrestle with issues like what one life is worth compared to another as they struggle to save a friend’s mother from terminal cancer.

SFOB: What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
JG: One of my former students was kind enough to make this trailer (Ashlynn’s Dreams youtube trailer) for me just before she left for college to study film. Book trailers can be a great tool to show more about a work, but I’ve seen plenty that are just plain misleading. So, overall, my feelings on book trailers is somewhat mixed.

SFOB: Please tell us a little bit about your book.
JG: Ashlynn’s Dreams is about a genetically Gifted Dream Shaper named Jillian who gets kidnapped along with her babysitter, Danielle. Both girls tell about their experiences through journals and letters wherein they share how the kidnapping changed their lives forever.

SFOB: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
JG: Jillian’s a sweet kid who has a strong sense of right, wrong, and loyalty. She loves family and friends with a fierceness that has her stick up for them in any way, big or small, demanded of her. She possesses the extraordinary Gift of Dream Shaping, but doesn’t let it swell her pride. She views the Gift as one more way for her to aide others. Her nature won’t allow her to wallow in bitterness. She’s not exactly thrilled with her creators for having her kidnapped, but she quickly comes to believe in the task they’ve set for her. Jillian’s quick to fight for what she believes, but she also quickly learns how her actions can affect others and adjusts accordingly.

SFOB: How did you name your characters?
JG:  More so than my other series, the character names in Devya’s Children took quite a bit of research on baby naming and other name meaning sites. Each of Jillian’s siblings have names that have something to do either with their Gifts or the essence of their characters. For example, Jillian’s other name, Ashlynn Annabel, means “dream” and “easy to love.” Varick Allard Ayers means “leader who protects,” “noble and brave,” and “heir to a fortune.” Malia Karina means "calm peaceful, perhaps, or bitter" and “pure.”

SFOB: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
JG: Share, share, share. Tell friends, family, and random strangers about the books. Get to know me via email. I check email often.
Join my street team. Word of mouth is still the most powerful promotional tool. (

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